Before the Beach Boys, There Was Jan & Dean

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Brian Wilson gets all the respect and Jan Berry’s been forgotten and I’m gonna try to rectify that right now.

“THE LITTLE OLD LADY (FROM PASADENA)”

Because it’s the one you know.

When I first heard this in the summer of ’64 I had no idea where Pasadena was, but I was enraptured nonetheless.

I can still remember hearing this on the transistor blaring over the pavilion at the beach in Fairfield, Connecticut as I waited for them to deliver my ten cent fries.

She may be the terror of Colorado Boulevard, she may be implored to go, but the magic is in Dean’s harmonies, and the way the song starts with the chorus and soars with the Super Stock Dodge.

Back when what you drove was more important than what was in your pocket, when we were all optimistic, when cynicism had not yet been born and we were all yearning to go to California.

SURF CITY

TWO GIRLS FOR EVERY BOY!

“I bought a ’34 wagon and we call it a woodie”

And that’s how the term was popularized, that’s the power of popular music.

“You know it’s not very cherry, it’s an oldie but a goodie”

And there’s another term new here but a cliche now!

And during the chorus you can literally see them on the waves.

Frank Zappa didn’t want us to hear surf music ever again, but that was before surf music itself was forgotten.

This is so inherently joyous that if it was played on the radio today people would stop in their tracks, unable to move, wondering what this alien sound coming out of the speakers was. Yup, it sounds like the soundtrack to a Pixar movie, something so different, yet so exquisitely good, that it’s embraced right away.

BABY TALK

Let’s go back to the beginning, the initial Lou Adler and Herb Alpert production that was a top ten hit, REALLY!

Sounds dated, but that doesn’t mean you won’t love it!

JENNIE LEE

Well, this tribute to a stripper, was really the first, in ’58, but Dean was in the Army and Arnie Ginsburg sat in for him.

LINDA

Yup, Linda Eastman, Paul McCartney’s beloved, written about her when she was all of one year old…

A cover, but Jan & Dean made it their own.

LLLLLLLLINDA!

DEAD MAN’S CURVE

The one! The one that took the deceased teenager trope and jetted it to the stratosphere, killing almost all competitors, as well as the genre itself.

“Let’s race all the way to Dead Man’s Curve”

There’s no one in Los Angeles who doesn’t reference it. Everybody knows every twist and turn of Sunset Boulevard, L.A.’s most famous drag.

But this was before they straightened it.

“I was cruisin’ in my Sting Ray late one night
When an XKE pulled up on the right”

And here we are, plunked right down in the midsixties, after a horn intro that immediately enraptures.

“The street was deserted late Friday night
We were buggin’ each other while we sat out the light
We both popped the clutch when the light turned green
You should ‘a heard the whine from my screamin’ machine
I flew past La Brea, Schwab’s and Crescent Heights
And all the Jag could see were my six tail lights
He passed me at Doheny then I started to swerve
But I pulled her out and there we were
At Dead Man’s Curve”

And if that don’t make you want to move to L.A…

Yup, back when Van Nuys Boulevard used to be gridlocked, when everybody was drivin’ and draggin’.

And there’s ultimately a spoken interlude you’d never be able to get away with today and…

This is a dated masterpiece, definitely of a time, but it’s still just as rewarding as ever.

THE NEW GIRL IN SCHOOL

The flip side to “Dead Man’s Curve,” but a chart hit itself, an infectious ode to the new student in high school, come on, you remember that!

If you don’t sing along with Dean, you ain’t got a voice!

RIDE THE WILD SURF

From the movie starring Fabian, this was the title track.

I owned the album, I just couldn’t get enough, I even went to see that flick, I’VE STILL GOT TO TAKE THAT ONE LAST RIDE!

TELL ‘EM I’M SURFIN’

I played this so much my father used to sing along, and he hated my music!

Yup, nothing equated surfin’…not baseball, not the girl with the pool…just pack Jan a lunch and he’ll be on his way!

SIDEWALK SURFIN’

“Grab your board and go sidewalk surfin’ with me!”

Yup, once upon a time that’s what it was called, back before polyurethane wheels, when you went around a corner and…slid.

Yup, there was a skateboarding phase in the midsixties that died out before the midseventies technological renaissance and this, a remake of the Beach Boys’ “Catch A Wave,” was the anthem.

I FOUND A GIRL

One of the last chart hits, but still definitely worth a listen.

THE ANAHEIM, AZUSA AND CUCAMONGA SEWING CIRCLE, BOOK REVIEW AND TIMING ASSOCIATION

I knew it because it was the flip side of the “Ride The Wild Surf” single!

I had no idea where these towns were, but I knew I had to get closer to this sound, I had to move to the west coast, I begged my mother, I had to wait to graduate from college, but it was not a moment too soon. People always ask me what made me move to California and I always say the Beach Boys, and that’s true, but it’s Jan & Dean too, I was a fan of theirs first.

THEME FROM THE T.A.M.I SHOW (HERE THEY COME FROM ALL OVER THE WORLD)

Yup, Jan & Dean were the hosts of the live concert movie almost as famous as “Monterey Pop” and “Woodstock,” the one that brought James Brown to a white audience, where he upstaged the Rolling Stones and Felice was part of the audience at the Santa Monica Civic.

But this take is from Jan & Dean’s live album, “Command Performance,” not only my first live disc, but one of my first albums ever, I played it so much the grooves turned grey. I play it now and it sounds like nothing so much as…me.

SURF CITY-LIVE

This is the opening cut on “Command Performance,” and as great as the radio single was, I prefer this, because of the ENERGY!

MORE COMMAND PERFORMANCE

“Dead Man’s Curve,” “Sidewalk Surfin'”, they’re better on “Command Performance,” I’m gonna include the entire LP so you can know what it was like to be little Bobby Lefsetz, alone in his bedroom in a house dominated by females dreaming of a better life in…L.A.

And it IS!

CONCLUSION

For a long time they were forgotten. Then their story was told in a ’78 TV movie, and then they were forgotten again.

You see Jan Berry had an accident himself on Sunset Boulevard, and was never the same.

The act reunited, I went to see them at the Starwood, it was bizarre and creepy but a necessary pilgrimage nonetheless, because they were my heroes.

And Jan Berry was no loser, he had two years of medical school under his belt when he crashed his car.

And Dean Torrence went to USC and ultimately became a graphic designer responsible for the covers of some of your favorite LPs.

But somehow they’ve been forgotten to history, they’re in the rearview mirror.

And Brian Wilson’s deserving of all his accolades, but Jan Berry was no slouch, he too could write and produce. He was a true wunderkind.

And I doubt I’ll be able to convince those who were not there, but if you were, you remember it… When our heroes sang about a life we could all share, out in the elements, having FUN!

Spotify playlist: http://spoti.fi/RbjIrZ

~~~

WebSites:

Jan Berry

Jan and Dean

 


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