Drafted into the Red Hot Chili Peppers—his favorite band—at the age of 18, John Frusciante brought with him an economical playing style that was the perfect tonic to Flea’s slap-bass excess. It turned the group’s 1989 effort, Mother’s Milk, from frat rock into something vital and genuinely potent. Behind the incendiary gigs and creative sock wearing, however, a storm was brewing, and after casually knocking out the guitar album of the Nineties with the wah-drenched, funky Blood Sugar Sex Magik, Frusciante slipped into a drug-induced freefall.
In any normal account of rock star excess, the story would end with Frusciante pawning his Strat to fund a spiraling smack habit. So it was a relief when he re-emerged clean and lean in ’98 and went on to rejoin the Chilis for their two finest albums to date, Californication and By the Way. Frusciante now releases solo albums at the rate most people make cups of coffee. Most impressive of all, his talent still burns red hot.
Splurging for John’s vintage Strats, Marshalls and pedals would probably take you over the $35,000 mark. So let’s be somewhat more realistic and shoot for a basic Marshall/Fender combination. A ’62 Fender Vintage reissue Stratocaster will set you back around $1,899.99, while a 100-watt Marshall DSL100 head and
1960 A/B 4x12 cabinet will cost $2,100 and $1,150, respectively.
The good news is that it can be done a lot cheaper and with almost any guitar/amp combination. If times are tough, a Squier Satin Trans Stratocaster will get you into Frusciante waters for $332.99, while Marshall’s AVT20 combo amp is a realistic choice at $449. However much you’re feeling the pinch though, we’d still recommend sticking with top-shelf pedals. A decent wah is paramount when you’re aping the Peppers, so it’s worth dropping $239 to get your hands on a Dunlop 535Q Crybaby Multi-Wah pedal. And at $97, the Boss DS-1 Distortion pedal is a great choice to emulate Frusciante’s more hairy-chested moments.