For every true lover of music, it has been a months-long countdown that has permeated every aspect of the media. Splashed across the headlines of countless websites, newspapers, and the cover of Spin magazine (not to mention the vast multiple page spread), the 20th anniversary of Nirvana’s classic Nevermind and the subsequent re-release (someone has to keep food on the table for Courtney Love) came a couple of weeks ago in late September. As a fan, I celebrated with the proper festivities – donning flannel and blasting “In Bloom” to the point where even my “house music only” roommate knew the tune. However, with all the fuss over this milestone of what might be the greatest album of the 90’s, the same milestone of another great album seems to have been overlooked – Red Hot Chili Pepper’s Blood Sugar Sex Magik.
The Chili Peppers released Blood Sugar Sex Magik on September 24th, 1991 and it went on to sell over 15 million copies worldwide and produce many hit singles for the Peppers – increasing their popularity to such a point of contention that guitarist John Frusciante quit due to his inability to deal with the fame. Produced by Rick Rubin and recorded in a mansion once owned by Harry Houdini, the music dealt with themes such as death, lust, relationships and leader singer and songwriter Anthony Kiedis’ struggle with drug abuse. While continuing with the funk-style that characterizes much of their work, Frusciante and bassist Flea also dove into a more simplistic method when it came to composing their songs – something different from the more metal riffs of the previous Peppers album and what would come to be their style for years to come. From the bare philosophy of “Give It Away” to the underrated “I Could Have Lied” many consider it the Pepper’s best work to date (myself included).
Very rarely do such influential albums come out ever but for two to come out in the same week is pretty astounding. The biggest irony involving Nevermind and Blood Sugar Sex Magik? The eerie similarity of the Pepper’s “Under The Bridge” and Nirvana’s “Something In the Way”. Both written by songwriters Kiedis and Kurt Cobain, they each dealt with the extreme experience of having no other home than highway overpasses- for Kiedis this was due to his drug addiction while Cobain had run away from home (although this was later denied). Each has music and tone that reflects a trouble psyche and are, in all senses, hauntingly beautiful.
In his biography Scar Tissue, there are scenes that Kiedis recalls meeting Cobain and comments how talented he was but how troubled as well. It is interesting to reflect now, twenty years later, the different paths each of these bands and their members have traveled on and how far off the fame that is cemented for them today was. There is one thing for sure though – the ability of these albums to last only serves to emphasize how truly great they are.