Sunshine Rock / Spanky & Our Gang

Sunshine Rock isn’t real.  No artists were making “Sunshine Rock”.  It’s not like Folk Rock, Country Rock, or Psychedelic Rock…which artists were consciously developing.  No one called any music Sunshine Rock in the ‘60’s.

This CD was released in 1988.  The name was invented as a way of looking back at the 1960’s and grouping various artists into a “Greatest Hits” album.  The artists and songs selected only loosely fit together.  I bought this disc, because back then it was the first time most of these songs were available digitally.

You can see the songs kind of go together, and kind of don’t.  “Bus Stop” is one of the best songs by The Hollies, but whose brilliant idea was it to start out a collection called “Sunshine Rock” with a song about meeting in a rainstorm?

The Hollies, The Monkees, The 5th Dimension, The Lovin’ Spoonful and Spanky & Our Gang could put out Greatest Hits albums themselves, but most of the other artists were limited to one or two hits.  This was a way for music companies to make money from those old hits.  They weren’t going to sell any more singles or albums by themselves.

Some of the cuts that fit the theme are “Happy” by The Sunshine Company, “Come On Down To My Boat” by Every Mother’s Son, “Hello Hello” by Sopwith Camel”, “More Today Than Yesterday” by Spiral Starecase, and “Red Rubber Ball” (a Paul Simon song) by The Cyrkle.  Of course mixing in some bigger hits provides value, and helps sell the lesser songs.

Spanky & Our Gang (shown above with lead singer Elaine “Spanky” McFarlane) might be the group most associated with Sunshine Rock, or as it has morphed into today, Sunshine Pop.  Their hits “Sunday Will Never Be The Same”, “Lazy Day”, “Sunday Mornin'”, and “Like To Get To Know You” fit perfectly on such lists, even though their arrangements sometimes have elements of Psychedelic Rock and jazz vocals.

They also could do serious songs rooted in folk lyrics, such as “Give A Damn”, which is about visiting a ghetto.  They sing:  “And it might begin to teach you, how to give a damn about your fellow man”.  It’s a really good song, but might have been a bit harsh for Top 40 radio.

Spanky & Our Gang were only popular from 1966 to 1969.  Their crowning achievement is the album Anything You Choose/Without Rhyme Or Reason.

It’s brilliant.  Possibly the only reason I know the album, is because it was a commercial failure.  I spotted it in a dollar bin in the late ’60’s, and bought it.  When I looked at the two sides of the album they were labeled Side 1 and Side A.  Which one to play first?  Anyway, each side is complexly and cleverly arranged so the songs flow into one another.  This was not some simple cross-fading or other studio trick, but well thought-out musical transitions.  The songs are good too.  Besides “Give A Damn” (which just missed the Top 40), there are minor hits like “Yesterday’s Rain”, “And She’s Mine”, and “Anything You Choose”.  The album might be available to stream.  It takes some time to get to know the songs, and they might not fit everyone’s taste in pop; however, we have the whole album as part of our Spanky & Our Gang playlist.

There are a lot of 1960’s Pop Rock songs that fit the Sunshine Pop theme.  Those include:  “Every Day With You Girl” by The Classics IV, “I Will Always Think About You” by The New Colony Six, “59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy”) by Harper’s Bizarre, “Groovin'” by The Rascals, “Daydream” by The Lovin Spoonful, “Sunshine Superman” by Donovan, “Happy Together” by The Turtles, “Windy” by The Association…and even songs by The Beach Boys and The Mamas & The Papas are sometimes placed in that category.

A lot of Soft Rock music from the 1970’s could also be called Sunshine Rock or Sunshine Pop.   In fact, there are so many songs, Rhino Records has released 25 volumes of it.  But, they came up with a uniquely 70’s way to describe the music…Have A Nice Day.

A few examples of the songs include…”It Never Rains In Southern California” by Albert Hammond, “I Can See Clearly Now” by Johnny Nash, “Hitchin’ A Ride” by Vanity Fare, “Brandy, You’re A Fine Girl” by Looking Glass, and “Nice To Be With You” by Gallery.

When you listen to this stuff, you know you’re going to be feelin’ groovy and have a nice day.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *