In light of changing rosters, drug addictions, lip-synching controversies, and even death, the one thing that has always been constant is that the Red Hot Chili Peppers make great music videos. Not only are they zany and memorable, many are also iconic and should be considered as some of the greatest music videos ever made. From the spontaneity of “Can’t Stop” to the absurdist “Give It Away”, most Chili Pepper videos leave memorable impression behind. Besides the Beastie Boys, no other musical act can top the Chili Peppers as the kings of music videos. As such, here’s a look back to a bygone era featuring the bands’ 12 best music videos.
12. “Higher Ground” / Mother’s Milk / 1989 / Directed by Bill Stobaugh and Drew Carolan
Although it’s comparatively bland next to future videos, the video for “Higher Ground” introduced an unsuspecting mainstream audience to the funk-punk machinations of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. With guitarist John Frusciante’s neon colored jacket, and lead singer Anthony Kiedis’ hipster hat, this video screams out 1989. Even though the kaleidoscopic background doesn’t help with this, it served as the perfect image to convey the band’s maniacal zest and kinetic vibrancy. The video alone makes viewers want to get up and dance just as much as the song itself does. Throw in bassist Flea’s awesome stuffed animal pants (as seen in the video to “Bust a Move” as well) and you have the perfect video to introduce the Chili Peppers to mainstream America.
11. “Soul to Squeeze” / Coneheads Soundtrack / 1993 / Directed by Kevin Kerslake
Another black and white video, this time, one inspired by traveling freakshows of the 1930s, stands in stark contrast to the frenetic jubilance of “Give It Away”. The fact that this video was filmed after John Frusciante had left the band adds to the very somber nature of the song, thus serving as a strengthening link between the song itself and the music video. The bleak black and white footage of a wandering circus heightens the lonely atmosphere generated by the track. Without being depressed, the video is depressing despite seeing Kiedis with a headful of snakes or Flea ride an elephant. The video for “Soul to Squeeze” is so timeless because of its originality, yet still finds a way to evoke the exact same emotions as the song itself.
10. “Warped” / One Hot Minute / 1995 / Directed by Gavin Bowden
The first single off the unjustifiably maligned One Hot Minute, and the first music video to feature new guitarist Dave Navarro, “Warped” serves its purpose incredibly well. The video opens up with anticipation, leaving the viewer wondering what will happen next until the song kicks into high gear, suddenly, if not spasmodically answering the viewers’ questions. This was the publics’ first official look at the new band that had developed quite a different look since Blood Sugar Sex Magik. Anthony Kiedis was back on drugs, Chad Smith looked like a member of Ace of Base, Flea is wearing a garbage bag as a poncho, and that guy from Jane’s Addiction is now the guitarist… Oh and everyone’s wearing leather underwear. But for however much the band had changed, here they were same as always, running rampant, but instead of a desert, they were rampaging in a tube with shutters. “Warped” showed the public that even though some things had changed within the band, their patented mania and vivaciousness still remained.
9. “Aeroplane / One Hot Minute / 1996 / Directed by Gavin Bowden
Because who doesn’t like pleasure spiked with pain? The music video for “Aeroplane” is incredibly creative and random as it includes synchronized swimmers, an aerial swing set, Fleas’ daughters’ third grade class, and finally the dancers whom were inspired by a group of Mexican prostitutes who also double as assassins as well. The background is vibrant and colorful, and creates an atmosphere of fun to play along with the upbeat melody while heavily contrasting the dark subject matter of drug abuse. The video was different and original, and like One Hot Minute, often gets excluded from the praise it rightfully deserves.
8. “Otherside” / Californication / 2000 / Directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris
This monochromatic masterpiece perfectly captures the gothic and somber emotion of “Otherside”. Like something from the mind of Tim Burton, the music video is almost horrific in imagery, yet provocatively poignant in concept. Being an homage to former guitarist Hillel Slovaks’ battle with drug addiction (which eventually claimed his life), it makes perfect sense for the music video to reflect the terrifying and inhumane visuals someone high on drugs might see. Easily, the most powerful part of the video is the ending, which concludes in the exact same place where the video began, symbolizing the cycle of addiction, a concept the band was all too familiar with.
7. “Scar Tissue” / Californication / 1999 / Directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris
The video for “Scar Tissue” is so great that Green Day felt the need to rip off the Chili Peppers with their video for “Boulevard of Broken Dreams”. Unlike most RHCP videos, this one does in fact reflect the song’s subject matter of rebirth. After almost starving to death, overdosing on heroin, and being immolated alive, guitarist John Frusicante was invited back into the band just as the band was on the verge of breaking up. Frusciante saved the Chili Peppers from collapsing, who in turn saved him from a life of drug addiction and depression. Accordingly, the video depicts a band that has been beaten and battered, playing broken instruments, yet they still soldier on through the hot California desert. This is symbolic of the band itself struggling to heal itself to push forward in light of professional failure and personal troubles. By 1999, the year the single was released, the band and all of its members had been through their fair share of tragedies, yet they still persevered against all odds, and re-emerged stronger than ever before.