Red Hot Chili Peppers, Otherside: beyond the meaning of the lyrics

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On June 25th, 1988, Red Hot Chili Peppers founder and guitarist Hillel Slovak died of an overdose.

The imprint of Slovak – besides founding the band – was a strong trademark in the Peppers’ sound. Without him the constant of improvisation, the dirty funk and Flea as bassist would never have existed. In this regard, following his death, Flea said: “Hillel was a huge influence on my life. Were it not for him, I would never had began to play the bass… Hillel is always with me and my love for him only grows stronger with time.”

His style will influence also John Frusciante, the guitarist who will replace him soon after. An aggressive sound, often improvised, never the same. Funk that mixes with rock. In almost every album there is a tribute to the late guitarist, from Mother’s Milk to the band’s latest work: The Getaway. But the most well-known song to the public, the most mainstream and the one with the deepest meaning is Otherside, the third single from Californication, the album that will definitely place the Red Hot Chili Peppers in the mainstream scene, announcing the return of the their idol after drug-related problems: John Frusciante.

I heard your voice through a photograph
I thought it up and brought up the past

The problem of drug addiction mentioned in the lyrics refers mainly to the band in general, from the fallout of Anthony to the black period of Frusciante, passing through Slovak’s overdose. The interpretations given to this song are multiple and apply to every aspect, from the title to the video. “Otherside” is written in one only word, depicting good and evil as one thing, two sides of the same coin, two inseparable bodies. The good part is what the song seeks for, while evil is what spins around drugs.

How long, how long will I slide?
Separate my side

Cubism, German expressionism, M. C. Escher and Gothic are the main styles influencing Otherside‘s video. A surreal creation with much black and white, with the members of the band in unusual clothes, with unusual instruments: Flea plays the high voltage wires as if they were a bass, John plays a single string and Chad is on a drums-tower. As mentioned before, even in the case of video, the possible interpretations are several and certainly what they have in common are linked to the same “pillar”: the dream sequence.

Once you know you can never go back
I gotta take it on the other side

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