Peppers and Peon

The Red Hot Chili Peppers closed the last concert of their 2006 tour by playing the Captain Beefheart composition Peon as final encore. John Frusciante took the guitar part and Flea played bass.

Rolling Stone recently noted that John Frusciante is owner of some original Don Van Vliet paintings. Flea frequently name-checks and quotes Captain Beefheart, sometimes in the most unlikely of contexts such as his NBA blog.

This is not the first time Flea and Frusciante have attempted to play this tune. On 15th October 2002 Flea wrote, “John and I can play “peon’ by Captain Beefheart all the way through now. It is a very complicated piece of music. We are still a little awkward in parts but soon we will rock it live. Captain Beefheart! Man, that band worked so hard to play those incredible compositions. Everyone should pay more attention to it. Trout Mask Replica! Lick My Decals Off! Classic records, such an important part of the evolution of music.”

A recording of John and Flea playing Peon at LA’s Knitting Factory in 2004 also circulates.


  1. I think it’s admirable how the Chili Peppers have so adimately promoted and given credit to Beefheart. They have sent a lot of Pepper fans his way. And although I dont like their music, you can still respect someone who doesnt forget their influences. Not to mention it takes balls to play Beefheart to a pop-oriented audience- In any case, it takes balls of stone to attempt Beefheart live.

  2. It’s a really beautiful thing isn’t it? Two of modern rock’n’roll’s innovative artists, fumbling like school boys, trying to play this really difficult music. Like we’re gonna jump up on stage when the band finishes, before they pack up the instruments. John brags that he can nearly get most of it. And I bet Flea is really smiling out loud. And Don composed it in one take with his two hands. The way those two guitars go gives me a haircut every time. How can the original version of Peon that Mark and Bill played, be so pure. And everyone else tries to play the piece and struggles. Even live versions with Mark and Bill seem like attempts to repeat that glorious music. And there it was on one of the big music stages you could find. Beautiful. And by the way, I love the pic of Paris Hilton with the Trout Mask Replica cover.

  3. Flea is sort of bullshitting, as usual (yeah he can funk and do Noel Redding jive, but Mingus or even Rockette Morton he ain’t). They sort of play it, not great. It’s cool, and they deserve credit from the Beefheart communiTAY (yes, Beefheart Peoples!) for promoting the music and vibe, but not near the intensity, and yeah, beauty of original. Keddis is an arrogant if not slightly psychotic a**hole as well.


  4. i might be a bit biased since i love the chili peppers, but it seems like they know what they were doing, and that they just screwed up alot on stage

    and from what i see, many other people aren’t chili pepper fans, but there’s alot more too them then their pop songs. they’re definitly one of the most important bands of the last 20 years. john is extremely productive too. he also put out 6 records in 6 months like 2 years ago, and appears on the mars voltas latest album, being directed by omar a rodriguez lopez

    and anyone who likes the captain HAS to check out john frusciante’s solo album “niandra lades and usually just a t-shirt”. its probably my favorite album. it sounds nothing like any chili peppers song or album, so don’t be scared off by that. many people compared it to captain beefheart when it came out, although i think that’s a bit of a stretch…

    anyway, to the point, props to don for being able to write the thing in the first place. and for the magic band for learning it as well as they did. its good to see a band introducing the captain to another generation though. if i had seen that live, and i had never listened to any beefheart, the first thing i would do is go out and buy an album.

    oh, and one final note, the blog mentions john and flea playing peon at the knitting factory in 2004… that’s actually not true. it was a performance by flea and john and omar, which was mislabled as peon. apperiently the guy thought it sounded simaler? it’s completely different though, it’s like a 10 minute jam where the guys just take turns soloing. still a good song though.

  5. I heard them do this live. One of the most magnificent music performances I have ever heard, bar none.

    The two shows (Troubador and someplace in Huntington Beach?) I caught were hands down, the best live performances by a band I have ever heard. Sat in the front row at the Troubador with the band playing at full volume, just feet from our table!

    Mahalo’s to the Peppers for tackling this jarring, poetic, visceral and deeply romantic musical composition.

    The only thing I’ve heard since that approaches the sheer purity of Peon live, are the recordings of classical guitar duo Ida Presti and Alexandre Lagoya.

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