Sunshine Pop… an introduction

sun

(a good topic/activity for a day which sees -15 degrees Celsius as its “high”)

It was my final year of teaching… my final concert.  Several weeks before that concert one of my choir students asked me the name of my favourite song.  I replied (honestly) that I had so many (for many different reasons) that I couldn’t answer her question.  But, I told her, if you had asked me that question when I was your age (ie. grade eight) I would have replied with utmost certainty, Cherish.  In a thoughtful gesture, the entire choir learned the song sufficiently (without my knowledge) so that, at the concert, they were able to lip-sync it to the recording.

I’ve mentioned Sunshine Pop as a musical subgenre in previous posts.  I also mentioned at the time that I would get around to speaking about the term subsequently.  Well, it’s that time…

Sunshine Pop is an interesting term for several reasons.  It was certainly not used during the era of its appearance on the music scene (to my knowledge).  It has been applied retroactively to describe certain songs recorded by certain artists.  And that is the term’s  inherent limitation.  The groups which often featured the “sunshine pop” sound were not necessarily restricted to that style.  Groups which would not be characterized as being Sunshine Pop recorded songs which would fit the genre very nicely.

So, then, what is Sunshine Pop?

By most of the sources I’ve examined it would be characterized as music

  • recorded in a period stretching roughly from 1965 to 1970 (but not necessarily)
  • which featured upbeat melodies and lyrics (but not necessarily)
  • in which vocal harmony (usually) predominated
  • which was produced with more sophisticated arrangements and recording techniques than commonly found at the time (again, not necessarily so)
  • which originated from (and was dominated by) California groups… (definitely not necessarily so)
  • offered a cheerful and apolitical view of life in a tumultuous period…  I’ve already alluded to The Association‘s Requiem for the Masses which, although written and recorded by one the genre’s pre-eminent exponents (supposedly), could hardly be described as an apolitical song

So, if it is true that the term is at best an awkward means of grouping together songs and groups of a certain type, why does it interest me?  Simply because my 14-year-old self regarded the groups which seem to appear on most “sunshine pop” lists (as examples of the genre) as personal favourites.

I’ve already talked about The Association and Cherish as a favourite song.  At that age I would probably have rounded out my “top three” with The Buckinghams and The Strawberry Alarm Clock.

So… it’s a new year.  In 2013 I looked at a number of “obscurities” and came up with an album’s worth of songs.  I thought I’d start 2014 by rummaging through both my musical archives and my memory banks in order to compile an album’s worth of Sunshine Pop songs.  And that will be the focus of the next several months of posts.

Of course, the question you’re now asking yourself is… Strawberry Alarm Clock?  Yes, really.  Just to finish on a “musical note”, here they are (here it is) singing about Tomorrow… (move over Annie)

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