|Cultural origins||Mid-1960s, California, United States|
Sunshine pop (originally called soft pop) is a lightly-produced subgenre of pop music originating in Southern California in the mid-1960s. Rooted in easy-listening, advertising jingles, and the growing drug culture, sunshine pop acts combined nostalgic or anxious moods with "an appreciation for the beauty of the world". It largely consisted of lesser-known artists who imitated more popular groups like the Beach Boys, the Mamas & the Papas, and the 5th Dimension. While the Beach Boys are noted as prominent influences, they rarely worked in the genre.
Sunshine pop enjoyed mainstream success in the latter half of the decade, with many of its top 40 hits peaking in the spring and summer of 1967, especially just before the Summer of Love. Popular bands include the Mamas & the Papas, the Turtles, and the Association. Other acts, like the Millennium, Sagittarius, and the Yellow Balloon were less successful but gained a cult following years later with albums like Begin (Millennium, 1968) and Present Tense (Sagittarius, 1968) highly sought-after on the collectors’ market.
Origins and characteristics
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Sunshine pop originated in the American state of California in the mid to late-1960s, beginning as an outgrowth of the California Sound and folk rock movements. Rooted in easy-listening, advertising jingles, and the growing drug culture, the music is characterized by lush vocals and light arrangements similar to samba music. Most of the acts were lesser-known bands named after fruits, colors, or cosmic concepts who imitated more popular groups like the Beach Boys, the Mamas & the Papas, and the 5th Dimension. In some ways the genre is similar to baroque pop music through being elaborate and melancholic, though it also crossed into folk pop and Brill Building styles. It may be seen as a form of escapism from the turmoil of the times. The A.V. Club's Noel Murray writes: "sunshine pop acts expressed an appreciation for the beauty of the world mixed with a sense of anxiety that the good ol' days were gone for good."
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Some of the artists who influenced the style include Curt Boettcher, the Mamas & the Papas' John Phillips, and the Beach Boys' Brian Wilson. Concerning the Beach Boys' involvement with sunshine pop, the orchestral style of Pet Sounds (1966) was imitated by many Los Angeles record producers, but as The A.V. Club notes: "Though [the Beach Boys] ... were hugely influential on the sunshine pop acts that followed, [their] music was rarely in step with the genre." The Suburban's Joel Goldenburg believes the closest the group ever came to the genre was the lightly produced album Friends (1968): "the vocals of sunshine pop songs are a little more anonymous and not as lushly featured as that of The Beach Boys. And I don't see the [Phil] Spector connection. The light touch applied to the songs reminds me more of soft samba music." Murray says that "John Phillips, on the other hand, practically created the blueprint for sunshine pop, with little of Wilson's uncommercial weirdness."
For many years, the genre lingered in obscurity, although it enjoyed some interest among collectors of rare vinyl singles and LPs. Certain albums would occasionally fetch hefty prices at online auctions or in record stores. A name was eventually given to the music, "sunshine pop", rarely deployed outside of record collecting circles. In the early 1990s, a renewed interest began in Japan, where record companies started publishing compilations of long-forgotten, obscure 1960s music. This revival subsequently spread to Europe and the United States.
Compilations or even box-sets by groups such as Spanky and Our Gang, The Association, The Arbors and The Love Generation have been released on CD. Among the record labels which issue sunshine pop re-releases are Revola Records from Britain and the American label, Sundazed.
List of artists
- The 5th Dimension
- The Association
- The Collage
- Eternity's Children
- The Free Design
- Harmony Grass
- Harpers Bizarre
- The Mamas & the Papas
- The Millennium
- Roger Nichols and the Small Circle of Friends
- The Peppermint Rainbow
- Peppermint Trolley Company
- Sounds of Sunshine
- Spanky and Our Gang
- Strawberry Alarm Clock
- The Sugar Shoppe
- The Sunshine Company
- Murray, Noel (April 7, 2011). "Gateways to Geekery: Sunshine Pop". The A.V. Club. Onion Inc. Retrieved November 27, 2015.
- Goldenburg, Joel (February 27, 2016). "Joel Goldenberg: Sunshine pop offered some respite from '60s strife". The Suburban. Retrieved 29 September 2017.
- Howard 2004, pp. 50, 69.
- "Sunshine Pop". AllMusic.
- Unterberger 2003, p. 64.
- Reynolds 2011, p. 168.
- Reynolds 2011, p. 152.
- "Late 60s Pop Obscurities". Users.telenet.be. Retrieved 13 October 2014.
- Thomas, Bryan. "Twinn Connexion". AllMusic.
- "Music Samples". Users.telenet.be. Retrieved 13 October 2014.
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2008-07-04. Retrieved 2008-07-21.
- Stanley, Bob (2014). Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!: The Story of Pop Music from Bill Haley to Beyoncé. W. W. Norton. p. 147. ISBN 978-0-393-24270-6.
- "The Association - Biography & History - AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved 29 September 2017.
- "The Collage - The Collage". AllMusic. Retrieved November 15, 2017.
- Morten, Andy (April 16, 2015). Kaleidoscope No.47. Volcano Publishing. p. 49. ISBN 978-1910467060.
- "Eternity's Children - Biography & History - AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved 29 September 2017.
- Kubernik, Harvey; Calamar, Scott (2009). Canyon of Dreams: The Magic and the Music of Laurel Canyon. Sterling Publishing Company, Inc. p. 295. ISBN 978-1-4027-6589-6.
- Howard, David N. (2004). Sonic Alchemy: Visionary Music Producers and Their Maverick Recordings. Hal Leonard Corporation. ISBN 978-0-634-05560-7.
- Reynolds, Simon (2011). Retromania: Pop Culture's Addiction to Its Own Past. Faber & Faber. ISBN 978-1-4299-6858-4.
- Unterberger, Richie (2003). Eight Miles High: Folk-rock's Flight from Haight-Ashbury to Woodstock. Backbeat Books. ISBN 978-0-87930-743-1.