The Red Hot Chili Peppers has released 11 studio albums since the early nineteen eighties. Now that the band is coming up on forty years of staying together despite rock and roll turmoil, there is no better time to perform a deep dive through the band’s discography.
Today’s fans know and love Anthony Kiedis, Flea, John Frusciante, and Chad Smith. The quartet shares a world-renowned musical intensity, genre-defying discography, and general zaniness. As you dive into the discography of the Chili Peppers, you will hear a superhuman progression in artistic scope and hopefully discover more reasons to appreciate the art.
- The Red Hot Chili Peppers
- Freaky Styley
- The Uplift Mofo Party Plan
- Mother’s Milk
- Blood Sugar Sex Magik
- One Hot Minute
- By The Way
- Stadium Arcadium
- I’m With You
- The Getaway
The Red Hot Chili Peppers
Released: August 10, 1984
EMI America, Enigma
The debut album of Red Hot Chili Peppers is oft credited as one of the original rap-rock and funk metal bands. But although it has harvested a legendary status, the band grew discontented with the finished product. Nevertheless, The Red Hot Chili Peppers established a fanbase among college listeners despite not cracking the top 200 album chart.
In truth, they preferred the demo versions of the songs that appeared on the record. Most of that dissatisfaction stems from the friction between the band and producer Andy Gill (Gang of Four). Anthony Kiedis realized their producer did not care for the band’s sound or vision, thanks to a revealing notebook detailing the producer’s true feelings for the band he was recording.
RHCP is the only album featuring Jack Sherman on guitar, who temporarily replaced founding member Hillel Slovak. Even though he did not stick around on the guitar for long, the band credits him for helping shape the band’s sound, naming him an integral part of the band’s history.
- “True Men Don’t Kill Coyotes”
- “Get Up and Jump”
Released: August 16, 1985
The second studio album, Freaky Styley, features Hillel Slovak on guitar after he rejoined the band, officially cementing his founding role. Additionally, legendary George Clinton (Parliament-Funkadelic) produced the record. The finished product got more love from critics than its predecessor, who felt the album was genuinely funky and experimental – but it still failed to crack the Billboard 200 chart. In 2004, Flea acknowledged a lack of pop songwriting and cross-appeal precluded the LP from garnering mainstream attention.
Clinton’s presence saw better chemistry between the band and the producer, though the sessions became marred by excessive drug use. Before the band recorded any tracks, the four members moved in with producer George Clinton for one month to establish a bond, hoping it would get reflected in the recordings. In truth, the drug use during this time affected the album exponentially, despite creative work getting done. Ultimately, it got so out of hand that the spoken word segment introducing the song “Yertle the Turtle” was performed by Clinton’s drug dealer to make good on the producer’s drug debt incurred during the recording process.
- “Jungle Man”
- “Hollywood (Africa)”
- “Yertle the Turtle”
The Uplift Mofo Party Plan
Released: September 29, 1987
The Uplift Mofo Party Plan is the only studio album where all four founding members (Kiedis, Flea, Slovak, and Irons) appeared on each track. Hillel Slovak, founding guitarist, would soon die from an overdose, making this his last album recorded with the band. It would also be founding drummer Jack Iron’s only studio album with the band, as he quit soon after Slovak’s death, unable to cope. Singer and primary lyricist Anthony Kiedis was deeply addicted to heroin during the recording and got booted from the group to attend rehab. He got sober upon the band winning LA Weekly’s Band of the Year award.
This third album features more prominent heavy metal textures, partly due to producer Michael Beinhorn, who wanted the band to explore new sounds and create more diverse-sounding songs. The band’s shows showcased Slovak’s impressive range as a guitarist, which would become fundamental to John Frusciante’s future role. The album again became regarded as an improvement from the last two records, and it finally broke the Billboard 200, receiving Gold record status.
- “Fight Like a Brave”
- “Me and My Friends”
- “Behind the Sun”
Released: August 16, 1989
Mother’s Milk, the fourth studio album by Red Hot Chili Peppers, cemented the now-legendary lineup of Kiedis, Flea, guitarist John Frusciante, and drummer Chad Smith. It became more successful than any previous record of the band, reaching number 52 on the US Billboard 200. The album proved the band could recover from the death of their friend and founding guitarist, all while exploring new styles.
Oddly, new member Frusciante wasn’t an experienced funk guitarist – still, his passion and knowledge of the guitar, music theory, and Flea’s bass playing made him the perfect fit. Although some critics favored The Uplift Mofo Party Plan, many others noted Mother’s Milk had seemingly catapulted the band into a mainstream international act.
Michael Beinhorn once again returned to the studio as the producer, though this time he received constant pushback from guitarist Frusciante, who disagreed with the producer’s methods of favoring metal riffs and overdubbing – Frusciante preferred simplicity and melody.
“Higher Ground” became the band’s first popular song, as it gained worldwide attention. As a cover, it remains faithful to Stevie Wonder’s funky original while exploring more punk elements.
- “Higher Ground”
- “Knock Me Down”
- “Taste the Pain”
Blood Sugar Sex Magik
Released: September 24, 1991
Blood Sugar Sex Magik is the fifth studio album, produced by legendary Rick Rubin, who would become a longtime collaborator with the band until 2016. The record sees the quartet abandon heavy metal riffs, favoring more melodic compositions, thanks to songwriter and guitarist John Frusciante. While Mother’s Milk brought the band to international attention, this record made them into superstars. The band soon became showered with popularity and respect from music critics everywhere, aided by MTV.
To raise the creative spirits, the band temporarily moved into the mansion where Harry Houdini once lived to record the record. Several accounts from bandmembers indicate they believed the mansion haunted. Chad Smith reportedly did not stay at the house for this reason, though he claimed he merely wanted to stay with his wife. The film Funky Monks documents the making of the record.
Despite the immense popularity of the album, John Frusciante soon quit the band the following year due to drug addiction and increasing discontent with the band’s rising fame. He didn’t return until 1998 when he got sober.
- “Under the Bridge”
- “Give It Away”
- “Suck My Kiss”
- “Breaking the Girl”
- “The Power of Equality”
One Hot Minute
Released: September 12, 1995
One Hot Minute got marred by several avenues of interpersonal difficulty. Guitarist John Frusciante had quit the band three years earlier due to the band’s newfound fame, and singer Kiedis had relapsed on drugs after five years of sobriety. The sixth album is the only time Dave Navarro appears as guitarist for the band. He got fired in 1998, before Californication, reportedly for his drug use.
Songwriting for the record was noticeably slower than previous records, attributed to the band’s lineup changes. Lyrics were also bleaker, reflecting Kiedis’s debilitating mental state at the time. In the middle of the recording process, the band paused to perform at Woodstock 1994 – it was new guitarist Dave Navarro’s first show with the band.
The record is considered by many to be a failure commercially, given it sold half as many physical copies as Blood Sugar Sex Magik, and critics were lukewarm in their reception. Still, it is a multi-platinum record that reached the fourth slot on the Billboard 200 chart.
- “My Friends”
Released: June 8, 1999
Californication, easily one of the band’s most successful and enduring records thanks to six massive singles and its overall consistency, once again saw Rick Rubin return as producer. This time, he made an effort to draw out different tones and moods from the band, who became increasingly dedicated to experimenting in the studio.
John Frusciante, freshly sober out of rehab, rejoined the band the previous year, thanks to Flea, who prioritized the sobriety of his bandmates and the chemistry the band had discovered seven years ago. The band has compared this reconnection to the stars aligning. The change in musical tone often gets attributed to Frusciante, who fought for a more mellow sound with progressive rock elements.
The album represented a stark evolution in sound from its predecessor, One Hot Minute. Sure, lyrically, the album explores themes of spirituality, sex, drugs, and California – which isn’t necessarily anything new. However, musically, the album showcases several softer songs, more in the vein of “Under the Bridge” which was welcomed by many critics who found the shift to represent artistic maturity.
- “Scar Tissue”
- “Road Trippin'”
- “Parallel Universe”
- “Around the World”
By the Way
Released: July 9, 2002
By the Way is the eighth official studio album by Red Hot Chili Peppers. Rick Rubin once again produced the record because the band sought his laid-back and encouraging approach in the studio. The album was another success, selling more than eight million copies worldwide.
Musically, it is a continuation of Californication’s sounds and themes – a change that got welcomed by most music critics and fans. However, this time around, Frusciante wrote most of the melodies and arrangements for the songs, including bass lines and harmonies. This dramatically shaped the record. For one, Frusciante experimented with technologies previously unfamiliar to the band, such as mellotron and new effects pedals for bolder guitar textures.
Despite Frusciante stating that working on this album was the best time of his life, Flea has said the opposite. The always-moving bassist explained he felt alienated by the band’s newfound leadership, as he and John traditionally crafted the songs together. It is perhaps why By the Way features very few funk-driven tracks, but the few that appeared were hits, namely the title track and “Can’t Stop.”
- “Can’t Stop”
- “By the Way”
- “The Zephyr Song”
- “Universally Speaking”
Released: May 9, 2006
Stadium Arcadium, the band’s first double album, is arguably their finest work, thanks to five Grammy awards, three number-one songs, and a number-one album spot on the charts. And it completes the band’s trilogy beginning with Frusciante’s return in ’98, as Stadium Arcadium is the last album to feature John Frusciante – he quit the band in 2009 and rejoined ten years later.
They employed Rick Rubin again for production, who successfully captured the band’s various styles developed over twenty years more or less together. Flea and Frusciante composed most of the songs together, unlike during the By the Way sessions.
Critically, it was well-received. Critics noted the matured, synergetic feeling of the songs, including Frusciante’s less restrained guitar work that colors the 28 tracks. Overdubs, which were unconventional for the guitarist, became a common technique during the sessions. Frusciante has credited hip-hop artists like Wu-Tang Clan for inspiring his melody and guitar work on the record. Rolling Stone includes this record on their Best Albums of the 2000s list.
“Charlie,” a funky and futuristic track, represents the first time the band employed a fan-made music video. They would utilize more innovative approaches to this medium on the next album, including an interactive video on I’m With You.
- “Snow (Hey Oh)”
- “Tell Me Baby”
- “Dani California”
- “Hump de Bump”
- “Desecration Smile”
I’m With You
Released: August 26, 2011
The story of I’m With You begins five years before its release. Flea initiated time off from touring in 2007 to focus on new songs – but the two years would prove detrimental to Frusciante’s role in the band. Following five years since the release of Stadium Arcadium and two years since Frusciante left the band, the album, produced by band-favorite Rick Rubin, was the first record to feature Josh Klinghoffer on guitar. The album debuted at number one in 18 countries and reached number two in the US and Canada.
Though the change saddened many fans, there were several silver linings. John Frusciante left the band amicably before I’m With You, later stating that the band understood and supported his decision, which boiled down to feeling burned out from touring. Flea took a more prominent role in songwriting, taking music theory classes to fill the void that John’s departure inevitably created in the music. And critics and fans received Klinghoffer’s contributions positively, and some went so far as to say he rejuvenated the lineup and the band’s aging sound. He was no stranger to the band as he performed alongside the four during the tour for Stadium Arcadium.
Rolling Stone’s annual Reader’s Poll named I’m With You number eight on the best albums of 2011 list. The album was nominated for Best Rock Album at the Grammy’s but lost to Wasting Light by Foo Fighters.” The Adventures of Rain Dance Maggie” reached number one on the alternative rock charts.
- “The Adventures of Rain Dance Maggie”
- “Look Around”
- “Brendan’s Death Song”
- “Factory of Faith”
- “Monarchy of Roses”
Released: June 17, 2016
The Getaway is the band’s 11th studio album and the second and final record featuring guitarist Josh Klinghoffer, following Frusciante rejoining in 2019. The album was the first record without Rick Rubin as the producer for the first time in 25 years. The band chose Danger Mouse, a prominent figure and producer in electronic and hip-hop music. The reason for this change has varied according to band members, but Klinghoffer claims artistic differences between the producer and himself sparked it.
Many fans and critics noted the band had continued to redefine their sound subtly for the better, praising the new production and approach to songwriting. For example, Elton John is playing the piano on track six of the album. The Getaway debuted atop the charts in Australia, Belgium, Italy, and New Zealand. It is also certified Gold in the United States, with 500,000 copies sold. The album reached number two in the US, UK, and Canada.
Recording for The Getaway experienced unusual barriers. Session dates got delayed when Flea broke his arm snowboarding shortly before the band was to work in the studio. That drastically changed the songwriting process as well as the attitude going into the studio. Flea’s injury functionally brought the band back to the drawing board, as many of the songs initially chosen for recording were thrown out or reworked.
- “Dark Necessities”
- “Goodbye Angels”
- “Sick Love”
- “Go Robot”
Today’s fans know and love Anthony Kiedis, Flea, John Frusciante, and Chad Smith. They’re much different than your classic rock and roll bands, the quartet shares a world-renowned musical intensity, genre-defying discography, and general zaniness releasing 11 studio albums and clearly some of the best music to come from the 80’s. Now that the band is coming up on forty years of staying together despite rock and roll turmoil, there is no better time to sit back and relax, smoke ’em if you got ’em, and listen to the Red Hot Chili Peppers as they are a great band to smoke out to.