John Frusciante, the legendary Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist, has officially been announced to be rejoining the band.
They posted on Instagram: “Josh is a beautiful musician who we respect and love. We are deeply grateful for our time with him, and the countless gifts he has shared with us. We also announce with great excitement and full hearts, that John Frusciante is joining our group. Thank you”.
Josh Klinghoffer, who joined 10 years ago after John’s departure from the band, contributed heavily to the RHCP, creating two albums and touring with them constantly. He contributed towards some big hits, such as ‘Dark Necessities’, ‘Go Robot’ and ‘The Adventures of Rain Dance Maggie’, all fan favourites. However, given John’s apparent enthusiasm to rejoin the band, Josh’s dismissal was inevitable.
Just to appreciate how significant this news is, I’m going to take a quick look at John’s music career as of yet, highlighting both his soaring highs, and upsetting lows.
John was a long time fan of the band before officially joining in 1988, when he first saw the band perform at the age of 15. He quickly became a devoted fan, and after the passing away of their then guitarist Hillel Slovak, due to a heroin overdose, he auditioned to be his replacement. Few people are lucky enough to have a shot at joining their favourite band, so as you can imagine, John jumped at the opportunity, as any 18-year-old would.
John brought a fresh approach to the band, whilst still respecting the strong funk-vibe of Slovak. John suggested he used this sound as a guide, and then “took it sideways from there”. The band started working on Blood Sugar Sex Magik, a Rick Rubin project, which saw them record in an old Hollywood Hills mansion. John saw this as a vocation, and often referred to the band as ‘Funky Monks’, eventually becoming a song on the album. The band experimented with drugs during the album, with Flea and Frusciante often staying isolated inside and smoking marijuana. There’s a really cool documentary that was filmed during the album’s creation, which I’ll pop below for anyone who’s interested:
The album was released on September 24th, 1991, peaking at number three on the Billboard charts, and selling thirteen million copies worldwide. The album is a staple of their raw blend of rap and funk, which coined their conventional sound during their formative years. This rise to fame, however, was a bit too much to take for Frusciante, as the 21-year-old struggled to keep his head above water. He said their rise to fame was “too high, too far, too soon”. He started hearing voices in his head, and before their world tour, they told him “You won’t make it during the tour. You have to go now”. He left the band in 1992, leaving them in Tokyo and returning to California the following day.
“We’re too popular. I don’t need this level of success. I would just be proud to be playing this music in clubs like we were doing 2 years ago”.John Frusciante, 1991
In 1992, John entered a dark period of his life. Inspired by his environment, he started taking marijuana, but also found himself experimenting with harsher drugs, such as heroin. After returning to California, he found himself depressed, and uninspired to follow his musical vocation. Heroin was a way to medicate his depression, and he felt that he was “always happy when on drugs”.
He quickly became a heroin addict, and frequently took it with his other friends. River Phoenix, the American actor, was living with Frusciante at the time of his death, passing away from a heroin overdose. Flea (the bassist of the RHCP), was with him at the time, and rode with him in the ambulance. Frusciante was greatly impacted by this loss.
He released a variety of solo endeavours whilst in his addictive state, such as ‘Smile from the Streets You Hold’, ‘Niandra Ladies and Usually Just a T-Shirt’, and has said he released them purely for the “drug-money”. However, in 1996, John fully embraced a ‘cold-turkey’ lifestyle, quitting heroin, but still struggling to quit crack-cocaine and alcohol. He entered rehabilitation in 1998, having all his teeth removed due to oral infections, skin grafts for abscesses in his arms, and changing his diet to become more health conscious. He started yoga, and practiced self-discipline within his body.
In hindsight, John saw this period as a time of ‘rebirth’.
After firing their then guitarist Dave Navarro, the Red Hot Chili Peppers saw their survival dependent on John rejoining the band. After agreeing, they started recording John’s third album with the band, ‘Californication’. If you don’t think you’ve ever heard the RHCP before, then turn this song on and you’ll instantly recognise it’s signature introduction, an acoustic melody inspired by that of Robert Smith (from The Cure). John took great inspiration from a variety of different musiciains at the time. His passion for songwriting was restored, and he was deeply devoted to his music. John continued to write and compose songs during the ‘Californication’ album tour.
In 2001, recording for the ‘By The Way’ album started, and John saw this as the “happiest time of his life”. He felt inspired by the work of other guitarists, such as Johnny Marr of The Smiths, and adopted a chord based style of composing. This can be seen in a few records on the album, such as ‘The Zephyr Song’, ‘Venice Queen’, and the introduction of the titular ‘By The Way’. The album also birthed one of my favourite songs, ‘Don’t Forget Me’, of which one notable performance gives me goosebumps every time I watch it. I’ve left it below, and I strongly urge you to watch it. It may be one of Frusciantes’ greatest performances, as the title suggests…
Continuing his solo endeavours, John started recording a variety of songs in 2002 with his future replacement Josh Klinghoffer. He recorded music through to 2005, with notable songs such as ‘The Past Recedes’, when the RHCP formally returned to the recording studio. Here, they would record their most recent album with John, ‘Stadium Arcadium’.
“The album was guitar-heavy, with strong Hendrix vibes throughout, and an influence of shifting harmonies, overdubbing guitar progressions, and other Rubin-inspired changes which abused their technical resources.”
In 2007, the RHCP agreed to a temporary hiatus, quoting exhaustion due to their constant touring and recording. However, when the band came back in 2009, John announced that he wouldn’t be joining them. Josh Klinghoffer joined the band as his replacement, and John began working on his new studio album, The Empyrean.
Between 2010 and last week, John has continued recording and releasing music, mainly through his website. Notable songs include ‘Wayne’, an instrumental based on the death of RHCP tour chef Wayne Forman. Other EPs he released include ‘Outsides’, ‘Foregrow’ and ‘Trickfinger II’.
Many fans wouldn’t have expected to hear the news that John had rejoined the RHCP. Even while living a very subtle, down to earth life, recording and uploading music online, it’s clear that the musical spark hasn’t left him. He’s fought through addiction, musical exhaustion, and a variety of other inhibitions, and he’s come back stronger than ever. Even at his lowest, he was always creating music.
I’m ecstatic to be able to (hopefully) see him live, but most of all I hope he remains happy.
After first getting into them in 2012, I’ve never had the pleasure of seeing Frusciante live, only seeing Klinghoffer once in 2016 (an amazing performance nonetheless). Now that he’s returned, the creative spark and technical ingenuity of Frusciante will surely cement the RHCP as one of the greatest live acts at the moment, and perhaps of all time.
Last modified: 26th December 2019