20 Years Ago: Red Hot Chili Peppers Turn Things Around With ‘Californication’
Even though they regularly sat atop the charts in the early '90s, the Red Hot Chili Peppers' fortunes started to fade as the decade wore on. Luckily, they turned things around in 1999 with the release of Californication.
In the midst of a drug-induced spiral, longtime guitarist John Frusciante left the group in '92, right in the middle of the tour supporting what was then their biggest album to date, Blood Sugar Sex Magik. The group eventually replaced Frusicante with former Jane's Addiction guitarist Dave Navarro for 1995's lightly regarded One Hot Minute. Navarro's not-unexpected departure then opened the door for the reunion with Frusciante, and the reconstruction of their most successful lineup finally put the Red Hot Chili Peppers back on the right track.
The band once again enlisted Rick Rubin as producer, reprising the role he played on their previous two studio efforts. Yet, in some ways, nothing was the same anymore. Up to that point in their career, the Red Hot Chili Peppers had been known for writing relatively carefree funk party-anthems. They used Californication as an opportunity to broaden their horizons, both lyrically and musically.
Not that they couldn't still play the funky, jovial band that people had come to know them to be -- as heard on "Around The World" and "I Like Dirt." But other tracks, like the record's first single "Scar Tissue" and "Otherside," were more straight-forward pop tracks, focusing on loneliness and remorse. "Porcelain" also showed a more delicate, though not entirely unfamiliar, side to the Chili Peppers.
Watch Red Hot Chili Peppers' 'Scar Tissue' Video
Jim Scott, hired by Rubin to be the recording engineer for the album, said in 1999 that reacquainting Frusicante with the songwriting process was the first item on the checklist. The group rehearsed in bassist Flea's garage for the bulk of the summer of 1998. Scott said this process prepared them well when the time came to record the songs.
"After I started working with them, the Peppers became happy with the sound, but all I did was simply capture the sound of the band in the room," Scott says. "We recorded 30 songs in about a week, which is a lot of tape and a lot of performances. But they were playing great, so all we had to do was get it down." As such, the process included minimal overdubs, he added.
Fans responded strongly to the Red Hot Chili Peppers' return to form. Buoyed by the success of the album's first single "Scar Tissue," as well as subsequent singles "Otherside" and the title track, Californication sold more than 7 million copies in the U.S.