Blood Sex – The Red Hot Chili Peppers

When I got outside of a hospital facility where the patients were being treated for aggression ( I was one of them), I heard “Under the Bridge” on the way in the cab to the commuter train station to take me home to Boston – it was under a bridge. The song really grabbed me, right in the gut. “This is the song I need to hear right now,” I said to the cab driver. I was untangling my necklaces from the pouch, which I had been unable to wear. It was nice to be outside. “Everybody should spend some time inside,” I had said to the social worker who had treated me. “It makes. you a better person.”

I was a better person, I believe, and I was grooving high to the music that was playing, The Red Hot Chili Peppers. I think the singer, Anthony Akidis, understands the moods that have dug into people like me, the hurt that makes them mad, and wild – and what makes them aggressive. The music has the feel of a heavy beast of a shark tearing through the sea, this innocent, protected, force of a thing of nature.

Right now, I am playing Californication. It was released in 1999, but until now, when I just looked it up on Wikipedia, I thought it had been released much earlier. A friend in the neighborhood across the street said that was his favorite album of theirs, and that it was their first big hit. Anyway, it was the first album he paid attention to when he first came of age. It has a mature sound, with hardcore touches that are melded and blended well – perfectly – like a scotch highball at a club, in the middle of the night. I can see why he likes it so much. The lyrics are heavy and smooth and precise and accurate and hard-hitting, and the guitars are restrained but completely wild.

I used to hear “Aeroplane” all the time when I was working at night as a supply clerk at the OR of a hospital. That is my favorite song. “That motherf***** is always spiked with pain…” That was from One Hot Minute, in 1995, and it was their biggest hit. It really broke clean on popular radio. It was wild. It would play in the Irish Pub I would go to after work and see my friend, who worked with me, and someone would buy a case of Becks, and we would go for an afterparty at his apartment. Then Bobby, my friend, would go back to his home and get some weed.

There is a sexual energy to the band that is completely abandoned, yet it is tame, in a way, because it is safe and sound. And there is the blood, the blood pounding in the bodies of the whole organization that makes up the band, with the energy of the people that listen to them – all of them. Like some other artists – Madonna, New Order – they made it big in the 1980s, but they have still been continuing to come out with great music well into this century. Their music is all about evolving, and the evolution of the human psyche of the body. They have wrecked trains, but the trains keep moving, and going on, and the music opens up the mind and pours the waters of introspection into the aggressive, savage jungle of the dark country inside.

Madonna

The song I am playing is “Bye Bye Baby”. It is from Madonna’s Erotica. It has a light, sultry beat, with soft, whispered disco vocals. “Bye bye baby goodbye,” it goes, “instruction to cry.” Madonna can get heavy with her beat and her pop lyrics, and she gets very emotional. I think she is one of the best artists of her time, or any time. I didn’t always recognize her in this way. I remember driving a friend somewhere in August 1984. A very original song came on the radio.  My friend had been talking about Prince to me, and The Eurythmics. This really grabbed me though and touched me – deep. There was an innocence to it, but a bold sophistication. It was “Borderline”: “Your love keeps on pushing me over the borderline,” she sang. and I could feel it, the jealous rejection, the romantic equanimity, the anger. And the promise to survive, and move on, and make a career of romantic and professional experience for herself.

I didn’t pay attention to her for so much time. I heard songs like “Material Girl”, from her next album, and I didn’t think they were meant for someone like me, just for teenage girls. Songs would catch me when I heard them at work or in a shop, but I just wouldn’t take her seriously. I would like the videos, and think they were sexy and exciting, and they absorbed me, and I liked the thigh stockings and the lingerie she wore. I would like a song, then another, and the next I wouldn’t think was for me. I heard “Ray of Light”, from Ray of Light, in 2000, and I realized: she has taken each decade since the 80s and made it hers.

During the COVID-19 shutdown, I finally decided to explore her albums. She is not just a “singles” girl, her albums are highly conceived as wholes, and she keeps moving and evolving from one to the next. The first album I played was American Life. It had a highly evolved disco-techno trance sound, which she had achieved effortlessly, though she is known for her profoundly driven work ethic. The music was driven, with emotional outbursts, and rough punches to the gut, that were like sweet touches on the neck, when she was about to kiss you with her red lipstick lips.

Even the earlier albums are very mature, though they have the sassy, petulant girly-girl sound of a comely teenager. “Holiday” is one of my favorites, “Lucky Star” another. I had heard these songs years before, but I finally admitted that I liked them and loved them, and that they each moved me and touched me in a different way. It was a dance partner in a hot, happening, swinging dance club in the night. Each album is unique, and interesting in its own way. She never steps in the same stream twice, and her bare, sparkling feet get wet with the water, so she is always moist. I believe “Waiting”, from Erotica, is my favorite from all time ever, with the high sophistication of the dance beat, and the rhythm of her vocals, with their heavy repetition of key phrases from the chorus.

Madonna has never sported or presented herself as a great singer, or “the best musician.” She has just tried to be a superstar with genuine impulses and intentions.  But her body has the feel of dance, and the body of the feel of her dance comes into her music and makes her something really special. I listen to those albums all the time, all fourteen or seventeen of them. I just play them down the whole list of my album catalogue, without stopping, unless I have to sleep, which sometimes I leave it on even then. And she is still playing, when I wake up, and I feel like moving my hips and shaking my butt and dancing.