Growing up in New Jersey, I would always be particularly pleased whenever a song mentioned the state or a location in the state. There’s a certain amount of pride you feel when a song you hear references where you are. I’ve always had a certain fascination with geography in general, so when you add music, it becomes more fun. On a trip to a conference in Long Beach back in college, I put together a compilation CD of songs that specifically mentioned “the LBC.”
All that said, today I was listening to the radio, and heard a Red Hot Chili Peppers song (“Dani California”), after hearing another RHCP song in the eye doctor’s office. After coming home and dwelling on it, I realized that the RHCP sure do love them some geography! So I dug in. I reviewed the song lyrics from each song on each album, as well as most compilations/bonus tracks (all song lyrics were compiled via songmeanings.com, so while I can’t guarantee this is a scientific study, it should be “close enough”). What I found wasn’t terribly surprising, but interesting nonetheless.
The ground rules were that to qualify as a geographic mention, it had to reference a specific geographic place or location on the planet. I did not include mention of ethnic groups (Brazilians, Canadians, etc.). If the place name was mentioned multiple times in a single song, it was counted multiple times — except if it was in a chorus verse (repeated in identical fashion more than once). If it was in the song title, but not in the lyrics, it did not count. In most cases, implied references were counted (ie: LA counted as a mention for “Los Angeles”).
By the numbers.
Through their careers, the Red Hot Chili Peppers have produced 10 studio albums and a number of compilations and singles.
By the rules applied above, I counted 122 individual geographic references in RHCP songs throughout their history.
The most often referenced geographic location? Hollywood, mentioned 21 separate times in their songs. Next most? California, of course, mentioned nine times.
Interestingly, a mention of “California,” did not appear in a RHCP song until their 1999 album “Californication,” their seventh.
Californication, far and away had the most geographic references of any normal length album, with 27 different ones. Stadium Arcadium had 35 references, but that was spread over two discs (disc one had 22, and disc two had 13).
By the Way had a mere one reference, from the closing song “Venice Queen.”
Some charts. These first two show the breakdown of geographic references tallied from each album.
How about by place? They’ve mentioned 16 different states, including California. Next most was Michigan at six, followed by Alabama at three. They’ve mentioned eight different US Cities (aside from LA/Hollywood/New Orleans), ten different locations in Europe, and even two bodies of water. Here’s the breakdown of specific mentions:
And the mentions from the “Other” category:
So the next logical question would be: How does their use of geographic references compare to other significant mainstream bands? Something that might be interesting to study. Needless to say, those other bands will have a significant amount of work to do to hit the RHCP threshold.
Complete list of references: