California Girls

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"California Girls"
Single by The Beach Boys
from the album Summer Days (And Summer Nights!!)
B-side "Let Him Run Wild"
Released July 12, 1965
Format 7" vinyl
Recorded track: April 6, 1965 at Western Studios
vocals: June 4, 1965 at Columbia Records Studio
Genre Pop rock[1]
Length 2:38
Label Capitol
Writer(s) Brian Wilson, Mike Love
Producer(s) Brian Wilson
The Beach Boys singles chronology
"Help Me, Rhonda"
"California Girls"
"The Little Girl I Once Knew"
Summer Days (And Summer Nights!!) track listing

"California Girls" is a song by American rock band The Beach Boys, featured on their ninth studio album Summer Days (And Summer Nights!!) (1965). Written by band-members Brian Wilson (who conceived the song during an LSD trip) and Mike Love, the song features contrasting verse-chorus form. Upon its release as a single, "California Girls" reached #3 on the Billboard Hot 100.

It is one of The Beach Boys' most famous songs and has been included on countless greatest hits compilations. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame included the song in its of the "500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll". In 2004, Rolling Stone magazine ranked it 71st on its list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.[2] David Lee Roth covered the song in 1985, also peaking at #3 on the Billboard charts.


The music for the song came from Brian Wilson's first LSD experience.[3] In the Beautiful Dreamer documentary, Wilson said that shortly after taking LSD, he ran up to a bedroom and hid under a pillow, shouting "I'm afraid of my mom, I'm afraid of my dad." Sometime later, he left the room and went to a piano. He started playing in the bass the B-F#-G# pattern over and over, and then added in the right hand after a few minutes a B chord, moving to an A chord. Within a half hour, he had come up with the "well east-coast girls are hip, I really dig the styles they wear" part of the song. The next day, he and Mike Love supposedly finished off the remainder of the song.

"California Girls" was the first Beach Boys recording to feature vocals from Bruce Johnston, who had joined the group to substitute for Brian Wilson on concert tours. Bruce's vocals can be heard at the end of the song.

Cultural impact[edit]

In addition to reaching #3 in the US, other countries where the song was highly popular include Canada (#2 in RPMs national chart), Rhodesia (also #2), and Sweden (#6). It peaked at #8 in Australia, and in South Africa it made one of the Beach Boys' best-ever international showings, staying six weeks at No. 1. Radio plays of the song in the United States alone are said to total between four and five million to date, thus making it the Beach Boys' biggest royalty earner.[citation needed]

The song has been prominently referenced by other artists on more than one occasion. Most notably, the Beatles' "Back in the U.S.S.R." is considered a homage to the song. Strawberry Alarm Clock, which toured with the Beach Boys in 1966–67, segues into the intro and first line of the song at the end of their song, "Small Package", on their fourth and final album, Good Morning Starshine (1969). This fadeout was keyboardist Mark Weitz's idea.[4]

Alvin and the Chipmunks covered the song for their 1965 album Chipmunks à Go-Go.

A 1980s series of adverts 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.

The song was recorded and released by Jan & Dean on their 1982 album, One Summer Night/Live.

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, an original 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?"

In Brian Wilson's 1998 concert Live at the Roxy, he referred to "California Girls" as the theme song of The Beach Boys.

Ricky Martin sang a cover version on An All-Star Tribute to Brian Wilson.

The song has been also heard in the pre-title sequence of the James Bond movie (starring Roger Moore), A View to a Kill in 1985, when Bond skis to escape from enemies in Siberia (although the scenes were filmed in Iceland). This version was performed by Gidea Park, led by Adrian Baker.

This song can be heard at the beginning of Rush Hour 2, where main characters Lee (played by Jackie Chan) and Carter (played by Chris Tucker) sing along to the song as it plays on the radio. In Rush Hour 3, Lee uses it as his ringtone when Carter calls him at the beginning, and later on in the movie a French performer sings the song on the street where Carter is eating dinner.

Principal Belding from Saved by the Bell tells Zack Morris that it is his all time favorite song and walks off screen, humming the tune.

The song was sampled by rapper Tyga in his demo song titled "California Girls".

In 2004, the song was covered for a Cotton commercial featuring mannequins.

The song was parodied by The Barron Knights.

The song was a very strong inspiration for Katy Perry's hit 2010 song "California Gurls". Katy's song initiated controversy about its use of the lyric "I wish they all could be California girls"; this lyric was used as the chorus for The Beach Boys' song, but was also featured in Katy Perry's version towards the end of the song. The Beach Boys informed Katy Perry and Snoop Dogg that they will sue them both for violating their copyright if they do not modify the song to a non-infringing state prior to commercial availability, and Katy Perry and Snoop Dogg complied. Additionally, notice the intentional misspelling of the word "girls". Perry's manager requested that the song name be compatible with the '70s hit "September Gurls" by Big Star.[5][6]


David Lee Roth cover[edit]

"California Girls"
Single by David Lee Roth
from the album Crazy from the Heat
Released December 19, 1984[7]
Format CD single
Recorded 1984
Genre Pop rock, hard rock
Length 2:50
Label Warner Bros.
Producer(s) Ted Templeman
David Lee Roth singles chronology
"California Girls"
"Just a Gigolo"

"California Girls" was covered by David Lee Roth on his 1985 EP Crazy from the Heat (with background vocals contributed by Beach Boy Carl Wilson along with Christopher Cross), and like the original it topped at #3 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Music video[edit]

The iconic music video for the cover, directed by Pete Angelus and Roth, was released in February 1985.[8] Roth stars as a tour guide, showing tourists the beach and swimsuit models. One of tourists is played by Jane Leeves, who went on to play Frasier's Daphne Moon. The female bodybuilder featured in the video is Roth's personal fitness trainer, Kay Baxter. The scenes follow the lyrics with bikini-clad women from all regions of the United States. An oft-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. In an interview with Howard Stern, Roth explained that he edited the video while wearing thick skiing goggles which greatly impaired his vision. Each time the editor would increase the red saturation, Roth would tell him to turn it higher, until finally proclaiming, "Now THAT'S red!" The video was parodied in the video for The Dresden Dolls' "Shores of California".


  1. ^ David R. Pichaske, "The poetry of rock: the golden years", (Ellis Press, 1981)
  2. ^ "The RS 500 Greatest Songs of All Time". Rolling Stone. Retrieved June 19, 2008. 
  3. ^ Boucher, Geoff (August 12, 2007). "‘California Girls’ The Beach Boys". Los Angeles Times. pp. F–4. Retrieved August 17, 2008. 
  4. ^ Richie Unterberger. Good Morning Starshine liner notes, Santa Monica: Collector's Choice Music, 2005.
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^ "The Best" cd liner notes (1997)
  8. ^

External links[edit]