Suvarna Garge (Editor)

Californication (song)

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May 20, 2000


CD, cassette, vinyl

Warner Bros.

5:29 (Album version) 5:29 (Greatest Hits version) 3:26 (Radio edit)

Kiedis, Smith, Flea, Frusciante

"Californication" is the Red Hot Chili Peppers' fourth single and sixth track from their 1999 seventh studio album, Californication. Released as a single in 2000, the song reached number 69 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the US, number 16 on the UK Singles Chart, and hit number 1 on both the US Mainstream Rock Tracks for 2 weeks and US Modern Rock Tracks for 1 week.


"Californication" has remained one of the band's most popular and most performed live songs appearing in almost every setlist since its live debut making it the band's third most performed song with over 500 performances.

Song information

The song is mainly about the dark side of Hollywood and the export of culture through the movie industry. The song begins "Psychic spies from China try to steal your mind's elation." Kiedis says in his book Scar Tissue that he got the inspiration for the line from hearing a woman on a New Zealand street ranting about "psychic spies in China". The track also makes references to topics such as pornography ("hardcore soft porn") and plastic surgery ("pay your surgeon very well to break the spell of aging") and even some pop culture references including Nirvana singer Kurt Cobain and David Bowie ("Cobain, can you hear the spheres singing songs off Station to Station?"), The Beach Boys ("They're just another Good Vibration"), Star Wars ("and Alderaan's not far away") and Star Trek ("Space may be the final frontier but it's made in a Hollywood basement"). The phrase "First born Unicorn" refers to Dorothy Stratten, whose life was covered in the book The Killing of the Unicorn.

Guitarist John Frusciante exclusively recorded this song and "Otherside" with a vintage Gretsch White Falcon hollow body electric guitar; he also played these songs live with the White Falcon until 2006 when he retired it for one of his vintage Fender Stratocasters.

It is notable for its sparse combination of guitar and bass notes in the main riff; Frusciante drew inspiration for the song "Carnage Visors" by The Cure.

In Kiedis's book, Scar Tissue, the author reveals that the band had enormous difficulty in putting the song together. Kiedis had written the lyrics, which he felt were some of the best he had ever written, but the band could not decide how the song should sound musically. As they struggled with the song it seemed like they would not be able to finish it in time to include it on the album, until one day Frusciante walked into the studio and exclaimed that he had "figured it out". He played the song as he visualised it, and it went from being a song that could have been an afterthought, to becoming one of the Red Hot Chili Peppers' greatest hits, similar to the way "Under the Bridge" was conceived.

The Red Hot Chili Peppers' Greatest Hits album uses a slightly different version of the song. Most notably, the first chorus is extended. The reason for this alternate version's appearance on the album is unknown.


The song is performed in the key of A minor with Frusciante picking the chords of Am and F for 12 measures before picking the chords of C-G-F-Dm then going back and picks Am and F for 8 more measures before picking C-G-F-Dm again. For the pre-chorus Frusciante then strums a combination of Am and Fmaj7 chords for 12 measures until the chorus when he strums the chords C-Gmaj7-Dm9-Am then C-G-Dm9. After the second chorus a 16-measure guitar solo is played by Frusciante who changes the key to A Major. After the solo, the key goes back to the original A Minor and a third verse and final chorus is played.

Music video

The video, directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, takes the form of a fictional 3D video game from the third-person point of view of each of the band members, all on some sort of adventure; this varies with each band member. John Frusciante, sporting a similar hairstyle to that he favored during the Blood Sugar Sex Magik era, runs through Hollywood, dodging celebrities and their bodyguards. Chad Smith snowboards in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, then he falls off a cliff and lands on a train. Anthony Kiedis swims in the San Francisco Bay, surrounded by sharks and women; he then surfs on a shark's back and suddenly jumps into the front seat of a convertible car and drives off. Flea runs through Sequoia National Park, saving a bear from a hunter, riding a mining cart, and escaping many lumberjacks as they are cutting down all the trees. Frusciante enters a film studio, where he interferes with the productions of a space movie, a pornographic film, and a Leonardo da Vinci biopic. Next Smith rails one of the Golden Gate Bridge's main suspension wires on his snowboard, while Kiedis, joyriding across the bridge, passes through the Andy's Donuts doughnut (a thinly-veiled reference to the Randy's Donuts shop); he then drives off a cliff, landing on a giant dragonfly with Flea riding it as the guitar solo begins. In the meantime, Smith skysurfs, and Frusciante rides the Da Vinci flying machine prop from the studio. Kiedis then leaps off the dragonfly and lands brutally (losing most of his health in the process) on a giant garden. This scene cuts off into the band passing through an earthquake of the San Andreas Fault, eventually concluding with all four of them meeting at the center of the Earth, where they all touch a 3D cube which transforms their computer-generated avatars back into all four of their own real selves, as the message "Game Over" appears at the bottom of the screen, segueing into a "Next Game?" prompt, upon which the video ends. Intercut with all this is live-action performance footage of the band, which remains in a picture-in-picture insert till a band member catches an item shaped after the band's asterisk logo. This causes the live-action footage to fill the screen for a few seconds, until the next part of the song begins, resuming the "game." The video itself contains many homages to video games of its time, such as Crazy Taxi in Kiedis' sequences.

The music video is similar to some games that were mostly sandbox/open world-based gameplay.

The music video for "Californication" is the group's most watched on YouTube, with over 300 million views.

Live performances

"Californication" is the band's third most performed song and has been performed at almost every show since 1999.

The song was featured in the film Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room (2005).

In 2009, Brazilian singer Barbara Mendes made a bossa nova cover of this song in the album Rock Bossa.

The song is available as downloadable content for the video game Rock Band 3.

In August 2016, the first episode of Hard Knocks used the song during a scene of the Los Angeles Rams first practice in Irvine, California since 1994. Jared Goff asked about where does the sun lie down at the end of the day referring to a lyric from the song ("The sun may rise in the East/At least it's settled in the final location").


  • Anthony Kiedis – lead vocals
  • John Frusciante – guitar, backing vocals, synthesizer
  • Flea – bass
  • Chad Smith – drums
  • Track listings

    CD single 1 9362 44907 2
    1. "Californication" – 5:21
    2. "I Could Have Lied" (Live) – 4:26
    3. "End of Show Brisbane" (Live) – 8:11
    CD single 2 9362 44908 2
    1. "Californication" – 5:21
    2. "I Could Have Lied" (Live) – 4:26
    3. "End of Show State College" (Live) – 9:27
    EP 9362 44872 2
    1. "Californication" – 5:21
    2. "End of Show Brisbane" (Live) – 8:11
    3. "I Could Have Lied" (Live) – 4:26
    4. "End of Show State College" (Live) – 9:27


    Californication (song) Wikipedia

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