Much before John Frusciante joined Red Hot Chili Peppers as a member, he was a fan. On the crux of adulthood, Frusciante had the dream of becoming a rock star, being surrounded by women and living life to excess. He wanted to join Frank Zappa’s band, whom he had been an admirer of for a long time, but came to know that Zappa’s group did not allow illegal drugs. He realised he wouldn’t be able to fulfil his dream through Zappa, a moment which prompted him to look towards other horizons.
Devoted to learning the guitar, Frusciante became an avid follower of Germs’ record (GI). At nine years of age, he taught himself to play the record by heart even when he didn’t know what he was doing with the instrument itself. Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page and David Gilmour and Jimi Hendrix were some among many musicians who influenced Frusciante growing up, all of whom dictated – in some shape or form – his own style.
Following the death of the RHCP’s guitarist Hillel Slovak, whom he idolised and knew personally, Frusciante was asked to join the band. His response to being approached came in the form of running through his house, screaming and jumping on the wall, leaving permanent boot marks as a memory of jubilation. However, Frusciante’s stay in the band was on and off. After joining the band in 1988, and being a part of their breakthrough album Blood Sugar Sex Magik, Frusciante was overwhelmed with the band’s rising popularity. Unable to deal with the attention, he departed and subsequently spiralled into a whirlpool of severe drug addiction and depression, to the point where he couldn’t even produce any music.
His health was on a steady decline, being unable to function without his doses of marijuana and heroin, which almost cost his life. Following a rehabilitation program, Frusciante recovered from his pitiful state and completely turned his life around. The drugs were no longer a necessity, he started to eat healthy and lead life in a steadier way. Frusciante rejoined the band and went on to work on the albums such as Californication, By the Way, Stadium Arcadium and so on. However, Frusciante’s career as a guitarist and a musician was not limited to Red Hot Chili Peppers only. He released as many as 12 solo albums and worked in collaboration with various other artists and genres.
Frusciante’s style, characterised by his inclination to look after the musicality rather than the virtuosity, has always been a less-is-more approach. Along with his penchant for vintage guitars, and an affinity for playing the “grimier” sounds, his reputation as a guitarist in the rock music scene expanded to unimaginable heights. One of the finest among the many guitarists of the late 20th century, John Frusciante’s skills, as well as ideas as a guitarist at work, is a testament to his unparalleled proficiency in creating art with his guitar.
John Frusciante 5 best isolated guitar tracks:
‘Can’t Stop’ from the band’s 2002 album, By the Way, is distinct among the other songs on the album for its punk/funk sounds among the more melodic tune of the rest of the album. This RHCP song is one of their finest examples of the lyrics of the song being composed to an already established rhythm.
John Frusciante plays a reggae style track with only an upbeat strumming during the bridge of the song. He uses a fuzz in his solo, after the bridge, and utilised the tone-bend extensively for this song. This subtle yet energetic track showcases Frusciante’s handiwork exceptionally well, especially with him carrying out the well-timed strums successfully.
‘Blood Sugar Sex Magik’
The video below features the isolated guitar for ‘Blood Sugar Sex Magik’ by Red Hot Chili Pepper that was released on their fifth studio album Blood Sugar Sex Magic in 1991. It was right after the success of Blood Sugar Sex Magic that Frusciante started to develop a dislike for fame and subsequently left the band in ’92.
‘Blood Sugar Sex Magic’ is not one of the singles on the album. However, Frusciante’s heavy metal guitar riffs paired with Kiedis’ sexual links in the lyrics made it one of the most popular tracks on the album. The track went so far as to posit Frusciante as Jimi Hendrix’s protégé, even. If that is not a worthy compliment, we don’t know what is.
Frusciante’s guitar play on ‘Californication’ from the album Californication is as authentic as it is perfect. The tremolo effect in the main riff certainly works as a wow factor in the track. Frusciante’s intro riff, too, provides a grand entry to the rest of the song, while the end of the second chorus fuses with Frusciante’s 16-measure guitar solo.
The song in itself refers to the dark side of the society – dealing with topics ranging from pornography to plastic surgery and even bringing in references from the pop culture. The poignant lyrics along with the splendid guitar track is something that has made it quite popular among the fans and is one of the most played songs in their live performances.
‘Give It Away’
‘Give It Away’ is another song from RHCP’s album Blood Sugar Sex Magik. The music for the song was composed by Frusciante and bassist Flea and it went on the become the first top ten hit by the band in the United States.
The song is characterized by a “dry” guitar tune that breaks into a funk-oriented riff that Frusciante repeats throughout the verse being accompanied by Flea on the bass. The song also shows Frusciante’s rapid guitar riffs and speedy execution – a style he had developed a liking towards overtime. ‘Give It Away’ also won Red Hot Chili Pepper a Grammy for the Best Hard Rock Performance in 1993.
The third single of the album Californication, ‘Otherside’ was released in 2000, and the lyrics to the song referred to battles addicts faced with their addictions. The song was a reference to Hillel Slovak specifically, who died of a heroin overdose, after whom Frusciante joined the band.
The song features one of the best guitar tracks by John Frusciante. With distinct and well-timed strums and solid riffs along with the solo part at the end, Frusciante’s genius as a guitarist is clearly evident through this song.