The Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “Freaky Styley” Should Receive More Praise

“Freaky Styley,” the Red Hot Chili Peppers second album was released on August 16, 1985.

EMI America

“Freaky Styley,” the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ second album was released on August 16, 1985.

Nick BeDan, Staff Writer

From college dropouts partying and playing music every night in the same clubs in downtown Los Angeles, to traveling all over the world and selling over 120 million records worldwide, the Red Hot Chili Peppers have been through one hell of a trip to get where they are today.

Most fans of the band will argue that “Californication” or “Blood Sugar Sex Magik” is their best album. However, most step over their earlier albums, specifically “Freaky Styley,” their second album that was released in 1985. 

The album served as the transition from the post-punk genre of their first album, to the funky, psychedelic rock that is recognized by the fans now, a big 180 from what they were known for at the time.

When the album was released, it sold around 70,000 records in its first couple months, with its only singles being “Jungle Man” and “Hollywood (Africa).” During the time of recording, the band used an immense amount of drugs and alcohol, which affected the recording process and also getting gigs – this was the most prominent factor of the failure of sales.

“Freaky Styley” was the first album to have the return of their original guitarist Hillel Slovak after firing Jack Sherman, who played on their first album. Slovak brought back both the band’s brotherly bond, and their funky and energetic guitar riffs. 

Many parents from the Parental Music Resource Center (PMRC) wanted the album either banned or to have most of the songs taken off the record because of explicit content, so many stores decided on the latter. 

The band, on the other hand, was proud of it, and didn’t really care about their lack of sales, and even though their alcohol use caused a hit in sales: another one of their problems came from their experiments with a mostly African-American dominated genre funk. Mixing it with the mostly white dominated genre of rock, which, at the time, caused confusion between old and new fans.

In an interview with a unknown source about the 2003 remastered edition of “Freaky Styley,” Bassist Michael ‘Flea’ Balzary states, “I know the music on this record was just way too obscure to ever be popular in a mainstream kind of way, but to me it really holds its own as a definitive and substantial musical statement,” he said. “More than any other record we ever made it falls into the category of ‘too funky for white radio, too punk rockin’ for black.’”

The album does not deserve the backlash that it’s received over the years: here are a couple songs that deserve some love from the fans.

“If You Want Me To Stay:” A cover from the band Sly and the Family Stone, it is appraised for being one of their best cover songs. It’s a slow yet funky love song, depicting a person leaving their lover for something that’s unknown. However the narrator promises their lover that they will return, hoping everything will be the same as it was before their departure. It’s perfect for those that have just started listening to the Red Hots, featuring a slow, mellow rhythm to get fans ready for other albums.

“Black Eyed Blonde:” The first song of the Red Hots’ to be featured in a movie, appearing in the skateboarding movie “Thrashin,”  it depicts a tough, beautiful blonde woman who will have you falling head over heels for her, and then once you get what you want, she will leave you in the dust with nothing. This is depicted in the second verse, “Leroy Brown thought he was bad too / Till’ she left him floatin’ in the old Bayou.” For those that love a fast bassline and a groovy guitar solo, it’s the perfect choice.

“Yertle The Turtle:” Based on a book by Dr. Suess, Yertle the Turtle and Other Stories, the song tells the story of a turtle named Yertle, the king of all the turtles who abuses his power, the song is a great representation on questioning justice and political authority, a common theme among many Red Hot songs. Overall, it’s a great musical version of the story, and I recommend it entirely.

“Freaky Styley”  is a great listen for any fan, old or new, of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and is the most underrated of their discography. Even though funk and R&B wasn’t popular at the time, the Chilis did their own thing, defining their style of music for the rest of the 1980’s and 90’s.