Taking advantage of the fact that the Red Hot Chili Peppers are back in the news, having announced the return of their prodigal son, guitarist John Frusciante, a new world tour, which will begin on June 4, 2022 at the La Cartuja stadium in Seville, as well as the release of a new album next year, from Guitars Exchange we want to review the career of the Californian group by reviewing our ten favorite songs of the band.
Under The Bridge
Until the appearance of Under The Bridge the Chili Peppers' music was an aggressive funk rock with lyrics in which their singer, Anthony Kiedis, talked about things like Party In Your Pussy, Catholic School Girls Rule and No Champ Love Sucker - it was a band that celebrated partying, drugs and, above all things, sex - but with this song they discovered the vein of their more melancholic and vulnerable side, talking about Kiedis' descent into hell as an addict, with the ghost of Hillel Slovak, the band's original guitarist who died of an overdose, ever present in their message. Still, it is John Frusciante, the guitarist who replaced Slovak, who is the big star of it, being responsible for putting to music a poem that Kiedis didn't want to turn into a song but that producer Rick Rubin convinced him to do so. The guitarist composed the famous intro with his Fender Duo Sonic, although later in the famous video of the song he appeared with his '66 Fender Jaguar. The fact is that this song marks the moment in which Frusciante begins to become the ‘sonic architect’ of the band and to demonstrate that, in spite of its beginnings and its concerts, this band gives the best of itself in its most intimate moments.
Give It Away
Also included in the mythical Blood Sugar Sex Magik, Give It Away is the best song of the style on which the Red Hot Chili Peppers were built - funk rock - with Kiedis almost rapping the verses and then finding a wonderful chorus. Here you can appreciate the incredible conjunction of their rhythm base, as Flea proves that he is one of the best bass players in rock history, plus a fired up Frusciante with a spectacular psychedelic solo on his late 50's Stratocaster. In the lyrics Kiedis tries to put the lesson learned from Nina Hagen, with whom he was dating at the time, about giving things away just to make other people feel better, without forgetting to use phrases so typical of the band like "What I've got you've got to get it put it in you" that Krusty the clown tried to change for the much more politically correct: "What I would like is to hug you and kiss you".
Scar Tissue was the sound of the band rising from the ashes. After the huge success of Blood Sugar Sex Magik, Frusciante left the band and fell into a huge addiction, while the band replaced him with Dave Navarro and released the disappointing One Hot Minute. Their paths didn't cross again until 1998 with Californication; and this Scar Tissue was the song that served as their calling card, with that guitar returning like a welcome breeze with the car window down. The chorus is the band’s best and the whole thing is rounded off with a solo in which Frusciante uses his 60's Telecaster Custom, with the slide. A therapeutic song.
The recording of One Hot Minute was problematic; Frusciante was gone and his replacement, Dave Navarro, was an excellent guitarist but did not have the same chemistry with the band, and to top it off, Kiedis had relapsed back into his addiction and was not going through his best creative moment. That said, that album, although irregular, left a couple of undoubted classics; My Friends and this Aeroplane in which Flea again has a stellar presence, as he had most responsibility for the music and delivered one of his best jobs on bass, which is saying something. On a dark and depressing album Aeroplane sounds like a welcome ray of funk sunshine that ends with Navarro showing off on one of his Strats through a wah, while Flea's daughter's kindergarten class sings the chorus.
I Could Have Lied
A devastatingly beautiful song about the strange, and brief, relationship between Anthony Kiedis and Sinead O'Connor, with again the singer opening up, and a band in perfect sync, with Frusciante on acoustic and Flea proving he is much more than a funk bass player. The song also contains what may be the most expressive and aching solo from a Frusciante clearly influenced by Hendrix.
The title track of the Peppers' second masterpiece, after Blood Sugar Sex Magik, mixed Kurt Cobain, Star Wars, David Bowie and the San Andreas Fault in a lyric in which the band rejected the plastic, celebrity-obsessed culture of modern America. Frusciante again laid the musical foundation with his 1955 Gretsch White Falcon plugged into a Fender Showman, while Flea's bass provided warmth and Kiedis rounded it out with a memorable melody.
One of the band's most famous and successful songs, Dani California is based on a guitar rhythm that brings to mind other songs like Lynyrd Skynyrd's Sweet Home Alabama, the Jayhawks' Waiting For The Sun and Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers' Mary Jane's Last Dance. It is one of the band's most classic songs and tells the story of Dani, a girl who is a mix of all the women Kiedis had been with, who lives from one hardship to another and who had already appeared in other songs by the band. In the final solo Frusciante again pays homage to Hendrix, with nods to Purple Haze and his '55 Stratocaster being run through a plethora of effects like a Moog. In the video, one of the band's funniest, the Peppers pay tribute to rockabilly, psychedelia, funk, Glam, grunge or punk, dressing up as Elvis, Beatles, Bowie, Kurt Cobain or Hendrix himself.
Breaking The Girl
One of the most unusual songs in their discography, Breaking The Girl is a psychedelic mid-tempo with a 12-string acoustic guitar as the main element, and a melotron played by Brendan O'Brien, which trades Hendrix's influence for that of Led Zeppelin's eastern-tinged acoustic ballads, like Friends, as well as having a strange 6/8 tempo.
Soul To Squeeze
Recorded as part of the blessed sessions that resulted in Blood Sugar Sex Magik, this bittersweet melody that sounds both sad and joyful was left off that album but was repurposed a couple of years later for The Coneheads soundtrack. Introspection and melancholy mix with an upbeat feeling for a song that starts with a riff similar to the Beatles' I've Got A Feeling that gives way to another one of those songs where Frusciante makes his guitar weep gently.
When Frusciante returned to the band in 1998 he didn't have a single decent guitar with him to record with. Soon after his re-entry he went with Kiedis to a Guitar Center and the singer ended up giving him a wonderful '62 Stratocaster that would become Frusciante's lead guitar on By The Way, the album they recorded after Californication, on which the guitarist became the main songwriter for most of their songs. The best of the lot was this Can't Stop with a great funky riff from the guitarist that gave way to one of their most uptempo tracks, but which is rounded off by those melancholic choruses by Frusciante himself, and a much more melodic chorus than its vibrant verses would suggest.