September 11, 2014
Today Jan & Dean are best remembered for their 1960s series of surf and car singles that were second only to The Beach Boys in terms of commercial success. What people forget is that the duo placed 11 songs on the Billboard Hot 100 before they grabbed onto The Beach Boys’ coattails.
During the early 1960s, they opened for The Beach Boys in a number of concerts. Seeing the success of their type of music, Jan Berry asked Brian Wilson if he had any songs they could record. Wilson would not give them “Surfin’ USA” but did give him two unfinished songs, which he would share writing credit if Berry finished them. The first was “Gonna Hustle You,” which Berry changed to “New Girl in School.” The other song made history as the first number one surf song of the rock and roll era. “Surf City” first reached the Billboard Hot 100, June 15, 1963, and on July 20, 1963, reached number one, where it remained for two weeks.
If there was one thing Jan Berry could do, it was produce a song. He may not have been in Brian Wilson’s league but he had the ability to create a virtual choir of sound from his and Dean Torrence’s voices. He would then layer in the instruments to create layers of sound. He may not have had the musical vision of Wilson, but he was able to create some of the catchiest and best singles of the era. The problem was Jan & Dean could not re-create the sound on stage without an array of backing vocalists.
The opening harmony on “two girls for every boy” was an attention getter. It was a brilliant piece of up-tempo pop that made one want to pack up and head for the shore.
Their commercial success came to an end April 12, 1966, when Jan Berry was involved in a serious car accident. He suffered severe brain damage, from which it took him years to recover. It took almost a decade before they began to tour regularly again. While the hits stopped, they were summer regulars on oldies tours until Berry’s death in 2004.
The music of Jan & Dean is part of that nostalgic eternal summer. They may not have changed American music but they made it a bit more pleasurable and fun and sometimes that is enough. No matter what people may think of their legacy, 51 years ago Jan & Dean ruled the American music world.
May 24, 2012
Jan & Dean are best remembered for their seires of early to mid-1960s catchy and smooth surf and car singles that charted high on the BILLBOARD MAGAZINE Charts and sold tens of millions of copies.
Music was changing in the United States in 1965 and the career of Jan & Dean’s was in decline. They would respond by trying to change their style.
“The Universal Coward” was released during late 1965 and was really a solo Jan & Dean solo effort even though it was taken from their FOLK & ROLL album. It was a peace/protest song that Jan couldn’t quite pull off and did not appeal to tehir fan base. It received no chart action and little commercial success.
Shortly after the single’s release, Jan Berry was involved in a near fatal auto accident. It would take him over a year to recover and he would have to learn to speak again. While he returned to performing his life was never the same.
February 26, 2012
Jan Berry, Arnie Ginsberg, and Dean Torrence were members of the Barrons while in high school. When Dean was called to six months service in the Army reserve, Jan & Arnie signed with the Arwin label. They had one top 10 hit, “Jennie Lee” during 1958, and one other track, “Gas Money” that made the BILLBOARD MAGAZINE Pop Singles Chart.
One of the more difficult singles to track down was “The Beat That Can’t Be Beat/I Love Linda.” It was very different from the layered sound that Jan Berry would produce during the 1960s. The single received no chart action.
Dean would return and Arnie would enter the navy. Jab & Arnie would be no more and Jan & Dean would go on to create some of the best car and surf music of the 1960s.
January 29, 2012
Jan & Dean were selected as hosts for the T.A.M.I. Show. The concert, held October 28 and 29, 1964, featured some of the biggest music acts in the world including James Brown, The Supremes, The Beach Boys, and The Rolling Stones. It was released as a film shortly afterwards.
“From All Over The World” was the concert’s theme song and played over the film’s opening credits. Released as a single March 13, 1965, it reached number 56 on the BILLBOARD MAGAZINE Pop Singles Chart.
It was a song that worked better in the movie as it introduced the acts. It remains one of their least known singles.
May 16, 2011
Jan & Dean released “Sidewalk Surfin'” during the fall of 1964. It became a moderate hit reaching number 25 on the BILLBOARD MAGAZINE Pop Singles Chart.
Jan & Dean used The Beach Boys melody of “Catch A Wave” to create lyrics about surfing on land. Thow in some layered harmonies and you have a hit song.
The song would make a brief comback during 1976, when it was reissued as part of The United Artists Silver Spotlight reissue series. It would reach the BILLBOARD MAGAZINE Bubbling Under Chart at number 107.
They were just a few decades too early. Skateboarding today is one of the premier X Games sports. Millions of skateboards are sold each year although the sport is no longer called “Sidewalk Surfin'”
May 10, 2011
In many ways “Linda” was the first modern day Jan & Dean single. The layered harmonies were not quite as layered and full as they would quickly become, but they were close.
Jan Berry ws beginning his run as one of music’s technological wizards. I’m amazed at how long the opening name Linda goes one. It would reach number 28 on the American Singles Charts and set the stage for their series of classic surf and car singles.
“Linda” remains an essential listen for any fan of Jan & Dean.
May 8, 2011
RIDE THE WILD SURF was the first album I ever bought as a teenager. The title song was released as a single in the fall of 1964 and reached number 16 on the American Singles Charts.
It was a nice up-tempo pop song with typical Jan & Dean harmonies. The movie was light weight but inoffensive. The film starred Tab hunter and Fabian, which should sum up the quality of the cast.
Many times, “Ride The Wild Surf” is a forgotten song in the Jan & Dean catalogue. One of the more underrated surf songs of the era.