The Red Hot Chili Peppers “Mother’s Milk” not only introduced the band to a wider audience, but it is undoubtedly one of funk metal’s greatest representations of the genre. While its hit single, “Higher Ground” is a song that people identify with most, it’s by no means the heart of the album. It’s this album which gives fans of the band their first, real insight into the creativity that flows from each member. Soft in places, tough and rough in others, “Mother’s Milk” remains a powerful, and influential album, one which grabs the listener, and drags them in, immersing them in a tidal wave of electric beats, stylized and intense vocals, while sealing it with a kiss of some of rock’s most original musicians.
5. Pretty Little Ditty
“Pretty Little Ditty” is the tenth track off of the album, and one of the best examples of the creativity of the band. The only instrumental on the album, it serves to showcase the incredible electrifying talents of their musicianship. Composed by bassist Flea and guitarist Frusciante, the original was a straightforward piece lasting a short 1:35 minutes long. However, the 2003 remastered version extended it to 3:07 minutes. Looped, one could also call this a fine example of psychedelic rock, even stoner rock, as it wraps you into a comfy, funky world where Flea’s trumpet offerings mesh with Frusciante’s guitar stylings. In short, “Pretty Little Ditty” is a confirmation of this group’s versatility as a band. It’s a crisp, clean, beautiful and brilliant composition.
4. Taste the Pain
The third and final single from the album was released on October 14, 1989, “Taste the Pain”, is said to reflect the time Anthony Kiedis was suffering from a drug addiction. When his good friend and fellow band mate, Hillel Slovak died from an overdose, Anthony made the courageous decision to get himself off heroin by locking himself in a rented boathouse. The song conveys the incredible pain Kiedis went through during this time. This song is noteworthy as it’s the first time Frusciante recorded with the band, and also contains a superb trumpet solo from Flea. Another interesting fact, is the video for this song was directed by Alex Winter, of “Bill and Ted” fame.
3. Good Time Boys
“Good Time Boys” is a rollicking and energetic song which is reflective of the band’s attitude at the time. Here, they refer to themselves as “Good Time Boys”, just here to make music for people to enjoy, as their lyrics exemplify:
Indeed it may seem that we have strange ways
But we do it with compassion and don’t believe in age
Travel round the world gettin naked on the stage
Bustin’ people out of their everyday cage
We like to think we make a sad man happy
And we like to make proud our mammy and our pappy
Funky young kings we sing of truth and soul
We’re the modern day braves with one strong hold.
This song immediately hits the listener with a powerful grind, one that continues throughout the piece. Throughout this song, one can truly notice the intuitive exchange between Flea’s bass and Chad’s drums. Indeed, throughout the album one can hear first hand, how this meshing of sound influenced this, and future Chili Pepper compositions. An interesting side note, is that this song is where the RHCP’s official fan club got it’s name from: Rockinfreakapotamus. Lead vocalist Anthony Kiedis repeats this word over and over as the song ends.
2. Knock Me Down
“Knock Me Down” became the second single released from the album, on August 22, 1989. Written by lead vocalist Anthony Kiedis while overcoming a heroin addiction, it chronicles the immense hardship endured, which can be seen in the folowing lyrics:
“If you see me getting high, knock me down, I’m not bigger than life”.
In other words, when you see me getting high or falling down, help me to get back up. He’s not all powerful, and can experience the same fate as good friend and Chili Pepper guitarist, Hillel Slovak. Hitting the number 6 spot on Billboard’s Modern Rock chart, The song is a testament to the bond and love shared by members of the group. Finally, know that there are two versions of “Knock Me Down” available. The original with Anthony’s lead vocals dominating, and a second version. In the second version, Frusciante’s vocals are amplified over Anthony’s with additional lyrics added to the performance.
1. Higher Ground
The Red Hot Chili Peppers rendition of Stevie Wonders “Higher Ground” is a masterpiece in the bands ability to adapt their particular musical stylings to any song, making it their own. Released as a single on April 8, 1989, their cover of this iconic song helped to bring the Peppers out from under the shadows of the underground music scene, and stampeding into the world of mainstream music. With Fleas pulsating and powerful slap bass line stepping in for the keyboards, and John Frusciante’s masterful interpretation of the original arrangement, cover became one of their early signature songs. While all the material presented in “Mother’s Milk” is an outstanding conglomeration of the minds of some of rocks most talented creators, it’s the fact that this is the song which helped to propel the group to headliner status.
In retrospect, those that grew up in the day of Red Hot Chili Peppers, “Mother’s Milk” got a first-hand look at just what a musical anomaly the Chili Peppers were. At the time this album was released, MTV was ruled by dance music and hair bands. Then, in the midst of it all came these four punk, funk guys, who just wanted to have fun and create music to feel good by. Indeed, it’s hard to actually classify their music, almost as if it’s originality and pure uniqueness of sound prohibits it, making it illegal to even compare them to anyone else in the biz. Be that as it may, whatever your opinion, “Mother’s Milk” will always remain one of the most influential records in rock music history.