Beach Boys and West Coast Girls

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Guest post from Maud Fitch who looks at 20th century male chauvinism, surfer culture and skin cancer.

Okay, she looks at one particular song––California Girls by The Beach Boys––with the observation that it reeks of male teen spirit.

Thanks for filling in, Maud.  “No problemo,” she writes “My comments relate to the inequality of the sexes and when males sang about women with such defining features, dare I say ‘personalities’, that a song could transcend the decades.  Whereas women sang about males who are leaving/arriving or causing tears/heartache and are not physically described, leaving nothing etched in the memory.” 

Maud’s musical hypothesis…

If you don’t know the song lyrics (lucky you) here they are:

California Girls
The Beach Boys
https://www.thebeachboys.com/

Well, East Coast girls are hip
I really dig those styles they wear
And the Southern girls with the way they talk
They knock me out when I’m down there
The Mid-West farmer’s daughters really make you feel alright
And the Northern girls with the way they kiss
They keep their boyfriends warm at night

I wish they all could be California girls
I wish they all could be California
I wish they all could be California girls

The West coast has the sunshine
And the girls all get so tanned
I dig a French bikini on Hawaiian island dolls
By a palm tree in the sand
I been all around this great big world
And I seen all kinds of girls
Yeah, but I couldn’t wait to get back in the States
Back to the cutest girls in the world

I wish they all could be California girls
I wish they all could be California
I wish they all could be California girls

I wish they all could be California girls
I wish they all could be California girls
I wish they all could be California girls
I wish they all could be California girls
etc, etc…

Songwriters: Brian Douglas Wilson / Michael Edward Love
California Girls lyrics 1965 © Universal Music Publishing Group

Location is not an issue here, the girls in question are prominently mentioned and The Beach Boys diplomatically reference various US regions so as not to offend by omission.

A catchy tune, they sing of the visual pleasure of one woman pitted against another until the type named ‘California Girls’ moves to the top of the lust list.

The objectifying of women does not translate well to 21st century sensitivities.  Although in 2010 Katy Perry sang a similarly shallow song California Gurls.

It can be argued that The Beach Boys were young and represented their gender and the world-wide surfing movement with what appealed to them at the time.  Their songs certainly represented the superficiality of youth and what was uppermost on the manly mind.  In contrast, The Supremes song of 1965 Surfer Boy shows an entirely different slant on surfing and a more emotional approach.

The Beach Boys skimming appraisal of the external woman brings me to the French bikini on a Hawaiian island girl.  I don’t know skin cancer statistics in other countries but at one stage Australia had the highest skin cancer rate in the world.  Most beach babes of the mid-to-late twentieth century now have a crusty epidermal layer of melanoma sores and spots which are regularly checked by their skin cancer specialist.

Are these bikini babes still loved?  Nobody of that beach culture vintage is cute now, unless Botox is involved.  Heck, everyone of that generation has aged and, depending on decrepitude, may wish they had that body again.

Allowing for variants, The Beach Boys and The Supremes are now older, wiser people who made a lot of money from their hard-working vocal chords and have moved into Music Legend status.  I wonder if they sit in comfy chairs, musing about their past lyrics?  Do they laugh, cringe or couldn’t care less?

The world may have moved on but surfers still surf, boys still ogle girls, and sex discrimination still remains.  And no matter how irksome, old songs never die.

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Maud Fitch – Guest blogger and east coast Queensland girl

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