Beach Boys' label wants writing credit and royalties for Katy Perry's 'California Gurls'—but they're not suing yet
Image Credit: Emma Summerton; Chris Miller/Camera Press/Retna LtdCalifornia Boys and Gurls—can’t they all get along? The New York Post is reporting that the Beach Boys’ reps are threatening to sue Katy Perry for including the line ” in her summer-owning, booby-cream-shooting no. 1 hit “California Gurls.” Turns out, it’s not true—at least, not yet.
A source is quoted in today’s Post saying that the Boys’ label Rondor has sent a letter to Perry’s label Capitol demanding that Mike Love and Brian Wilson be given a writing credit on her song, as well as royalties, for its appropriation of the line “I wish they all could be California girls,” from their own 1965 classic of the same title.
Wilson’s rep told them, “Rondor owns the track and called Brian and Mike, saying they were going to complain. Brian likes Katy’s record and doesn’t know where the situation stands.” Love’s rep said, “Mike and Brian wrote the song . . . but any legal action is up to Rondor.”
When reached by EW, a Rondor spokesperson explained the label’s current stance: “In regard to the various rumors circulating, we would like to make it clear that there is no lawsuit against the writers or publishers of ‘California Gurls.’ We have established diminutive claim. It is up to the six writers and various publishers of ‘California Gurls’ to decide whether they honor the claim or not.”
“Using the words or melody in a new song taken from an original work is not appropriate under any circumstances, particularly one as well known and iconic as ‘California Girls.’ Rondor Music, who publishes the works of Brian Wilson and Mike Love, is committed to protecting the rights of its artists and songwriters, and with the support of the writers, that is exactly what we are doing.”
Wilson, the band’s mercurial, legendary frontman does appear to be a genuine fan of the song; he told the LA Times on July 20, “I love her vocal. She sounds very clear and energetic . . . The melody is infectious.”
And Love appended a day later: ““I think she’s really clever … We have a lot in common now: We both have done songs called ‘California Girls’ and we’ve both kissed girls and liked it.”
Perry’s song, he said, “obviously brings to mind our ‘California Girls,’ it’s just in a different vernacular, a different way of appreciating the same things. The Beach Boys have always accentuated the positive, and hers is a positive message about California Girls, so what’s not to like?”
What do you think, readers? Indisputably, that line belongs to the Beach Boys; it’s an enduring phrase from our shared pop culture history whose origin can’t seriously be questioned by anyone (tough breaks, Diamond Dave!).
The subject matter, of course, is identical, but the full phrase in question isn’t a substantial portion of Perry’s song or its chorus; guest rapper Snoop Dogg tosses it off near the song’s end, which may or may not mitigate the label’s claims.
Tell us what you think, readers: Does the lawsuit sound legit to you? Do Love and Wilson’s previous comments jibe with their current stance?
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