The album "Blood Sugar Sex Magic", the fifth studio album of "Red Hot Chili Peppers" was released on September 24th, 1991.
We grouped this amazing year under the "Class of 91'" series which is about the masterpiece albums released in the wonderful 1991.
This time we will start the story from the end, just to connect the grunge world of "Nevermind" which was released on the very same day, with the funk-alternative-metal fusion of "Blood Sugar Sex Magic", with the addition of spicy seasoning...
So after the release of the album and before the start of the tour to promote it, Anthony Kiedis asked the band manager to contact "The Smashing Pumpkins" and offer to join them on the tour. Kiedis really liked the style and sound of "The Pumpkins" and really wanted them to join the tour.
A few days after the Smashings confirmed their participation in the tour, Jack Irons, who was previously the Chili's drummer, called Kiedis and requested that his current band "Pearl Jam" also join the tour, as an open act.
Wait, wait, it's already starting to get spicy here... The tour started to pick up speed and the band's management started to book shows in much larger halls and even stadiums. At one point, the band's and tour manager decided that "Pearl Jam" was no longer big enough to open in such places and asked the band to find a replacement.
Kidies who knew Dave Grohl asked that his band "Nirvana" will join the tour and he agreed, but here things started to get complicated. Billy Corgan from The Pumpkins used to date Kurt Cobain's wife Courtney Love and it did not end well, he strongly refused to share the stage with Cobain, which led to The Pumpkins being thrown out of this crazy tour while "Nirvana" and "Pearl Jam" kept on going with the Chilies.
Why did we choose to start with this spicy story? To illustrate to you how crazy this period was, how much the year 1991 should be written in the books of history as the great year of Rock (alongside 1967), with much of everything that happened in the music world that year eventually concentrating on a period of less than a month in late '91. While its distilled extract is concentrated in a single day on September 24, 1991.
Like Nirvana's "Nevermind", this album by RHCP is a founding album... John Frusciante's guitar sound, Funky Mixed in Metal, Flea and Chad Smith's crazy rhythm section, the rolling lyrics on the tongue of Anthony Kiedis, alongside the personal writing, and the production... and what a legendary Rick Rubin production !!! This is without a doubt the best album of the "Chilies". Just "Blood Sugar Sex Magic" and there is no other way to define it !!!
This was RHCP's second album with the same members, after "Mother's Milk" was released in 1989. It was evident that as the four members spent time together the dynamics between them grew stronger, while the band's so unique sound with Frusciante began to crystallize.
The Musical Direction
On this album, the band chose to change the musical direction a bit and was opened up to new worlds. It was able to combine the heavier metal and funk sections, as well as more melodic, acoustic, and even quieter sections. The band did all this while diversifying the musical instruments that it had not dreamed of using in the past, such as the Amor organ, Melotron, and more. The band had enough material to record a double album, 25 songs of which 17 were selected, spanning more than 73 minutes. The length of the album and the large number of songs allowed the band to open up and diversify musically. On the one hand to give its old fans the music to which they were accustomed, and on the other hand to attract new audiences and fans with more catchy and melodic passages. In this way, the band managed to maintain the base of its fans and at the same time increase it and open up to new audiences, and thus lies, among other things, the huge success of the album. This contrast between the powerful and bouncy funk metal and the acoustic ballads and influences of classical rock, is what probably created the "big bang" here.
The diversity in the musical material as described above also slides into the lyrics. Kiedis is busy as always with sex and this is evident in the funky singles "Give It Away" and "Suck My Kiss". However, on this album, he also connects to his more sensitive side and writes about failed relationships, songs like "Breaking The Girl" and "I Could Have Lied" and drug addictions in "Under the Bridge" and "My Lovely Man".
Technique and sound
So far we have mentioned what has changed on this album in terms of the musical line and lyrics, so let's talk a bit about sound and playing technique. Bassist Flea has decided that on this album, he wants more to flow with the song and be a part of it, not like before, prominent and outstanding from the rest of the members. The one who influenced his playing here, is none other than Kim Gordon from the band "Sonic Youth". Flea said he was inspired by Kim's playing style and decided to calm down a bit with the "slapping" on the strings. The motto that led him in the recordings this time was "Less is more". Frusciante's guitar playing on this album was very smart and intelligent. On the one hand, it led the song, and on the other hand, it left enough room for diversity in Kiedis' singing. On the one hand it was very dominant, and on the other hand it also left enough space for bass and drums freedom to improvise and evolve. Frusciante continued to issue heavy metal riffs here as well, but they were with much less, distortion, compared to the previous album.
It's amazing to think that a very significant portion of the takes on the album, especially Frusciante's solos, were recorded "LIVE" without corrections and rerecording. Frusciante method in performing solos is maximum twice. First time to play to the band members and if they did not like it, to immediately record a different solo, so all the solos on the album were recorded on the first or second take, no more than that.
(Photo: Gie Knaeps)
So we have a musical direction, there are lyrics, sound, and musical technique, and now we need someone to put it all together. Here comes the legendary producer Rick Rubin, who is conducting over all this great elements. Rubin was not the band's first choice. Kiedis said that at first he thought Rubin would not be able to contribute because he worked with bands like "Slayer" and "Danzing" which were perceived by them as bands with negative energies. It is very interesting that in 1987 Rubin was the one who refused to produce for the Chilies the album "The Uplift Mofo Party Plan", due to the drug problems of Kiedis and Hillel Slovak. But this time the energies probably worked out for the best, and not only did the band and Rubin finally agree to work with each other, but the band members also felt comfortable enough with Rubin to ask him for guidance where they felt less confident. This openness of the members gave Rubin enough confidence to correct and guide them as well as with space and freedom of action to do exactly what is necessary to lead them to perfection. Rubin's greatness on this album was that he managed to make the band sound different from the previous albums and all this without losing its identity.
And what about space? This is the first album recorded on "The Mansion". The band sought to record the album in an unconventional setting, believing it would enhance their creative output. Rick Rubin proposed the studio he built in a large mansion built in 1918 and located in Los Angeles. It belonged to the famous illusionist Harry Houdini and is known for the spirits that haunt it. Many bands like "Slipknot", "Linkin Park", "Marilyn Manson", and more recorded albums in this "Mansion", but the "Chillis" were the first to do so. All the members of the band (except Chad Smith who felt uncomfortable with the ghost thing) moved into the mansion, ate, drank, and breathed music. Wrote, rehearsed and finally recorded.
A lot of sound experts were involved in creating the unique sound of the first album recorded on the "Mansion". Tried to get the desired acoustics, the right resonance and the right and accurate sound with a lot of pessimism, but the result speaks for itself and finally the sound on this album came out amazing and wonderful.
Five successful singles were released from the album:
The first was "Give It Away", what a rhythm, what a groove, and Flea's bass... if that's what he gets when he works in the "Less is more" technique, it's scary to think what else he can do. An excellent choice for the first single from the album, a bouncy song that left no listener sitting, after which no one was left indifferent. Kidies drew inspiration for this song from German singer Nina Hagen with whom he had an affair in 1983. One day he rummaged in her closet and came across a coat he really liked. Nina insisted he take it, explaining that giving things creates good energy. "The more you give, the more you receive, so why not give it your all?". This perception of Hagen stunned Kidies who grew up in a difficult environment, but he decided to adopt it. The lyrics of the song also refer to the actor River Phoenix who was a friend of Kidies and was present at the recording studio. Kiedis dedicated a whole verse from the song, the one that begins with the words "There's a river 'born to be a giver ...".
The second single, "Under The Bridge", was written by Kiedis following feelings of loneliness and depression as a result of drug use. The bridge mentioned in the song is the one he would go to, to buy drugs. Similar to the song "Nothing Else Matters" from Metallica (The Black Album) Kiedis was initially apprehensive about showing it to band members because he thought it did not fit into its repertoire, but producer Rick Rubin urged him to do so and like Bob Rock in Metallica's case he was right. It became the band's biggest hit, although (and perhaps because) it was a ballad that completely did not characterize their sound and style.
The third single "Suck My Kiss" is among the strongest and most powerful on the album. A psychic song in a bouncy and sweeping beater so it is no wonder that it is the band's most played song in shows. The sharp-eared among you will surely notice that in the second half of each chorus in the song there is a chord beat in which the whole band plays together, only that in the first chorus there are 3 beats in a row, in the second chorus 2 beats in a row and in the last only one beat. Listen in 1:20, 2:21, and 3:31 minutes to the song. The song is about a man who is so in love with his partner that he will do anything for her. He also tells her that she is so sexy that he can not resist "kissing her". Kidies tried to explain to Rolling Stone magazine (in our opinion without much success) that his sexual openness in the song is positive and not rude.
The fourth single "Breaking The Girl" was written by Kiedis about Carmen Hawk, a model who he dated, and their breakup. The short instrumental section in the middle was improvised and each member of the band took something, spoons, pans, and hit it. Kiedis recorded the singing alone in the bedroom located on the second floor of the "Mansion." He likes to be alone while recording. Producer, technician, musician Brendan O'Brien plays here on a mellotron that adds so much to the song. The Chillis played this song only once during the 1991 tour to promote the album. Kiedis said they played the song at a Wisconsin concert but the performance was very poor, the song totally fell apart and the band members just ruined it altogether. Since that show, they have decided not to perform it anymore on tours.
The band's fifth and final single from the album is "If You Have to Ask", which was not broadcast on radio stations because of one line: "funky motherf - kers will not be told to go". It's a completely funky song that characterizes the band's DNA, whose lyrics are intentionally meaningless so the chorus repeats the line: "If you have to ask, you'll never know". For those wondering, the applause at the end of the song is for John Frusciante who nailed the guitar solo in one take!
The five singles released are "the tip of the iceberg", as this perfect album contains other amazing songs that were not released as singles, including:
The song "I Could Have Lied" that was written about the short relationship Kiedis had with the famous singer Sinéad O'Connor. Kiedis said he fell badly in love with Sinéad who did not really dedicate herself to him and maintained a certain distance. After several months of relationship she broke up with him by message on the answering machine. Throughout that night Kiedis and John wrote the song.
The song "My Lovely Man" was written by guitarist Hillel Slovak and includes lyrics that simply scratch the soul. Kiedis noted that the song expresses his love for Hillel and the hope that he will meet him when he himself dies. He claimed that every time he sang the song he felt praised with it.
The theme song "Blood Sugar Sex Magic" which is one of the heaviest and slowest on the album. The lyrics describe sex in a variety of vibrant, explicit, or metaphorical ways that Kiedis wrote about his girlfriend at the time.
The long section on the album "Sir Psycho Sexy" crosses the 8 minute line. One of the different and special songs of the band. The song is divided into two parts, the first includes lyrics alongside a guitar accompaniment with a wow-wow effect that is hardly used on the album. The second is a calm and instrumental silence on the psychedelic frontier.
And there are also "The Power of Equality", "Mellowship Slinky in B Major", "Apache Rose Peacock", "Naked in the Rain" and more and more and more.
We end with a closing circle linking the two albums "Nevermind" and "Blood Sugar Sex Magic" released that day. As much as the musical styles between the two albums sound different, there is no doubt that the two acted in a wonderfully synchronized "forceps movement", gripping the beating heart of the music industry and diverting it from the center to the margins. Both of these albums helped turn the "alternative", the different and the extreme into the "mainstream". The big breakthrough of these two albums and their huge impact, brought the fringe music to the masses and created a huge revolution in the music market and listening habits. Needless to say, "Blood Sugar Sex Magic" is also on Rolling Stone magazine's top 500 albums list, as well as in other rating lists.