The [artist id="1012"]Red Hot Chili Peppers’[/artist] I’m With You is the kind of album that comes with plenty of good stories — everything from the lengthy hiatus that preceded it to the departure of stalwart guitarist John Frusciante and the rejuvenation that came with the addition of new ax-man Josh Klinghoffer . Shoot, even first single “The Adventures of Rain Dance Maggie” and I’m With You‘s title come with rather sizeable preambles.
But on an album brimming with backstories, none is as poignant as the tale attached to “Brendan’s Death Song,” an ode to the Chili Peppers’ longtime friend (and L.A. legend) Brendan Mullen, who not only gave the band their first break, but co-wrote the book that documented their first 25 years. And, when he died in 2009 at the age of 60, his passing was symbolic, in more ways than you might think.
“He died [close to] his birthday, which was also the rebirth day of the Red Hot Chili Peppers,” Anthony Kiedis told MTV News. “It was the very first day that we got together to play with Josh. And so all of those confluencing things led to that song being written on the first song of the Josh era.”
While “Death Song” is certainly a somber affair, it is also a celebration of Mullen’s life and the beliefs he held dear to his heart. That’s why, even though it was written very early in the process, the Peppers knew it was a lock for I’m With You all along.
“He was a true pioneer in the avant-punk rock-music scene of Hollywood in the late ’70s, for the purest and most beautiful of reasons. His job was to create a place and space for a new music to exist and a new scene to exist, and he did that by starting a club called the Masque, a basement club on Hollywood Boulevard,” Kiedis explained. “He lit the match. And then he never lost that love and that enthusiasm for art and music and literature and people and kind of an underground scene; he kept that alive in his heart until the day he died.
“He ended up booking Club Lingerie shows through the ’80s, which was just the place to get a show if you were an L.A. band or a New York band or a D.C. band, and Flea and I made our first demo tape for a few hundred bucks, with Spit Stix as the engineer, the drummer of Fear, and it was really good and we loved it and believed in it, and we took it everywhere and tried to play it for people, and most of the times they wouldn’t listen,” he continued. “And we took it to Brendan in the middle of the day and knocked on his door and said, ‘Will you listen to this?’ [We] put it in the boom box and danced our merry dance for Brendan, and he said, ‘Next Thursday, you’re opening for Bad Brains.’ ”
So, like much of I’m With You, “Brendan’s Death Song” is very much about life and loss … but, at the same time, it remains a tribute to the undying spirit and ethos of both the man and the band.
“There are people like that. You know it when you meet them and hang out with them; their integrity is real,” Kiedis said. “And I’m so happy that song came around. It seemed preordained for it to fall into our laps on that day.”