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Rio's Attic: Celebrating the Life and Times of a Dearly Missed River Phoenix
American EnglishEn Français

Red Hot Chili Peppers
Giving It Away: The Stories Behind Every Song

by Rob Fitzpatrick
First published in 2004

ISBN 1-84442-796-X (Paperback, 143 Pages)

Overall, this title has been rather poorly received by fans of the punk-rock mega-band the Red Hot Chili Peppers. They feel that the book provides very little in the way of new material and find the basic errors within it such as pictures with incorrect captions underneath them very frustrating.

Many fans regard the next period of the band's career as representing a dark time. Dave had been in the band a month when the death of River Phoenix - on October 30, 1993 - dealt Flea a huge blow. River Phoenix and Flea had been good friends, and Flea had been with River at the Viper Room the night he collapsed outside the club. River was 23, and he'd died on a pavement with his limbs twitching in convulsion, after bingeing on heroin and cocaine. When the ambulance came to take River to hospital, medics trying to revive him, Flea had leaped into the ambulance. He was told to ride in the front with the driver.

Another drug death of a close friend was too much for Flea. He was diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome, was ordered by doctors to rest for a year, and the band entered into something of an hiatus period.

Towards the close of the book, the solo career of band member John Frusciante is discussed. It is there that his friendship with River is mentioned, along with an acknowledgement of the small contribution River made to Frusciante's first album.

Featuring two tracks with River Phoenix playing guitar and singing ("We had a communication that was intense," said John of recording with River), the album was the result of John's prodigious output rate at the time. He claimed to have written 70 songs after releasing this collection of 25.

Also worthy of mention are the color photographs used to illustrate the book which feature not only promotional and candid shots of the various band members but also other subjects such as Sonny Bono and My Own Private Idaho director, Gus Van Sant who was commissioned to shoot still photography and album cover artwork for the band. But the most insightful parts of the book are when the author presents collections of quotations from various interviews that the band has given to the media over the years.

Flea's second track on One Hot Minute, "Transcending" is a moodily melodic take of friendship in which the bass-player's love of a good swear word gets a proper workout. Written in tribute to the actor River Phoenix, "Transcending" is, according to Flea, about "One of the kindest people I ever met in my life. When I think about River I don't think about his death. I don't get sad about it. I think about how incredibly fortunate I was to be friends with a person who looked inside me and saw things that no one else ever saw before. And that song is a respectfully loving song for him."

The song itself is a brutal howl, the bare outlines of a friendship born in noisy bars and clubs painted in a few sharp words. "I called you a hippy," Anthony sings. "You said fuck off / Said your brother's a real punk rocker". But no amount of smart words can betray the pain felt at yet another senseless death to affect the Chilis. "Fuck the magazines / Fuck the green machine / See the human being / In a loving stream".

"All there is in life is honesty and love," Flea told Q magazine. "There's nothing else, really, and without those, we simply couldn't exist. It just would be ridiculous."

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