Original v. Cover — #22 in a Series

girls surfing Pictures, Images and Photos

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!

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  1. The Beach Boys perform “California Girls” with a little help from Bob Hope and Jack Benny, in glorious black and white, complete with screaming fans…

    A 1980s series of commercials for the former airline British Caledonian were another notable homage to the song, twisting the lines about California to become “I wish they all could all be Caledonian”, in reference to the airline’s flight attendants.  O.K., they changed a few words, but you get the idea, from 1982…

    The Tea Party response to “California Girls” – by Gretchen Wilson in 2006.  On her 2005 album, All Jacked Up, Gretchen Wilson (no relation to the Wilson brothers) performs a song composed with John Rich entitled “California Girls”. Her song, a unique composition rather than a cover of the Beach Boys original, is instead a country-styled retort to Beach Boys song, featuring a chorus that asks, “ain’t you glad we ain’t all California girls?”.

    Posted June 10, 2007 — Here’s the music video for “Shores of California” from the record “Yes, Virginia…”  For your vieweing pleasure(?), here is the Dresden Girls’ spoof of David Lee Roth’s 1985 video of “California Girls.”

    Have a few friends over and want to do a sing-along?  Here is the instrumental part of the Beach Boys’ hit, sans vocals.  You only need to fill in the rest.  When the vocals are absent, one can better appreciate the arrangement of the background music.

  2. What a great way to start the summer here in sunny Southern California.

    As a girl lover & having loved them all over including geographically they are starting to come out again on my local beach.

    I partied with Dennis Wilson here in Malibu in the early 80`s with the likes of Jan Michel Vincent, & others I don`t feel I should name.

    In our group, it was quite a sudden blow.

    As the song says, I wish all the beautiful girls were all California girls, since that`s where I am.

    I`ll be back shortly to listen to all the covers.

    I only listened to the first one, to get my memory kick-started about California Girls.

    I have another longtime friend, though who was not involved with Dennis, but who remained underground for many years due to the relationship he had with Charlie Manson.

    Dennis didn`t bring him up after he was threatened by Charlie, even though he`d helped Charlie try to get into the music industry.

    Malibu, “A Way Of Life”.

  3. The Beach Boys

    David Lee Roth (Hot chicks)

    Brian Wilson

    Fendertones, (nice harmony)

    The Sunny Boys (A midget band, or those Italian “gogo” girls are full breasted Amazons.

    The Jan &Dean Show (I saw that show)

    I voted in that order of preference.

    Those I didn`t mention were IMO, not worthy of this iconic song.

    As for Gretchen Wilson, I`m glad she`s not.

    I would have thought there`d be a lot more comments here, especially since everybody enjoys music.

    The variety you`ve presented over the weeks has not ever let me down.

    Have a great week end.

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