13 Years Ago: A Look Back at the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Singles From ‘By the Way’
Following guitarist John Frusciante’s triumphant return to the Red Hot Chili Peppers on 1999’s Californication (their best-selling album to date) the band followed up with their eighth album, By the Way, which arrived 13 years ago today on July 9, 2002.
After building a career on their innovative blend of funk and metal, By the Way marked a change in the band’s sound which was significantly influenced by Frusciante’s creative direction. The album instead emphasized melody; Frusciante’s interest in the Beach Boys, Beatles and '60s doo-wop; and frontman Anthony Kiedis’ deeply personal and introspective lyrics.
By the Way -- which peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard 200 and went double platinum -- spurred five singles in all. We take a look back at each of them below.
By the Way’s lead single was also its title track, which Kiedis previously described as a “constant struggle between dark and light.” That at-odds nature played out in the song’s dynamics: a fusion between the band’s newfound emphasis on melody and their signature wild, rapid-fire verses. It also was the album's most successful single, rising to No. 1 on both the Modern Rock and Mainstream Rock charts.
"The Zephyr Song" followed, and it found the band even more honed in on their newfound melodic focus and Frusciante’s Beach Boys and Beatles influences. Meanwhile, Kiedis’ lyrics convey a peaceful, almost spiritual and healing quality. The song wasn’t as commercially embraced as its predecessor, but it still managed to land at No. 6 on the Modern Rock chart.
The Chili Peppers’ first By the Way single of 2003 was “Can’t Stop,” which was also one of the few songs on the album to highlight Flea’s funk bass lines -- albeit more subdued in comparison to previous efforts. Likewise, Kiedis returns to his fast-paced vocal delivery style on the verses while Frusciante adds an element of reggae along with his increasingly prevalent backing vocals. The song topped the Modern Rock chart for three weeks.
"Dosed" was only released in North America. The complex track -- which peaked at No. 13 on the Modern Rock chart -- features four guitars each playing separate riffs and Kiedis and Frusciante both singing in harmony on the chorus. It was the only single from the album that didn’t receive a music video.
“Universally Speaking” -- which was only released in Europe and Australia -- was the fifth and final By the Way single. The narrative for the song’s Dick Rude-directed video circled back to the video for “By the Way,” bringing back actor and comedian Dave Sheridan as an overly enthusiastic RHCP fan who, in the “By the Way” clip, kidnaps Kiedis in a crazed cab ride. In “Universally Speaking,” the character reemerges, trying to return Kiedis’ copy of Lexicon Devil: The Fast Times and Short Life of Darby Crash and the Germs.