Chili Peppers’ Saturday Night Live Performance was an Awkward One

As with many bands that found themselves surrounded with sudden success and fame, Red Hot Chili Peppers had their problems – especially after the release of Blood Sugar Sex Magic album in 1992. The album was released exactly one year after Nirvana’s “Nevermind” (September 24th), and it was Red Hot Chili Peppers’ introduction into worldwide popularity and critical acclaim, selling over 13 million copies since the release.

John Frusciante certainly had the biggest problems dealing with the newfound fame and with the responsibility that was forced upon him when the band played along with other bands such as Smashing Pumpkins and Nirvana for thousands of people at the time.

Anthony Kiedis, who was a sort of a control freak in the band, started getting into fights with John – who would often underperform and share no enthusiasm with the band while playing on stage. Anthony described the experience in his book “Scar Tissue” stating:

(Kiedis:) Things deteriorated to the point where John and I didn’t talk on the bus, and if we ran into each other in passing, we wouldn’t even acknowledge each other. 

Constant tensions between John and Anthony escalated when the band was invited to play Saturday Night Live gig in February 1992. John almost got into a fight with one of the crew members and kept himself away from the rest of the band. Madonna was also present on the set and apparently completely ignored John – which made him even more pissed and unwilling to play the gig.

When the time came for the band to play, they did the song “Stone Cold Bush” – which to Anthony’s surprise went pretty well. The second song they choose to play was “Under The Bridge” which worried Kiedis since he had to rely on John to cue him in after he’s done with the guitar intro, and the two weren’t on very good terms.

Luckily for Kiedis, John did give him a slight head nod to let him know it’s his time to tune in. The intro itself wasn’t played according to the plan, but when the second verse started at around 1: 05-minute mark things start to go downhill way more noticeably. Just pay attention to Anthony’s body language – the way how he slowly turns his back to John after he plays that weird chord. Just watching it makes you feel uncomfortable.

(Kiedis:) I had no idea what song he was playing or what key he was in. He looked like he was in a different world.

After the gig was done with, Anthony considered the whole thing to be a disaster triggered intentionally by John.

(Kiedis:) We were on live TV in front of millions of people, and it was torture. I started to sing in what I thought was the key, even if it wasn’t the key he was playing in. I felt like I was getting stabbed in the back and hight out to dry in front of all of America while this guy was off in a corner in the shadow, playing some dissonant out-of-tune experiment. I thought he was doing that on purpose, just to fuck with me.

But coincidentally or not, the album started selling like crazy after the Saturday Night Live ‘fiasco’. Maybe that’s a sign that people actually prefer an honest performance over a staged one. A good guitarist does not only play well technically, but he should also be transparent in regard to his emotions on stage. People are just people, and they don’t always feel like they are on top of the world even if they seem to be from an outside perspective.