Despite the historical claims that Red Hot Chili Peppers may or may not have ripped off Mike Patton’s outfits Faith No More and Mr. Bungle, the quartet are still a pretty individualistic group, as most stadium-fillers tend to be. After all, their niche is one that has enamoured a huge fanbase and sustained them for decades.
One of the most dynamic mainstream bands, each member brings something different and essential to the fold. Comprised of scat-popping frontman Anthony Kiedis, bass-playing wizard Flea, technically-gifted guitarist John Frusciante, and drummer Chad Smith – a modern disciple of John Bonham – the gang has always brought energy to everything they do. For this reason, they have millions of fans from all walks of life.
Namechecking a host of heroes over the years, ranging from Parliament-Funkadelic to Joy Division and Jimi Hendrix, this varied musical taste has created a colourful oeuvre that’s delivered hits such as ‘By The Way’, ‘Californication’ and ‘Under the Bridge’.
One of their most popular songs, which arrived with a memorable, decade-spanning music video where the band satirised famous musicians, was ‘Dani California’, the first single from 2006’s Stadium Arcadium. The band were so happy with the expansive double album when it was released, that Flea proudly told Rolling Stone that it was “by far the best thing we’ve ever done.”
According to Kiedis, the titular “Dani” represents every woman he’s encountered in life. He also revealed that she appears in the 2002 song ‘By The Way’ and is the “teenage bride with a baby inside getting high on information” from the 1999 hit ‘Californication’. As for the music video, which caused fans to debate what acts they were parodying, with strong suitors being the likes of Elvis Presley and Misfits, Flea clarified: “We mainly did eras, not actual people: rockabilly, British Invasion, psychedelia, funk, glam, punk, goth, hair metal, grunge, and ourselves being the sum of all those parts.”
The most interesting aspect of the track is that it has long been noted that Frusciante’s guitar part sounds highly similar to that of the 1993 Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers piece, ‘Mary Jane’s Last Dance’. This aroused widespread speculation that Petty would sue the band.
However, Petty put the matter to bed during an interview with Rolling Stone, seriously doubting that Red Hot Chili Peppers had any cynical plagiarising plan in mind. He said: “I seriously doubt that there is any negative intent there. And a lot of rock and roll songs sound alike. Ask Chuck Berry. The Strokes took ‘American Girl’ (for their song ‘Last Nite’), and I saw an interview with them where they actually admitted it. That made me laugh out loud. I was like, ‘OK, good for you.’ It doesn’t bother me. If someone took my song note for note and stole it maliciously, then maybe. But I don’t believe in lawsuits much. I think there are enough frivolous lawsuits in this country without people fighting over pop songs.”
Nevertheless, the tracks do share a strange connection outside of the guitar part. Rick Rubin, who had previously worked with the Chili’s on 1991’s Blood Sugar Sex Magik, produced ‘Dani California’. He also helmed ‘Mary Jane’s Last Dance’ proving it to be a riff structure he knows inside out.