Straight out of Los Angeles, the Red Hot Chili Peppers have been carving their place in music history for the last 30 years. With a little blood, sugar, sex and magic, the Chili Peppers have delivered a unique sound that has reached millions of listeners around the world. Led by lead singer Anthony Kiedis and bass guitar legend Flea, the California-quartet returned in a major way in 2016 with the release of their newest album The Getaway. The album was the first to feature Danger Mouse as its producer (following a 25 year stint with Rick Rubin), and was the second album to have guitarist Josh Klinghoffer. With its success, the Chili Peppers are currently in the midst of a world tour that will span the better part of 2017.
Throughout their illustrious history, the band has released 11 albums, and more than enough songs that have dominated the airwaves. With single after single reaching the top of the charts, the band’s legacy and popularity has surpassed many of its contemporaries, and they show no sign of slowing down. While we can all sing along to their radio hits, the Chili Peppers expansive catalogue includes some masterful works that didn’t quite make the cut onto their studio albums. Some of these songs have appeared as B-sides on single releases, some on movie soundtracks, and some have only been played live. So, be sure to give each track a listen, and treat yourself to some hidden gems from one of the biggest bands to have come from the decade nest known for new wave and hair metal.
15. “Rolling Sly Stone”
Kicking off our list is a Chili Peppers song that has only been played live, with no proper studio recording seeing the light of day as of now. “Rolling Sly Stone” is a rollicking funk-driven song that delivers the quintessential Chili Peppers sound. Released on 2004’s Live in Hyde Park, “Rolling Sly Stone” appears on the first disc, and does not disappoint. Clocking in at 5:06, the song plucky Funkadelic style of guitar compliments Flea’s bass playing perfectly, as does former guitarist John Frusciante’s harmonies on the song’s way to its chorus.
The bridge of the song brings a more alt-rock feel, before hopping back into the verse-groove with a brief, but solid sonic blast of guitar from Frusciante. The song’s title is clearly a reference to the bands that have inspired their style of play, and the Chili Peppers funk-fueled goodness is in full effect on the song. The band has added to their sound on their latest release, but “Rolling Sly Stone” will have you taking some of their older records out for a spin.
14. “Hometown Gypsy”
In 2011, the Red Hot Chili Peppers released I’m With You, and, despite their prolific output (over 30 songs in total), the album was met with lukewarm reception, and put the band at a career crossroads of sorts. While many songs were found to be underwhelming and formulaic, “Hometown Gypsy” was one of the betters ones released during that time. A Charlie Daniels vibe on a Chili Peppers song? It needs to be heard to be believed.
The verse carries the listener through a lush southern-fused rhythm, before diving headfirst into an insanely catchy chorus that helps show off Anthony Kiedis’ ever improving vocals. Musically, the chorus is most akin to more common Chili Peppers songs, and would easily find a place on their By the Way album. The uniqueness of the verse is probably what kept it off of I’m With You, though that’s not to say that it’s bad. It would have been an odd fit on the record, but its exclusion left the band with a worthwhile song for eager listeners.
13. “I’ll Be Your Domino”
“Snow (Hey Oh)” was a massive hit for the Red Hot Chili Peppers back in 2006, and “I’ll Be Your Domino” was a B-side for the single’s release. While “Snow (Hey Oh)” had listeners ready for an emotional fresh start, “I’ll Be Your Domino” had listeners ready to throw on a tube sock and have a blast. The song represents each member of the band firing on all cylinders to deliver a song that is fun, catchy, and a worthwhile listen for any person ready to enjoy some funk.
2006’s Stadium Arcadium was the last album to include guitarist John Frusciante, and remains a standout in the band’s history. The double-album took over the world, and its B-sides were phenomenal. “I’ll Be Your Domino” is good enough to be included on an album that housed some of the band’s best work. But, 28 songs is more than enough to curb your Chili Peppers withdrawals.
12. “Millionaires Against Hunger”
Back in the 1980s the Red Hot Chili Peppers had a much different sound than the radio-friendly tunes that they deliver today. In 1985, the band collaborated with legend George Clinton for their second album Freaky Styley, and Clinton’s trademark sound is all over the record. While the album didn’t set the world on fire back in 1985, it includes some fun tunes that die-hard fans feast on to this day. Among those tracks that didn’t quite make the cut, “Millionaires Against Hunger” just might be the best of the bunch.
Hillel Slovak’s funky guitar work on top of Flea’s bass lay the foundation for a song that will invoke memories of acid wash jeans and mohawks making their way down the Sunset Strip. Before he became the singer we hear on the radio today, Kiedis was more adept at a rap-delivery for his politically charged lyrics, as evident by his work on this track. Alternative is a term too often used, but this song defines alternative considering the year it was released.
The One Hot Minute era of the Red Hot Chili Peppers is one that has kept fans divided for an incredibly long time. After the success of Blood Sugar Sex Magik, guitarist John Frusciante abruptly left the band in the middle of a tour, leaving the quartet down a key member. After a few stand-ins, the Chili Peppers enlisted Dave Navarro of Jane’s Addiction fame to fill his shoes. When One Hot Minute was released, the band had a completely different sound, and their popularity suffered as a result.
In retrospect, One Hot Minute is an excellent album. The problem with it is that is doesn’t sound like the Chili Peppers we all know. Among the better tracks of the era, “Bob” is pretty high on the list. The band has always been renowned for its musicianship, and this song is proof of their talent. Thankfully, the Chili Peppers have played some songs off of the album recently, showing that they’ve moved past the album and the criticism that came with it.
10. “Bicycle Song”
“Bicycle Song” is such a quirky pop tune, and it is quite possibly the first Chili Peppers song that I learned to play on guitar. It’s simple, yet effective in its digestibility. This song is more akin to the older Frusciante style of play in the era in which it was recorded. It’s laid back, mellow, and it is insanely catchy. The track come from the By the Way era of the early 2000s, and the song appears as an iTunes bonus track for the record.
Much like a number of their other songs, “Bicycle Song” touches on some serious themes, but doesn’t take itself too seriously. By the Way is a great pop album, and “Bicycle Song” probably could have been a better fit than the song “Warm Tape,” which I’ve never really been fond of. The again, the album went on to be multi-platinum, so maybe they know what they’re doing after all.
9. “Pink as Floyd”
The aforementioned I’m With You album saw the Red Hot Chili Peppers pumping out tunes at an alarming rate, and we’ve already seen one of the songs appear on our list. For the second entry, I’ve elected to include “Pink as Floyd” because it is an excellent song that should have been on the album. I’m With You marked the last time that the band would work with producer Rick Rubin, and I find it fitting that after 25 years, the Chili Peppers made their time in the studio count.
Flea has always been renowned for his bass playing throughout his career, and it’s his work on “Pink as Floyd” that really makes the song stand tall among the others. Josh Klinghoffer seemed to struggle to find his footing in his first go with the Chili Peppers, but 2016’s The Getaway saw him take the next step in becoming a major contributor to the legendary act.
8. “Bunker Hill”
Despite being recorded during the sessions for Californication, “Bunker Hill” would end up being released as a B-side for the single Fortune Faded, which was served to fans in promotion of the Chili Peppers Greatest Hits album. “Bunker Hill” was one of the first Red Hot Chili Peppers B-sides that I had the pleasure of listening to, and it remains one of my favorites after all this time.
The song’s introduction is all rhythm section, as Flea and Chad Smith blend together seamlessly before the addition of Kiedis’ vocals. Frucsiante delivers a minimalist performance in this song, which was not uncommon during the Californication era. It was his first album with the group since 1991’s Blood Sugar Sex Magik, and he kept his playing to a minimum, focusing on the music as opposed to just letting it rip. It paid off majorly, as his simple, yet effective approach yielded some of his best work.
7. “Melancholy Mechanics”
Among the songs in the Red Hot Chili Peppers arsenal, “Melancholy Mechanics” is one of the few that has a sound all its own. The first few minutes of the track are so soft and subdued before ripping off into a brief blast of the hard rock that was felt all throughout One Hot Minute. The ending of the song find singer Anthony Kiedis delivering poetry over the band’s music, as it slowly crawls to a conclusion.
What I love most about the song is the use of Dave Navarro and his underrated vocal prowess. Both John Frusciante and Josh Klinghoffer have provided the band with unique harmonies that have helped define the band’s sound. On “Melancholy Mechanics,” Navarro is the one harmonizing with Anthony Kiedis, and the results are spectacular. Given the exclusion of such great songs, it would seem that One Hot Minute may have received better reviews with a few switch-ups.
6. “Funny Face”
Another song that didn’t quite make the cut for 2006’s Stadium Arcadium, “Funny Face” shows the Chili Peppers dipping their toes into different genres while maintaining their own take on things. This reggae-infused pop tune combines choppy guitar, love-stricken lyrics, and some trumpet work by Flea to bring about a song that is fantastic. The Stadium Arcadium era was a time when John Frusciante was comfortable with letting his guitar playing be in the forefront, and his work on “Funny Face” is superb.
I love when bands give an effort to try new and unfamiliar things, and “Funny Face” is a great example of this. The song is in a style that the Chili Peppers don’t normally dabble in, yet they were able to show off their musicianship, and create something wonderful. While not all of the Stadium Arcadium B-sides made the list, I definitely suggest giving them all a listen. There are some great tunes that were left off of a great record.
5. “Gong Li”
The Red Hot Chili Peppers career resurgence in 1999 came courtesy of the return of John Frusciante, and the release of their album Californication. The biggest and most successful single released in support of the album was “Scar Tissue,” which remains as one of the band’s most beautiful works to date. It topped the rock charts all around the world, and has been engraved in our minds ever since. For its release, “Gong Li” was used as a B-side, and those who actually bought the single were fortunate to get their hands on an incredible package of music.
The intro of the song may come off a bit awkward at first, but, once the song gets rolling, you’ll be thankful you stuck it out. The mid-tempo track is beautiful in its scope, and is chocked full of everything that makes the Chili Peppers great. Of note, Frusciante’s harmonies are absolutely lovely on the track.
4. “Leverage of Space”
Much like the aforementioned “Rolling Sly Stone,” “Leverage of Space” was included on 2004’s Live in Hyde Park, and has no formal studio recording. The song acts as a polar opposite of its predecessor, and tones down the funk that made “Rolling Sly Stone” a treat. Where “Leverage of Space” outdoes “Rolling Sly Stone” is in its musicianship between Flea and Frusciante. The duo’s work on the track us incredible, and Frusciante’s play in particular is some of my favorite that he’s done with the band.
At some point, I would love for the band to give a proper studio recording to both “Leverage of Space” and “Rolling Sly Stone.” While the live versions are worth a listen, it surprises me that certain songs got the go-ahead to be recorded. Each song is wonderful in its own right, and it would be great to hear each track get a proper studio treatment.
3. “Circle of the Noose”
Welcome to the Holy Grail of unreleased Red Hot Chili Peppers tunes. For years, fans of the Chili Peppers have been dying to get their hands on “Circle of the Noose,” and in 2016, the song finally found its way onto the internet. After completing their tour in support of 1995’s One Hot Minute, the Chili Peppers, with former guitarist Dave Navarro) began to write and record demos for their follow-up album. The album was not to be, as Navarro would exit the group, and former axe-slinger John Frusciante would make his way back into the fold for their 1999 classic Californication. The song remained in the dark for two decades, and, when it finally came to light, it did not disappoint.
A decades-bending tune, “Circle of the Noose” shows a different side of the Chili Peppers, and gives a glimpse into the band as it was nearing a possible demise. Navarro may have been an odd fit with the group, but his work on this track is excellent. With a number of other unreleased songs from this era still unearthed, I can’t help but wonder when they will eventually surface, and give fans that second Dave Navarro album that we’ve been waiting for.
Now, while this song wasn’t formally released on 1991’s Blood Sugar Sex Magik, “Sikamikanico” did make an appearance in one of the decade’s most beloved comedies, so you’ve probably heard this song more times than you even realize. Nevertheless, I chose to include it due to the fact that it’s easy to miss in the movie, and because it is dope as hell. Appearing in 1992’s Wayne’s World, “Sikamikanico” is one Chili Pepper’s song that packs a punch.
Recorded during the Blood Sugar Sex Magik sessions in Laurel Canyon, “Sikamikanico” is a hard-rocking track that is drum heavy, and really shows off Chad Smith’s talents. Smith has always maintained a sound that is catered to fir its respective song, but with “Sikamikanico,” Smith carriers the band through a performance that invokes some of the groups earlier punk roots. Give the song a listen, and keep an ear out for it the next time you watch Wayne’s World.
Coming in at the top spot on our list is a song that is a great as any that the band has released. “Quixoticelixir” was recorded during the sessions for the songs that would eventually comprise the album Californication, and remains one of the band’s best. While the album would go on to become the Chili Peppers biggest selling release in of all-time, I often wonder why this song didn’t make its way onto the album. While the record includes some of the bands biggest radio hits, “Quixoticelixer” could have easily replaced one of the album’s lesser known songs.
The mellow track begins with Frusciante roping the listener in with some nifty guitar work, before the rhythm section joins in and delivers a fantastic tone to compliment Kiedis’ pseudo-rap spoken-word delivery. The chorus is catchy, and would mesh well with the album’s other tracks. If you’re dying to hear it, the track can be found as an iTunes bonus track for the Californication album, and will open your eyes to a whole new side of the band.
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