I m almost inevitably going to heavily disappoint myself and you, at how terribly little about
-the remarkable history of the Red Hot Chili Peppers in The Netherlands
-their intimate relationship with its most respectable music journalists and media
-and the rich YouTube legacy that has left us;
I manage to cover in this post.
And the tiny glimpses I do get sorted, fact checked, lined up and presented, will definitely not do justice to this well of historical and musical heritage.
But I m gonna try.
I m also beforehand apologizing for infinite number of things of late 80s cultural context, that is probably required to understand why they rooted so well in the Netherlands.
And also why a very young Bon Jovi fan like me, had photos of Anthony Kiedis in her school agenda AND considered their 1989 Mother’s Milk album “that album when everybody got to know them”
and even (bear in mind I was just 17 in August 1989 when Mother’s Milk hit) “the moment they got commercial”.
Okay, as far as late 80s cultural context goes?
If in 1989 you re an avid 17 year old BON JOVI fan (in the Netherlands, 80s Bon Jovi was a band no respectable journalist would “touch with a ten-foot pole”, or at least that was my impression), and your school agendas have been embellished with a variety of clippings from music and fashion magazines, but only the pages that were BLANK because you had not enough JON BON JOVI CLIPPINGS to cover all of them just with his appearance?
Under those circumstances?
You cover your agenda with Anthony Kiedis and consider the album Mother’s Milk – which was released after the school year 1988-1989 – absolutely a million miles away from being alternative or underground because in your perception the band had been around for ages?
That requires context and a timeline that even I would not be able to reconstruct. But again: Gonna give it a go.
So: Music scene in the 80s.
As I already said, Bon Jovi was pretty much a no-no, no-go, and it was entirely acceptable to attribute their ENTIRE commercial success to their looks. So they were considered a “hair metal” band, and I think we should begin by acknowledging that to everybody who was not a Bon Jovi fan, which included every music journalist and person of import in the media;
No one knew, it wasn’t clear, which hair metal band would last.
The Dutch venues Bon Jovi played late 80s were indoor, and totally sold out. But so did the gigs from The Scorpions (Germany), Whitesnake (US, extra popular in The Netherlands through Dutch guitarist Ad van den Berg), Van Halen (UK, Dutch connection through brothers Van Halen, and this band was always heavily supported by Dutch DJs) and Swedish band Europe also rocked the house and easily sold out Dutch indoor venues.
In that crowded overflowing market, New Jersey band Bon Jovi could very easily be discarded based on their looks, and there wasn’t one Dutch journalist who appreciated them.
The only Dutch media personality who sided with them, was Adam Curry. The American born host of the show Countdown and the host of the Dutch radio show Curry & van Inkel.
But Curry worked for our Dutch broadcasting corporation Veronica, and on the spectrum of eight to ten corporations we had, Veronica was the youngest one and the most commercial of them all.
Veronica’s flagship was their television guide. All national broadcasting corporations issued their own television guide, that was their most tangible form of branding.
These magazines expressed the values of the particular public broadcasting corporation, and Veronica was the only one non-religious, non-political, and aimed at teenagers and young adults.
Their magazine was full color, and it kept you updated on all the trends, films, new music, and of course informed on cool programs that would be broadcast.
Curry also made a point pronouncing their name the American way, which described phonetically to a Dutch person, means he said: “Baaahn Jovi”
Because the Dutch pronounce their O entirely different to how an American would do that.
Curry’s way of pronouncing Madonna’s name (correctly) and pronouncing Bon Jovi’s name (correctly), even became the laughing stock in a column of a no doubt respected columnist whose first name was Annelies.
Curry’s response: “How would you feel if I pronounced your name Anné-Lies?”.
All this to illustrate, that in order to be seen, acknowledged, supported and respected by the Dutch music scene, and even to get the honor of having your name pronounced correctly, you had to have the EXACT right, pretty fucking elitist way of showing just the right thing, at just the right time, and in the right place and STEER AWAY FROM VERONICA AND THEIR MAGAZINE AT ALL TIMES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
And then, maybe, you could talk.
Dutch press adored Bruce Springsteen by the way. That too, didn’t help Bon Jovi stand out in the “hair metal” or rock genre.
I think Dutch journalists felt they betrayed Bruce Springsteen, who was hailed, appreciated and LOVED from the 70s, but also because of his 1984 album Born In The USA.
Dutch journalists seemed to believe they could only include one artist from New Jersey in their Dutch Hall Of Good Music, and they had already given that spot to Bruce Springsteen.
Now on the other end of the television guide spectrum, there was also ONE public broadcasting corporation that stood out as the absolute most elitist, high-brow, and culturally respectable.
This corporation was the VPRO, and their television guide was the hallmark of having good taste.
If as a teen you said: “We have the Veronica guide” everybody knew what kind of background you had (your parents were easy going and entrepreneurial).
If you said: “We have the VPRO guide.”?
To this day, people know EXACTLY what your background is.
Given the fact that I knew who the Red Hot Chili Peppers were, and that I had a school agenda from the pre-Mother’s Milk era, covered with arty photos from Anthony Kiedis, it should come as no surprise;
We, had the VPRO guide.
Occasionally I bought the Veronica guide, and indulged in it. In the same way I bought music magazines, such as the one the photos from Anthony Kiedis stem from.
Being a Bon Jovi fan, buying the Veronica guide, watching Countdown and listening religiously listening to Curry and van Inkel every Friday night, were aspects of my own, individual, self-expression.
Except, of course? You guessed it right?
My parents VPRO guide, gave me access to the alternative world of Dutch music.
And I often listened on Wednesday afternoon, to a VPRO radio show that I knew had cool alternative music.
I don’t know when I heard the Peppers on there, only that there were a lot of references to George Clinton.
Maybe it was 1988, or maybe it was after Mother’s Milk 1990…
All I know is that in 1988-1989 I already had that Anthony Kiedis agenda, and I considered them famous and known. And “of course why wouldn’t you know them”.
When I look at the 1987 album The Uplift Mofo Party Plan, I only recognize Fight Like a Brave.
When I look at the 1989 album Mother’s Milk, I recognize the titles Higher Ground, Knock me Down, and Johnny Kick a Hole in the Sky.
From the 1991 album Blood Sugar Sex Magik; The Power of Equality, Breaking the Girl, Suck My Kiss, I Could Have Lied, The Righteous & the Wicked, Give It Away, Blood Sugar Sex Magik, Under the Bridge, and Naked in the Rain.
I remember making a cassette tape in the early 90s. From cds I rented on my library card, I recorded Blood Sugar Sex Magik on one side, and Mother’s Milk on the other.
That’s when I was the most involved with their music.
But since I have a more intimate relationship to my stationary, than to my cd collection, for me the real relationship with the Peppers was through that crafted agenda. With those photos from Kiedis and his then girlfriend Ione Skye.
There is a Dutch piece, that was released just earlier this year, where Patricia Steur talks about how she created these photos:
DE PLAAT EN ZIJN VERHAAL: ‘ALLEEN DE RUG VAN ANTHONY KIEDIS VOND IK WAT SAAI’
And my relationship was in that Wednesday afternoon radio show, where The Red Hot Chili Peppers played live, and all I remembered was that it was heavy on the George Clinton references.
I was unsuccessful at retrieving the radio broadcast. But I did encounter a treasure box of Red Hot Chili Peppers material from a Dutch documentarian,
Bram van Splunteren.
I collected what was public in a YouTube playlist
It includes a conversation with John Frusciante, in what were the most difficult years of his life:
John Frusciante Vpro 1994 in HQ + Stuff
In 2016 the VPRO and Bram van Spunteren collected the 1988-1992 work with the Red Hot Chili Peppers into a documentary: Red Hot Chili Peppers – A Dutch Connection. It is available on Vimeo after login.
Another important man who created the deep roots the Peppers have in the Netherlands, is famous tattoo artist Henk Schiffmacher.
In the 80s, he made eagle on the back of Anthony Kiedis.
And the two went on an extensive trip to Borneo, to discover the origin of tattooing.
Schiffmacher’s Dutch book about this expedition has just been rereleased, after having been out of print for decades.
In his autobiography, Anthony Kiedis describes the expedition as a trip to hell and “a Vietnam experience”.
Documentarian Bram van Splunteren, photographer Patricia Steur, and her then husband the famous tattoo artist Henk Schiffmacher;
Together with the context of the serious Dutch music scene being the dominant one, had made for fertile grounds for the Red Hot Chili Peppers. And when they gave a show yesterday, at the local park, I took a little stroll around the grounds, and contemplated how I could avoid writing about them, because I was already vaguely aware of there being something extra special in The Netherlands.
Between them and us.
But I didn’t really know how to go about figuring that out, I didn’t know if I was correct, and I was days behind on what I considered my “grownup” content creation (videos), which was not going to get done anymore, if I took on this project of saying something about the Peppers.
I even contemplated not taking that stroll; Because then I would not have a reason to write.
If I would not take a stroll, I could ignore them and win my time back.
But that too, did not felt good. Them being here felt way too significant to be ignored.
So what I did, before I took my stroll, is I looked for that old agenda. And I scanned the photos with Kiedis, and I trimmed the files.
And then I took the walk around the venue, through the trees, over the grass, passing thousands of people who had gathered to listen to the concert.
After about 70 minutes in, the music had stopped, I noted the time because in case the concert is uploaded to YouTube I want to hear the rest of it;
But right then, all I heard was this;
A male voice, I think it was Flea, although I have no idea how I would know how Flea sounds…. But I think it was his voice when I heard him speaking about us, the Netherlands, and said:
“You were one of the first countries that embraced us. Thank you.”
And there I had my answer.
I had been right; The Netherlands had been one of the first countries that had embraced them. And now, after this post, you know why.
Their music and position as outsiders, made them loved almost immediately by serious, alternative, Dutch music scene, that was dominant in the media.
Media for whom Bon Jovi was too common, too low-brow, and that actually didn’t come around until 1995 These Days.
Which is my principal reason for not liking that album, even though it is an amazing album!
But I just can’t.
I never forgave The Netherlands for their collective disdain for Bon Jovi, where only Adam Curry and the Veronica guide supported them.
But the Red Hot Chili Peppers?
Maybe that was the higher ground we found each other.
Where I could stand them, and they could stand me.
And where yesterday, we found each other again.
The Peppers were glad to be here. Many Dutch people, including a whole new generation, were thrilled they were here, and I was happy too.
I m sure many of us would have bought a last-minute ticket if it had not been sold out months ago.
We were all happy to embrace each other, once again.
On higher ground.
That was it!
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