Red Hot Chili Peppers made their most formidable musical statement in 1991 with a sound and emotion that would steer them toward continued success over the next two and a half decades.
They fashioned their funk rap rock epic with four essential ingredients: Blood Sugar Sex Magik.
This comes from the brotherly bond between the band members, particularly bassist Flea and frontman Anthony Kiedis, who met at school.
When this album was made, guitarist John Frusicante was still relatively new to the band, but he had been a huge fan of RHCP for some time. You can see his wide eyed enthusiasm in the 1991 RHCP documentary Funky Monks.
“We’re making an amazing, ground-breaking, revolutionary, beautiful, artistically heightened, incredible record,” he said.
Another new but trusted member of the team was producer Rick Rubin. His strong guiding hand drew out a new dynamic within the band’s sound whilst letting them do their thing.
“He manages to keep an emotional distance from the music and have his objectivity,” Flea said in Funky Monks.
This comes from Flea’s bad ass bass grooves, Frusicante’s intuitive and highly melodic guitar lines and Smith’s muscular time keeping. These are the very definition of ear – and body movin’ – candy.
There’s also surprisingly sweet emotional sentiment, a side to the Chili Peppers that hadn’t been shown before. ‘My Lovely Man’ is an ode to deceased former member Hillel Slovak and ‘Breaking The Girl’ deals with Kiedis’ parents’ separation.
‘Under The Bridge’, was originally a poem in Kiedis’ journal. Rick Rubin saw it and encouraged the hesitant lead singer to show it to the rest of the band. Flea and Frusciante immediately vibed off the words and constructed a supportive and open hearted accompaniment to the song’s story.
With song titles like ‘Suck My Kiss’, ‘Sir Psycho Sexy’, and ‘Give it Away’s’ refrain of ‘What I got you’ve got to get it put it in you’…it’s clear that sex and testosterone is running rampant through this album. After all, these are the guys that gave us the cocks-in-socks-rock-jock stage show!
If you need further proof, watch John Frusciante, in Funky Monks, reclined on a bed whilst in a lopsided see through bathrobe, talking about the quite literally arousing effect some of the songs have on him.
In spectacles and wearing more clothes than we’d normally see him in, Keidis speaks about the importance of sex on the band’s music.
“The correlation between sound and sex is undeniable,” he said. “I think that we have such a powerful sexuality to our music and to our performance. I know that it’s almost like a sexual exorcism for me when I’m on stage to have Flea, John and Chad playing behind me. It’s sexually exciting. It fills my body with a certain frequency, a certain vibration that makes me feel sexually potent.”
Rick Rubin’s palatial Hollywood Hills house, The Mansion, was used as live-in accommodation cum recording studio and provides the Magik.
It allowed the band to bond on a deeper level, having meals together at the end of the day and swapping lewd tales. They even made use of its hilly garden top to record the Robert Johnson song ‘They’re Red Hot’ in the middle of the night.
Frusciante seemed somewhat lost when recording wrapped up. The thought of having to leave this magical musical bubble was unnerving for him.
“We’ve done something together as a band of friends that I’m 100 percent proud of. So it’s a very sentimental time, but I’m gonna be strong and get my shit together.”
The darker side is that the house is reputed to be haunted. Spooked drummer Chad Smith opted not to live there during recording. Slipknot’s Corey Taylor described paranormal activity whilst his band stayed there, as have members of The Mars Volta.
Some say Harry Houdini lived in The Mansion at some stage. High magik indeed!