RESEARCH: Dave Navarro and Chad Smith recall Woodstock ’94 light bulb moment: ‘It was totally Spinal Tap’
By Lyndsey Parker, Yahoo Music | Twenty-five years ago, at the height of MTV’s alternative-nation domination, the organizers of Woodstock ’94 attempted to create a youthquaking event that would do for Generation X what the original Woodstock had done for the love children of the ’60s. And any of the ’90s kids who witnessed that event most likely remember two indelible images from the festival’s final day: Green Day’s muddy mosh pit, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Residents-like light bulb heads.
Dave Navarro certainly remembers it. The Jane’s Addiction guitarist, who would go on to play on the Peppers’ 1995 album One Hot Minute, had recently replaced John Frusciante in the lineup, and this was this very first gig with the group. And he had to do it with a giant, vision-obscuring light bulb on his head.
“I think it’s no surprise that it was very uncomfortable in that,” Navarro tells Yahoo Entertainment/SiriusXM Volume. “See, we were at a rehearsal, and [Chili Peppers frontman] Anthony [Kiedis] had this concept: ‘What if we had light bulbs on our heads?’ ‘Yeah, that’s cool. Like, we used to do the flame hats. This is much simpler. There’s no flames!’ And, it was totally Spinal Tap — like, he drew it on a napkin or on a piece of paper, and we handed it to these guys, and none of us saw the actual prop until we were 10 minutes away from going onstage, in front of a festival audience, cameras, satellite productions. And, we put these things on, and they each were about 60 pounds. And they didn’t stay on your head straight, you know? And then, in addition to that, I had to walk out and debut with these guys. I’d been in the band for about five minutes.”
“Dude, that wasn’t well thought out, was it?” says Peppers drummer Chad Smith. “It was so Spinal Tap. We’re standing in the dark, and we’re each trying to get our [light bulbs] on, like, ‘How’s yours look?’ And, ‘Mine won’t light up!’ And, you know, we had these jumpsuits — we looked like baked potatoes with these big light bulbs. It wasn’t bad for me, because I sat there. I’m not moving around, you know? I’m just sitting. It wasn’t that bad. But, you guys…”
“If you watch the tape back, which I’ve seen many times since, it’s shots of all three of us looking back at Chad, like, ‘Oh my God, does this look OK? Is this working?’ And he’s just laughing,” Navarro recalls.
“I’m just laughing the whole time. It was a moment. It was a real moment,” says Smith.
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The Red Hot Chili Peppers also dressed up as Jimi Hendrix during their Woodstock ’94 set, as an homage to the first 1969 festival. And Navarro and Smith recall another amusing costume moment during Navarro’s mid-’90s tenure with the band that didn’t go quite as planned.
“There was one time when we did play on the David Letterman set, and David Letterman was world-renowned for having his set have arctic temperatures, freezing at all times — one, because he was more comfortable, and two, because it kept the audience awake,” says Navarro. “So, we thought to be funny, we would dress up in complete hooded, fur-lined jackets that were from Army surplus store, and glasses, like, mirrored cop glasses. And we would do our set like that, all four of us wearing them. … But, we didn’t realize at the time, that we looked exactly like the police sketch [of Ted Kaczynski], who was at large at the time! So, when people saw it at home and didn’t know that little reference…”
“They didn’t get the joke,” says Smith, laughing. “I think, Letterman, the only thing he did say was, ‘Oh, come on, it’s not that cold in here!’ Or something like that. That was the only saving grace. But still, if someone just turned the TV on and saw us, they’d be like, ‘Why is this band dressed up like the Unabomber?’”
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The above interview is taken from Navarro and Smith’s conversation on the SiriusXM show “Volume West.”
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