It was 55 years ago today (April 6th, 1965) that the Beach Boys began recording “California Girls.” The song, which was the group's most ambitious recording up until then, featured a soaring orchestral production by the group's leader and producer Brian Wilson, alongside lyrics co-written by singer Mike Love.
Wilson wrote the music to the chorus during a dinner party in early 1965, and then enlisted the help of Los Angeles' top session players rather than use the band on the recording, as he was becoming accustomed to doing. Although the Beach Boys' vocals wouldn't be added until June 4th, on April 6th, he led the “California Girls” session at Hollywood's Western Recorders. Wilson has stated numerous times over the years that the backing track to “California Girls” is his favorite of all his Beach Boys productions.
The track itself was a far cry from the group's first single, 1961's “Surfin',” which only featured a double bass, an acoustic guitar, and a trash can as percussion. “California Girls” utilized drums, piano, vibes, assorted percussion, three guitars, both an electric and a double bass, three saxophones, a trumpet, and an organ, not to mention six-part harmony vocals — all arranged by Wilson.