December 1984: David Lee Roth Releases "California Girls"

USA Photo of VAN HALEN and David Lee ROTH, shooting the 'California Girls' video (Photo by Richard E. Aaron/Redferns)
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(Richard E. Aaron/Redferns)

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, never reached the top spot thanks to Michael Jackson's monster Thriller release.

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Tensions with the group, however, had reached a breaking point on the resulting tour. They would fire singer David Lee Roth early in 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 single, "California Girls."

A cover of the Beach Boys classic, Roth's wacky version would be a hit, soaring to #3 on the Hot 100. Ironically, the original version also peaked at #3 on the same chart. The song arrived with an iconic music video, which was thrust into heavy rotation on MTV.

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

Roth's version of "California Girls" was produced by the legendary Ted Templeman, who worked on many Van Halen projects. 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).

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