- Sunshine pop
Sunshine pop is a certain type of
pop music, most often characterized by a cheerful attitude, harmony singing, and sophisticated production, although there is no formal or strict definition.
This music blossomed from the mid-1960s to early 1970s, but subsequently faded into obscurity. However, since the 1990s Sunshine Pop has experienced a remarkable revival which continues until the present day.
Sunshine Pop originated in the American state of
Californiain the mid to late-1960s. [ [http://www.allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&sql=77:11370 All Music: Sunshine Pop] ] The music may be seen as a form of escapismfrom the turmoil of the times. [ [http://users.telenet.be/60spop/samples.htm Late 60s Pop Obscurities] ] While artists like Bob Dylan, Pete Seegerand others used pop music to deliver political or social commentary, acts such as The Beach Boys, The Mamas & The Papas, and The Fifth Dimensioninstead popularized a cheerful, sunny sound. [ [http://www.expose.org/extra31r.html Expose Progressive Music web issue #31] ] Typical are airy themes like color and balloons as found in the canonical example Up, Up and Awayor Yellow Balloon.
As this a-political music grew in popularity, dozens of groups began recording Sunshine Pop, with widely varying degrees of success. Some acts were fortunate to score one or two hits while others never had such luck.
In the early 1970s the popularity of Sunshine Pop quickly started to wane. Its lightweight sound had to make way for new music styles such as
Singer Songwritermusic, Progressive rockand Hard rock. Many groups thus faded into obscurity.
It should be noted that Sunshine Pop was only relatively recently labeled as such, when a renewed interest in the music resulted in a full-fledged revival.
For many years, Sunshine Pop lingered in obscurity, although the music enjoyed some interest among collectors of rare vinyl singles and LPs. Certain albums would occasionally fetch hefty prices at online auctions or in record stores. [ [http://www.allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&sql=10:wvfixqe5ld0e All Music: Twinn Connection] ]
In the early 1990s, a renewed interest in what now became known as 'Sunshine Pop' kicked off in
Japan[ [http://users.telenet.be/60spop/samples.htm Music Samples] ] , where record companies started publishing compilations of long-forgotten, obscure 1960s music. The revival subsequently spread to Europeand the United States[ [http://www.cherryred.co.uk/el/artists/various.htm El Records: Sunshine Pop 99] ] . Music that was previously available only on vinyl was now re-issued on CD.
Notable examples of compilations containing Sunshine Pop are:
*"Morning Glory Daze: Universal Soft Rock Collection" (2 parts, Universal, 1997)
*"Sunshine Days: 60s Pop Classics" (5 parts, Varese, 1997-1998)
*"Get Easy! Sunshine Pop" (double-disc, Universal/Polygram, 2003)
*"Soft Sounds For Gentle People" (3 parts, Pet, 2003-2004)
*"Come To The Sunshine: Soft Pop Nuggets From The Wea Vaults" (Rhino, 2004).
Compilations or even box-sets of groups such as
Spanky & Our Gang, The Association, The Arborsand The Love Generationhave also been released on CD.
As a result, a wide audience was able to get acquainted with Sunshine Pop and many of its acts.
Digital remasteringfurthermore meant the music could now be heard in unprecedented quality. Two record labels in particular have specialized in this sort of re-releases: Revola Records from Britain and the American label Sundazed.
A re-appraisal of
The Beach Boys- and Brian Wilson's work in particular - has also contributed in providing an afterlife for many obscure Sunshine Pop groups and their songs. [ [http://22.214.171.124/article.php?id=943&IssueNum=51 Steven Rosen: The Los Angeles City Beat] ]
*Sunshine Pop: songs are predominantly upbeat and a-political, and at first glance, fairly superficial. However, they often feature complex production and arrangements. The instrumentation typically includes strings, guitar, bass, drums or percussion, and piano. More exotic instruments such as hapsichord, xylophone or sitar may also be heard. Multi-part harmony singing is ubiquitous.
The Beach Boys, The Mamas & The Papas, The Fifth Dimension, Spanky & Our Gang, The Association, The Arbors, The Sunshine Company, Harpers Bizarre, The Collage, Mark Eric, The Groop (US Band), Gordion Knot, The Unusual We.
In short, Sunshine Pop is most often characterized by a cheerful attitude, harmony singing, and sophisticated production. These three principal elements are most readily associated with this type of music.
However, the term actually has a broader use in practice: Sunshine Pop can sound relentlessly cheerfull, but also more subdued or even sad. The music may be experimental and contain psychedelic elements. Sunshine Pop is thus strongly related to several other musical styles:
Bubblegum Pop: greatly emphasizes a good-time feel. Songs are catchy, but lightweight or even sugary. Harmony singing is prominent. [ [http://www.allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&sql=77:2391 All Music: Bubblegum Pop] ]
1910 Fruitgum Company, The Yellow Balloon, The Cowsills.
*Soft Pop or
Soft Rock: occasionally also known as 'AM Rock'. This is a more subdued and less exuberant form of Sunshine Pop. Often features a slower pace and stronger emphasis on orchestration.
The Free Design, Roger Nichols & The Small Circle of Friends, Bunky & Jake, Bergen White, Triste Janero.
Baroque Pop: this combines elements from classical music with pop. Its sophisticated production often emphasizes orchestration. [ [http://www.allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&sql=77:4555 All Music: Baroque Pop] ]
The Left Banke, Montage, The Beach Boys(circa 1966-1968).
*Psychedelic pop: adds experimental elements such as studio tricks, sounds effects, and fuzz guitar to pop songs, creating a somewhat trippy whole. [ [http://www.allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&sql=77:7225 All Music: Psychedelic Pop] ]
Sagittarius, The Millennium, the Neon Philharmonic, West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band, The Flower Pot Men, Strawberry Alarm Clock.
Easy Listening: some music labelled as Sunshine Pop leans towards easy listening, particularly songs that feature wordless vocals rather than lyrics.
Dave Grusin, Herb Alpert, John Andrews Tartaglia, Julius Wechter & The Baja Marimba Band.
*Surf Music: like Sunshine Pop, vocal surf music is upbeat with prominent use of harmony singing. However, its topics are limited to surfing or drag racing, and the production is usually fairly sparse and relatively simple.
The Rip Chords, Jan & Dean, Bruce & Terry, The Fantastic Baggys, The Beach Boys(circa 1962-1965).
The boundaries between these styles are often very blurred. The subtle difference between Sunshine Pop and Soft Pop for example, is seldomly noted. Sunshine Pop may thus be considered an
umbrella term, that can include elements of various styles and genres.
What binds the music labelled 'Sunshine Pop' above anything else, is its obscurity. Sunshine Pop consists mostly of lesser-known groups, some high profile names such as
The Beach Boysand The Mamas & The Papasnotwithstanding.
Furthermore, Sunshine Pop is strongly associated with a specific time and place, namely California from the mid-1960s to early 1970s. However, it should be noted there were plenty of groups from other parts of the United States as well, including
The Cowsills(from Rhode Island), The Free Design(from New York), and Spanky & Our Gang(from Illinois). Moreover, British acts such as The Flower Pot Menand Eternal Triangleprove Sunshine Pop was not a strictly American phenomenon.
Artists generally regarded as part of Sunshine Pop or associated with this music include:
The Beach Boys(circa 1965-1969)
The Mamas and the Papas
The Fifth Dimension
The Yellow Balloon
The Sunshine Company
*Roger Nichols & The Small Circle of Friends
The Free Design
The Flower Pot Men
The American Breed
Strawberry Alarm Clock
Spanky & Our Gang
The Carnival (US Band)
The Match (US Band)
The Love Generation
The Groop (US Band)
The Unusual We
Don & The Goodtimes
Cashman Pistilli & West
Thomas & Richard Frost
Bunky & Jake
Fun & Games
Colors Of Love
Sounds Of Sunshine
Vision Of Sunshine
Peppermint Trolley Company
Although the music labelled as Sunshine Pop mostly constitutes obscure groups and songs, there were hits nonetheless. This table contains some notable examples.
The last column shows the peak position in the official American singles chart, the
Billboard Hot 100.
ongwriters & Producers
While some very well-known bands are associated with the style, songwriters and producers played an important role in shaping the Sunshine Pop sound as well. Apart from the production influence of
Phil Spectorand Brian Wilson, other producers generally regarded as influential for the genre include Gary Usher, Curt Boettcher, Bones Howe, and Gary Zekley. Notable songwriters included Jimmy Webb, Roger Nichols, and Paul Williams.
Traces of Sunshine Pop can nowadays be found in such bands as
The Wondermints, Belle & Sebastian, Stereolab, Pizzicato Five, The Heavy Blinkers, The High Llamas, The Ladybug Transistor, and Afternoon Naps.
Bands like these are often considered part of the
Power popgenre, which places heavy emphasis on melody, crisp production and song structure. Like Sunshine Pop, the songs are above all meant to be catchy and fun.
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