music / Columns

The 8 Ball 5.18.14: Top 8 Red Hot Chili Peppers Music Videos

May 18, 2014 | Posted by Jeremy Thomas


Welcome, one and all, to the 8 Ball in the Music Zone! I’m your host Jeremy Thomas and as always, I will be tackling a topic and providing you the top eight selections of that particular category. Keep in mind that this list is meant to be my personal opinion and not a definitive list. You’re free to disagree; you can even say my list is wrong, but stating that an opinion is “wrong” is just silly. With that in mind, let’s get right in to it!

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Top 8 Red Hot Chili Peppers Music Videos

Hello again, dear readers! Welcome to this week’s 411 Music Zone 8 Ball! The Red Hot Chili Peppers are back in the news this week, as drummer Chad Smith recently gave an update on the band’s next album and set a date for his Tonight Show drum battle with Will Ferrell. That had me thinking about the band and their works. The Los Angeles-based band has always had a very strong visual sense and they were one of the bands that rose to prominence with the help of MTV and their videos. As such, this week we’re taking a look at the best video clips of the band’s career.

Caveat: Was it an official Red Hot Chili Peppers music video? Then it was eligible. In terms of ranking, the song quality factored in some but it was primarily about the video: its influence and impact, the concept, a cohesive concept and the like.

Just Missing The Cut
• “Look Around” (2012)
• “Higher Ground” (1989)
• “Breaking The Girl” (1992)
• “Can’t Stop” (2003)
• “Scar Tissue” (1999)

#8: “Otherside” (2000)

First on our list is a nightmarish little classic from what is popularly considered to be the band’s best album in Californication. “Otherside” is one of the band’s post popular songs, a moody alt-rock number that was written about former band member Hillel Slovak’s battle with heroin addiction. It is a battle that he ultimately lost and the song–written and sung by Anthony Keidis from Slovak’s perspective–is a staple of the group’s live sets. The monochromatic video was directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris and is a stylistic treat. It takes inspiration from The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, M.C. Escher and German expressionists to paint a tale of a nightmare that ends in the subject’s ending up right where he began. The use of the surrealist setting as instruments for the band is inspired and the tone of the video stands out in how subdued it is compared to most of the act’s more energetic music videos. It helped drive the song into being one of the band’s biggest hits to date and you can see a lot of the song’s topic in the storyline to boot, making it visually interesting and thematically impactful as well.

#7: “The Zephyr Song” (2002)

Dayton and Faris returned to help the band realize the vision behind “The Zephyr Song’s” music video, which doesn’t have the striking starkness of “Otherside” but still stands just as tall. Or, I suppose it’s fair to say, one step taller in my estimation. This isn’t one of my absolute favorite songs of the band’s, but it’s still a good one and the video is perhaps the best tonal match to its respective track in the Chili Peppers’ entire discography. The psychedelic visuals fit the dream-like feel of the song brilliantly. The video plays out like a tie-dyed Rorschach test and certainly inspires a sense of the trippy 1960s kaleidoscopic clips that would occasionally be released in the early days of the music video concept. Much like “Otherside” it has more of a pop-like feel as a song and a video but that helps it separate from the pack. It’s a feel-good clip that packs a very potent visual punch.

#6: “Soul to Squeeze” (1993)

Most people who are familiar with the Red Hot Chili Peppers know “Soul to Squeeze” of course, but many forget where it came from. The song was originally recorded for Blood Sugar Sex Magik but was left off and found its way onto the soundtrack to the terrible 1993 Coneheads film. Most everything about that movie is best left forgotten but this is the exception, both in terms of the song and the video. Kevin Kerslake, known for his work with groups like Filter and Nirvana, took the reins on this one and turned them into members of a traveling freak show during the Dust Bowl era. Kerslake gave the film that old-time feel not just with a lack of color but with a camera filter that gives a bit of the fuzziness we would associate with the silent films of the era. Chris Farley has a brief cameo in this video as well. It’s emblematic of the band’s work in its ability to be thematically dark and yet charming as well and certainly earns its spot on the list.

#5: “Californication” (2000)

At number five we have another track, obviously from the title, off of Californication. The title track is our third (and not our last) directorial appearance of Dayton and Faris, who continued their work with the Chili Peppers on all the band’s videos up to the previously-listed “Zephyr Song.” “Californication” is one of the band’s most memorable videos, hopping on the rise in video gaming among the mainstream public. The Playstation 2 was about ready to release and the band was ahead of the curve with this video game-inspired clip that saw Anthony Keidis, Flea, John Frusciante and Chad Smith turned into digitally-rendered characters racing their way through a Crazy Taxi/1080 Snowboarding-style game that takes the characters on a trip through California. Most people who saw this video imagined at least once how cool it would be to play a RHCP game modeled after it and while that unfortunately never came to pass the video remains to stoke our wishes every time we watch it. Sure, it looks dated in the days of next-gen consoles but that’s part of its charm now and it is a great video clip to pay homage to their home state while still being very entertaining.

#4: “By the Way” (2002)

“By the Way” is the final collaboration the band had with Dayton and Faris and sees Keidis getting into a cab with an insanely RHCP-obsessed driver who proceeds to kidnap him and take him on a reckless ride through the streets of Los Angeles. Dave Sheridan has been in a lot of dogs in terms of his film output (A Haunted House and its sequel, Corky Romano, Bubble Boy) but he’s great here as the weird, crazed cabbie. The jerky camera motion used here is the kind that doesn’t often come off well but it fits the frenetic energy of the song. There are some great humor moments too, such as Flea and Frusciante laughing off Keidis’ initial texts for help and Smith being the guy who gets in the cab at the end of the video after Keidis has managed to escape. It’s not a deeply meaningful or artistic clip; it’s simply a very entertaining video with a high-octane style that fits with the music and that’s enough to rank it at #4.

#3: “Give It Away” (1991)

For one of their biggest hits and one from their early career, the band turned to French fashion photographer Stephane Sednaoui. The resulting video for “Give It Away” won awards for art direction and more, deserving each and every one of them. The goal for this video was to deliver a video that focused on the band’s charisma as performers without looking like every other music video out during that time. Sednaoui took the band out to the desert, covered them in metallic paint and shot it in black and white in order to give it a look that was unique. The band’s record label initially balked at allowing the video to go on the air as they considered it to “artsy” and “weird” but the band was insistent and eventually Warner Bros. let it air unedited. It was a wise move as it shot the band into new levels of popularity and created an indelible image that would stick with the band for years to come.

#2: “Dani California” (2006)

“Dani California,” if I’m being honest, is my personal favorite video of the band’s and it was rough for me not to put it at the number one spot. It’s certainly close to the top-ranked position though and I love the way it tells the history of rock and roll through various incarnations of the band. It’s long been put forth by the band that the different looks are meant to be genres of music as opposed to individual people and I’m not denying that, but you also can’t argue with the fact that they are very directly portraying some of the most iconic names in rock as well. Elvis, the Beatles, David Bowie, the Sex Pistols, the Misfits, Nirvana, Poison…all of these are direct portrayals and I love the tongue-in-cheek way that the band portrays these groups and their iconic looks. You could call it arrogant of the band that they finish off the video as themselves, as if suggesting that they have earned their spot alongside some of the all-time greats of rock music. But really, would they be wrong? It’s a fantastic video that ranks as one of their absolute best.

#1: “Under the Bridge” (1992)

There can be only one, and when it comes to Red Hot Chili Peppers videos “Under the Bridge” is undoubtedly that one. The Blood Sugar Sex Magik song has become the group’s signature ballad and the video has become their most iconic with ease. The song itself is a sobering affair (no pun intended) written by Keidis about scoring heroin under a bridge and is a beautiful, somber song that pays homage to Los Angeles and yet doesn’t lose focus on the song’s message. For the video, the group worked with the one and only Gus Van Zant, who has directed films like Good Will Hunting and Milk. Van Sant actually wanted to shoot the whole thing on a soundstage but Keidis overrode him, insisting that scenes shot on the streets of LA be incorporated in. The decision turned out to be a brilliant one as the video melds the dreamy quality of the soundstage shots with the more grounded work of Keidis singing his way around the city and interacting with its people. “Under the Bridge” as a music video isn’t just an identifying hallmark of the band; it became one of those trademark music videos for the early 1990s. Among the band’s videography, this stands out as the best.


This week in our Music Video A-Go-Go we’re going with one of my favorite new videos. Melanie Martinez rose to prominence on season three of The Voice, known for her indie pop sensibilities and two-toned hair. She made it through to the top six before finally being eliminated and won many fans along the way, myself included. Martinez’ new EP Dollhouse releases on iTunes this coming week and I highly recommend that you pick it up; you can pre-order it here. In the meantime, here is the first video from the EP for the titular song:

And that will do it for us this week! Join me next week for another edition of the 8-Ball! Until then, have a good week and don’t forget to read the many other great columns, news articles and more here at! JT out.

article topics :

The 8 Ball (Music), Jeremy Thomas