California rock veterans Red Hot Chili Peppers have had quite a busy year in 2022. From the band’s massively successful comeback record Unlimited Love – complete with the genius level contributions fans have come to expect from returning guitarist John Frusciante – to their equally well-received global stadium tour featuring The Strokes and Thundercat, the foursome appear to be experiencing a third wave of resurgence in the mainstream.
This, one could argue, is a highly impressive feat for a band that could be argued to have never truly departed the mainstream to begin with. But the group shows no signs of slowing down, having made the announcement July 24th – not even four months removed from the release of Unlimited Love on April 1st – that a second full-length LP, Return of the Dream Canteen, would also see release this year.
The upcoming album is set to hit shelves on October 14th, and has been preceded by a pair of singles thus far. The first, “Tippa My Tongue,” saw release on August 14th and seemed to find the funk rockers celebrating their own idiosyncratic brand of cartoon lunacy.
The second single, “Eddie,” was released on Friday, and sounds as though it could have been lifted from the band’s 2002 Beach Boys inspired effort, By the Way. In fact, the first few seconds of the song – preceding the entry of the drums and establishment of the driving tempo – sound strikingly similar to the title track of that very album.
The atmosphere carries as well, as the beachy, sparse, and unmistakably melodic introductory section evokes feelings of driving with the windows down, and elicits many of the same feelings as did “The Zephyr Song” before it. The song has garnered substantial attention for other reasons as well, not least of them being that it was written as a tribute to the late, great guitar icon Eddie Van Halen.
“Eddie Van Halen was one of a kind,” read a statement from lead singer Anthony Kiedis released by the band through social media describing the track’s origins.
“The day after his death Flea came into rehearsal with an emotional bassline,” continued Kiedis. “John, Chad and I started playing along, and pretty soon with all our hearts, a song in his honor effortlessly unfolded.” Members of the Red Hot Chili Peppers weren’t the only one’s struck by the highly publicized 2020 passing of the legendary musician, as artists and non-artists alike the world over shared in grieving an icon and reliving fond memories of the man and his music.
“It felt good to be sad and care so much about a person who had given so much to our lives,” Kiedis asserted. While, aside from its title, the song never directly mentions Eddie Van Halen by name, Kiedis leaves a litany of allusions that point to the sea-changing axe slinger. These include thinly veiled references to the namesake figure’s ancestral and geographical origins, his proclivity for hammer-ons in his playing technique, and the senior Van Halen, brother and drummer Alex.
The song skates along its established snappy groove for just over two minutes before shifting gears and dropping into a halftime section during which the steadily increasing emotion can be palpably felt. Further allusions to the guitarist’s life and career crop up during this section, with legendary Sunset Strip venues the Rainbow and Whiskey a Go Go garnering a mention, along with Zappa-produced 60s girl group The GTOs and original Van Halen frontman David Lee Roth.
The track closes with an absolute scorcher of a guitar solo from Frusciante with much of the same sound as represented by his work on Unlimited Love – Return of the Dream Canteen was recorded during the same sessions. Frusciante has described the process of arriving at this sound as trying to find a midway point between the respective approaches of Kurt Cobain and Jeff Beck.
“My concept was to find a bridge between those two conceptions of the instrument: that idea of making it explode with the electricity of the human energy that comes through the strings,” he said in an interview with Total Guitar. “And also, using the full range of the instrument in terms of the types of techniques that, while Eddie Van Halen and Randy Rhoads did a lot to develop them, I see them all as being rooted in what Jeff Beck did.”
The six-string flurry which closes the number runs nearly two minutes and is rife with emotional resonance while avoiding cliche imitations of Van Halen’s style and technique – an admirable tribute to one of the most influential and impactful musicians ever to pick up an instrument. While some may be surprised at the influence of Eddie Van Halen on the LA based outfit given the discernible difference in style and sound, members of the band are purported to be long-time fans of his work.
Chad Smith, for example, has long been a proponent of similar bands from the 70s such as Black Sabbath and KISS. Frusciante has likewise acknowledged the inspiration he’s drawn from guitar showmen such as Eddie Van Halen and Randy Rhoads, particularly during the recording of the Red Hot Chili Peppers 2006 double album, Stadium Arcadium.
Frusciante again sang the praises of the rock legend in the aforementioned interview for Total Guitar. “I really love guitar players like Randy Rhoads and Eddie Van Halen for the way that they could make the instrument explode through hand and whammy bar techniques,” he exclaimed.
Return of the Dream Canteen arrives in stores next month and will feature singles “Eddie” and “Tippa My Tongue.”
Feature Photo: Tony Norkus / Shutterstock
Red Hot Chili Peppers Release Eddie Van Halen Tribute Single article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2022
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