This week’s selection first appeared on the Billboard Hot 100 charts in 1965, rising to a #3 ranking, and remains one of the most widely recognized songs by one of the most successful groups in history. Many cover versions have been recorded, including a 1985 release that also reached the #3 ranking on the Billboard Hot 100. This song appears on The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll list, and in 2004 was ranked at #71 on Rolling Stone’s list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
This week’s selection also had international appeal, rising to the following rankings in other countries: Canada – #2 in RPMs national chart; Rhodesia – #2; Sweden – #6; Australia – #8, and #1 in South Africa, remaining in the top slot for six weeks. This song has reportedly received between four and five million radio plays in the United States alone, making it this group’s most lucrative source of royalties.
This song has been prominently referenced by other artists on multiple occasions. Most notably, the Beatles’ “Back in the U.S.S.R.” is considered an homage to the song. This week’s selection is also included in the soundtracks of the 1985 James Bond movie, “A View to Kill”, and at the beginning of “Rush Hour 2”, during which Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker sing along with the song which is playing on the radio at the time. This song also appears twice during “Rush Hour 3”, first as a ringtone, and later on a French singer performs the song. In “Saved by the Bell”, Principal Belding tells Zack that this song is his all-time favorite and walks off the screen, humming the song.
No doubt all you trivia buffs have already divined the identity of this song, which, without further ado, is the Beach Boys’ 1965 classic, “California Girls.”
“California Girls” was apparently inspired by Brian Wilson’s first ever LSD trip. As he related in the “Beautiful Dreamer” documentary, shortly after taking LSD, he ran to a bedroom and hid under a pillow, shouting, “I’m afraid of my monm, I’m afraid of my dad.” He later went to the piano and began playing the bass pattern repeatedly, eventually adding chords in the right hand. Within a half hour, he had composed the “well east-coast girls are hip, I really dig the styles they wear” part of the song. On the following day, he and Mike Love ostensibly put the finishing touches on the song.
“California Girls” was also the first ever Beach Boys recording to include vocals by Bruce Johnston, who joined the group to substitute for Brian Wilson on concert tours.
Here is the Beach Boys’ original version of the song from 1965, accompanied by a video tribute to the legacy of Marilyn Monroe, who was well known in her own right. An August, 1962 eulogy by Lee Strasberg included the following remarks:
“Marilyn Monroe was a legend. In her own lifetime she created a myth of what a poor girl from a deprived background could attain. For the entire world she became a symbol of the eternal feminine.”
“Others were as physically beautiful as she was, but there was obviously something more in her, something that people saw and recognized in her performances and with which they identified. She had a luminous quality – a combination of wistfulness, radiance, yearning – to set her apart and yet make everyone wish to be a part of it, to share in the childish naivete which was so shy and yet so vibrant.”
Note: A link to a Tea Party-like response from 2006 by Gretchen Wilson will be provided in my opening comment…
Leif Garrett, from 1977…
David Lee Roth released a very successful cover version of “California Girls” in 1985, which, like the original, also rose to #3 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts. Former Beach Boy Carl Wilson and Christopher Cross provided background vocals.
The following music video was directed by Pete Angelus and David Lee Roth and was released in February, 1985. As stated in the relevant wikipedia article…
Roth stars as a tour guide, showing tourists the beach and the obligatory swimsuit models. One of these tourists is notably played by Jane Leeves who went on to play Frasier’s Daphne Moon, a series which ran from 1993-2004. The scenes follow the lyrics with bikini-clad women from all regions of the United States. An often imitated scene has Roth dancing down a sidewalk bordered by models frozen in mannequin poses. It was nominated for several 1985 MTV Video Music Awards.
Please check my opening comment for a parody of David Lee Roth’s video for Dresden Dolls’ “Shores of California.”
The following video is derived from the 2003 DVD “Brian Wilson On Tour.” On this video, Brian features drummer Todd Sucherman, rather than the usual Jim Hines.
The following clip is from Ricky Martin’s tribute to Brian Wilson at the Radio City Music Hall on March 29, 2004…
The Fendertones perform “California Girls” for a charity event. Recorded on October 16, 2004
Posted March 27, 2008 — The Sunny Boys, the Italian Beach Boys Tribute, singing “California Girls” on Italian television.
Posted August 16, 2009 — Here’s a video of Oingo Boingo live performing “California Girls.” Apparently, this video is difficult to find. A decidedly different, super caffeinated rendition. You’ll either love or hate it.
February 12, 2010 – The surf music of Jan & Dean actually predated the Beach Boys. The Jan & Dean Show, featuring Dean Torrence, is shown here in an outdoor festival setting. This show featured founding Jan & Dean member Dean Torrence and includes the greatest hits of The Beach Boys and Jan & Dean. Jan & Dean (Jan Berry & Dean Torrance) were perhaps the more formidable competition for the Beach Boys in the early and mid-1960s.
Jan & Dean’s feature film for Paramount Pictures, Easy Come, Easy Go, was canceled when Berry, as well as the film’s director and other crew members, were seriously injured in a railroad accident while shooting the movie in Chatsworth, California in August 1965. On April 12, 1966, Berry received severe head injuries in an automobile accident just a short distance from Dead Man’s Curve in Los Angeles, California, two years after their song by the same name had become a hit. Berry was on enroute to a business meeting when he crashed his Corvette into a parked truck on Whittier Drive, near the intersection with Sunset Boulevard in Beverly Hills. Berry had also separated from his girlfriend of seven years, singer-artist Jill Gibson, later a member for a short time of The Mamas & the Papas, who had also co-written several songs with Berry.
The fascinating story of Jan & Dean can be found here.
Listen for “California Girls” at about the 3:45 mark.
And by now your should be ready to wax up your surfboard, head down to the beach and hang 10!