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Book Review: Red Hot Chili Peppers: Me And My Friends by Tony Woolliscroft

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Tony Woolliscroft is a UK based photographer who, for the best part of last 20 years, has been following and documenting the Red Hot Chili Peppers' growth and development. From early gigs in small venues, to large stadiums, and even to the secret shows that the band has done. He has followed them all along documenting them in photos.

The Red Hot Chili Peppers are an American alternative rock band the originally formed in Los Angeles in 1983. They combined alternative, punk, funk, rap, and psychedelic rock in to a unique and very recognizable style. While they recorded three albums with little success, it was 1989's Mother's Milk that propelled them to international fame. It was during their 1990 European tour that Tony Woolliscroft first met the band.

Over the course of the last 20 years the band consisted primarily of Anthony Kiedis, John Frusciante, Michael "Flea" Balzary, and Chad Smith, with a dash of Dave Navarro thrown in. The book contains a massive amount of photos with a lot of personal stories from the author. There is also an introduction by Chad Smith with whom the author became good friends with. Red Hot Chili Peppers: Me And My Friends is a large format book 11.1 x 9.7 inches in size, contains 224 pages and breaks down into 6 chapters that are titled for the albums that defined significant milestones in the groups progress.

Red Hot Chili Peppers: Me And My FriendsChapter One, "MOTHER'S MILK," introduces the meeting up of Woolliscroft with the band in January 1990 in London England. It was at their second show that he got his first pictures of the band and on a subsequent third show on the backside of their tour where he befriended the group by giving Kiedis original photos (there was no digital back then) to take back to America. Kiedis in turn gave Woolliscroft his home address. By New Years Eve 1990, Woolliscroft had met up with the band in the states for the final show of the year.

Chapter Two, "BLOOD SUGAR SEX MAGIC," has Woolliscroft meeting up again with the band durin the 1992 European tour, but things were not going well internally. Frusciante was detaching from the group, and Kiedis was shattered. It is during this time that you see how the band handled these tribulations, bringing in ex-Jane's Addiction Guitarist Dave Navarro to replace Frusciante on guitar.

Chapter Three, "ONE HOT MINUTE," is the first album that heralds in the Navarro age of the Chili's. During this time period, the mood of the band's music began to become darker, and this is when Chad Smith, the drummer began to hit Woolliscroft with his drumsticks from across the stage while in the middle of songs. A truly funny story! This chapter also contains the "Socks on Cocks" show and the Flea gets butt naked episode.

Chapter Four, "CALIFORNICATION," brings John Frusciante back into the group with Navarro departing. It is the summer of 1999. For one of the shows along their tour they were scheduled to play the 20th reunion of the Woodstock Festival. While working their act for the final day of the festival, Jimi Hendrix's sister came to the band and asked if they would finish the set with the Hendrix song "Fire" while a tribute played behind them.

Chapter Five, "BY THE WAY," concerns an album with vocals recorded in the infamous Chateau Marmont in Los Angles. The photos in this section show a very different, more intimate side of the band. This is a very personal section for the photographer in that he got to shoot live in the studio where Kiedis was recording — something that was never done.

Red Hot Chili Peppers: Me And My FriendsChapter Six, "STADIUM ARCADIUM," is primarily devoted to a small set of photos from the 2006 show in Manchester England. There is no real discourse here, but rather a final set of portraits of the guys at the show captured in their best moments.

Red Hot Chili Peppers: Me And My Friends is an excellent book that portrays the band in both words and photos by someone who knows the band as well as any outsider could. Whereas most photographers are only allowed to shoot the first three songs in a show, the band loved his work so much that they gave him full access.

Kiedis once told Woolliscroft that the band did not like long photo shoots, so he would get more by just letting them go on their business and he would just shoot the pictures. I think that this is what makes this book so intimate is the fact that it is all behind the scenes. Even when there is a "posed" group shot, it is more like he is catching them as opposed to staging them.

From the standpoint of a book through imagery, Red Hot Chili Peppers: Me And My Friends is a must have if you are a fan of the Chili's. When you add in all of the behind-the-scenes stories to go with the pictures, I can very highly recommend this book.

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About T. Michael Testi

Photographer, writer, software engineer, educator, and maker of fine images.
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