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The Meaning of the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “Soul to Squeeze”

“Soul to Squeeze” is a curious case of a Red Hot Chili Peppers song. It was originally recorded during the sessions with famed producer Rick Rubin for their 1991 album Blood Sugar Sex Magik, which is seen by many as the band’s best work. These sessions fueled their first major commercial breakthrough.

However, “Soul to Squeeze” never ended up on Blood Sugar Sex Magik. It was released as the B-Side to singles “Under the Bridge” and “Give it Away”, but the album itself did not contain this iconic song.

In 1993, “Soul to Squeeze” was released as a standalone single and got its due in the limelight, becoming an international hit and topping the Billboard Modern Rock charts.

Ten years later, in 2003, “Soul to Squeeze” finally made its way onto an album, appearing on the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Greatest Hits.

Essentially, “Soul to Squeeze” is one of many songs that the Chili Peppers recorded during an especially productive studio period. They had so much other great stuff at the time that they were able to put this one aside. It’s so good that it still became a massive hit, and today it’s a 90s rock classic.

“Soul to Squeeze” Lyrics Meaning

Lyrically, “Soul to Squeeze” centers on the same themes of self-destruction, greed, and mental health that they also explore on “Under the Bridge” on Blood Sugar, and would later explore even more with songs like “Scar Tissue” and “Californication”.

“Soul to Squeeze” feels like a precursor to those darker feelings, from a time when frontman and songwriter Anthony Kiedis may have been just dipping his toes into the demons of drug and sex addiction that would later nearly kill him. Still, it’s dark in itself, and it represents escapism at its finest.

We can see this throughout the whole song, starting with the first verse:

I got a bad disease
Up from my brain is where I bleed
Insanity it seems
Has got me by my soul to squeeze
Well all the love from me
With all the dying trees I scream
The angels in my dreams, yeah
Have turned to demons of greed, that’s mean

First verse to “Soul to Squeeze” by Red Hot Chili Peppers.

Kiedis sings of being messed up in the head, referring to his problems as a disease. Note that addiction is often referred to as a disease.

He thinks he’s crazy, and the insanity grips him all the way to the core. It squeezes the love from his body, and he screams silently and slowly, like trees that reach their demise.

The dreams of his past, which contained angels (positive aspirations), have turned to demons of greed. All that was once pure and good from his life, has been squeezed out by the insanity.

It’s as if he knows that he’s making poor choices, but he does not possess the self-control for change. “Insanity”, he calls it, because it’s obvious to him, on paper, what the right decision is. Yet, he continues along the path of ruin.

The chorus offers some insight into what happens when he gives into the temptation:

Where I go, I just don’t know
I got to, got to, gotta take it slow
When I find my peace of mind
I’m gonna give you some of my good time

Chorus to “Soul to Squeeze” by Red Hot Chili Peppers.

He describes going somewhere… else, while the arrangement brings to mind a feeling of floating away. Kiedis wants to take it slow, take it easy, and get grounded.

When he does, he promises to show his best self. To give you some of his “good time”, as opposed to his “bad time”. Mental health and bipolar disorder come to mind here, in addition to being on and off “the stuff”.

Things don’t get much better in the second verse. Just some hopeful delusion:

Today love smiled on me
It took away my pain, said please
I’ll let your ride be free
You gotta let it be, oh yeah

Second verse to “Soul to Squeeze” by Red Hot Chili Peppers.

Kiedis gets high, feels the smile of love, and the absence of pain. He begs, please, just let me have a free ride. This means, he wants to get high without the consequence of the comedown, the withdrawal, or the overall desecration of life that comes along with the drug abuse.

The chorus comes again, and he’s still just getting high, trying to take it easy, and failing. This is followed by a lengthy, blissed-out guitar solo, and a heavier instrumental breakdown that leads into the third verse:

Oh so polite indeed
Well I got everything I need
Oh make my days a breeze
And take away my self destruction
It’s bitter baby and it’s very sweet
A holy rollercoaster but I’m on my feet
Take me to the river, let me on your shore
Well, I’ll be coming back baby, I’ll be coming back for more

Third verse to “Soul to Squeeze” by Red Hot Chili Peppers.

This verse is full of contradictions. Kiedis sings of having everything he needs, suggesting being loaded up on supplies, enough to make every day easy.

However, he also sings of taking away his self-destruction, which suggests that he could also be referring to the internal fortitude needed to kick the habit.

His life, then, is a living contradiction, a balancing act. “Bittersweet”, as he says.

Kiedis’ use of “Take me to the river”, a common trope for the journey through life, healing, and growth, means that he’s almost ready to save himself. He would probably get addicted to salvation, too, though, as presented in the “I’ll be coming back for more” lyric to close the verse.

If you thought the lyrics were starting to not make sense, you’re in for a real treat when we get to the bridge:

Doo doo doo doo dingle zing a dong bone
Ba-di ba-da ba-zumba crunga cong gone bad
I could not forget but I will not endeavor
Simple pleasures are much better, but I won’t regret it, never

Bridge to “Soul to Squeeze” by Red Hot Chili Peppers.

The nonsensical sounds and gibberish aren’t mere fillers or lazy songwriting; they’re an abstraction of Kiedis’ mental state.

He’d prefer the simple pleasures like love, adventure, companionship, and basic hobbies, but instead he’s chosen a life in the fast lane. He claims that he’ll never regret this, but we all know that’s not really the truth.

Another chorus hits, and finally the outro presents an altered version of the chorus to close things off:

Where I go I just don’t know
I might end up somewhere in Mexico
When I find my peace of mind
I’m gonna keep it for the end of time

Outro to “Soul to Squeeze” by Red Hot Chili Peppers.

Kiedis still doesn’t know where he goes, but thinks he might end up in Mexico. This would represent hitting rock bottom.

This time, when he finds that peace of mind, it won’t be from the drugs. It will be from self-empowerment, and he’ll be off the drugs. Either that, or it’ll be because he overdoses and dies in a peaced-out fantasy.

Whether Kiedis finds peace through recovery or loses himself entirely is left ambiguous, a grim reflection of the journey many addicts face.

Watch the music video for “Soul to Squeeze” below, and read on to learn a little about it.

“Soul to Squeeze” Music Video

When “Soul to Squeeze” was released as a single in 1993, it was also being released on the soundtrack for the Lorne Michaels sketch comedy film, Coneheads. Thus, the music video contains a few references to Coneheads, and even an appearance from legendary comedic actor Chris Farley.

Interestingly, while the rest of the band does appear in the video, guitarist John Frusciante does not. This is because he left the band (for the first time) in 1992, over a year before they made this video.

It was directed by Kevin Kerslake, who chose to do it in black & white. The comedic nature of the video lies in stark contrast with the dark content of the song, further adding to the allure of “Soul to Squeeze”.