The Red Hot Chili Peppers were formed in 1983 by a group of Los Angeles misfits on a crusade to bring a fresh sound to the rich tapestry of American rock music. Their sound was a heavy and psychedelic funk-inspired take on the genre that teemed with themes of excess and depravity which rock and roll had led us to expect over the previous two decades. The band members themselves were certainly not civilians in the rock and roll lifestyle, instead sitting mainly at the driver’s seat on the road to self-destruction. In 1988, reality hit the Peppers with the untimely death of Hillel Slovak, the founding guitarist due to a heroin overdose. Shortly thereafter, the original drummer, Jack Irons, left the band devastated by the loss of his close friend.
To most, Red Hot Chili Peppers are known for their time under the light throughout the nineties and early 2000s. This commercially successful spell was partly thanks to the addition of 18-year-old guitar prodigy John Frusciante, who first appeared on the band’s 1989 album Mother’s Milk which saw a marked change in the group’s sound. By this time the band had taken on a new incarnation that still boasted the iconic vocals of Anthony Kiedis and the funky, energetic basslines of Flea.
However, this new sound, first exhibited on Mother’s Milk, had a new clarity to the melody brought forward by Frusciante’s awe-inspiring lead guitar style. By the time they were recording their 1991 album Blood Sugar Sex Magik, Frusciante’s confidence in his craft had matured into something quite unique that would push the band into an era of global success they hadn’t experienced before. The album was more polished than their previous work as they dropped some of the heavier and distorted heavy metal influences in the tracks, making way for more intricate guitar melodies and more reserved vocal styles throughout the tracks; this allowed a more intimate communication for the sensitive themes explored in the music.
Blood Sugar Sex Magik focuses on themes of sex and drugs which had been a major indulgence and vice of the band members, but ironically granted them an artistic angle that touched so many across the world. The album was buoyed by its hit singles including: ‘Under the Bridge’, ‘Give It Away’ and ‘Suck My Kiss’. But the underbelly of the album also had so much to offer too with my personal favourite from the album, ‘I Could Have Lied’, among many others across the one hour and 20-minute masterpiece.
The isolated guitar tracks from the album give an insight into the unique style Frusciante honed to maintain the band’s trademark funk influences. He achieved this with the occasional use of bass hooks within the lead solos to compliment Flea’s sterling work, then blending in rhythm sections and melodies to punctuate Kiedis’ lyrics which were at times haunting and melancholy (‘Under the Bridge’) and at others sexual and provocative (‘Suck My Kiss’).
Stream the isolated guitar for Red Hot Chili Peppers album Blood Sugar Sex Magik, below.