With Blood Sugar Sex Magik, the Red Hot Chili Peppers released their first full-length studio album as Warner Brothers recording artists, a situation which – had the Chili Peppers gone with the label that offered the highest bid for their contract – never would’ve come to pass.
Having wrapped up their deal with EMI Records after the release of Mother’s Milk in 1989, the Red Hot Chili Peppers – henceforth to be referred to as RHCP for simplicity’s sake – were officially up for grabs, and it was a good time for them to be in such a situation: the band finally finding their way towards mainstream success after spending the better part of a decade as a cult band. After an impressive bidding war for their services, the highest bid ended up coming from Epic Records. Despite losing out to a rival label, Mo Ostin, the head of Warner Bros., called frontman Anthony Kiedis to congratulate them on securing such a great deal. As it turned out, this classy – and probably at least a wee bit calculated – move proved to be even more fortuitous than probably even Ostin had anticipated.
Per legendary record exec Stan Cornyn, Kiedis was so impressed by the call that he went to his fellow RHCP members (bassist Flea, drummer Chad Smith, and guitarist John Frusciante) and told them that “the coolest, most real person we had met during all these negotiations had just personally called to encourage me to make a great record for a rival company,” which “was the kind of guy I’d want to be working for.”
Following Kiedis’s instincts, the band decided to drop the Sony deal and go with Warner Bros. instead, moving forward with their next album with Rick Rubin. Although they’d tried to get Rubin to work with them in the past, he’d declined their offer because of the well-documented drug problems within the RHCP lineup. Times change, however, and while history reveals that maybe those problems weren’t quite as permanently solved as they might’ve seemed to be at the time, the band had at least cleaned up their act enough for Rubin to take the gig and helm what would eventually come to be known as the Blood Sugar Sex Magik sessions.
RHCP recorded the album in a ten-bedroom studio home in Laurel Canyon that was once owned by magician Harry Houdini, with everyone but Chad Smith actually moving into the place for the duration of the sessions. (Smith has denied rumors that he stayed elsewhere after hearing the house was haunted.) Kiedis and Frusciante penned the material relatively quickly, after which the full foursome took the song sketches and turned them into proper tunes.
As we all know, Blood Sugar Sex Magik was an instant smash, going gold within two months, platinum within seven months, hitting No. 3 on the Billboard 200, and spawning four hit singles (“Give It Away,” “Under the Bridge,” “Suck My Kiss,” and “Breaking the Girl”), each of which was successful enough to go gold at the very least. (The first two went multiplatinum.)
Sucks for Sony, to be sure, but as Mo Ostin proved, sometimes class counts for more than cash.