Single Stories: David Lee Roth, “California Girls”
33 years ago today, David Lee Roth released his cover of a Beach Boys classic, one which took him into the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100 for the first time as a solo artist.
Produced by Ted Templeman, who’d already proven that he could work studio magic with Roth while he was a member of Van Halen, “California Girls” was one of four covers that appeared on Roth’s first solo endeavor, the CRAZY FROM THE HEAT EP. Although it was recorded and released when he was still officially a member of Van Halen, that situation changed not terribly long after it hit stores.
As it was released during the height of MTV’s early success, “California Girls” came with an accompanying music video, of course, one in which Roth played a character that he called “Diamond Dave.” It had moments where it knowingly and willfully channeled The Twilight Zone, and it was also legitimately funny, so viewers requested it regularly. That it also featured numerous bikini girls was almost certainly incidental, but one of the women who wasn’t clad in a bikini – let’s clarify that: she plays a tourist – was Jane Leeves, later to spend numerous seasons playing Daphne Moon on NBC’s Frasier.
It’s worth noting that the song does actually feature a real Beach Boy in the mix, courtesy of Carl Wilson, but also singing background vocals is Christopher Cross. As Cross told Popdose in 2011, there was a tendency by many producers in search of a Beach Boys sound to try and get Brian Wilson, “so people thought, ‘Well, if we can’t get Brian, then we’ll get Carl and Christopher.’ And sometimes, as in the case of David and Ted Templeman, I think what happened was…they really wanted a stamp of approval and validation on doing ‘California Girls,’ touching something like that, and truth be told, I think they knew I was close to Carl, and they thought, ‘Well, if we get Christopher, then we can get Carl!’ And they didn’t care about me, ‘cause they got a real Beach Boy!”
Whether it was because of the real Beach Boy or not, Roth’s “California Girls” cover climbed all the way to #3 on the Billboard Hot 100 and served to establish
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