Today (September 24) marks the 30th anniversary of the release of Blood Sugar Sex Magik, the Rick Rubin-produced album that made California funk-rockers Red Hot Chili Peppers one of the biggest rock bands in the world.
Buoyed by the momentum of the album's smash hit single, Under the Bridge, the quartet suddenly found themselves playing progressively larger and more high-profile venues, such as the MTV New Years Eve 1991 broadcast in the video above.
The band's three-song set – comprised of Give It Away, Higher Ground and Suck My Kiss – from that evening is a fascinating snapshot of both the forces that both powered the band's meteoric rise, and the forces that almost tore the band apart entirely.
Chad Smith is powerful and on-point behind the kit, frontman Anthony Kiedis owns the stage with charisma for days, Flea is as much of a beast on the bass guitar as ever, but the Stratocaster-toting John Frusciante – who powered Blood Sugar Sex Magik with effervescent funk riffing and gorgeously melodic lead work – is more muted and uneven.
Dissatisfied with and depressed by the band's ever-growing fame, Frusciante – in the months before his abrupt (first) departure from the band in May 1992 – took to sometimes playing haphazardly and out-of-tune onstage, a tendency you can hear quite clearly during his first solo on Give It Away.
The issue infamously reared its head once again when Frusciante put in a chaotic, wildly uneven performance during the band's high-profile rendition of Under the Bridge on Saturday Night Live on February 22, 1992.
After Frusciante's departure in May 1992, the band quickly cycled through two guitarists before hiring Jane's Addiction guitar-slinger Dave Navarro for an ill-fated five-year tenure with the band that resulted in 1995's One Hot Minute, which – despite selling two million copies – was a critical and commercial disappointment.
Having struggled with a life-threatening heroin addiction in the years following his departure from the Chili Peppers, Frusciante cleaned up in 1998, and was hired back by the group. Frusciante's presence rejuvenated the band, and led to them scaling their greatest commercial heights yet with 1999's Californication. He would depart again in 2009 to focus on solo work, before rejoining the band again in 2019.
Just today, it was announced that in 2022, the Chili Peppers will embark on their first stadium tour with Frusciante in almost 15 years.