Sunday, July 12, 2015

Today in Music (1965): The Beach Boys “California Girls” released

California Girls

The Beach Boys

Writer(s): Brian Wilson, Mike Love (see lyrics here)

Released: July 12, 1965

First Charted: July 23, 1965

Peak: 3 BB, 3 CB, 4 GR, 3 HR, 1 CL, 26 UK, 2 CN, 58 AU, 1 DF (Click for codes to charts.)

Sales (in millions): 1.0 US

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): 5.0 radio, 21.8 video, 73.66 streaming


Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

The Beach Boys formed in Hawthorne, California, in 1961. The original lineup of the pop vocal group consisted of the Wilson brothers Brian, Dennis, and Carl with their cousin Mike Love and friend Al Jardine. They had their first Billboard Hot 100 hit with “Surfin’” from that year, then reached #14 with 1962’s “Surfin’ Surfari” in 1962, and had three top-10 hits in 1963. They racked up four more top-ten hits in 1964, including the #1 hit “I Get Around.” They topped the chart again with “Help Me, Rhonda” in 1965, followed by “California Girls” reaching #3.

While the Beach Boys had bigger hits, this was one of the songs that cemented the group’s California image which focused on surfing, cars, and girls. This was “the song that confirmed California (two girls, cars, soda pops etc. for every boy) in the pop consciousness forever.” DT Brian Wilson said it was about a “guy who thinks about girls all the time…But there’s only one kind he really wants, and that’s right there at home.” SF Wilson declared this his favorite Beach Boys’ song and even considered it their anthem. WK

Geoff Boucher of Los Angeles Times said the opening lyrics were “one of the most famous…in pop music” WK and biographer Mark Dillon said it was “Brian’s proclamation to the rest of the music biz that he was a composer to take seriously.” WK Wilson said the lyrics were a back and forth between him and Mike Love although Love claimed he wrote everything but the line “I wish they call could be California girls.” WK Love sang lead on the song, but it also featured Bruce Johnston on vocals for the first time. He had recently joined the group to substitute for Brian on tours. WK

Different accounts suggest Wilson either wrote the song while on his first acide trip or a week later, inspired by the trip. He was thinking about women and the music from Westerns. He said, “the music started off like those old cowboy movies, when the hero’s riding slowly into town.” SF He also called it an effort to capture the feel of “On Broadway” by the Drifters. WK

The Beatles parodied the song with “Back in the U.S.S.R.” Songs with similar titles also followed, including Big Star’s “September Gurls” and Katy Perry’s “California Gurls.” David Lee Roth, fresh off his departure from Van Halen, covered the song as a solo act in 1984, taking it back to #3.


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First posted 9/19/2023.

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