This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010, as well as, the latest poll taken in 2021 by Rolling Stone Magazine. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their lists, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. “RS: Song XXX” means the song is coming from the Rolling Stone list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.
RS: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.
Song #156: Under the Bridge by The Red Hot Chili Peppers.
Using albums sales as my metric, it can be said that The Red Hot Chili Peppers are the #1 Alternative music act of all-time. They have worldwide album sales of over 100 million. As well, they have 13 #1 Alternative music hits, 6 Grammy Awards, 25 Top Ten hits and they were inducted into The Rock n’ Roll hall of Fame in 2012. While the band has had many lineup changes over the course of their career, many people claim the following line-up as being their “classic” lineup: Anthony Kiedis (lead singer), Flea (bass guitar), John Frusciante (lead guitar) and Chad Smith (drums). Their list of hits reads like a roll call of the best that Alternative music has had to offer in its’ history with songs such as the funked up cover of Stevie Wonder’s, “Higher Ground”, “Give It Away”, “Suck My Kiss”, “Scar Tissue”, “Otherside”, “Can’t Stop”, “Californication”, “Dani California” and their biggest hit, “Under the Bridge”.
The mere fact that The Red Hot Chili Peppers have survived as a band is a testament to the magic that exists when they are running on all cylinders. LIke all great bands, there is a chemistry that exists between the players that allows them to elevate the whole of the band beyond the limits of each person’s individual skills. The trick for bands like this is to recognize the magic that is possible and fight to keep it in times of difficulty and strife. Specifically with The Red Hot Chili Peppers, their history is pock-marked with instances of drug addiction, mental health issues, as well as, inter-personal disputes that have caused members to quit on the band; especially, John Frusciante, who has left and re-joined the band three different times! But, the beauty of it all is that there are few who can match John Frusciante’s exquisite guitar playing which, when woven into Anthony Kiedis’ often personal lyrics and laid upon a rhythmic foundation of Funk, as played by Flea and Chad Smith, have helped to create some of the most memorable songs in recent music history.
A good case in point is the song, “Under the Bridge”. This is a song that was based upon a poem written by Kiedis during a period where he was experiencing clinical depression. At that time, Kiedis had lost the joy that came from creating and playing music. He thought that the other members of the band didn’t need him any longer so, one day, he simply walked away. He had sought to discover a new source of joy through heroin. No one knew where he was or what he was doing. It turned out that his addiction had taken hold of him and that he found himself, quite literally, under a bridge in downtown Los Angeles, in a gang-infested neighbourhood, attempting to score a hit from hoodlums who were threatening to kill him for the money in his pocket. Somehow, Kiedis survived that scenario and checked himself into rehab. The poem he wrote described his feelings of emptiness. He felt it was too personal to share with the band but, that poem soon came to the attention of famous rock producer, Rick Rubin, who encouraged Kiedis to bring it to the band. His friends, upon hearing Kiedis’ words and, in a form of unofficial therapy, immediately picked up their instruments and began to create the music that went on to accompany the poetry that saved Anthony Kiedis’ life. The result was the song you are about to hear called, “Under the Bridge”.
There are two must-see videos that I will share for this song. The first one is the “official” video that they released. It was directed by famous movie director, Gus Van Zant and went on win the award for Best Music Video of the Year. Part of the reason it was so well-received is Van Zant’s use of colours and super-imposed images to reflect the mental health issues of Anthony Kiedis, as he sings his poem. I will, also, include a live performance from a concert they gave at a place called Slane Castle in Ireland. In the live video, you can really get a sense of the wonderful guitar stylings of John Frusciante who, despite his own mental health and drug-related issues, is a superb craftsman when it comes to playing the guitar. The band are happy in this video and, when they are happy, they produce beautiful music. If nothing else, The Red Hot Chili Peppers are survivors. They have broken up and reformed, abandoned each other only to save each other again and again in the end. Through it all, they have made some of the most memorable music, certainly, of my generation.
So, without further delay, here are The Red Hot Chili Peppers with their biggest hit, the life-changing song, “Under the Bridge”. Enjoy.
The link to the video for the song, “Under The Bridge” by The Red Hot Chili Peppers, can be found here.
The link to the video for the live version of the song, “Under The Bridge” by The Red Hot Chili Peppers, can be found here.
The link to the official website for The Red Hot Chili peppers, can be found here.
The link to the official website for Rolling Stone Magazine, can be found here.