Californication (album)

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Californication
RedHotChiliPeppersCalifornication.jpg
Studio album by
ReleasedJune 8, 1999 (1999-06-08)
RecordedDecember 1998 – March 1999
StudioCello (Los Angeles, California)
Genre
Length56:24
LabelWarner Bros.
ProducerRick Rubin
Red Hot Chili Peppers chronology
Under the Covers: Essential Red Hot Chili Peppers
(1998)
Californication
(1999)
By the Way
(2002)
Red Hot Chili Peppers studio album chronology
One Hot Minute
(1995)
Californication
(1999)
By the Way
(2002)
Singles from Californication
  1. "Scar Tissue"
    Released: May 25, 1999
  2. "Around the World"
    Released: August 23, 1999
  3. "Otherside"
    Released: December 1999
  4. "Californication"
    Released: June 2000
  5. "Road Trippin'"
    Released: December 11, 2000

Californication is the seventh studio album by the American rock band Red Hot Chili Peppers. It was released on June 8, 1999, on Warner Bros. Records and was produced by Rick Rubin. Californication marked the return of John Frusciante, who had previously appeared on Mother's Milk and Blood Sugar Sex Magik, to replace Dave Navarro as the band's guitarist. Frusciante's return was credited with changing the band's sound altogether, producing a notable shift in style from the music recorded with Navarro. The album's subject material incorporated various sexual innuendos commonly associated with the band, but also contained more varied themes than previous outings, including death, contemplations of suicide, California, drugs, globalization, and travel.

Californication is the Chili Peppers' most commercially successful studio release internationally, with over 15 million copies sold worldwide, and more than 6 million in the United States alone.[3] As of 2002, the album had sold over 4 million copies in Europe.[4] The record produced several hits for the band, including "Otherside", "Californication" and the Grammy Award-winning "Scar Tissue". Californication peaked at number three on the US Billboard 200.

The record marked a significant change in style for the band: Rolling Stone's Greg Tate noted that "while all previous Chili Peppers projects have been highly spirited, Californication dares to be spiritual and epiphanic".[5] Another critic, Billboard's Paul Verna, mentioned that the album brought out "the group's softer, melodic side", as opposed to their previous six albums.[6]

Background[edit]

In 1991, the Red Hot Chili Peppers released their breakthrough album Blood Sugar Sex Magik on Warner Bros. Records.[1] The album sold seven million copies in the United States, and became a seminal component of the alternative rock explosion in the early 1990s.[1][7] After the release of Blood Sugar Sex Magik, guitarist John Frusciante left the Red Hot Chili Peppers, as he became overwhelmed by the band's newfound popularity.[8] Dave Navarro was hired as his replacement, and incorporated elements of heavy metal and psychedelic rock on the band's 1995 album One Hot Minute.[9] The album failed to match the critical and commercial success of its predecessor, and Navarro left in early 1998.[1]

In the years following his departure, Frusciante became addicted to heroin and cocaine, leaving him in poverty and near death.[10] Friends convinced Frusciante to enter drug rehabilitation, and in 1998, he rejoined the Red Hot Chili Peppers at the insistence of bassist Flea.[11] While in rehab, Frusciante came to terms with rock stardom; in a Rolling Stone interview, he said: "It got into my head that stardom was something evil. If you were a rock star, you were trying to put people on. I don't see it that way anymore."[11] With Frusciante, the Red Hot Chili Peppers began brainstorming ideas for a new album. Flea suggested the group record an album with electronic influences, akin to Zooropa by U2.[12] When the band was turned down by multiple electronic music producers (including David Bowie), they decided to instead return to their funk rock and alternative rock roots.[12][13]

Writing and recording[edit]

Rick Rubin in 2009
After producing the band's two previous albums, Rick Rubin (pictured in 2009) returned to produce Californication.

The majority of the music for Californication was written at Flea's makeshift garage studio in the summer of 1998. It took Frusciante several weeks to readjust to playing with bandmates, especially while recovering from drug addiction.[12] Singer Anthony Kiedis noted that as a result of this readjustment period, Frusciante took on a more minimalist approach to guitar playing.[14] According to biographer Jeff Apter, the Red Hot Chili Peppers wrote between 30 and 40 songs for the album, which would eventually get distilled to 15 for the release.[15] The band members took on a laid-back approach to writing music. As Kiedis said: "Everyone was having fun. It was as if we had nothing to lose, nothing to gain. We didn't care; we were making music for the sake of making music."[16]

Californication was recorded at Cello Studios in Los Angeles, and took a little over three weeks to complete.[17][18] The band chose Rick Rubin to produce the album. Rubin had worked with the Red Hot Chili Peppers on their two previous albums, and Kiedis noted that there was some hesitation to reenlist him. "We thought that maybe it was time to get a new producer. Every time you make a record, it doesn't matter how good it was working with a producer, and even if you know you're going to end up making a record with that same person again, there's always a day when someone says, 'Do we want to get a new producer?'"[19] About a week into the recording sessions, Jim Scott was brought in as a replacement audio engineer, as the band was not happy with the original production.[17][18] The band was timely and professional, in comparison to what Rubin described as the "day-long pot sessions or sexual indulgences" that had plagued the recording sessions for previous albums.[15]

Recording the songs took five days.[18] All four band members recorded their instruments at the same time within the same room.[17] Rubin and Scott wanted the audio to be "dry and punchy", and thus placed numerous microphones directly next to the instruments.[17] Among the microphones used were Shure SM57s, Neumann U47s, and Sennheiser MD 421s.[17] Californication was recorded using Neve 8038 desk on two Ampex 124 24-track tape recorders. Scott induced significant equalization using Neve 1073 EQs.[17] There was minimal overdubbing. Once the songs were recorded, the tracks from the Ampex machines were transferred over to Pro Tools.[17] Continuing on the theme of making the album sound "dry and punchy", most of Californication was mixed using monaural sound.[17] Scott felt the initial recordings were already good, and thus very little was altered during the mixing sessions.[17] The album was mixed separately on various digital formats (including Digital Audio Tape and DA-88) to compare the sound, and Scott eventually used an analog 2‑track at 30 inches per second.[17]

Composition[edit]

John Frusciante in 2006
Californication marked the return of guitarist John Frusciante (pictured in 2006), who had left the band in 1992.

Most of the material and lyrics throughout the songs in the album came from the "personal and professional turmoil" that different members of the band went through or were currently going through at the time. This resulted in the "sensitive approach that one might not expect from a band whose followers are skate-punks and fraternity boys". Kiedis's main point behind this album was to "tell tales of wandering souls who've lost their way searching for the American dream in California".

Californication's lyrics were derived from Kiedis' ideas, outlooks, and perceptions of life and its meaning. "Porcelain" resulted from Kiedis' meeting with a young single mother at the YMCA, who was attempting to battle her heroin addiction while living with her infant daughter in Los Angeles during the summer of 1998.[20] Regarding the meeting that inspired the song, Kiedis said in 1999, "[the] Mum's in a haze, strung out on heroin, but the little girl's this beaming-wide sunball of an angel. The woman loves her daughter, but the juxtaposition of their energies is profound."[21] Kiedis also had a love interest in Yohanna Logan, a fashion designer whom Kiedis met while she was working in New York City. Kiedis involvement with Logan influenced his multiple examinations of love throughout Californication, in songs such as "This Velvet Glove".[22][21] Sarcasm was a concept that Kiedis had dealt with in the past, and he ultimately crafted a song around it. He was inspired by Navarro, whom he considered to be the "King of Sarcasm".[23] Frusciante approached the guitar line present in "Scar Tissue" as an attempt to use two notes that are played far apart, but produce a "cool rhythm".[24] He had explored this technique on his first solo album, 1994's Niandra LaDes and Usually Just a T-Shirt. Frusciante considers "Scar Tissue" to be a "very simple example of the technique, but I think it's a style that sounds like me". The guitarist made use of slide guitar-playing for the solos in the song.[24] "Emit Remmus" was inspired by Kiedis' brief relationship with Melanie C of the Spice Girls.[25]

"Get on Top", a song which contains significant use of a wah pedal, was formed after a jam session conducted shortly after Frusciante had listened to Public Enemy: "I came up with [the rhythm to the song] on the way to rehearsal—just tapping it out with my foot."[24] The understated guitar solo played in the middle of the song was originally intended to be more noticeable, according to Frusciante, who was playing screaming guitar solos. He changed his thought process after listening to Steve Howe's guitar solo on Yes' "Siberian Khatru": "the band sounded really big—and they're playing really fast—and then this clean guitar solo comes out over on top. It's really beautiful, like it's on its own sort of shelf. For 'Get On Top' I wanted to play something that contrasted between the solo and the background."[24] "Savior", a song found towards the end of the album, features heavy effects, most notably an Electro-Harmonix Micro Synth with 16-second delay.[24] Frusciante notes that the sound is "directly inspired by Eric Clapton's playing in Cream. If you listen to the actual notes, they're like a Clapton solo—they just don't sound like it because of the effects."[24]

The hit "Around the World", which harkens back to the Chili Peppers' funk-influenced sound, was constructed by Frusciante at his home. The rhythm and beat, however, are intricate; this required him to play the song with the rest of the band rather than alone for them to understand it.[24] The bass lick was composed in "maybe 15 minutes," according to Frusciante: "Flea is the best bass player in the world. His sense of timing and the way he thinks is so crazy."[24] The title track of the album was among the most difficult for the band to complete. Frusciante felt compelled to write an appropriate guitar ensemble that would appropriately complement the poignant lyrical content, but encountered difficulty.[26] The song was barely making progress, and would have been scrapped had it not been for Kiedis' urgency to include it on the album. Frusciante completed the final riff two days before recording, after drawing inspiration from the Cure's soundtrack song to "Carnage Visors".[24][26] The title track was intended to represent Californian lifestyles and, more specifically, the "fake" nature which is associated with much of Hollywood. It references Kurt Cobain of Nirvana and uses considerable imagery to capture the evocative nature of California.[26]

The record was a change of style for the Chili Peppers, especially compared to One Hot Minute. Although Californication still contains some funk rock songs (such as "Around the World", "Get on Top", "I Like Dirt", "Purple Stain" and "Right on Time"), it leaned towards more melodic riffs (for example, "Scar Tissue" and "Otherside") and focused on songs with implemented structure rather than jams.[27]

Promotion and release[edit]

To promote Californication, the Red Hot Chili Peppers developed what biographer Jeff Apter called an "Internet presence opening themselves up to a whole new type of listener – the cyber geek."[28] From June 4 to June 8, three new Californication songs were streamed every day on the band's website.[28] Flea engaged with fans online with a series of Internet posts called "Fleamail", in which he would discuss the recording process, upcoming tour dates, and occasionally stream of consciousness style thoughts about his life.[29] The Red Hot Chili Peppers also performed at various high school proms across the United States shortly before the release of the album.[29] The idea was to reintroduce the Red Hot Chili Peppers to a younger audience.[29] The theme of these performances was "Stop The Hate", which was in response to the Columbine High School massacre. The price of admssion was a written suggestion on how to prevent bullying and hatred among high school students.[29]

Californication was released on June 8, 1999, by Warner Bros. Records.[30] It debuted at number 3 on the Billboard 200 chart, and sold 189,000 copies by June 26, surpassing the initial sales of Blood Sugar Sex Magik and One Hot Minute.[31] By July 3, Californication dropped to number 7, and stayed on the Billboard 200 chart for 101 weeks.[32][33] It has since been certified 7× Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America, for selling over 7 million copies in the United States.[34] Californication also saw significant commercial success outside of the United States. For example, in England, the album peaked at number 5 on the UK Albums Chart, and stayed on the chart for 169 weeks.[35] It was eventually certified 4× Platinum by the British Phonographic Industry for selling 1.2 million copies in England.[36] Other notable peaks include reaching number 1 on the Australian, Finnish, Italian, New Zealand, Norwegian, and Swedish charts.[37][38][39][40][41][42] As of 2019, Californication is the best selling Red Hot Chili Peppers album, with sales of over 15 million copies worldwide.[43]

A large part of Californication's commercial success can be attributed to the popularity of its singles.[43] The three most popular singles were "Californication", "Otherside", and "Scar Tissue".[43] William Goodman of Billboard wrote: "You couldn't exist in American pop culture without hearing its singles."[43] "Scar Tissue" was the lead single, and in the accompanying music video, the four band members ride in a convertible through Joshua Tree National Park.[44] "Scar Tissue" spent 16 weeks atop the Mainstream Rock chart in the United States, and peaked at number 9 on the Billboard Hot 100.[45] Additionally, the song was added to the rotation of all 91 modern rock radio stations in the United States, the first song to accomplish the feat since "Discothèque" by U2.[45] "Californication" and "Otherside" also saw significant radio play, peaking at number 69 and 14 on the Billboard Hot 100 respectively.[46]

Californication Tour[edit]

Immediately following the release of Californication, the band embarked on a world tour to support the record, beginning in the United States. To culminate the United States leg of their tour, the Red Hot Chili Peppers were asked to close Woodstock '99, which became infamous for the resulting violence.[47][48] The band was informed minutes before arriving that the crowds and bonfires in the fields had gone out of control.[47] When the Red Hot Chili Peppers performed a cover of "Fire" by the Jimi Hendrix Experience to finish their set, the disruption escalated into violence when several women, who had been crowd surfing and moshing, were raped and nearby property was looted and destroyed.[49][50][48] The Washington Post reported that the decision to perform "Fire" was already scheduled prior to the festival, and was not in response to the ongoing fires.[49] When asked about the event, Smith said: "[The fire] literally looked like a little hamburger stand had a grease fire or something ... It looked like nothing from where we were at."[51]

To kick off the band's European tour, the band staged a free show in Moscow's Red Square, on August 14, 1999, to a crowd of over 200,000. Kiedis recalled the situation: "Red Square was so filled with wall-to-wall Russians that we needed a police escort to get near the stage."[52] Following the European leg, the group did a show in New York City, at the Windows on the World, for KROQ radio contest-winners, and then at the Big Day Out festival in Australia following several Japanese tour dates.[53] Flea, however, began to feel the repercussions of touring causing the band to set up concerts that were less strenuous, and consequently less financially rewarding, for them. These shows would finish the remainder of the Californication tour.[54] As one of the last shows before the release of their next album By the Way, the Red Hot Chili Peppers played at Rock in Rio 3 in Rio de Janeiro.[55]

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
SourceRating
AllMusic[30]
Entertainment WeeklyB+[27]
The Guardian[56]
Los Angeles Times[57]
Mojo[58]
NME6/10[59]
Pitchfork6.8/10[60]
Q[61]
Rolling Stone[5]
Uncut[62]

Californication received favorable reviews in contrast to One Hot Minute and it was a greater success worldwide.[30] Rolling Stone credited Kiedis for his drastically improved vocals: "[his] vocal cords have apparently been down to some crossroads and over the rehab, and returned with heretofore unheard-of range, body, pitch, soulfulness, and melodic sensibility."[5] Songs such as "Otherside" and "Porcelain" were called "Pumpkins-esque", while the album as a whole was "epiphanal" and the "RHCP furthermuckers are now moving toward funk's real Holy Grail: that salty marriage of esoteric mythology and insatiable musicality that salvages souls, binds communities and heals the sick."[5] Howard Cohen hailed Californication as a major improvement over its predecessor in the Miami Herald, finding it features the band's "most accomplished music" to date.[63] The Edmonton Journal's Sandra Sperounes predicted that the "mighty dope" album would be a success, and "Scar Tissue" and "Otherside" would be chart toppers. She praised the renewed instrumentation and harmonies but took issue with the numerous references to California.[64]

Other critics credited the album's success to the return of Frusciante. AllMusic's Greg Prato said that the "obvious reason for [the band's] rebirth is the reappearance of guitarist John Frusciante", considering him to be the "quintessential RHCP guitarist".[30] The album as a whole was "a bona fide Chili Peppers classic".[30] Entertainment Weekly also credits Frusciante with transforming the band's sound into a "more relaxed, less grating, and, in their own way, more introspective album than ever before".[27] Mark Woodlief of Ray Gun commented that "'This Velvet Glove' strikes an intricate balance between a lush acoustic guitar foundation and anthemic rock," Woodlief continued "the disco intro to 'Parallel Universe' gives way to a scorching Western giddy-up motif in the chorus, and Frusciante's Hendrix-like excursions at the song's close."[65]

While many critics found the band's new sound refreshing, NME criticized the Chili Peppers for rarely using their trademark funk sound, asking: "Can we have our brain-dead, half-dressed funk-hop rock animals back now, please? All this false empathy is starting to make my removed rib tingle."[66] Pitchfork, while considering the album a triumph over One Hot Minute, felt Californication lacked the funk that was ever-present in Blood Sugar Sex Magik.[60] It went on to scrutinize some lyrics for being overly sexual, but also considered Frusciante to be "the best big-time American rock guitarist going right now".[60] Critic Robert Christgau gave the album a one-star honorable mention ((1-star Honorable Mention)), describing the band as "New Age fuck fiends" and citing "Scar Tissue" and "Purple Stain" as highlights.[67]

Retrospective commentary[edit]

Since its release, some journalists have credited Californication with revitalizing the Red Hot Chili Peppers' image and relevancy.[44][68][69] During the eight year period between the band's breakthrough album–Blood Sugar Sex Magik–and Californication, the Red Hot Chili Peppers' only release was One Hot Minute, which was seen by fans and critics as a failure.[69] Additionally, the rise of the Internet and online music streaming platforms such as Napster gave consumers more options to listen to, which meant established bands like the Red Hot Chili Peppers no longer had built-in followings.[70] Writing about this period of the band's career, Ryan Leas of Stereogum said: "RHCP had already been around since the early days of the '80s, but they were now approaching the other side of another decade, one that had granted them stardom ... they were positioned for, in need of, a comeback moment."[69] Loudwire's Chad Childer's offers similar commentary, and believes Californication helped solidify the band's status as eventual inductees in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.[68]

When Californication was released, some listeners complained about the perceived poor audio quality, in particular the excessive compression and distortion.[71] This criticism persisted throughout the 2000's, and some journalists cited Californication as an example of an album affected by the loudness war, a trend in which audio levels are increased at the expense of audio fidelity.[71][72][73] In his 2009 book Perfecting Sound Forever, author Greg Milner notes that Californication became one of the most heavily derided albums within online audio mastering communities, and that there multiple online petitions for Warner Bros. to remaster Red Hot Chili Peppers albums without the excessive compression and distortion.[74]

In 2003, Rolling Stone released their list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time with Californication ranking at 399.[75] It fell to 401 in the 2012 revised list,[76] but moved up to 286 in its 2020 revised list.[77] In 2015, the staff of Ultimate Classic Rock named Californication one of the best rock albums of the 1990s.[78] The album was also included in the 2018 edition of Robert Dimery's book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.[79]

Track listing[edit]

All tracks are written by Red Hot Chili Peppers (Flea, John Frusciante, Anthony Kiedis, Chad Smith).

No.TitleLength
1."Around the World"3:58
2."Parallel Universe"4:30
3."Scar Tissue"3:37
4."Otherside"4:15
5."Get on Top"3:18
6."Californication"5:21
7."Easily"3:51
8."Porcelain"2:43
9."Emit Remmus"4:00
10."I Like Dirt"2:37
11."This Velvet Glove"3:45
12."Savior"4:52
13."Purple Stain"4:13
14."Right on Time"1:52
15."Road Trippin'"3:25
Total length:56:24
Japanese CD bonus track
No.TitleLength
16."Gong Li"3:44
iTunes digital bonus tracks[80]
No.TitleLength
16."Fat Dance"3:40
17."Over Funk"2:58
18."Quixoticelixer"4:48
Australian edition and Japanese CD reissue bonus disc
No.TitleLength
1."Gong Li"3:44
2."How Strong"4:43
3."Instrumental #2"2:34

Personnel[edit]

Credits per Sound on Sound and AllMusic.[81][82]

Charts[edit]

Certifications and sales[edit]

Sales certifications for Californication
Region Certification Certified units/sales
Argentina (CAPIF)[157] 3× Platinum 180,000^
Australia (ARIA)[158] 8× Platinum 560,000^
Austria (IFPI Austria)[159] 2× Platinum 100,000*
Belgium (BEA)[160] Platinum 50,000*
Brazil (Pro-Música Brasil)[161] 2× Platinum 500,000*
Canada (Music Canada)[162] 6× Platinum 600,000^
Chile 25,000[163]
Denmark 23,551[164]
Finland (Musiikkituottajat)[165] Platinum 62,365[165]
France (SNEP)[166] 2× Gold 200,000*
Germany (BVMI)[167] 3× Gold 750,000^
Italy (FIMI)[168]
sales since 2009
2× Platinum 100,000double-dagger
Japan (RIAJ)[169] Platinum 200,000^
Mexico (AMPROFON)[170] Platinum 150,000^
Netherlands (NVPI)[171] 2× Platinum 200,000^
New Zealand (RMNZ)[172] 8× Platinum 120,000^
Norway (IFPI Norway)[173] Gold 25,000*
Poland (ZPAV)[174] Platinum 100,000*
Spain (PROMUSICAE)[175] 2× Platinum 200,000^
Sweden (GLF)[176] 2× Platinum 160,000^
Switzerland (IFPI Switzerland)[177] 2× Platinum 100,000^
United Kingdom (BPI)[36] 4× Platinum 1,200,000^
United States (RIAA)[34] 7× Platinum 7,000,000double-dagger
Summaries
Europe (IFPI)[179] 4× Platinum 4,500,000[178]

* Sales figures based on certification alone.
^ Shipments figures based on certification alone.
double-dagger Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.

References[edit]

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Bibliography[edit]

External links[edit]