The Story of Pop: 2002 (Chapter 27)

Offering up your weekly dose of the songs that were big hits of the UK charts two whole decades ago, this is The Story of Pop: 2002. And there’s more guitars for this week’s featured hit…

  • Artist: Red Hot Chili Peppers
  • Song: By The Way
  • Released: 01/07/2002
  • Writers / Producers: Flea / John Frusciante / Anthony Kiedis / Chad Smith / Rick Rubin
  • Highest UK Chart Position: #2
  • Weeks on Chart: 10

Formed in 1983, and first charting in the UK in 1990, Californian funk rockers Red Hot Chili Peppers had had a temperamental rise to fame to say the least, with various guitarists (including Dave Navarro) coming and going, drug abuse issues and inter-band tensions that have all been well documented.

But by the time they came to release their 1999 studio album Californication, which went onto sell a staggering 16 million copies worldwide, they were undoubtedly on the ascent to becoming one of the biggest rock bands on the planet.

Hopes were high, therefore, for the release of By The Way, their eighth studio album. And for a band who were up to this point, known for their crazy stage antics and infamous public displays of nudity (they once famously recreated The BeatlesAbbey Road album cover whilst wearing only socks protecting their modesty), some hardcore fans were a bit bemused at their sudden progression to a more broader sound.

The title track was unleashed as the first single at the start of July, and it never seemed to be off the air for pretty much all that summer from what we remember. It was inescapable. Until now, their closest dalliance to a UK number one record had been – aside from a handful of top 10 hits – the cover of their “Under The Bridge” that All Saints had taken to the top in 1998 (a cover that lead singer Anthony Kiedis was rather bemused by. His words? “They made it clean and pretty. It didn’t look like they knew what they were singing about”.)

In the end, “By The Way” the single just missed out – entering and peaking at #2 behind the continuing dominance of the Elvis Vs JXL record we discussed a few weeks ago. But it was at the time – and still remains – their biggest single to date, and the album went straight to number one here in Blighty too. It stayed at the top of the long player listing on and off for an impressive five weeks on aggregate, and was in the charts for two whole years, selling over 2.1 million copies in this country alone, making it one of the biggest selling albums in the UK this century.

More hits came from the album, including “The Zephyr Song”, “Can’t Stop” and “Universally Speaking” all reaching the top 20, and it set them off on a huge worldwide tour that culminated in them playing three sold out nights at London’s Hyde Park to over 240,000 people, which was captured for a live album called Live At Hyde Park. In Britain therefore, it was undoubtedly “By The Way” that cemented the Chilis as 21st century rock icons.

Don’t forget to follow our brand new playlist on Spotify – updated weekly so you never miss a song from the story of pop in 2002. And you can leave your memories of the songs below in the comments, Tweet us or message us on Instagram, using the hashtag #StoryofPop2002.

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