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Hollywood, California

Californication by Red Hot Chili Peppers

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Space may be the final frontier
But it's made in a Hollywood basement Read full Lyrics
Hollywood sign, Los Angeles, California
The Red Hot Chili Peppers are one of those rare bands that defies description and classification in every possible way. Their genre is best described as a cross of funk, rap, and blues, but even then they've driven through half a dozen other genres from reggae to jazz. While other bands have their imitators, the Red Hot Chili Peppers are impossible to duplicate. And then there's Anthony Kiedis.

Anthony Kiedis is one complicated dude. He writes the lyrics and sings lead. Far from the usual pop band's banal simplicity and repetition, Kiedis weaves a verbal tapestry of intricate beauty that's hard for others to even lip synch, let alone parse. He is a true poet. And with that poetry comes some of the most obscure lyrics in popular music. He's right up there with the Lizard King himself, in fact.

Californication is of course about California, more specifically Hollywood. And it certainly seems to have a dark shadow to it; the chorus sounds almost threatening with its dire warnings to "pay your surgeon very well to break the spell of aging." But the rest of the lyrics kind of waft between quirky and downright enigmatic.
Another view of Hollywood
The line about "Psychic spies from China" was inspired by something Kiedis overheard from a sidewalk conversation when he was in New Zealand. "Little girls from Sweden dream of silver-screen quotations" is thought by some to refer to pornography. Then you get to the line "Cobain, can you hear the spheres sing songs from Station to Station?"... Well, see, Nirvana lead Kurt Cobain had died a few years before, so he's a ghost now and can hear the "music of the spheres," i.e. the planets and stars from his place in heaven, and Station to Station is an album by David Bowie.

The very next line gives us Alderaan. Sure, everybody knows that, right? That was Princess Leia's home world in the first Star Wars movie, the one Darth Vader blew up with the Death Star just to show off how big his - uh - to demonstrate the Death Star's destructive power. Which, since Star Wars happened "a long time ago in a galaxy far far away," means that Alderaan is now cosmic dust flying around, so it's not far away? Agh! My brain hurts!

Instead, it's best to just to leave the lyrics to a poetic interpretation instead of a literal one. Like the words to "Apache Rose Peacock" from Blood Sugar Sex Magik: "Lunatics on pogo sticks, Another southern-fried freak on a crucifix, Hicks don't mix with politics, People on the street just kickin' to the licks." You tell me what's going on here.

However vague it is, "Californication" does clearly warn about California (especially Hollywood) as if it were some kind of disease that the rest of the world might catch. There is a danger to California; it's nice to have it for its own place, but if we all turned into superficial supermodels lounging around the pool and sipping piña coladas, not much work would get done anywhere. You kind of figured that was the point, right? Californication Songfacts
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Comments: 1

  • Katie Bray from Athens, GaLove this dissection of The Chili Peppers song Californication. I fell into the poetic web of Anthony Keidis when I was just 11 yrs old, and today he is still one of the best lyricists that ever walked earth and then at 13 yrs old, again head over heels hooked by Nirvana and the words of Kurt Cobain. He too is outstanding American poet. So this lead me to kinda search for a more exact understanding of what Anthony Kiedis had to say or felt for Kurt Cobain... well it's absolutely and simply amazing when your one life-long idols puts your only other life-long in a song! It's badass! Love these guys! True American Poets no doubt about it! Also, Apache Rose Peacock is an incredible song and definitely my jam in the itch grade. Sittin' on a sack of beans, Sittin' down in New Orleans. You wouldn't believe what I'd seen sittin' on a sack of beans! In the lyrics referred to in the above article, he is painting the scene of the the visual excitement New Orleans offers. Maybe a Marci Gras parade and the people are licking ice cream while their shoes are kicking (or walking) them down the street. Great song!
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