“California Day”

“California Day” is a non-LP song released as a single in 1970 by Strawberry Alarm Clock. The track featured the band’s last lead singer, Paul Marshall, who had replaced Jim Pitman.

“California Day” is a pleasant and perky ode to driving around sunny California’s open highways (and by extension to the state itself). There is some interesting drumming, banging out a rather crude beat, and a busy guitar figure that pulses rhythmically throughout the verses. A tasteful string section sands down any rough edges on the chorus — maybe a little too much.

The feel and sentiment of “California Day” seem fairly indebted to the 1969 movie Easy Rider, especially the Byrds’ title song from the film’s soundtrack. This is underscored not just by the similar musical structure but by the lyrics, which evoke the new, utopian wonders promised by sunny day and an open road — specifically, Highway 99 in the Golden State’s Central Valley region, which leads out of California but inevitably back in:

California Highway 99 in Tulare County. Source
California Highway 99 in Tulare County. Source
“Well we can move on down the highway and start a new life
We could be out of state by nightfall, that’s for sure
But the day would come, I know it
We couldn’t stay away
We’d head back down ol’ Highway 99 on a
California day”

Paul Marshall’s vocals quiver enigmatically; his heartfelt tenor fits the song very well and is easy to listen to. Not to say “California Day” is easy listening, but if you wonder what “Ballad Of Easy Rider” would sound like if performed by a post-psych pop band in its last throes, well here you go.

“California Day” is a rather forgotten Strawberry Alarm Clock but it’s groovy enough that it should be covered by a new band who could put its own twist on it. In a band yourself? Record a version of this song and put a link to it in the comments section!

Appears on

45: “California Day” b/w “Three” (Uni 55218) (1970)
CD: Good Morning Starshine (1969) Japanese bonus-track version

13 thoughts on ““California Day”

  1. Further comment : “Dear Joy”  sounding backing vocals and the  professional ” I climbed the mountain”[?] string section further enhance the song. Nice ending makes this one of SAC top 20 badly needing further availability.

  2. Further comment : I climbed the mountain ? professional string section used to much better effect here also giving one of sac most memorable endings. Has great “dear Joy” backing vocals. Overall brilliant playing and singing puts this in a sac top 20, deserving to be more widely known and available.

  3. Essential sac song, nice string section and Gene Gunnels easily heard at last, no bad thing. The chief star here is Paul Marshall who puts his heart and soul into every word of the vocal, even without music the song would still greatly impress. Sadly one of the hardest to obtain, hopefully this will soon be rectified, thank you to the person who put it on U-Tube.

  4. That is so true man, and i wish they could’ve reissued Incense And Peppermints on CD as well as the other 3 albums. And 2010 is almost up, so hopefully 2011 will be the year for the new album!!!

  5. Thanks, it’s good to hear it. Sorry it took you so long to track down! SAC music can be really hard to find and it’s unconscionable. They deserve a full line of easily-available CDs and MP3s with b-sides and things like that. Will 2010 pass again without it? 2011? When will this happen finally???

  6. I added it to this page from YouTube — it will be there as long as it lasts on YT (hopefully it will stay up).

    Otherwise you can own the full-quality version by finding a copy of the CD, the Japanese version that adds most of the band’s last singles as bonus tracks including this one.

    Listening to it now… it really is a cool song!

  7. Thanks for the comment, Paul, nice to hear from you!

    This is probably my favorite of the songs from your time with the band. I’m from the East Coast, but I’ve driven around Bakersfield and Death Valley and little through the Central Valley, and this song really has the feel of those areas for me.

    Hope you enjoy the site!

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