|Single by The Beach Boys|
|from the album Summer Days (And Summer Nights!!)|
|B-side||"Let Him Run Wild"|
|Released||July 12, 1965|
|Recorded||April 6–June 4, 1965, United Western Recorders and CBS Columbia Square, Hollywood|
|The Beach Boys singles chronology|
"California Girls" is a song written by Brian Wilson and Mike Love for the American rock band The Beach Boys, featured on their 1965 album Summer Days (And Summer Nights!!). Wilson conceived the song during his first acid trip, later arranging and producing the song's recording, and incorporating an orchestral prelude plus contrasting verse-chorus form. Upon its release as a single, "California Girls" reached #3 on the Billboard Hot 100. It was backed with "Let Him Run Wild", another track from Summer Days.
The song is considered emblematic of the 1960s California Sound. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame included it as one of "500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll". In 2004, Rolling Stone magazine ranked it #71 on its list of the "500 Greatest Songs of All Time". In 2010, the Beach Boys' recording was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.
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The music came from Brian Wilson's first psychedelic experience. He's quoted saying in 1986, "[The song was] something I’m very proud of in a sense because it represents the Beach Boys really greatest record production we’ve ever made. It goes back to 1965 when I was sitting in my apartment, wondering how to write a song about girls, because I love girls. I mean, everybody loves girls." He added in 2007, "I was thinking about the music from cowboy movies. And I sat down and started playing it, bum-buhdeeda, bum-buhdeeda. I did that for about an hour. I got these chords going. Then I got this melody, it came pretty fast after that." Inspiration came from the rhythm of "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring". In 2015, he explained: "'California Girls' had that beat — it's called a shuffle beat — and that's definitely a Bach influence."
The next day, he and Mike Love finished off the remainder of the song. Love was not originally listed as the song's co-writer, but his successful 1994 lawsuit for songwriting credits amended the alleged omission. Bassist Carol Kaye credits almost every note to Brian, with the only exception being a fill she invented at the end of the bridge section.
"California Girls" begins with an orchestral prelude which has been compared by biographer Peter Ames Carlin "as spare and stirring as anything by Aaron Copland." It was advised against by Brian's father, Murry Wilson, who felt it made the song excessively complex. Music theorist Daniel Harrison compared the song to a later Brian Wilson composition, "God Only Knows", as it both avoids a root-position tonic and suppresses a cadential drive. The refrain alternates between the I and ii7 without ever resolving to the expected V. The relationship between the music and text is reflected in the lyric "I wish they all could be California girls", an ideal which is also impossible to resolve.
Recording and production
The track was produced by Wilson, who intended to encapsulate the feel of the Drifters' version of "On Broadway". The instrumental was made on April 6, 1965 at United Western Recorders, requiring 44 takes before Wilson could deem a satisfactory performance. Problems had arisen from the tempo and guitar part in the introduction, which fatigued Wilson, engineer Chuck Britz, and the dozen-plus session players. The song did not appear to have lyrics or a title at this juncture, and Wilson can be heard calling the song "Oh Yeah" and "You're Grass and I'm a Power Mower".
Vocal overdubs followed two months later on June 4 at CBS Columbia Square. Wilson recorded the Beach Boys' vocals using Columbia's new 8-track recorder, allowing Love's lead vocals to be triple-tracked and the group's vocals spread over three more. "California Girls" was the first Beach Boys recording to feature vocals from Bruce Johnston, who had joined the group to substitute for Wilson on concert tours. Bruce's vocals can be heard at the end of the song.
In addition to reaching #3 in the US, other countries where the single was 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.
Sourced from Musician's Union AFM contract sheets and surviving session audio, documented by Craig Slowinski, except where otherwise noted.
- The Beach Boys
- Al Jardine – vocals
- Bruce Johnston – vocals
- Mike Love – lead vocals
- Brian Wilson – vocals
- Carl Wilson – vocals, twelve-string guitar
- Dennis Wilson – vocals
- Additional musicians
- Hal Blaine – drums
- Frank Capp – vibraphone
- Roy Caton – horn
- Jerry Cole – twelve-string guitar
- Al de Lory – organ
- Steve Douglas – saxophone
- Carol Kaye – bass guitar
- Jay Migliori – saxophone
- Jack Nimitz – saxophone
- Lyle Ritz – upright bass
- Howard Roberts – guitar
- Leon Russell – piano
- Billy Strange – tambourine
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The song has been prominently referenced by other artists on more than one occasion. The Beatles' "Back in the U.S.S.R." homages 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.
The song was a 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. Additionally, the word "girls" was intentionally misspelled. Perry's manager requested that the song name be compatible with the 1970s hit "September Gurls" by Big Star.
Use in film
- 1985 – A View to a Kill, when James Bond (Roger Moore) 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.
- 2001 – Rush Hour 2, where main characters Lee (Jackie Chan) and Carter (Chris Tucker) sing along to the song as it plays on the radio.
- 2007 – Rush Hour 3, where 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.
- 2014 – Love & Mercy; the original film score by Atticus Ross contains portions of "California Girls" in the opening piece "Black Hole" along with elements from "Don't Worry Baby", "Good To My Baby", "Help Me, Rhonda", "Wendy", "Dance, Dance, Dance", "Denny's Drums", and "Fun, Fun, Fun".
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The song has been covered by Jan & Dean, Alvin and the Chipmunks, and Ricky Martin. The song was sampled by rapper Tyga in his demo song titled "California Girls". A parody was recorded by The Barron Knights. In 2004, the song was covered for a Cotton commercial featuring mannequins.
David Lee Roth version
|Single by David Lee Roth|
|from the album Crazy from the Heat|
|Released||December 19, 1984|
|Genre||Pop rock, hard rock|
|David Lee Roth singles chronology|
"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.
The music video for the cover, directed by Pete Angelus and Roth, was released in February 1985. Roth stars as a tour guide, showing tourists the beach and swimsuit models. One of the 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".
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- Carlin 2006, p. 135.
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- http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-504083_162-20012893-504083.html[dead link]
- "Katy Perry’s ‘California Gurls’ Is A Nod To … Big Star?". MTV. 2010-05-13. Retrieved 2014-06-29.
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- "David Lee Roth - "California girls"". mvdbase.com. Retrieved 2014-06-29.
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