Understanding The Sunshine

If ever pushed to state my favorite genre music, I would say “Sunshine Pop.” I know it would be something of a cop-out, because I would be able to include much of what I love in that definition- a lot of the Beach Boys music, the Association, some of the early work of Jimmy Webb plus many of the newer discoveries that I have already set out in this page.

As with any genre, “Sunshine Pop” is not an easily defined and categorised entity, just as Bill Haley didn’t walk into the studio and say “today, I am making the first rock-and-roll record.” However, the general properties of the music, as defined in allmusic, include harmonies, an in-depth production sound often including orchestration and a generally sunny (bad pun alert) attitude. I do believe that these are values that I look for in the music that I enjoy.

Another feature of the Sunshine Pop (or more accurately, the music that is generally regarded as Sunshine Pop today) is that there was a reasonable balance between the bands, songwriters and producers. All of them contributed- bands such as The Association and The Fifth Dimension had big hits, songwriters like Jimmy Webb saw their songs interpreted in a way that hit the top of the charts, and producers like Curt Boettcher made records that remain cult favorites to this day.

Of course, the Beach Boys are not generally regarded as a Sunshine Pop group, and their music can be regarded as fitting into a number of genres- Surf Music of the early albums, the Rock and Roll influence, the Baroque Pop of Pet Sounds as well as the straight-ahead rock of some of their works. However, the Sunshine Pop values can be seen in much of the bands work, particularly, in my view, the albums from Today up until Surf’s Up.

Sometimes Sunshine Pop is seen as an early version of bubblegum, and I guess by implication, devoid of emotion. I would contest this- although there may be a pervasive optimistic attitude, there are songs in the genre that express deep, and not always, happy emotions. Roger Nichols I Can See Only You is one example here, while everyone should know Cherish by The Association, which may be a sappy love song but expresses something very deep from the bottom of the singer’s heart and soul.

It is good to see labels like Rev-ola making some of the hidden Sunshine Pop treasures from the 60s available again, and there does seem to be some critical re-appraisal of music in the genre. It is also great to see bands like The Now People make new music in this genre. Of course, it isn’t mainstream now -in fact, some of the nihilistic, unharmonic music out there now seems to be the direct opposite, but they say everything goes in cycles, so one day we may see a new sunshine out there. In the meanwhile, let’s enjoy what is there, and as an aside, I encourage any of you interested in the genre to help me flesh out the Wikipedia entry on the genre, so that the world has a real sense of what this wonderful genre is all about. After all, we can’t live without sunshine……

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