You Say It's Your Birthday: Flea

Today is the birthday of Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea, born Michael

Balzary 35 years ago in Melbourne, Australia. The Red Hot Chili Peppers are

the often imitated but never duplicated masters of funk-thrash, a genre

blending music that takes metal guitars and lays them over rhythms

associated with rap and funk. Flea, a musical prodigy who took to the

drums and trumpet at a very early age, moved from N.Y. to L.A. with his

family in 1972 and hooked up with fellow original Peppers Anthony Kiedis

(vocals), Jack Irons (drums) and Hillel Slovak (guitar) at Fairfax High.

Before becoming a Pepper, however, Flea played bass for the seminal L.A.

punk

band Fear and started his spotty film career by appearing in 1983's

Suburbia. Irons and Slovak, who were busy with a band called What It Is

when the band recorded their self titled debut in late '83, were replaced by

guitarist Jack Sherman and drummer Cliff Martinex. Irons and Slovak

returned to the band in '84 after What It Is wasn't anything anymore and

the group toured constantly, quickly getting attention for its

well-placed socks during encores. 1985 saw the release of the George

Clinton produced Freaky Styley, which was followed by the more rock

sounding The Uplift Mofo Party Plan in 1987.

Slovak died of a heroin overdose in 1988, a tragedy which, combined with

Kiedis' addiction to the same drug, caused Irons to leave the band. Flea

and Kiedis regrouped, recruited drummer Chad Smith and guitarist John

Frusciante and recorded 1989's Mother's Milk; it was a breakthrough

album

for the group which spawned the hits "Knock Me Down" and a cover of Stevie

Wonder's "Higher Ground." The group's exposure to a large audience brought

with it some troubles, with Kiedis convicted in 1989 of indecent exposure

and battery as a result of some after-show shenanigans and Flea and Smith

convicted of similar charges due to an incident on "MTV's Spring Break" a

year later. Before the release of BloodSugarSexMagic in 1991, Flea

married his girlfriend Loesha, tattooed her name over his left nipple and

later fathered a daughter named Clara. BloodSugarSexMagic spawned

the hits "Suck My Kiss," "Give It Away," "Under The Bridge" and "Breaking

The Girl." They headlined the Lollapalooza festival the next year with new

guitarist Arik Marshall, made a memorable appearance at Woodstock '94 with

former Jane's Addiction guitarist Dave Navarro and then went on a short

hiatus. 1995 saw the release of One Hot Minute with Navarro on

guitar and an accompanying tour. Flea has used the downtime between Chili

Peppers projects to appear in films like My Own Private Idaho and to

play bass on Alanis Morissette's "You Oughta Know," Porno For Pyros' "Hard

Charger" and on a reunited Jane's Addiction's Kettle Whistle and "So

What." As of this writing, Flea is gearing up to tour with a "relapsed"

Jane's Addiction in support of their forthcoming Kettle Whistle

compilation.

Other birthdays: The late Nico (Velvet Underground) would have been 59;

Fred Turner (Bachman-Turner Overdrive), 54; Kelly Marie, 41; Gary Kemp

(Spandau Ballet), 38 and Wendy Wilson (Wilson Phillips), 28.