Week 27: “Ramparts” by John Frusciante


Sometimes your enjoyment of a particular band has more to do with one particular band member than you initially realize. Lose that band member, even if they’re not the focus on stage, and it’s not the same. For me, that’s the case with the Red Hot Chili Peppers. I was never a big enough fan to pay money for their music, but every once in a while I’d hear something of theirs on the radio, and it would plant itself firmly in my brain. I had casually wondered why their earliest material was terrible, and why they sagged briefly during the 1990s…I now know that what drew me to their music was not Anthony Keidis’ pseudo-rap or their apparent dislike of wearing shirts, but the simple yet melodic style of their guitarist, John Frusciante.

The Red Hot Chili Peppers have been around for an astounding 27 years, but it was during the Frusciante years (1988-1992 and 1997-2008) that they put out their best material. Joining the band when he was still a teenager, Frusciante was crucial in defining their trademarked sound, a sound that led to the global success of their 1991 album, “Blood Sugar Sex Magik”. Frusciante was overwhelmed by this success, and this led to the inevitable addictions and rehab sessions during the middle chunk of the 90s. The good news was that the rehab worked, and Frusciante came out the other side with seemingly infinite amounts of new material. The band, who had sucked like a vacuum during his absence, shot back to worldwide fame with 1999’s “Californication”. During his second stint with the band, he also took time to record his own solo material; it is on his 2001 solo album, curiously titled, “To Record Only Water For Ten Days”, that I found this great little song.

What makes this a beautiful song:

1. Its backstory. Somehow, knowing that he’d been through several years of heroin-fuelled hell in the years leading up to recording this song makes it even more poignant. In an interview, Frusciante once said that he doesn’t see his years of addiction as a dark time, but as a chance for re-birth. Whether that’s a delusion or not, this song definitely has a re-birth type of sound to it.

2. Its layers and layers of guitary goodness. I can almost see Frusciante in a tiny room obsessively laying down guitar track after guitar track. Eventually, he seems to have picked the 34 best takes and layered them on top of each other.

3. Its brevity.

Recommended listening activity:

Watching the winter’s first snowfall.

Buy it here.