Honestly, not many bands haven’t felt the influence of The Beatles, whether directly or indirectly. The way that Red Hot Chili Peppers channelled their inspiration is particularly fascinating and shows just how much the legacy of ‘The Fab Four’ continues to shape music today.
Their jewel in the crown, John Frusciante, was the one who let slip about how one song in the Chili’s back catalogue wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for The Beatles. More specifically, it was the magnificent work of George Harrison that managed to save him while he was suffering from a bout of creative block.
It remains unusual for Frusciante to find himself at a loose end. After all, he’s the spark that makes Red Hot Chili Peppers fly. As we’ve witnessed during his two absences from the band, the group just lose their edge when he departs, and anticipation is high as they gear up to release their first new music since his return.
One stalwart of their career has been Rick Rubin. Over the years, Rubin has produced six albums with the group, with he and Frusciante sharing a special bond, and he trusts the guitarist to do whatever he wants, which successfully got the best out of him.
“Rick doesn’t have anything to do with them,” Frusciante once explained. “Rick has more to do with the drums and the vocals and the mixing. When it comes to my guitar playing he leaves me alone and when it comes to Flea’s bass playing he leaves him alone.”
However, the producer did intervene on one occasion, and it turned out to be a masterstroke. “He might suggest things to Flea occasionally or to me,” he added. “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,” Frusciante continued, “I’d already done an overdub so it ended up being a slide guitar being answered by a 12 string guitar. So he’ll throw little ideas my way, but he won’t say, ‘That guitar part is not working’.”
While he didn’t name The Beatles song that influenced By The Way’s ‘Warm Tape’, Harrison did use the technique a handful of times. The 12 string guitar undeniably brought another element to the song, and even though sonically, the resemblance to ‘The Fab Four’ is a thin one, it still lurks audibly in the background of the track.
The Beatles have always influenced Frusciante, and the guitarist once revealed how they transformed his perspective on what a band could be. He commented, “The Beatles showed us that four people could be one, as perfectly balanced as the four elements. The macrocosm and the microcosm. All things as one.”
Truthfully, ‘On Warm Tape’ isn’t a complete tribute to The Beatles bar Frusciante’s part. Yet, intriguingly, it shows how they wrote the blueprint that iconic producers such as Rick Rubin still use as their go-to reference point. If ever stuck in a recording studio, sometimes you just have to ask yourself, ‘What would George Harrison do?’.