Sunday, July 18, 2010

Jan & Dean

The Very Best Of Jan & Dean My collection started with a United Artists LP called The Very Best Of Jan & Dean which had 10 tracks, but later I got serious, with all three volumes of Golden Hits (the third of which gets roundly trashed on Jan & Dean’s own web site (by Dean??)), plus tracks from a few cassette compilations that I picked up at Woolco, plus a few odd tracks that I picked up off singles or stray LPs. At this point, I have pretty much all their original studio albums, on various media, and all their hits but 1 (Fiddle Around). I have Gee And There’s A Girl, but not on this made-it-myself collection.

I could never quite figure these guys out. They seem to be a vocal duo, but the only voice you really ever hear is Jan’s; on Save For A Rainy Day, credited to Jan & Dean but on which only Dean sings, we hear why. As a vocalist, Dean was a good graphic artist. So what exactly was Dean doing the rest of the time? And what about all the instrumental tracks on their LPs?

Meanwhile, Jan & Dean had 24 hits on the top 100, the first in 1959, the last in 1966. They did kind of faux doo-wop and random pop until surfing music appeared, when they jumped on the bandwagon and palled around with Brian Wilson and his bros. They sort of experimented with different stuff later on, but they never got serious about anything.

Jan & Dean's Golden Hits

Jan & Dean:

Jennie Lee – A hit for Jan & Arnie in 1958, redone by Jan & Dean a few years later. Jan is the same, Dean is not Arnie. Its presence, though, on The Very Best Of Jan & Dean fooled me into thinking that I had the original. I know better now, thanks to YouTube. Later they wrote new lyrics and it became Bucket T, about a car. Keep reading.
Baby Talk – Their first hit, from the fall of 1959, well before hot rods and surf were a thing. In fact, they are still in doo-wop mode, singing about talking baby talk to your sweetie. How charming…
We Go Together – A kind of love ballad, about going steady, orchestrated and all. Note the double meaning. From the fall of 1960.
Pallisades Park – Comes from Jan & Dean’s Golden Hits, a cover of Freddie Cannon’s rather dumb song from 1962.
Who Put The Bomp – Barry Mann’s song from 1961. A celebration of all those nerdy rock and roll hits with the nonsense syllables. Jan & Dean, though, they took all the credit (“we put the bomp…). They also goof around a bit, establishing their personas as cut-ups.
Heart And Soul – The song is typical Tin Pan Alley romance, in this case written by Hoagy Charmichael and Frank Loesser in 1938. Jan & Dean rock it up, with a lot of doo wop, and it was a hit for them in the summer of 1961. The Cleftones put a similar version on the charts during the same year.
Barbara Ann – A sound extravaganza; it’s all about the ba-ba-ba’s. The song was a hit for The Regents in 1961. But it was an ideal vehicle for Jan & Dean’s style. Dean Torrance reprised his performance in a recording that The Beach Boys did in 1965, which went to number 1.
Poor Little Puppet – Being a puppet isn’t always seen as a bad thing – think Puppet On A String by Elvis, Puppet On A String by Sandy Shaw, I’m Your Puppet by James & Bobby Purify. Here though, it’s bad, a song about a guy who it totally p-whipped, and it’s not a pretty sight. In the end we learn that he’s singing about himself. Clever.
Tennessee – This tribute to the state that country music calls home, of which I can not understand a single word, was a hit of sorts in the summer of 1962. Not the same song that Carl Perkins did.
A Sunday Kind Of Love – A cover of The Harptones song. They give it a big production with bells and trombones and who knows what. Spent one week in the top 100 in January, 1962. Also covered by The Del Vikings.
Linda – An uptempo tale of unrequited love. This was from the summer of 1963, around the time that Jan & Dean were coming into their own. The first dance I ever danced was with a girl named Linda. I was 12.
She’s My Summer Girl – A track from Ride The Wild Surf, a 1964 album. The concept, imagine, a summer girl. “I wonder how it’s gonna be when summer’s through,” sings Dean, “I’m gonna have to quit all the groovy things we do and forget my summer girl.”
It’s As Easy As 1, 2, 3 – A song about being apart for the summer. Unlike Sealed With A Kiss or Save Your Heart For Me, this one is kind of unstressed. I wonder who the female vocal harmony is by, surely not Dean. From the Dead Man’s Curve / New Girl In School album, 1964.
Surf City – Look out Dick Dale, Jan & Dean are hitting the surf. All the surfing clichés, wrapped up neatly into a song that hit number 1 in the summer of 1963.
• Honolulu Lulu – Gotta give ‘em points for the name. This tribute to the queen of the surfer girls was a hit in the fall of 1963.
Old Ladies Seldom Power Shift – An instrumental from the The Little Old Lady From Pasadena album. Given that neither Jan nor Dean appears to have been a musician, it’s odd that their LPs are peppered with instrumentals.
Drag City – Surf City redux, this time about drag racing. From the winter of 1964.
Move Out Little Mustang – The Beach Boys did Shut Down, and it was the last word on car race songs, but not everyone noticed. The hook here is that his rival is female. In the end they join forces, or something. From The Little Old Lady From Pasadena.
Sting Ray – Another instrumental, this one from the Drag City album.
Little Deuce Coupe – Jan & Dean do The Beach Boys. The harmonies are similar, and so is the arrangement. From the Drag City album.
Summer Means Fun – Summer songs are legion. Given that Jan & Dean moved in the same orbit as The Beach Boys it was natural that they’d go for the mythical musical summer, and so they did. This was a hit for Bruce & Terry in 1964, the Bruce of whom was Bruce Johnston who later (ready?) joined The Beach Boys. J & D’s version is from The Little Old Lady From Pasadena.
Surfin’ – The debut Beach Boys hit. J & D’s version has weird harmonies. It’s from Jan & Dean Take Linda Surfin’, which was where they got into the surfing groove.
Dead Man’s Curve – One of Jan & Dean’s defining songs. This tale of near tragedy was a hit in the spring of 1964. There’s enough been written about Jan’s real live dead man’s curve accident, and how life imitates art, that I don’t have to say anything here.
The New Girl In School – This faux high school tale was the b side of Dead Man’s Curve, and a hit in the spring of 1964.
Memphis – The Chuck Berry song, and a less than eviscerating rendition. From Surf City, an album on which every song is a different city. Listen to Johnny Rivers.
Gonna Hustle You – This was the original version of The New Girl In School; they had to rewrite it for mass consumption. This version appeared on one of their live albums (Filet Of Soul).
The Little Old Lady From Pasadena – A car racing song with a twist. Co-writen by Brian Wilson and The Beach Boys even covered it on their live album. One of their best known songs. From the summer of 1964.
School Days (Ring! Ring! Goes The Bell) – The Chuck Berry song. It comes from Dead Man’s Curve / The New Girl In School. That was in 1964, but it found its way onto a Liberty single and into the Canadian charts in the winter of 1966 / 1967. The Beach Boys did it much later, and did it better.
Ride The Wild Surf – This may be the last word in surf songs. All the elemental thrill detailed down to that one last ride. From the fall of 1964.
The Anaheim, Azousa And Cucamonga Sewing Circle, Book Review And Timing Association – This takes The Little Old Lady From Pasadena to a whole new level. The title is not the longest title on record, the Jan & Dean webste’s claim notwithstanding. I don’t know what is, but Pink Floyd has a longer one on Ummagumma. This was actually the B side of Ride The Wild Surf, and it was on the chart in the fall of 1964.
Surfin’ Safari – Another Beach Boys hit, given an attempted carbon copy treatment. Also from the Jan & Dean Take Linda Surfin’ album.
I Gotta Drive – Car racing as a life enriching statement. It was The Beach Boys nailed the concept on Don’t Worry Baby. This is from Drag City.
My Mighty GTO – Ronnie & The Daytonas did a song about a GTO, but this is different. From Dead Man’s Curve / The New Girl In School.
Sidewalk Surfin’ – A song about skateboarding, and why not. With a refrain of “bust your buns” the guys are all set to conquer the curb. The tune is Catch A Wave, by The Beach Boys. From the fall of 1964.
Freeway Flyer – A single only release, until the CD era anyway. About a cop who needs to get his quota. This was on the B side of Theme From The T.A.M.I. Show. It’s from early 1965.
Theme From The T.A.M.I. Show – Speaking of which… The T.A.M.I. Show was some kind of movie / concert or something that took place in the early part of 1965. Jan & Dean, if I’m not mistaken, were “hosts.” Featured were James Brown, The Rolling Stones, Leslie Gore, Marvin Gaye, The Beach Boys. Chuck Berry. So Jan & Dean got to record the theme, and its roll call of performers, with a lot of screaming in the background. I found the single, and it was quite a find, because it had an otherwise unavailable B Side, but it’s available now on the Command Performance CD. This is from the winter of 1965.
Jan & Dean's Golden Hits Volume 2You Really Know How To Hurt A Guy – This song about a deteriorating relationship is from the summer of 1965.
I Found A Girl – A joyful song of new love. From the fall of 1965. The guys were really getting away from the surf thing. “I used to go to parties all alone” he says. Parties?
Do Wah Diddy Diddy – A cover of The Exciters / Manfred Mann hit, taken from one of their live albums. Very horn-laden.
Dead Man’s Curve – Again. One version is the hit version. The other isn’t. One is taken from the live album, though it doesn’t sound live. Complicated.
Batman – This was in the days of the famous TV show with Adam West, and I guess everyone had to jump on the bandwagon. The song is just another restating of the Batman legend. Not the most inspired moment they ever had, and the album it comes from is truly terrible. Meanwhile, they vaguely quote the Batman Theme by Neal Hefti, but not enough to get sued. From the winter of 1966.
Detroit City – Bobby Bare’s great hit from 1963. This comes from Surf City, and they don’t make you forget Bare.
Eve Of Destruction – An almost carbon copy of Barry McGuire’s number 1 hit from the summer of ’65. From the Folk ‘N’ Roll album.
Hang On Sloopy (My Girl Sloopy) – Originally a hit for The Yardbirds in the UK, then a major hit for The McCoys in the summer of ’65. This version mimics The McCoys, with some jerking around by the guys in the middle.
Louie Louie – From a live album. Not the most inspired version of the old warhorse.
Yesterday – The Beatle song. Jan Berry is no Paul McCartney.
Walk Right In – The Rooftop Singers hit.
Everybody Loves A Clown – Live version of Gary Lewis & The Playboys hit from 1965.
Popsicle – How many songs can you do about summer? No limit, as long as you keep thinking of new twists. From the summer of 1966.
Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown) – The song is a great story of romantic revenge, probably the best ever, and it took John Lennon to come up with it, and put it across. Jan Berry is no John Lennon, though it’s still a good song. From Folk ‘N’ Roll.
Yellow Balloon – Sunny sunny sunny. This song was a hit for The Yellow Balloon in 1967. Jan & Dean did it on their Save For A Rainy Day album, and put out a competing single, but it went nowhere. This is actually Dean, Jan was waylaid after being wiped out at the real-life Dead Man’s Curve.
A Surfer’s Dream – A ballad like The Lonely Sea or The Warmth Of The Sun. It’s even in Jan & Dean's Golden Hits Volume 3waltz time. I took it from Wild The Wild Surf.
Bucket “T” – A song about a sports car. I think it’s a Thunderbird with a bucket seat (“There’s only one seat in my Bucket ‘T’”). The tune is Jennie Lee. The Who covered this.
One Piece Topless Bathing Suit – Another track from The Little Old Lady From Pasadena, and the old lady theme was getting stale…

1 comment:

Nathan said...

The other vocal on "It's As Easy As 1, 2, 3 is Jan Berry's then girlfriend Jill Gibson, who co-wrote the song.

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