Behind the Music: The Red Hot Chili Peppers Parody Song, ‘Abracadabralifornia’
By Scott T. Sterling with additional reporting by Jay Tilles
Yesterday (Jan. 29), the internet lit up with reports of new Red Hot Chili Peppers song, released in conjunction with the band’s upcoming appearance with Bruno Mars at this weekend’s Super Bowl XVLIII in New Jersey.
Released as a free download on a website riddled with corporate logos including Pepsi, Dodge Durango and L.A. radio station KROQ (a Radio.com station), the tune quickly raced around social networks as RHCP fans grabbed a copy of the track.
Upon closer (or cursory) inspection, “Abracadabralifornia” revealed itself to be a cheeky parody of the legacy Los Angeles rock band. Nonsensical lyrics about the “jamming out with the Peppermen” and “shopping cart…ESCALATOR!” mimic frontman Anthony Kiedis‘ often stream-of-consciousness and scat-a-dat-dat wordplay, coupled with a melodic bass line not unlike those Flea has laid down on latter-day RHCP singles.
The track was uncanny enough to fool some media outlets into believing it was an actual Red Hot Chili Peppers’ single.
“This song started because me and Zach Galifianakis were at a party with a lot of celebrities, and he was the only person I knew there,” explained comedian Jon Daly in a phone interview, who recorded the parody song and claims to be a Chili Peppers fan since the 7th Grade. “It was really uncomfortable for me, so I went up to [Zach] and said, ‘Flea just texted me and said he’s stuck in traffic.’ Zach immediately said, ‘oh yeah, I talked to [Anthony] Kiedis. He’s parking and should be here soon.’ For the rest of that night, we kept talking like the Chili Peppers were good friends of ours. It was just a dumb bit that we did, and part of the bit was singing ‘Bingabong Burbank’ and ‘G-G-G-G-Glendale.’”
Daly connected with his friend Cyrus Ghahremani, who he knew from the band Hot Karate, to write and record the song (“I knew he could make a realistic Chili Peppers song”), but waited until the “perfect moment” to unleash it on the unsuspecting public.
Inspired by the announcement that the Chili Peppers would be playing the Super Bowl halftime show, the pair crafted “a super corporate website” to launch the parody out into the world. Daly followed the song’s release by reaching out to famous friends including Aziz Ansari and Patton Oswald to help spread the track into the digital stratosphere.
“I was genuinely concerned that they’d be offended, but then [RHCP drummer] Chad Smith put out that tweet, and that’s all I needed: for one of them to acknowledge and like the song,” Daly added. “We would’ve been happy if it hit a couple of comedy blogs. It just exploded. We can’t even contain this or keep up with everything that’s happening around it.”
The band’s drummer, Chad Smith, actually called into KROQ morning DJs Kevin & Bean a few hours before the parody song went viral, in part to clear up a previous rumor that the Chili Peppers would be covering Led Zeppelin’s “Dazed and Confused” at the Super Bowl, which was borne from a joke Smith made to some reporters during GRAMMY week in Los Angeles.
“People in the media are so gullible sometimes,” Smith chuckled about the Led Zeppelin rumor and the band’s Super Bowl performance. “We will, however, be performing side one of Rush‘s 2112.”
Smith is also the first member of the Red Hot Chili Peppers to respond to “Abracadabralifornia,” with a simple Tweet: “Hahahahahahahahahahahahaha!!!”
Chad Smith (@RHCPchad) January 30, 2014
“The response has been far greater (and more concerned) than I ever expected,” said Ghahremani over email, who also built the RHCP2014.com website. “We’ve had over 200,000 downloads in a 24-hour period. Search ‘RHCP California’ on Twitter: a lot of people didn’t even [take the time] to listen to the track, and just assumed it was real.”
Given how the song has spiraled into such a phenomenon, Ghahremani believes that the song will continue to spread, even though it’s been thoroughly debunked as a parody.
“Even as media catches on, thousands of fans still think it’s real and that’s going to keep growing until and through Superbowl Sunday,” he predicted.
For KROQ Music Director Lisa Worden, however, there was never any question that the song was nothing more than a comedic jab at the band.
“If anyone thinks this is real, then they’ve been smoking a lot of weed,” Worden told Radio.com. “The Red Hot Chili Peppers practically live at KROQ, and [our listeners] would know if there was a new song out!”
Forget Zeppelin and Rush – if the Red Hot Chili Peppers really want to throw a comedic wink at the band’s fans during the upcoming Super Bowl halftime performance, a few lines from “Abracadabralifornia” would be just perfect.