John Frusciante is one of the most iconic guitarists of all time. Whether it be his highly influential work with funk-rock heroes Red Hot Chili Peppers, as a solo artist or in supergroup Ataxia, his versatile licks and dextrous style have earned him legions of fans worldwide.
In the past year, Frusciante has excited fans by rejoining the Red Hot Chili Peppers for his third stint in the band. With a mammoth 2022 tour booked, he’ll be dazzling audiences once again, by joining Flea and Chad Smith in extended jams whilst frontman Anthony Kiedis does whatever it is that he actually does.
Prolific to the core, Frusciante has released 12 solo albums and seven EPs, whilst managing to explore a wide variety of genres, including rock, new wave, ambient and even acid house. Given that he has left no stone in the musical landscape unturned, it is only right that Frusciante’s musical palette is extensive and diverse. He’s collaborated with figures ranging from Johnny Cash to Wu-Tang Clan and Johnny Marr over the years.
One of the most nuanced modern musical artists, Frusciante’s work is so much more than that of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. A surprising non-conformist, there’s much more to Frusciante than what meets the eye, and his music collection shows this clearly.
In 2007, he created a revealing list for Discogs. The title, ‘John Frusciante: 40 Albums You Must Hear…’, includes the likes of Aphex Twin, Butthole Surfers, Fugazi, Syd Barrett, Talking Heads and more. One of the most iconic records on the list is David Bowie’s 1980 effort Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps).
One of the most monumental records Bowie ever released, there’s no surprise that Frusciante is a fan. All-encompassing, experimental and daring, Bowie’s 1980 effort broke off from the past and thrust him into the future. After the particularly hectic ’70s Bowie experienced, he returned at the dawn of the new decade a new artist, reinvigorated artistically after the ‘Berlin Trilogy’ and mature as a human being.
Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps) proved that Bowie was an artist here for the long run, and that he’d only just begun on his quest for artistic enlightenment. Writing with structure rather than attempting to sate his vast artistic desires, Bowie was able to become more refined after long term collaborator and pioneer of the spontaneous, Brian Eno didn’t sign on for the project.
However, the return of friend and sometime partner-in-crime, Tony Visconti did help augment Bowie’s magic. Helmed by the trustworthy Visconti, who in many ways helped to establish David Bowie a decade earlier, there’s no surprise that the record was a success.
Musically, it incorporates the art rock, new wave and post-punk elements that were en vogue at the time. Again, there’s no surprise that Frusciante loves it, as he frequently cites these three genres as his favourite and the most influential on his musical development. This was his era.
A much more cerebral effort than previous releases, Bowie spent time on the music and lyrics, giving the album a more unified feel. Featuring massive tracks such as ‘Ashes to Ashes’, the title track and ‘Fashion’, this can be regarded as the moment where Bowie started to go truly stratospheric. After Scary Monsters, he would go on a run in the ’80s that would bring a level of fortune and fame that was hitherto anathema to Brixton’s native chameleon.
When you listen to Frusciante‘s work closely, you can hear flecks of what Bowie achieved on Scary Monsters. Experimental but rigid, much of Frusciante’s solo work has these blueprints, possibly informed by the new wave and post-punk elements. Minimalist but expansive, that is the name of Frusciante’s game.
Listen to Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps) below.