On June 8, 1999, the Red Hot Chili Peppers released their seventh studio album, Californication. The album signified the return of guitarist John Frusciante, who had previously appeared on Mother’s Milk and Blood Sugar Sex Magik. Jane’s Addiction guitarist Dave Navarro had replaced Frusciante on the Chili’s album One Hot Minute.

This is what they looked like at the time:

AP Photo/Kim Johnson


Look back on twenty years of Californication below.

1. Frusciante’s return to the band created a notable shift in the band’s sound. Critics and fans alike credit Californication for solidifying a more matured Chili Pepper sound.

2. When Frusciante left the band in the middle of the Blood Sugar Sex Magik tour, he spiralled into a deep depression and developed heroin and cocaine addictions that nearly left him in poverty. His former bandmates talked him into rehab and following his three-month stay, he was invited to rejoin the band. Many of the album’s dark themes were inspired by Frusciante’s struggles.

3. The album’s themes included sexual innuendos, something the band was known for, but it also took a more human approach to subjects like addiction, death, California, suicide contemplation, drugs, globalization, and travelling.

4. Frontman Anthony Kiedis was worried the band’s typical fan base of skaters and frat boys wouldn’t connect with the deeply-personal album. In his own words, Kiedis described the album as “tell tales of wandering souls who’ve lost their way searching for the American dream in California”.

5. “Scar Tissue” was the album’s first single. It is one of the band’s most successful songs, spending 16 consecutive weeks on top of the Billboard Hot Modern Rock Tracks chart (a record at the time), as well as 10 weeks at the top of the Billboard Mainstream Rock Tracks chart and reached number eight on Billboard Hot 100 Airplay. It also won the Grammy for Best Rock Song in 2000.

6. The album’s second single, “Around The World”, began with a riff Frusciante came up with. At the time, the band was writing most of their songs in Flea’s garage. Kiedis couldn’t come up with any lyrics for the final chorus and scatted a place holder. When he eventually filled in the lyrics, Flea’s then-11-year-old daughter was disappointed the scat was removed, so the band left it in at her request.

7. One of the album’s saddest songs is “Otherside”. The song was inspired by pretty much all of the band’s heavy drug use, specifically heroin. The song references founding guitarist Hillel Slovak, who died of a heroin overdose in 1988.

8. The band admired the work of M.C. Escher so they incorporated some of his influence into the song’s music video.

9. Californication‘s title track is one of the band’s most successful songs to date. Since its release in 1999, the band has performed it live over 500 times.

10. The song’s inspiration stems from the dark side of Hollywood and export culture of the film industry. The lyrics make many pop culture references to plastic surgery, pornography, Kurt Cobain, the Foo Fighters, The Beach Boys, Star Wars, David Bowie, Canadian Playmate Dorothy Stratten and more.

11. Californication was one of the last songs written for the album. The band struggled to complete it right up until the album’s release when one day Frusciante came into the studio saying he had visualized the song and had it all “figured out”. The same instance happened with Blood Sugar Sex Magik‘s “Under The Bridge”.

12. Travel, one of the album’s themes, is most apparent on the band’s fifth single “Road Trippin'”. The song tells the story of a road trip Kiedis, Frusciante, and Flea took to Big Sur following Frusciante’s return to the band. For some reason, the song was only released as a single in Europe.

13. Critics called the album’s final single, “Parallel Universe”, the band’s biggest departure from their typical funk-oriented sound. Instead of rapping, Kiedis sings in low tones, detailing darker themes of self-hate.

14. The song “Porcelain” was inspired by a young mother Kiedis met at the YMCA who was attempting to battle her alcohol addiction while living with her young daughter.

15. “Emit Remmus” is “summer time” backwards. The track was inspired by a summer fling Kiedis had with Spice Girls’ Mel C, aka Sporty Spice.

16. More than twenty songs were scrapped from the album, although some still made their way out into the world. “Gong Li”, “Instrumental #1”, “Treato Jam”, “How Strong”, “Instrumental #2”, “Fat Dance”, “Over Funk”, “Quixoticelixer”, “Slowly, Deeply”, and “Bunker Hill” were all released as b-sides to pre-existing Chilis songs.

17. Before deciding to work with Rick Rubin, who had produced the Chilis’ two previous albums, the band unsuccessfully approached David Bowie.

L. Cohen


18. Californication is one of the Chili Peppers’ most successful albums, having sold over 15 million copies worldwide.

19. Warner Bros. art director Lawrence Azerrd created the album’s artwork following a dream Frusciante had. In the dream, Frusciante was at a pool, but the water and sky had swapped places, so the pool was full of clouds and the sky was heavy with water.

20. Although the band only won one Grammy for the album for Best Rock Song for “Scar Tissue”, the album garnered the band two more nominations for Best Rock Album and Best Rock Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group for “Scar Tissue”.