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By the Way is the eighth studio album by American alternative rock band Red Hot Chili Peppers, released on July 9, 2002, on Warner Bros. Records. It sold over 282,000 copies in the first week, and peaked at number two on the Billboard 200. The singles from the album included "By the Way", "The Zephyr Song", "Can't Stop", "Dosed" and "Universally Speaking". The lyrical subject matter vocalist Anthony Kiedis addresses in By the Way is a divergence from previous Chili Peppers albums, with Kiedis taking a more candid and reflective approach to his lyricism.

By the Way was applauded by critics as a departure from the band's previous styles, and is recognized for the melodic and subdued emotions given by the Chili Peppers. Guitarist John Frusciante is credited with writing most of the album's melodies, bass lines, and guitar progressions, therefore changing the direction of the recording dramatically: "his warm, understated guitar work and his doo-wop style vocal harmonies are king this time around." By the Way contained virtually none of the signature punk-funk fusion the band had become known for playing. Frusciante has stated that writing "By the Way [was] one of the happiest times in my life."


Following a life threatening drug addiction that caused him to leave the Chili Peppers in 1992, Frusciante made a full recovery after a month of drug rehabilitation in the early months of 1998. Shortly thereafter he was asked to rejoin the Red Hot Chili Peppers. After several months of writing and recording, the Chili Peppers' next album, Californication was released. The album went on to sell over fifteen million copies worldwide, becoming the Chili Peppers' most successful recording to date. Frusciante's return generated much response from critics, who recognized the album as a commercial revitalization from their previous record, One Hot Minute. A two year long, international tour followed, which included several festival appearances, including Woodstock 1999 and Rock in Rio.

The writing and formation of By the Way began immediately following the culmination of Californication's world tour, in the Spring of 2001. As with Californication, much of the creation took place in the band members' homes, and other locations of practice, such as a recording studio stage. Kiedis recalled of the situation: "We started finding some magic and some music and some riffs and some rhythms and some jams and some grooves, and we added to it and subtracted from it and pushed it around and put melodies to it." Frusciante and Kiedis would collaborate together for days straight, discussing and sharing guitar progressions and lyrics. For Kiedis, "writing By the Way...was a whole different experience from Californication. John was back to himself and brimming with confidence." Prior to recording By the Way, the Chili Peppers decided that they would again have Rick Rubin produce the album. Rubin had, in the past, granted the Chili Peppers creative freedom on their recording material; this was something they thought essential for the album to be unique, and could only occur with his return.

Writing and composition

The album's guitar and bass ensemble was primarily dictated by Frusciante, rather than a collaborative effort between him and bassist Flea. Therefore the record took different direction than any previous Chili Peppers' album. Frusciante sought to create an emotional and poignant soundscape throughout the recording. Drawing influences from musicians such as Vini Reilly of The Durutti Column and John McGeoch, Frusciante made use of textured and multilayered guitar progressions on By the Way, utilizing tools such as the mellotron and various effects pedals throughout.

Kiedis was lyrically influenced by love, his girlfriend, and the emotions expressed when one fell in love. Songs such as "Body of Water", "Someone" (both B-sides), "By the Way", "I Could Die for You" and "Warm Tape" all digressed into the many sides of love. Drugs also played an integral part in Kiedis' writings, as he had only been sober since December 2000. Tracks like "This Is the Place", "Don't Forget Me", and "Dosed" expressed his intense dislike for narcotics and the harmful physical and emotional effects they caused him. He referenced late Chili Peppers guitarist Hillel Slovak in "This Is the Place", and describes how drug use forced him to miss the funeral: "On the day my best friend died/I could not get my copper clean". "Venice Queen" was composed lyrically as an ode to Kiedis' drug rehabilitation therapist, Gloria Scott, who died shortly after he purchased her a home on Californiamarker's Venice Beachmarker. It mourned her death as a painful loss: "We all want to tell her/Tell her that we love her/Venice gets a queen/Best I've ever seen."

By the Way diverged from the band's previous styles, thus containing few funk-driven songs. "Can't Stop" and the title track were the only songs which revisited the Chili Peppers' once trademark style of short, rapped verses. "Throw Away Your Television", while not having any rapidly sung lyrics, also contained a funk oriented bass line, though hinted at experimental rock due to the heavy use of distortion throughout the verse and chorus. Other "experimental" tracks include the trumpet based "On Mercury". "Cabron", the only track to be played entirely on acoustic guitar, has visible Latin influences. "Tear" had a minor piano part, and "Warm Tape" was composed almost entirely on a keyboard.

Technically, By the Way saw the Chili Peppers employing several devices to distort and alter guitar and vocal sequences. "Don't Forget Me" utilizes a mellotron, wah pedal, and echoing techniques to convey an emotive atmosphere, while Frusciante uses a Big Muff for the solos on "Minor Thing". Frusciante's backing vocals, although present in Californication, became dominant in By the Way, as almost every track contained his background presence.


Feeling extremely confident in their album, the Chili Peppers issued the statement, "Greetings from the dimensions of invisible shapes and colors. The music on this record has expanded our space and made us bigger. Thank you for listening and being exactly where and who you are," in a press release. Chad Smith commented that By the Way is "very honest, raw, emotional music. It's a very dynamic, rich and lush album. Probably the best collection of Chili Peppers songs we've ever put out." Warner Bros. Records promoted the album heavily in the months prior to the record's 2002 release, especially targeting the online market in order to steer customers away from illegal downloads. The record label implemented a campaign they colloquially title "A Song A Day". This program, initiated on June 21, was aimed at leaking one song per day until the album was released. Over 150 radio stations participated in broadcasting the band's new daily material, along with MTV, VH1, and digital music retailers like iTunes, as well as Cell phone companies. AOL featured the Chili Peppers as their "Artist Of The Month" in June, streaming interviews and live performances of the band free of charge; they also sold an MP3 of "By the Way", the record's first single, for ninety-nine cents and raffled off tickets that gave fans a chance to see the band in Japan in November.

By the Way was released on CD and LP on July 9, 2002, under the Warner Bros. label, selling 281,948 copies in the United States in its first week and 1.8 million worldwide. It was certified gold just a few months later on October 26, 2002. Five singles were released from it; of these, the title track "By the Way" was the most successful, peaking at #2 on the UK charts and #1 on the Billboard rock charts. Although the album sold fewer copies than Californication, By the Way managed to peak at #2 on the Billboard 200, one spot higher than Californication. Around the world, the album debuted at number one in the UK, Switzerland, New Zealand, Austria, and Sweden; and number two in France. In March 2006, the Red Hot Chili Peppers' albums were made available for download from the iTunes Music Store. By the Way included two previously unreleased tracks ("Runaway", and "Bicycle Song"). The original album tracks were not remastered, although the bonus tracks were.

Critical reception

The album received a mostly positive reaction from critics, who praised By the Way for its melodic, multilayer and textured styles. Allmusic's Zac Johnson said that the album was "sophisticated...the Peppers have not sacrificed any of their trademark energy or passions for life, universal love, and (of course) lust". Rolling Stone called the album "insanely melodic" and a "near-perfect balance of gutter grime and high-art aspiration", comparing it to other works, such as The Beach Boys' album Pet Sounds. Mojo applauded the recording, and considered it to be "the strongest Chili's album since 1991's Blood Sugar Sex Magik". Giving the album 5 stars out of 5, Q called By the Way "A fantastic record; full of wonder." Kimberly Mack of PopMatters commented on how the album "...showcases a more sophisticated, lush sound that only today's Peppers could have conceived", and that "Anthony Kiedis' lyrics are more personal than ever." Frusciante was, in her eyes, "a musical talent to be reckoned with and is the undeniable X factor in the Red Hot Chili Peppers' sound."

However, the praise was balanced by those such as indie music critic Piero Scaruffi, who dismissed the album as being "too mainstream". Blender considered By the Way to be an indistinguishable sequel to Californication, calling it "Californication 2". It further condemned the Chili Peppers for not varying their style and remaining extremely similar in sound. Newspapers such as The Village Voice criticized the band for trying too hard to change. Entertainment Weekly praised By the Way for being well refined and a superb collaboration, but criticized the Chili Peppers for playing it safe and keeping the album's energy mild; for being "more fascinating for what it symbolizes than what it is."

Allmusic considered the song "By the Way" to combine "fiery Hollywood funk, gentle harmonies, a little bit of singing about girls, [and] a little bit of hanging out in the streets in the summertime." Rolling Stone commented on "how close this band has come to conjuring pure California sunshine" in "The Zephyr Song". "Midnight" was highly regarded by several sources. It was chosen as one of By the Way's "Allmusic Track Picks". Kimberly Mack of Pop Matters considered it to have "hippie-friendly lyrics" and to "evoke images of tie-dyed T-shirts and AM radio." Mack also regarded "Venice Queen" as "a masterpiece...Frusciante's backing vocals are hauntingly beautiful."

By the Way tour

Red Hot Chili Peppers performing "By the Way" at Slane Castle on August 23, 2003.
The launch of the record took place on New York Citymarker's Ellis Islandmarker. Sponsored by the rock radio station K-Rock, the event was titled the "Pep Rally". The band performed eight songs from By the Way, as well as tracks from Californication and Blood Sugar Sex Magik in front of 900 contest winners. The New York Post declared the show "one of the top concerts of the year." The location was chosen in order to reinvigorate lower Manhattanmarker after the September 11, 2001 attacks and all proceeds were donated to pertinent charity organizations. Immediately following this, the Chili Peppers embarked on a world tour to support the album. Beginning in Europe, they also played at events such as the Fuji Rock Festival and Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festivalmarker in between. The band eventually culminated their Europe leg of the tour in February 2003, and commenced the United States leg on May 1. The Chili Peppers played at Madison Square Gardenmarker in New York Citymarker on June 3, 2003 to a sold-out crowd and an enthusiastic response from critics. Kelefa Sanneh of The New York Times reported that "on Tuesday night, the [Red Hot Chili Peppers] came to Madison Square Garden for an extraordinary two-hour performance...On 'Don't Forget Me', [Flea] strummed chords, while Mr. Frusciante contributed a gorgeous guitar line that bubbled and hissed like some sort of chemical reaction." The US leg ended on June 21; the band took a small hiatus before performing at Slane Castlemarker on August 23, to a crowd of over 80,000. Live at Slane Castle, the result of the concert, would become the Chili Peppers' second live DVD, after Off the Map.

Following several Japanese and Australian performances, the Red Hot Chili Peppers planned three nights at London's Hyde Parkmarker. Over 240,000 tickets were sold within hours, with roughly 80,000 people attending each show on June 19, 20, and 25, respectively. It became the highest grossing concert at a single venue in history, accumulating an estimated $17 million gross revenue. Due to the success of the three shows, the band released their first live album Live in Hyde Park in Europe, Australia, Japan and New Zealand, excluding the United States. Later that year, the Chili Peppers played for the 2004 Democratic National Convention in support of their political beliefs, with Kiedis saying "Do what you gotta do" at the end of the band's set. Finally, they played at the Rock am Ringmarker festival as one of the final performances of the By the Way tour.


Photograph of the Red Hot Chili Peppers featured in By the Way's album booklet.
All paintings, photography and art direction is credited to Julian Schnabel and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. The woman featured on the cover of By the Way is Stella Schnabel, Julian Schnabel's daughter and Frusciante's then-girlfriend. Several pages of the album's booklet, and single for "By the Way" contain paintings of a goat head. A somewhat blurry, black and white photograph of the band in a desolate field, and each band member individually, is also present.

The majority of the booklet's artwork are various scenes of replica grass and plants, stars and indistinguishable objects, which appears to be a miniature pole, placed in dirt. Single covers for "The Zephyr Song" and "Can't Stop" both feature this same background, although angled slightly differently. The lyrics for By the Way are placed on top of the landscape, hand written by Kiedis in pink lettering.


The information regarding accolades attributed to By the Way is adapted from
Publication Country Accolade Year Rank
Q Magazine United Kingdom Top 20 Albums from the Lifetime of Q (1986-2006) 2006 16
Q Magazine United Kingdom The Ultimate Music Collection 2005 *
Rolling Stone Germany The 100 Best Albums Since Autumn 1994 2003 71
Rolling Stone Germany The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time 2004 304
(*) designates unordered lists.

Track listing

All songs written by Red Hot Chili Peppers unless otherwise stated.

  1. "By the Way" – 3:37
  2. "Universally Speaking" – 4:19
  3. "This Is the Place" – 4:17
  4. "Dosed" – 5:12
  5. "Don't Forget Me" – 4:37
  6. "The Zephyr Song" – 3:52
  7. "Can't Stop" – 4:29
  8. "I Could Die for You" – 3:13
  9. "Midnight" – 4:55
  10. "Throw Away Your Television" – 3:44
  11. "Cabron" – 3:38
  12. "Tear" – 5:17
  13. "On Mercury" – 3:28
  14. "Minor Thing" – 3:37
  15. "Warm Tape" – 4:16
  16. "Venice Queen" – 6:07

Japanese edition bonus track
  1. "Time" – 3:47

iTunes Store bonus tracks
  1. "Runaway" – 4:30
  2. "Bicycle Song" – 3:23

B-sides, out-takes and non-album tracks

Song Length B-side of
"Time" 3:47 "By the Way"
"Teenager in Love" (Pomus/Shuman) 3:01
"Body of Water" 4:41 "The Zephyr Song"
"Someone" 3:24
"Out of Range" 3:58
"Rivers of Avalon" 3:39
"Slowly Deeply" 2:38 "Universally Speaking"
"Eskimo" 5:31 "Fortune Faded"

Sales charts and certifications

Chart Peak position Certifications Sales/Shipments
Billboard 200 2 2x Platinum 2,000,000+
UK Top 40 1 5x Platinum 1,945,495+
Swedish Top 60 1 Gold 20,000+
New Zealand 1 2x Platinum 30,000+
Austria 1 Platinum 20,000+
France 2 Platinum 300,000+
Finland 1 Platinum 30,000+
Switzerland 1 Platinum 40,000+
Netherlands 1 Platinum 50,000+
Belgium (Flanders) 1 Gold 15,000+
Belgium (Wallonia) 2
Norway 1
Denmark 1
Italy 1
Canada 2x Platinum 200,000+
Germany 1 3x Gold 450,000+
Australia 1 5x Platinum 350,000+

  • I Most figures in this column are of the numbers of units shipped based on the certifications accumulated. Sources provided for these figures give the value of certifications for the country they were issued in.

Year Song Peak positions

Hot 100

Modern Rock


stream Rock

Top 40


Top 40

Singles Chart
2002 "By the Way" 34 1 1 2 6 29
2002 "The Zephyr Song" 49 6 14 11 21 90
2003 "Can't Stop" 57 1 15 22 38 68
2003 "Dosed" 13
2003 "Universally Speaking" 27


Red Hot Chili Peppers



  1. Kiedis, Sloman, 2004. pp. 389–400
  2. Kiedis, Sloman, 2004. p. 456
  3. Kiedis, Sloman, 2004. p. 458
  4. Kiedis, Sloman, 2004. p. 420
  5. Kiedis, Sloman, 2004. pp. 230–232, 320–321, 344, 424
  6. Anthony Kiedis and John Frusciante - By the Way promotional Interview; Amsterdam
  7. Kiedis, Sloman, 2004. pp. 456–465
  8. Kiedis, Sloman, 2004. pp. 454–456, 458, 463–469
  9. Kiedis, Sloman, 2004. p. 433
  10. Apter, 2004. p. 343
  11. Apter, 2004. p. 346
  12. Apter, 2004. p. 347
  13. Mojo Magazine; 8/02 - Page 118.
  14. Q Magazine August 2002, p.118"
  15. Blender Magazine - No. 9, page 142.
  16. By the Way booklet, and liner notes
  17.|title=Sales Certification Values US|accessdate=2009-10-16|}}

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