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Your Cover’s Blown / Don’t You Forget About Me: The Red Hot Chili Peppers – “Love Rollercoaster” (1996)

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on November 7, 2007

You give me that funny feeling in my tummy

I remember reading an NME review of The Cure’s Galore once upon a time that quoted Mick Jagger saying something about how after the Rolling Stones made Exile on Main Street, they just didn’t try that hard anymore, since they had already achieved everything they wanted or needed to achieve (the reviewer went on to compare this to The Cure’s situation post-Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me). This is, of course, a fairly stupid point, since not only did The Stones make at least one great album over a half-decade after Exile (Some Girls, and I’m starting to think possibly Tattoo You as well), but The Cure’s best and most loved album was the one directly after KMx3. However, I do come back to this quote fairly frequently when thinking about the careers of two current modern rock bands–The Foo Fighters and the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

A recent karaoke performance of RHCP smash “Scar Tissue” by IITS friend Andrew Weber prompted discussion about exactly what the moment was that Red Hot Chili Peppers stopped caring about making distinctly above average music. Like peers the Foo Fighters, for nearly the last decade, RHCP have continued to put out a seamingly endless stream of increasingly mediocre singles, re-writing old hits and crafting songs so unremarkable and samey-sounding that trying to identify one from another is like trying to beat the Pepsi Challenge. This would be no great tragedy–few great bands can stay consistently great for multiple decades–but the real dastardly thing about RHCP is that they’ve undergone this whiting-out while still managing to stay in the top strata of current rock bands commercially (same with The Foo Fighters, whose “The Pretender” is in I think its 87th consecutive week on top of the modern rock charts at the moment). Unfortunate, to say the least.

Ultimately, I think we concluded that while “Scar Tissue”–the lead single from 1999’s Californication, and the song that revived the band’s fading fortunes after 1996’s semi-disastrous One Hot Minute–was a pretty good song, it was also probably the beginning of the end (or more accurately, I suppose, the beginning of the middle) for the band. It was the kind of lukewarm, underwritten mid-tempo non-rocker that RHCP would make their bread and butter at the beginning of the 21st century (“Californication,” “By the Way,” “Can’t Stop,” “Tell Me Baby,” “Snow (Hey Oh),” probably “The Zephyr Song” if I could remember how the hell it went), but it had a cool enough hangover feel to it, decent enough soloing and pretty enough harmonies to make it worthwhile in itself (and the Stephane Sednaoui-directed video was kinda nifty, too).

“Love Rollercoaster” is, at best, a footnote in RHCP’s chronology. A cover of a 70s #1 hit (strike one) by the Ohio Players, released on the soundtrack (strike two) to Beavis & Butthead Do America (one of the most underrated TV-show-cum-movies* ever made), with an animated video featuring heavy cameoing from the movie’s similarly animated title characters (uh, I guess that should be strike three, but frankly, that’s just awesome), the song has not aged as well in fans’ memories or on modern rock radio as well as some of their less ridiculous hits. It wasn’t even included on the band’s 2002 greatest hits album (tellingly titled Greatest Hits), though that was arguably just as much due to guitarist John Frusciante’s distaste for ex-axer Dave Navarro’s era with the band than anything to do with the song itself.

But the song’s actually fun, y’know? How many post-’96 RHCP songs can you even say that about? Off hand, I can only think of one–Californication‘s “Around the World,” because I actually like that ridiculous slap bass intro and the way the chorus just dissolves into faux-Chinese gibberish towards the end of the song. But “Love Rollercoaster” is even better–especially with that amazing intro, the screeching guitar distortion giving way to the song’s admirably disco-aping beat and Navarro’s Nile Rodgers-esque guitar, even tighter than Leroy Bonner’s playing on the original.

Falsetto! Kazoo! The band gets naked in the video! And lead vocalist Anthony Kiedis actually sort of raps on the verses! Remember when Anthony Kiedis used to sort of rap? Remember how RHCP used to be one of those rap / rock / funk fusion-y sort of bands? Of course you don’t–it’s hard to even remember when RHCP could write decent ballads like “Breaking the Girl” and “Soul to Squeeze” at this point, much less to remember when they were actually considered slightly cutting edge. I’d be surprised if the band remembered themselves.

OK, so it doesn’t quite match the spooky paranoia of the original–a feeling which is half attributable to the ridiculous urban legends surrounding the song and the infamous high-pitched scream that comes two and a half minutes in–and it could’ve used some horns to really sell those verses. But I still like it just as much as anything the band’s done since ’91, and RHCP were never very good at sounding creepy anyway. Besides, I feel like if they tried their hand it again today, it’d just sound overly reverent and sort of sedated, so I’m glad they got it out while it still had a chance to be even slightly kick ass.

*(Huh huh huh, huh huh huh)

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3 Responses to “Your Cover’s Blown / Don’t You Forget About Me: The Red Hot Chili Peppers – “Love Rollercoaster” (1996)”

  1. Mitchell Stirling said

    The only RHCP song I like.

  2. […] Intensities in Ten Suburbs wrote an interesting post today on Your Coverâ??s Blown / Donâ??t You Forget About Me: The Red Hot Chili Peppers – â??Love Rollercoasterâ?? (1996)Here’s a quick excerptYour Covers Blown / Dont You Forget About Me: The Red Hot Chili Peppers – Love Rollercoaster (1996) November 7th, 2007 by Andrew Unterberger You give me that funny feeling in my tummy [IMG] I remember reading an NME review of The Cures Galore once upon a time that quoted Mick Jagger saying something about how after the Rolling Stones made Exile on Main Street, they just didnt try that hard anymore, since they had already achieved everything they wanted or needed to achieve (the revie […]

  3. TJENZ said

    I read this on Friday, then a few hours later I heard the song on the radio. First time I’d heard it in years. Pretty good cover.

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