The Making of Blood Sugar Sex Magik

Everyone has their favorite album that never appears in any famous “Top 10 Albums of All Time” lists. That album, for me, is Blood Sugar Sex Magik, by the Red Hot Chili Peppers. To me, Blood Sugar is the greatest rock album of the last 25 years or so, and it is by far the best album the Red Hots have ever released. Much like U2, their commercial success continued long after their seminal album, but they were never able to match the energy, originality, and overall “breakthroughness” of their early work.

I have a theory that everyone’s all-time favorite album is one they heard during their formative music listening years (usually between age 15 and 25) and Blood Sugar falls right in the middle of that zone for me. There’s just something about how your brain works when you are that age which you can never reproduce later in life. You enjoy music now, but you were shaped by it then.

I remember reading an article (in Rolling Stone, I believe) 10 years ago or so about how this fantastic album was produced. It turns out instead of recording it in a studio, the band camped out in Harry Houdini’s old mansion and laid down each track in low-fi fashion using tools like metal pipe and an empty oil drum. I was amazed to find out how sophisticated of a sound they were able to produce with such a higgledy piggledy setup. The only modern musician I can think of who succeeds at this breed of music production today is Jack White.

So tonight, when one of my favorite cellists, Nick Ogawa (a.k.a. Takenobu), tweeted that he was researching how his favorite bands of old recorded their music, I asked him if he had heard the story of Blood Sugar. He said he hadn’t. I pointed him to a 60 minute documentary on the making of the album which he then discovered existed on Google Video here:

It’s a great documentary to watch if you enjoy this album as much as I do. It’s even been listed in some Top 20 Music Documentaries of All Time lists. It’s a bit NSFW at times, but it’s a great look into how great albums are created: with volatile personalities, at volatile times, in volatile surroundings.

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3 Responses:

  1. Brade says:

    Totally agree about the criteria for favorite albums–our favorites tend to be (and SHOULD be, for the reasons you touched on) releases from our high school and college years. I’ve listened to MANY “classic” albums over time (from Bob Dillan, Velvet Underground, Beach Boys, Marvin Gaye, etc.) and they simply never resonate with me like my true favorites from the likes of Alice in Chains, Plaid, Orbital, Soundgarden, Radiohead, etc. I don’t deny the former had immense talent and innovated new musical forms, but to me the latter group perfected those sounds in terms of both technique and production quality. There are a few 70’s/80’s bands I truly enjoy, but even they are secondary in the grand scheme of my musical interests.

    ANYHOO, I never got fully into the Red Hots, and I notice BSSM is not on Mog =( otherwise I’d give it a listen.

    And BTW my top 3 albums would be 1) Plaid – Rest Proof Clockwork, 2) Soundgarden – Down on the Upside, 3) Alice in Chains (Tripod)

  2. Amen brother. Good insight on formative years in music and favorite albums. I never thought about it that way before, but looking back at my own experiences it seems that you’re right.

  3. Also my favourite album. Guess we similar ages. And I love this documentary also. I thought it used to belong to andy warhol or something. Frusciante is hilarious when he ponificates.

    hey, you should check his solo stuff out if you haven’t.
    shadows, and empyrean, are fantastic. not like RHCP of course.

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