Music History

Red Hot Chili Peppers Blood Sugar Sex Magik can almost buy booze

Saturday marks the twentieth anniversary of the monumental Red Hot Chili Peppers album, Blood Sugar Sex Magik. In 1991, the world was in a war-charged state of transition. Combat troops were preparing to be sent to the Gulf; the Soviets were in fear of the big chill and their food supply; Los Angeles County Sheriff's department was issued a preliminary injunction in a civil rights lawsuit on behalf on residents claiming brutality; and the Red Hot Chili Peppers' answer to all of this came in the form of an album, Blood Sugar Sex Magik, which covers war, lust, drugs, depression and ultimately healing, both for the band and a struggling nation.

This record didn't just prove that even after losing two members, one to overdose and the other quitting, that the Peppers could continue creating amazing tracks without them, they could completely redirect their musical talents from previous punk/funk/metal roots and transition into world of sexually blitzed music that evokes a spectrum of emotion.

Straying from these roots proved to be the smartest move for the Peppers, along with choosing Rick Rubin to produce the album. Now settled with Chad Smith on drums and John Frusciante on guitar, the Peppers comfortably moved into The Mansion, a residence that once housed Harry Houdini, for recording.

Footage seen in the video for "Suck My Kiss" contains red-filtered shots of law enforcement marching through the streets of LA, along with grainy, black and white shots of Kiedis, Frusciante, Smith and Flea all recording in the studio, along with a thinner yet beard-sporting Rubin dancing along to the recording sessions.

The album revolves around a constant theme of the chosen four words that are its namesake. On its face, "Suck My Kiss" is the most sexually charged song they had created at that point. It demands that your mouth, aside from speaking, was made to suck, and that might turn you on, just a tad. Focusing on the lyrics alone, you'll notice that Anthony Kiedis's persistent requests to pervert him are quite serious, but the only responses to questions like, "Is she talking dirty?" come in the form of Frusciante's guitar, which seems to answer the only questions in the song.

With almost every song on the album lending to their Greatest Hits compilations, the Peppers hit the nail on the head in band member selection and production. "I Could Have Lied," takes it down with Kiedis and Frusciante begging forgiveness, admitting fault and ultimately regretting honesty.

"Under the Bridge" contains one of the most famous Peppers riffs in the opening thirty seconds before a depressed-yet-hopeful Kiedis starts into his poetic explanation of his singularity and infatuation with his "only friend, the City of Angels," which also happened to be where the band was residing and recording at the recommendation of Rubin.

Switching gears and moving into songs like "Naked In the Rain" reminds you why Michael "Flea" Balzary is the backbone of the band, and has been since its inception in 1983. Taking lead on "Sir Psycho Sexy," the lyrics of which are more of a dedication to Sir Psycho himself, the underlying bass line is strong and keeps you on your toes while Kiedis finds his vocal range in the chorus. Similar to "Suck My Kiss," the lyrics in this show not just their skill as songwriters, but obvious sexual desires and fantasies to stick it hard to authority.

Following the death of Hillel Slovak to a heroin overdose, Blood Sugar Sex Magik brought the Peppers back down into music, grounding them in the alternative rock genre as frontrunners of a movement.

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Britt Chester is a writer and video producer living in Denver, Colorado. He's covered breaking news, music, arts and cannabis for Westword since 2010. His work has appeared in GQ Magazine, Village Voice, YES! Weekly, Inman News and the Winston-Salem Journal. He likes running, cycling, and interviewing people.
Contact: Britt Chester