This month marks 17 years since Dave Navarro’s departure from the Red Hot Chili Peppers.  The Hall of Fame band’s crazy 30-year ride has included death, drug use and a lot of lead guitar players, but Navarro’s stint in the middle of their history was one of their darker hours.

Anthony Kiedis and Flea have been there since the beginning.  Drummer Chad Smith has been behind the kit since 1988.  Lead guitar, however, has been a little bit of a problem spot for the Peppers.  Founding guitarist Hillel Slovak died of a heroin overdose in 1988.  John Frusciante, the guitarist with whom they’ve had the most commercial success, has had two separate stints with the band and almost killed himself with heroin addiction in the early 90’s.  Josh Klinghoffer is filling the role now, playing on their most recent studio album, I’m With You (2011).  In the middle of all that turnover and craziness, the talented Navarro teamed up with a band that was, pardon the pun, red hot.  When Navarro joined, the band was coming off of the commercially and critically acclaimed Blood Sugar Sex Magik (1991).  Why wouldn’t this marriage work?  Well, creative differences and, of course, drugs.

Navarro had the resume, playing alongside Perry Farrell in Jane’s Addiction from 1986 to 1991.  He had the rock star look and rock star chops, but he also had a different style.  In his first big scale production for the Chili Peppers, Woodstock ’94, Navarro reportedly hated the idea of wearing the light bulb costumes.  He also was not the collaborator that Frusciante had been, so things moved at a slower pace.  The only Chili Peppers album released with this lineup was One Hot Minute (1995).  During the brief 4 years together, Kiedis was battling addiction and had a motorcycle accident, Navarro battled drug problems, Smith broke his wrist, and Flea had serious thoughts about quitting the band.  In April 1998, it was announced that Navarro was out.

I saw the Navarro-era Chili Peppers in Kansas City in March 1996.  You could just tell something was amiss.  It resembled what the Chili Peppers are, but it wasn’t it.  Frusciante would return for the next studio album, 1999’s ultra-successful Californication.  I saw that lineup in April 2000 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena… they were back.  They survived.