There’s nothing groundbreaking about stating that the 1960s revolution changed the scope of popular music, and the ripple effect of those mercurial artists remain in action today. Even the Red Hot Chili Peppers turned to The Beach Boys and The Beatles for inspiration for one of their most beloved albums, By The Way.
Expectations were sky-high for the album following the group’s re-emergence after the return of John Frusciante navigated them back to their best on Californication. They wanted to experiment, and the introduction of doo-wop style melodies helped establish a new, brighter dimension to the Chili’s sound.
Frusciante was given extra responsibilities on this album, and it paid dividends. He was accountable for arranging these throwback melodies, which also rested on the strength of his vocals.
During the early days of their career, comparisons with groups such as The Beach Boys would have seemed farcical, yet, on, By The Way, their influence admittedly wasn’t overt but tangible nonetheless.
In an interview with the Austin Chronicle, Frusciante opened up about the creative process behind the album and also spoke candidly about who he was listening to while making it. “When we made, By the Way, Anthony [Kiedis] and I discussed me doing a ton of harmonies all over the album,” he told the publication. “We were gonna make my voice be an equal element to the music as the guitar, bass, or anything else. This is something that Anthony was and is still very in favour of.”
Adding: “I wasn’t actually listening to the Beach Boys until the last couple of songs that I did. It was toward the very end of the album that I went into an obsessive period about the Beach Boys. While I was making the record, it was more the Beatles, Erasure, Queen.”
Although Frusciante claims he only listened to The Beach Boys during the final stages of the album, their influence has also descended into his solo career, and it’s clear that they are a group of the utmost importance to the Chili’s guitarist.
Regarding The Beatles influence on the record, on another occasion, Frusciante spoke about how under the strict instruction of Rick Rubin, he channelled his inner George Harrison on the track, ‘Warm Tape’. “Rick has more to do with the drums and the vocals and the mixing,” he revealed. “When it comes to my guitar playing he leaves me alone and when it comes to Flea’s bass playing he leaves him alone.”
The guitarist continued, “He might suggest things to Flea occasionally or to me. He might say, on ‘Warm Tape’, you should do an answer thing like George Harrison does with a 12 string guitar on some Beatles song.’ And it worked perfectly with what I was thinking. I’d already done an overdub so it ended up being a slide guitar being answered by a 12 string guitar.”
That aforementioned anecdote from Frusciante epitomises why Rick Rubin is seen as one of the world’s most respected producers and shows how he masterfully manages to aggrandise those he associates himself with. 20 years on from its release, By The Way remains a classic record and represents the bombastic sound of a band firmly in their pomp.