Wednesday, 30 April 2014
Killer Opening Songs (By the Way - Red Hot Chilli Peppers)
As a band, how do you follow one of your more commercially successful records? With a Killer Opening Song in your next album. In the case of Red Hot Chilli Peppers, how do you follow the highly commercially successful Californication? With By the Way, the title track of the Chillie’s eighth studio album.
Taking its cue from the blog author’s latest post about his road trip to Brighton with his son, K.O.S. dusted off one of the most emblematic tunes of RHCP’s repertoire. In the case of By the Way a huge responsibility was placed on its shoulders. As the title track AND the Killer Opening Song it was the bait to lure both Chillies and non-Chillies fans into the record. Luckily the melody pulled it off. From John Frusciante’s furious, opening guitar notes to lead singer Anthony Kiedis’ energetic vocals, By the Way combines RHCP’s high octane mix of funk and alternative rock.
It is also the key that unlocks a musical treasure-trove. Universally Speaking is pure emotion. The official clip for The Zephyr Song is visually striking. Can’t Stop credits its inspiration to the enigmatic and thought-provoking Austrian artist Erwin Wurm.
Centre to all this musical prowess is the Killer Opening Song. And a key part to it was guitarist John Frusciante who had returned to the Chillies in time for the recording of their hugely successful album Californication (another gem of a K.O.S. there, too with Around the World, but instead of a guitar riff at the start there’s bassist Flea doing what he does best: bringing the house down). Frusciante’s well-known drug problems kept him away from RHCP for a few years but after successfully completing a rehab programme he was welcomed back by his three compadres. The result was an album that, you could say, book-ended the Chillies’ most prosperous period, Californication in 1999 together with 1991’s Blood Sugar Sex Magic which K.O.S. used to play so often that the tape finally gave up one day (remember tapes?).
The link to Californication (the song) goes deeper as the lyrics in By the Way suggest a continuum to the “teenage bride with a baby inside/getting high on information” mentioned in the former track. In By the Way she becomes “Dani, the girl”, who “is singing songs to me/beneath the marquee”. In 2006’s Stadium Arcadium Dani California is a “lover baby and a fighter”.
Cryptic lyrics, powerful and melodic guitar riffs, excellent vocals. In this context one could see By the Way as the musical harbinger of what the noughties would herald for Red Hot Chilli Peppers. All thanks, once more, to the Killer Opening Song.
Next Post: “Sunday Mornings: Coffee, Reflections and Music”, to be published on Sunday 4th May at 10am (GMT)