Californication (song)

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For other uses, see Californication.
Single by Red Hot Chili Peppers
from the album Californication
Released May 20, 2000
Format CD, cassette, vinyl
Recorded January 21, 1999
Genre Alternative rock
Length 5:21 (Album version)
5:29 (Greatest Hits version)
3:26 (Radio edit)
Label Warner Bros.
Writer(s) Kiedis, Smith, Flea, Frusciante
Producer(s) Rick Rubin
Red Hot Chili Peppers singles chronology
"Road Trippin'"
Music video
"Californication" on YouTube

"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 #69 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the US, and #16 on the UK charts, and hit #1 on both 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.[1]

Song information[edit]

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 Moon landing conspiracy theories ("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.[2]

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.

Like most of the singles from the album, "Californication" remains a live staple in the band's setlists and is one of their most performed songs since its release.[1]


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[edit]

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, sporting a similar hairstyle to that he favored during the Blood Sugar Sex Magik era, runs through Hollywood, dodging celebrities and their bodyguards. Chad snowboards in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, then he falls off a cliff and lands on a train. Anthony 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. John enters a film studio, where he interferes with the productions of a space movie, a pornographic film, and a Leonardo da Vinci biographical documentary. Next Chad rails one of the Golden Gate Bridge's main suspension wires on his snowboard, while Anthony, 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. In the meantime, Chad skysurfs, and John rides the Da Vinci flying machine prop from the studio. Anthony then falls 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."[3] The video itself contains many homages to video games of its time.

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 250 million views.

Use in popular culture[edit]

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.[4]

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


Track listings[edit]

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

Charts and certifications[edit]

Preceded by
"Last Resort" by Papa Roach
Billboard Modern Rock Tracks number-one single
August 12, 2000
Succeeded by
"Last Resort" by Papa Roach
Preceded by
"I Disappear" by Metallica
Billboard Mainstream Rock Tracks number-one single
August 26, 2000 – September 2, 2000
Succeeded by
"Loser" by 3 Doors Down
Preceded by
Wonderful by Everclear
Canadian RPM Rock/Alternative 30 number-one single
August 21, 2000 – September 18, 2000
Succeeded by
"Beautiful Day" by U2


  1. ^ a b "Red Hot Chili Peppers Tour Statistics". Retrieved 2016-02-03. 
  2. ^ Songfacts (2016). "Californication by Red Hot Chili Peppers". Retrieved 18 June 2016. 
  3. ^ Video on YouTube.
  4. ^ "Download Rock Bossa by Various Artists". eMusic. 2009-11-20. Retrieved 18 June 2016. 
  5. ^ " – Red Hot Chili Peppers – Californication". ARIA Top 50 Singles. Retrieved 3 January 2015.
  6. ^ " – Red Hot Chili Peppers – Californication" (in Dutch). Ultratip.
  7. ^ " – Red Hot Chili Peppers – Californication" (in French). Ultratip.
  8. ^ "Top Singles - Volume 71, No. 23, October 09 2000". RPM. Retrieved 2010-03-05. 
  9. ^ "Rock/Alternative - Volume 71, No. 16, August 21, 2000". RPM. Retrieved 2010-05-25. 
  10. ^ " – Red Hot Chili Peppers – Californication". GfK Entertainment Charts.
  11. ^ "Chart Track: Week 37, 2000". Irish Singles Chart. Retrieved 23 August 2014.
  12. ^ " – Red Hot Chili Peppers – Californication". Top Digital Download.
  13. ^ " – Red Hot Chili Peppers – Californication" (in Dutch). Single Top 100.
  14. ^ " – Red Hot Chili Peppers – Californication". Top 40 Singles.
  15. ^ "Listy bestsellerów, wyróżnienia :: Związek Producentów Audio-Video". Polish Airplay Top 100. Retrieved January 19, 2014.
  16. ^ " – Red Hot Chili Peppers – Californication". Singles Top 100.
  17. ^ "Archive Chart: 2000-08-19" UK Singles Chart. Retrieved 26 February 2015.
  18. ^ a b c d e f g "Red Hot Chili Peppers - Billboard Singles". allmusic. Retrieved 2010-03-05. 
  19. ^ "Italian single certifications – Red Hot Chili Peppers – Californication" (in Italian). Federazione Industria Musicale Italiana. Retrieved January 9, 2015.  Select Online in the field Sezione. Enter Red Hot Chili Peppers in the field Filtra. The certification will load automatically
  20. ^ "British single certifications – Red Hot Chili Peppers – Californication". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved January 9, 2015.  Enter Californication in the field Keywords. Select Title in the field Search by. Select single in the field By Format. Select Silver in the field By Award. Click Search
  21. ^ "American single certifications – Red Hot Chili Peppers – Californication". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved January 9, 2015.  If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Single, then click SEARCH