Originally published on So So Gay on 9 August 2015.
To people of a certain vintage, casually uttering the line ‘Surf dudes with attitude’ in their general direction will prompt the immediate response of ‘Kinda groovy’, along with – if you’re lucky – a slightly demented look of joy-based nostalgia on their face. Before Glee came along to ruin or improve many popular songs (depending on your outlook), there was a cheesy little show called California Dreams, whose theme tune included the aforementioned lyric.
Airing in the early 90s around the same time as that teen classic Saved By the Bell and produced by the same creative team, the programmes both touched on many grown-up subjects (drug abuse, racism, scams) alongside typical teen issues like heartache and friendships, all the while filtering it through a zany comedic lens performed by a cast dressed in boxy clothes at least three sizes too big – ah, the early 90s. Unlike Zach and the gang, however, California Dreams‘ central focus was the band formed by a group of friends as they rehearsed and performed gigs that took place in bedrooms, garages, and their local haunt, a café called Sharky’s.
The show itself was about as funny as any Saturday morning, teen comedy show from that era, i.e. not very – insert canned laughter here – but what set it apart and perhaps made it more memorable was the music. Rather than relying on other people’s material, California Dreams included a wealth of original songs that lead to an album being released in 1992 that included 12 of these songs, including the above ICONIC theme tune.
As a soundtrack, California Dreams is an impressive set of guitar and keyboard driven pop, full of catchy hooks. The lead vocals are also pretty fairly split between the main cast, giving an enjoyable bit of variety. Notable highlights include ‘Castles on Quicksand‘ and the synth-pop ‘Let Me the One‘, though the album is a solid collection of early 90s pop and heartfelt balladeering.
Now don’t scoff; there are some bona fide talents involved here. Steve Kipner co-wrote the aforementioned ‘Castles On Quicksand’ – he, who also co-wrote Chezza’s ‘Fight for This Love‘, Xtina’s ‘Genie In a Bottle‘, K-Row’s ‘Stole‘, but most importantly Olivia Newton-John’s ‘Physical‘. Kipner’s occasional writing partner John Lewis Parker (Ms Parton’s ‘Potential New Boyfriend‘ and Chicago’s Grammy-nominated ‘Hard Habit to Break‘) also appears for a clutch of tracks here, including ‘Let Me Be the One’. If this weren’t enough, Walter Afanansieff is also on writing duties for the pretty ballad (shocker) ‘If You Only Knew‘. This is the guy who’s written and produced for such small-time acts as Beyoncé, Barbra, and Céline. Oh, and not forgetting Mariah ‘best-selling female artist of the millennium’ Carey. IKR? – bizarre but true.
Excuse me while I pick up all those names off the floor.
If you’re interested in checking out the album, it’s availability is rather limited, but there are a few copies lurking on Amazon Marketplace. However, as is ever the case, YouTube is an impressive reservoir for an array of clips from the show, including many of these original songs.
California Dreams is available to buy from Amazon Marketplace.