John Frusciante is the crucial ingredient that makes Red Hot Chili Peppers extra spicy. You only have to look as far as the group’s output during Frusciante’s absence – a time when he’s departed the Chili’s – to see how severely they missed him.
There’s a palpable dynamic edge that Frusciante brings into the fold, one that elevates Red Hot Chili Peppers and makes the rest of the band raise their game in a bid to compete with his mercurial talent. The guitarist first quit the group in 1992, and his mental health descended into dire straits as he fell into a severe heroin addiction.
Frusciante has dissipated years of his life to addiction, and the world nearly lost one of the most talented guitarists of a generation. Thankfully, Frusciante checked into a rehab facility in 1998, and after cleaning up his problems, bassist Flea asked if he wanted to return to the band.
Frontman Anthony Kiedis later called that first rehearsal with Frusciante the highlight from the whole Californication album cycle. “When John gets excited, he’s like eight billion volts of electricity,” he told Rolling Stone. “He was knocking things over—it was absolutely chaotic, like a little kid trying to set up a Christmas tree. And when he hit that first chord, it was so perfect—this blend of sounds from these people who I hadn’t heard play together in so long.”
Frusciante was the spark that the Chili’s needed to reignite the form they showed on 1991’s breakthrough album, Blood Sugar Sex Magik, on Californication. The title track is a prime example of Red Hot Chili Peppers at their intoxicating best, but it nearly got thrown on the scrap heap. Kiedis was understandably proud of the blistering lyrics he penned for ‘Californication’, but despite their collective best efforts, nothing was falling into place.
The group worked tirelessly to do the words justice, and it looked as though it wasn’t going to be complete in time to meet the label’s ambitious demand for the album. Then, one day, Frusciante waltzed into the studio and said he’d “figured it out”. The guitarist then played the song to the rest of the Chili’s as he sketched it in his mind, and at that precise moment, Frusciante brought ‘Californication’ to life.
Frusciante’s return to the Red Hot Chili Peppers re-energised the band, and he lit up Californication with his sprinkling of magic dust that he poured across the record.
The group’s last two albums, 2011’s I’m With You and 2016’s The Getaway, have dearly missed his supernatural skills. Fortunately, he rejoined the group in 2019, and fingers crossed, his excellence manages to parry the band back on a sparkling path once again.