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Music / By the Way

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"By the way, I tried to say I'd be there..."

By the Way is the eighth studio album by Red Hot Chili Peppers, released in 2002. Known for its hit singles "By the Way", "Universally Speaking", "Can't Stop", and "The Zephyr Song", the album enjoyed significant success since it was a welcome follow-up to their previous hit album Californication. The ensuing tour for By the Way drew some of the band's largest audiences to date, and spawned the highly successful live performance CDs Live in Hyde Park and Live at Slane Castle.

John Frusciante was the primary creative force on the record. Adding Echoing Acoustics and instrumentals on most of the tracks, he created Lighter and Softer melodies which emphasized the band's strengths as complex songwriters. Funk Rock jams, the band's Signature Style, played less of a role since Frusciante used synthesizers, overdubbed guitars, and soundscapes to compose much of the instrumentation. This created tension with Flea, whose bass playing was understated on the record, and at one point the bassist considered quitting the band. Nevertheless, Frusciante was able to compromise with his bandmates and the Chilis were able to remain intact.


The album remains a controversial for some fans since it was such a New Sound Album, and some critics maintained that the album was significantly more mainstream than any of the band's previous work. Nevertheless, By the Way and its successor, Stadium Arcadium, solidified the band's venture into Alternative Rock. It is seen as crucial in the band's development thanks to its mature lyrics and ambitious instrumental pieces.



  1. "By the Way" (3:37)
  2. "Universally Speaking" (4:19)
  3. "This Is the Place" (4:17)
  4. "Dosed" (5:12)
  5. "Don't Forget Me" (4:37)
  6. "The Zephyr Song" (3:52)
  7. "Can't Stop" (4:29)
  8. "I Could Die for You" (3:13)
  9. "Midnight" (4:55)
  10. "Throw Away Your Television" (3:44)
  11. "Cabron" (3:38)
  12. "Tear" (5:17)
  13. "On Mercury" (3:28)
  14. "Minor Thing" (3:37)
  15. "Warm Tape" (4:16)
  16. "Venice Queen" (6:07)

    B-sides and outtakes 
  1. "Havana Affair" (The Ramones cover) (2:19)
  2. "Teenager in Love" (Dion and the Belmonts cover) (3:00)
  3. "The Bicycle Song" (3:23)
  4. "Runaway" (4:20)
  5. "Slowly, Deeply" (2:40)
  6. "Someone" (3:24)
  7. "Rivers of Avalon" (3:39)
  8. "Time" (3:47)
  9. "Out of Range" (3:58)
  10. "Body of Water" (4:41)

Principal Members:

  • Michael "Flea" Balzary – bass, trumpet, harmonica and backing vocals
  • John Frusciante – guitar, backing vocals, piano, keyboards and modular synthesizer
  • Anthony Kiedis – lead vocals
  • Chad Smith – drums, percussion

The world I love, the tropes I hop, to be part of the wave, can't stop

  • Abstract Apotheosis: "Don't Forget Me" lists various objects or personalities that are perhaps representative of a drug addict's life:
    I'm a meth lab, first rehab
    Take it all off and step inside the running cab
    There's a love that knows the way
    I'm the rainbow, in your jail cell
    All the memories of everything you've ever smelled
  • The Aggressive Drug Dealer: "This Is the Place":
    This is the place where all the devils plead
    Their case to take from you what they need
  • B-Side: "Runaway" and "The Bicycle Song" were iTunes bonus tracks. Others include "Eskimo", "Body of Water", "Out of Range", "Time", "Someone", "Rivers of Avalon", and a cover of The Ramones' "Havana Affair." "Slowly, Deeply" was an instrumental outtake from the Californication sessions that was released during this time as well.
  • Bilingual Bonus: "Cabron" is Spanish for "motherfucker". Some international versions of the album (primarily those in Spanish-speaking countries) censor the title or even the song itself.
  • Concept Video: "Can't Stop" is an homage to "One Minute Sculptures", an idea conceived by Ervin Wurm. It features the band striking all kinds of strange poses every few seconds while performing to the song.
  • Cover Version: The band recorded a far slower version of "Havana Affair" by The Ramones (from their debut album).
  • Epic Instrumental Opener: "Midnight" has one.
  • Epic Rocking: "Venice Queen", "Midnight", "Tear", and "Dosed" are longer than most Chili Peppers tracks.
  • The Four Chords of Pop: "Don't Forget Me."
  • Grief Song: "Dosed" could be a reference to Hillel Slovak, the band's first guitarist who died of a drug overdose.
  • I Can't Do This by Myself: "Tear":
    This is my time, this is my tear
    I can see clearly now that this is not a place for playing solitaire
    Tell me where you want me
  • Iconic Song Request: The band mostly tried to avoid playing their signature songs from Blood Sugar Sex Magik, "Give it Away" and "Under the Bridge", during this tour, preferring to instead play those two during encore performances. At MTV's Vans Skate Park, the band even played their more melodic material such as "Venice Queen" and "Minor Thing".
  • Idiosyncratic Cover Art: The cover art is a negative-rendered painting of Frusciante's then-girlfriend. The cover for the "Universally Speaking" EP features the original painting, which has pink and purple hues.
  • Immediate Self-Contradiction: "Runaway":
    Don't be late I hear it's
    Going to be very great and
    Out the door I'm walking like a runaway
  • Intercourse with You: "Warm Tape". Flea even went so far as to say something along the lines of "Play this song while making love" during a live performance. Granted, it's much more mature than the band's more… ostentatious material.
  • Lead Bassist: The melody for "Don't Forget Me" is performed by Flea playing his bass technically wrong (i.e., strumming rather than plucking).
  • Lighter and Softer: Played up during this period in the band's history. Notably, Johnny Ramone liked the slower, melodic cover of "Havana Affair" so much that he chose to open a Ramones tribute album with it.
  • Loony Fan: A crazed cab driver in the "By the Way" music video kidnaps Anthony, takes him on a hectic ride around the city, puts on a spectacular performance for him underneath a bridge, and forces the singer to bail out of the taxi the old-fashioned way. In a Continuity Nod, the fan reappears in the "Universally Speaking" video to return the book Anthony had left in the car.
  • Man of Wealth and Taste: "Tear" seems to reference Charles Baudelaire and his views on modernity, and perhaps even the evils of society:
    Devil may cry, devil may care
    Distiller's got a scream and now I know just why
    When she's moving air
  • New Media Are Evil: "Throw Away Your Television", obviously.
    Throw away your television
    Time to make this clean decision
    Master waits for its collision, now
    It's a repeat
  • Nobody Loves the Bassist: This album was one of the few where Flea did not have as much creative input as before, since Frusciante largely helmed this project. It was implied that "By the Way", "This Is the Place", "Can't Stop", and "Throw Away Your Television" were written as concessions to Flea since most of the others feature Frusciante's melodic production.
  • Nostalgia Filter: "On Mercury" was inspired by the double dates Anthony Kiedis would have with his father when he was young. "This Is the Place", on the other hand, deconstructs this as it is about how his father drew him into a life of drug abuse at age 11.
  • Ode to Sobriety: "Don't Forget Me". "The Zephyr Song" could also count.
  • One-Word Title: "Dosed", "Midnight", "Cabron", and "Tear".
  • Precision F-Strike: "This Is the Place". It is the only song on the album to swear (besides "Cabron", of course, albeit in Español):
    I am a misfit, I'm born with all of it
    fucking ultimate of love inside the atom split
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: "Venice Queen" was a tribute to a friend of the band, and "This is the Place" and "On Mercury" both reference Anthony Kiedis's relationship with his father.
  • Record Producer: Rick Rubin. He was instrumental in convincing the band to play down the funk in favor of more, well, instrumental tracks, which led to this New Sound Album.
  • Recurring Character: The character of Dani (who also appears in Californication's title track and "Dani California" from Stadium Arcadium) is referenced in "By the Way", in the line "Dani the girl is singing songs to me beneath the marquee"
  • Rock Me, Amadeus!: The use of string sections on this album lend to this. The nonsensical rap verse on "Minor Thing" might reference this:
    You've got your bit part, Mozart
    Hot dart acceleration
    Pop art, pistol chasing
    Cat fight intimidation
  • Self-Plagiarism: Both the songs "Rivers of Avalon" and "This Is the Place" use the same bass riff, which is why only one or the other could have been featured on the album.
  • Silly Love Songs: "I Could Die for You" is probably one of the band's most mature, sincere love songs to date: something Anthony Kiedis circa 1984 would have balked at. The band has matured, after all.
  • The Something Song: "The Zephyr Song", and the aforementioned B-side "The Bicycle Song".
  • Song Style Shift: "Can't Stop" has its verses driven by a funky bass riff, while the chorus and bridge are far more twee and poppy. However, the B-Side "Time" switches tone far more abruptly, creating an interesting medley of Funk Rock, Rap Rock, and Alternative Indie.
  • Stop and Go: "Venice Queen" switches from an atmospheric, psychedelic intro to an acoustic melody halfway through the song. John Frusciante generally has to use two separate guitars – and even wears both guitars live – in order to play the full song.
  • Surreal Music Video: "The Zephyr Song" takes the cake. It throws together a bunch of garishly colorful and looping shots of the band members performing, flowers blooming, whorls, hip-hop dancers, kaleidoscopic shots, birds, smoke, and sexy girls, in an attempt to mimic psychedelia. Granted, it's not true psychedelia - the video effects are too computerized - but it's still weird and beautiful.
  • Title Track: "By the Way", of course.
  • To Absent Friends: "Venice Queen" is about a friend of Anthony's, Gloria Scott, who died during the album's recording. He had bought a house for her in Venice Beach before her death and the song is dedicated to her.
  • To the Tune of...: "Rivers of Avalon", a non-album B-Side, features a very similar bassline to that of "This Is the Place". The band thus had to choose one the two to be on the album, and went with the latter.
  • Unplugged Version: "Cabron" is one of the band's very few acoustic songs, and the only featuring an acoustic bass. The band even played at the Bridge School Benefit, a benefit concert organized by Neil Young featuring an acoustic-only setlist. The band played most of their singles including "By the Way" and an early version of "Desecration Smile" from Stadium Arcadium.
  • Updated Re-release: "Slowly, Deeply" was an instrumental done during the Californication sessions, but the band delayed its release until it became a B-Side to "Universally Speaking".
  • Word Salad Lyrics: Per Anthony Kiedis's style. There are even leaked demos of songs where Anthony sang gibberish over the master tracks in order to get a feel for the tune before adding proper lyrics.


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