Painting by O. Louis Guglielmi titled "The Photographer", 1948
"Sunshine USA" seems like a harmless piece of '70s Cali power-pop, but the process of trying to figure out where it came from turned out to be a deep rabbit hole. Originally released on the Vampires from Outer Space compilation from Bomp Records, the song is by Randy Winburn, who may or may not have been the frontman of '60s Chapel Hill band Nova Local. He was definitely part of Kim Fowley's LA power-pop crew in the '70s, and he may have gone on to be an associate director on such awesome sit-coms as Diff'rent Strokes, Bosom Buddies, and Full House. The one picture of him I've been able to find, appropriately enough, looks like the love-child of Beach Boy Carl Wilson and ABBA's Björn Ulvaeus. But most of this information tells me nothing about why he recorded "Sunshine USA".
According to a very fractured narrative on a Kim Fowley website I found, Fowley (the semi-famous LA pop producer, scenester, and lovable eccentric) wrote an early version of "Sunshine USA" and asked Winburn to record it. I don't know if it was ever given a proper release prior to finding its way onto Vampires from Outer Space and, later, the Yellow Pills: Prefill collection, but it's an interesting song. Fowley's background in bubblegum pop shines through in the endless repetition of the chirpy chorus, but the production touches on other parts of the song are very Beach Boys, beginning with the melody of the opening lines and the pulsing organ that comes in after the intro. Notice that I'm not talking about the layered vocals and harmonies - that's an easy go-to for any Beach Boys comparison, but it's cheap and, honestly, it's not the harmonies here that remind me of the Beach Boys. It's the song's structure, particularly the way the melody of the opening lines comes back as bells on the bridge, that shows Fowley and Winburn's love of Brian Wilson's style.
Oh, and the song is called "Sunshine USA" - that's a pretty obvious Beach Boys reference, but still worth mentioning. I initially picked this song because I wanted to lay into it for being the worst kind of Beach Boys pastiche, but you can probably tell that I've warmed to it since then. Sure, it's kind of flimsy and twee, but it's got a fun breeziness to it that fits its origins.
"Sunshine USA" by Randy Winburn