Music / Jan and Dean

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Jan Berry (left), Dean Torrance (right).

Influential singing duo starting in the late 1950s but mainly in the The '60s. Almost as important to the surf-pop scene as The Beach Boys, Jan and Dean made countless songs, some of which are commonly misattributed to the Beach Boys. The rivalry between the acts was a friendly one; in fact, Brian Wilson co-wrote several of their hits, sang backup on "Surf City", and allowed the tune of "Catch a Wave" to be re-used for "Sidewalk Surfin'". Dean, in turn, sang lead on the Beach Boys' version of "Barbara Ann".

Their full names were William Jan Berry (19412004) and Dean Ormsby Torrence (1940 ). Berry first came onto the pop scene with 1958's "Jennie Lee", recorded with Arnie Ginsberg as "Jan and Arnie" due to Torrance getting drafted into the U.S. Army Reserve. Berry and Torrance scored their first hit as a duo with "Baby Talk" in 1959, and kept singing while going through college at UCLA (unlike the Beach Boys) until Jan was badly injured wrecking his Corvette in 1966, suffering brain damage but retaining his genius-level intelligence, but had a comeback in the early 1970s. Berry died in 2004, but Torrence continues to tour and give interviews. Note: Discography covers only the pre-accident years.


Discography:

  • Jan & Dean (1960)
  • Jan & Dean's Golden Hits (1962)
  • Jan & Dean Take Linda Surfin' (1963)
  • Surf City (and Other Swingin' Cities) (1963)
  • Drag City (1963)
  • Dead Man's Curve/The New Girl in School (1964)
  • Ride the Wild Surf (1964)
  • The Little Old Lady from Pasadena (1964)
  • Command Performance: Live in Person (1965)
  • Pop Symphony No. 1 (in 12 Hit Movements) (1965)
  • Golden Hits Volume 2 (1965)
  • Folk & Roll (1965)
  • Jan & Dean Meet Batman (1966)


Two tropes for every boy!

  • The Alleged Car: "Bucket T".
  • Car Song: "Bucket T", "Dead Man's Curve", "Drag City", and "The Little Old Lady from Pasadena", among countless others.
  • Concept Album: Although, sadly, almost forgotten today, Jan & Dean Meet Batman was one of rock's earliest examples. Half the record is music inspired by the comic books and the TV show, including a cover of the latter's theme; some lyrics of the songs are taken directly from Detective Comics #27. The other half details the adventures of "Captain Jan & Dean the Boy Blunder," an Affectionate Parody both of The Silver Age of Comic Books and also of the just-passed Golden Age of Radio. The cuts alternate between type, and as an added bonus, the comedy is funny and the music is catchy.
    • Surf City (and Other Swingin' Cities) is an even earlier example, with each song being named after a city.
  • Cool Old Lady: "The Little Old Lady from Pasadena" and its various followups ("The Anaheim, Azusa & Cucamonga Sewing Circle, Book Review and Timing Association", "One-Piece Topless Bathing Suit", and the instrumental "Old Ladies Seldom Power Shift".)
  • Drives Like Crazy: "The Little Old Lady From Pasadena", "Horace the Swingin' School Bus Driver"
  • Drugs Are Good: Seems to be the message of "Tijuana", a marijuana-themed rewrite of "The Little Old Lady from Pasadena" about a figurative woman who's "the terror of everyone that is a square". Appropriately, it was released as a single in the midst of the Psychedelic Rock craze in 1967, and later included on Carnival of Sound, Jan and Dean's own long-lost flirtation with the psychedelic genre, when it was finally released in 2010.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: It took a while before Jan and Dean found their trademark California sound. They first started out with a style closer to Doowop than surf pop and their first couple of "surf" albums only included a few actual surf songs alongside covers of regular pop songs.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: In the choruses of "Bucket T", they can clearly be heard singing something else that rhymes with "bucket".
  • Instrumentals: A few albums include an instrumental or two as filler. Of interest is "Skateboarding", a two-part instrumental which can be best described as "Frère Jacques goes skateboarding": each part was on a separate album!
  • In the Style of...: Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons ("Linda"), The Beach Boys (most of their other hits)
  • Long Title: "The Anaheim, Azusa & Cucamonga Sewing Circle, Book Review and Timing Association" probably set a record for one of the longest titles to be printed on a 45rpm record label.
  • New Sound Album: Carnival Of Sound, a psychedelic Smile-esque album Jan Berry started work on shortly after his accident. Unfortunately, it wasn't released until 2010.
  • Overshadowed by Awesome: Despite being one of the preeminent surf rock artists in their time, they're nowadays remembered mostly as a footnote in the history of the Beach Boys, for whom they are often confused. It should be noted that while Jan and Dean (Jan in particular) were talented songwriters in their own right, many of their biggest hits were written at least in part by Brian Wilson - meaning someone trying to acquaint themselves with Wilson's surf music songwriting repertoire would have to listen to a lot of Jan and Dean!
  • Record Producer: Jan Berry produced and arranged most of the duo's records himself.
  • Shout-Out: The back-cover liner notes for The Little Old Lady From Pasadena album are credited to "Little Old Grandpa", with the parenthetical notation that "He's very clean".
    • The title of "The Anaheim, Azusa & Cucamonga Sewing Circle..." references a running gag from The Jack Benny Program.
  • Teenage Death Songs: "Dead Man's Curve", possibly.

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