Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Red Hot Chili Peppers -- "Dani California" (2006)

Getting born in the state of Mississippi
Papa was a copper and mama was a hippie 

A Mississippi policeman for a father and a hippie for a mother?  No wonder the heroine of "Dani California" had problems fitting in.

Dani California certainly got around.  She broke rocks in an Alabama prison, broke the law in Louisiana, and robbed a bank in Indiana.  Dani tried to make it to Minnesota, but was shot down by a North Dakota lawman before she got there.

I'm guessing Dani California wasn't her real name.  The song never places her outside of the Central Time Zone, but you have to think she made it to California at some point.  Otherwise, her moniker doesn't make a lot of sense.

"Dani California" is a single from the RHCP's ninth studio album, Stadium Arcadium, which was released in 2006.  It was a top ten hit in the United States, Canada, Australia, the UK, and most European countries.  It only made it to #57 in France.  (What is it with those people anyway?)

Was Dani California based on a real person?  Many people believe that she is a composite of a number of past lovers of the Red Hot Chili Peppers' lead singer, Anthony Kiedis.  (We'll refer to the band as the "RHCP" from here on.)

Dani is also mentioned in the title track of the RHCP's previous album, By the Way:

Dani the girl 
Is singing songs to me
Beneath the marquee
Of her soul

In 2007, Showtime debuted a new television series titled Californication -- which just happens to be not only the name of the 1999 RHCP hit single that was featured in the previous 2 or 3 lines, but also the title of the hugely successful album of the same name.  (Click here to read that post.)  It sold five million copies in the U.S. alone, and over 15 million copies worldwide.

Californication DVDs
Not surprisingly, the RHCP lawyered up when they heard about the Showtime series.  Click here if you'd like to read the complaint they filed against Showtime and the producer of the Californication series.  (I can't imagine why you would want to read it, but some of my readers are very odd people.)

The case was settled out of court.  Litigation is very expensive, and it's difficult to justify spending the kind of money you have to spend to go to trial unless you have an open-and-shut case.  In addition, it's not clear that the band would have been entitled to much in the way of damages even if they had prevailed at trial.

The RHCP certainly didn't invent the word "Californication."  Time magazine had used it in 1972 in an article about the fears of non-Californians that the rapid population growth and resulting urban sprawl, traffic, and other problems that were beginning to rear their ugly heads in California would spill over into their states.

Oregonians were particularly anti-California.  The creator and executive producer of the Showtime TV series claimed that he had gotten the idea for the title of the series not from the RHCP album, but from the "Don't Californicate Oregon" bumper stickers that were popular in Oregon in the seventies.

However, the Showtime series also featured a character named Dani California, which makes you wonder whether the producer doth protest too much.  (As far as I know, Oregon cars weren't sporting Dani California bumper stickers in the seventies.)

Rachel Miner as "Dani California"
in Showtime's Californication
By the way, the titles given to the novels that the main character of the Californication TV show had supposedly written (God Hates Us All, Season in the Abyss, and South of Heaven) are also the titles of Slayer albums.  And individual episodes of the show were named after songs by Bob Seger ("Turn the Page") and the Sex Pistols ("Filthy Lucre") and the Martin Scorsese movie about the Band's final concert ("The Last Waltz").

Of course, people who live in glass houses are the pot calling the kettle black.  "Dani California" sounds suspiciously similar to Tom Petty's 1993 hit, "Mary Jane's Last Dance."  (Both songs were produced by Rick Rubin.)

The video for "Dani California" is very entertaining.  It simply shows the group performing the song on stage, but there are a number of costume changes.  

Flea channeling Bootsy Collins
in the "Dani California" music video
The band's various outfits provide a sort of illustrated history (in chronological order) of different pop music genres -- beginning with rockabilly (think Elvis) and progressing through the British Invasion (think the Beatles), psychedelic rock, funk (Parliament/Funkadelic was obviously the inspiration here), glam rock, punk, Goth, hair metal, and grunge (as personified by Kurt Cobain and Nirvana on MTV's "Unplugged").

Here's the music video for "Mary Jane's Last . . ." -- oops, I mean "Dani California":

Click here to buy the song from Amazon:

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