December 1984: David Lee Roth Releases CALIFORNIA GIRLS

Wednesday, December 14, 2022

In 1984, Van Halen was on top of the world. The band had broken into the mainstream with the massive chart-topping single, "Jump," from the equally popular album, 1984. The full-length spent weeks at #2 on the Billboard 200, never able to hit #1 due to Michael Jackson's monster Thriller release holding serve.

Tensions with the group, however, had reached a breaking point on the resulting tour. Ultimately, the band and wild man singer David Lee Roth parted ways in early 1985. But before it all came crashing down, Roth kick-started his solo career in earnest with the December 19, 1984 release of his first solo single, "California Girls."

A cover of the Beach Boys classic, Roth's wacky version was a hit, sauntering up the Hot 100 to peak at #3 for the week of March 2, 1985 (FUN FACT: The Beach Boy's original version of "California Girls" also peaked at #3 on the same chart). Roth's cover version arrived with an instantly iconic music video, which was quickly thrust into heavy rotation on MTV.

Taken from the Roth's Crazy from the Heat EP, the singer's new sun-baked persona and video was meant to set the stage for his leap into acting. A proposed Crazy from the Heat movie had only increased the fracture within Van Halen, compounded when Eddie Van Halen turned down Roth's request to soundtrack the film, which was never made.

Roth's version of "California Girls" was produced by the legendary Ted Templeman, who produced Van Halen's original run of albums. In the mix singing background vocals: real-life Beach Boy Carl Wilson, and his buddy, Christopher Cross, of "Sailing" fame.

"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!,'" Cross told Popdose in 2011. "And they didn’t care about me, ‘cause they got a real Beach Boy! So it was fun. But it’s always fun. It was great to do that with Carl, and I did a lot of things with him like that. It was a lot of fun, and as I said, I have very fond memories now of all that, with losing him" (Carl Wilson died of lung cancer in 1998).