Josh Klinghoffer Joins The Not-So-Exclusive Red Hot Chili Peppers Guitar Club
When I heard last year that John Frusciante was once again stepping down from his guitar throne in the Red Hot Chili Peppers I thought that we were finally going to see the end of a group that by all rights should have been over and done with at least half a dozen times throughout their nearly thirty year career.
Perhaps I should have known better. After all, this is a band that besides the core duo of bassist Flea and singer Anthony Keidis have seen so many line-up changes over the years you need a score card just to keep track of who’s on first, let alone how they even got there. After just two albums the Chili Peppers had already traded in their original drummer and guitarist, and with the arrival of Hillel Slovak the seeds of the Peppers’ guitar player woes were firmly planted.
Although Slovak is considered by many to be a founding Chili Pepper, he did not play on the band’s self-titled 1984 debut (guitar duties were handled by Jack Sherman while Slovak moonlighted with another band). He did leave his mark on the next two albums, 1985’s Freaky Styley and 1987’s The Uplift Mofo Party Plan. However, Slovak’s personal demons got the best of him in 1988, and he died from a heroin overdose at the age of 26.
This kind of tragedy would probably be insurmountable for most groups, but not the Chili Peppers. The band recruited 18 year old John Frusciante to take over the void left by Slovak, and for many Peppers fans this is where the band that they know and love today starting taking form. With drummer Chad Smith added to the group (Jack Irons left the band after the death of Slovak), the Chili Peppers began rebuilding themselves-again.
With the addition of Frusciante the Chili Peppers found themselves a guitarist who focused on songwriting first and attention grabbing solos a distant second, plus understood that with the busy-ness of Flea’s bass playing knowing when and where to lay back was key. It is this mold that his replacements have been trying to work with ever since, some better than others. The five Chili Peppers albums Fruscinate has been part of are considered to showcase the ‘classic’ Red Hot Chili Peppers sound and vibe. The question today is whether Frusciante’s latest replacement in the band, Josh Klinghoffer, even has a chance of making his mark within the group. Personally, I think he has the best chance of any of the past guitarists who have attempted to step in, especially since he’s already toured as a second guitarist with the classic Peppers line-up, and has worked with Frusciante outside of the group as well.
Now, a look at some of those unlucky enough to have been asked to fill the very big shoes of John Frusciante. As well, each will feature a live performance of the song Give It Away, so you can compare and contrast the personal sonic style of each guitarist.
Replacement #1: Arik Marshall (1992-1993)
After Frusciante bailed mid-tour in support of the massively successful Blood Sugar Sex Majik, Arik Marshall was brought onboard. Frusciante had been unhappy throughout the tour, feeling the band had become ‘too big’. He also felt the Chili Peppers were beginning to worry more about their image and less about their music, something he wanted no part of. Frusciante was also battling an ever deepening drug addiction, which certainly didn’t help the situation. Marshall was called upon to help the band out on the remainder of their world tour, including dates at Lollapalooza and the MTV Video Awards, featured below. Once the tour was over, Marshall was dismissed from the band, never being given a chance to go into the studio with them.
Replacement #2: Dave Navarro (1993-1998)
Personally, for me the five years Dave Navarro was involved in the Red Hot Chili Peppers were, by far, the low point for the band, both for their live shows and their studio work. Navarro to me is a very by-the-book rock guitarist, and his heavy handedness and cock rock influenced playing style butchered the Slovak/Frusciante tunes he attempted and made for some pretty awful original material to boot. Navarro’s work on guitar was fine for his former band, Jane’s Addiction, but was completely out of place with the Peppers. You’ll notice a much more generic solo style, bigger reliance on distortion and overall posturing onstage, and in my opinion an inability to do Frusciante’s rhythm parts any justice whatsoever. He was, as they say, a bull in a china shop. And there wasn’t much left to choose from once he was done shopping. Navarro made one album with the band, 1995’s One Hot Minute, and he and his leather pants managed a couple of tours as well.
Replacement #3: Josh Klinghoffer (2011-)
When Frusciante returned to the fold after the departure of Navarro, there were happy times in Peppers land. Frusciante had almost killed himself over his addiction to heroin, and his re-joining of the Chili Peppers saw him clean and sober and anxious to start making music with his old friends again. The honeymoon would last a decade, and when Josh Klinghoffer joined the group as a second guitarist on their Stadium Arcadium tour in 2006 the key ingredient was in place for the next chapter in the Chili Pepper Book of Guitarists. The major difference with Klinghoffer compared to the other former members of the band is that he spent two straight years living and breathing all things Frusciante while on tour with him, and it shows. His style of playing is similar, and even his stance onstage owes a certain amount to Frusciante. Also, Klinghoffer isn’t afraid to be subtle in his playing, something I’m sure he picked up from Frusciante. He still has his own way of doing things, but I don’t think the apple has fallen too far from the tree with Josh.
Finally, here’s the Red Hot Chili Peppers with their new single, The Adventures of Rain Dance Maggie, from the album I’m With You.