There’s a volume of Time-Life’s AM Gold series called Teen Idols of the 70s, which features many of the usual suspects: the Partridge Family, Bobby Sherman, the Osmonds, the Jackson Five—and the Brady Kids doing “It’s a Sunshine Day.” The latter has been anthologized quite a bit over the years, and a YouTube video of the kids doing the song on a January 1973 episode of The Brady Bunch has nearly 1.3 million hits. There are lots of people walking around who think it was a big radio hit in the 1970s.
It was not.
“It’s a Sunshine Day” did not make either the Hot 100 or the Bubbling Under chart. Of the nearly 27,000 music surveys available at the indispensable Airheads Radio Survey Archive, it appears on exactly none. The album on which it appears, The Kids From the Brady Bunch, did creep onto the Bubbling Under album chart at a robust #210, but it was not the sort of record that every junior-high kid was rushing out to buy. (And I was a maniac junior-high record buyer in 1973.)
So how did a record that made very little impact in 1973 end up a 70s icon four decades later? It probably has to do with the ubiquity of Brady Bunch reruns after school and on cable in the 80s, and the umpteen Brady revivals in the late 80s and 90s. The latter occurred at about the time record labels started plundering pop’s back catalog for themed CD anthologies (like AM Gold and others of its ilk). And so when labels began assembling CDs saluting teen idols, the Brady Kids seemed like a natural fit alongside the other televised idols, even though their records hadn’t been, you know, popular or anything. Most people who snapped up such anthologies weren’t interested in splitting hairs.
“It’s a Sunshine Day” succeeds as kitsch—which is probably the point now, 40 years later—but not as music. The kids’ delivery has all the sophistication of a grade-school church choir, and giving the leads to the two youngest Bradys doesn’t help. Maureen McCormick (Marcia) is better, in a caffeinated Olivia Newton-John sort of way. (She had enough actual talent to release a few solo singles in the 70s and a well-received country CD in 1995.) Unlike the best songs of the bubblegum era—those recorded at the same time by the Partridge Family, for example—which are either well-crafted, sold extremely well by the people who sing them, or both, “It’s a Sunshine Day” is pretty flimsy all around.
So stop thinking of it as one of the classic hits of the 70s, already. And get off my lawn.