“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 2010, the Beach Boys’ recording was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. In 2011, Rolling Stone magazine ranked it #72 on its list of the “500 Greatest Songs of All Time”.
The music came from Brian Wilson’s first psychedelic experience. He was 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.