Follow TV Tropes


Music / Jan and Dean

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

"Yeah, I'm goin' to Surf City, 'cause it's two to one
You know we're goin' to Surf City, gonna have some fun
You know we're goin' to Surf City, 'cause it's two to one
You know we're goin' to Surf City, gonna have some fun now
Two girls for every boy..."

Jan and Dean were an influential American singing duo, who started in the late 1950s but were most popular in 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 due to their similar vocal harmony sound and subject matter. 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 his "Catch a Wave" to be re-used for the duo's "Sidewalk Surfin'". Dean, in turn, contributed (uncredited) co-lead vocals on the Beach Boys' hit version of "Barbara Ann".

Their full names were William Jan Berry (April 3, 1941 – March 26, 2004) and Dean Ormsby Torrence (born March 10, 1940), and they first met playing high school football together in Los Angeles. 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). However, tragedy struck in 1966 when Jan crashed his car a short distance near Dead Man's Curve in Beverly Hills, slipping into a two-month-long coma and suffering partial paralysis and brain damage but retaining his genius-level intelligence. The duo had a comeback in the 1970s. Berry died in 2004, but Torrence continues to tour and give interviews.


  • 1960 - Jan & Dean note 
  • 1962 - Jan & Dean's Golden Hits note 
  • 1963 - Jan & Dean Take Linda Surfin'
  • 1963 - Surf City (and Other Swingin' Cities)
  • 1963 - Drag City
  • 1964 - Dead Man's Curve/The New Girl in School
  • 1964 - Ride the Wild Surf
  • 1964 - The Little Old Lady from Pasadena
  • 1965 - Command Performance: Live in Person
  • 1965 - Pop Symphony No. 1 (in 12 Hit Movements) note 
  • 1965 - Golden Hits Volume 2
  • 1965 - Folk & Roll
  • 1966 - Jan & Dean Meet Batman note 
  • 1966 - Filet of Soul: A "Live" One note 
  • 1967 - Save for a Rainy Day note 
  • 1968 - Carnival of Sound (unreleased until 2010)

Non-LP Singles:

  • 1960 - "Gee"/"Such a Good Night for Dreaming"
  • 1961 - "Judy's an Angel" note /"Baggy Pants"
  • 1961 - "Heart and Soul", otherwise available on Jan & Dean's Golden Hits, has two different non-LP B-sides depending on the pressing: "Those Words" and "Midsummer Night's Dream".
  • 1961 - "Wanted: One Girl"/"Something a Little Bit Different"
  • 1962 - "Tennessee" note /"Your Heart Has Changed It's Mind"
  • 1962 - "My Favorite Dream"/"Who Put the Bomp" note 
  • 1962 - "Frosty (The Snow Man)"/"She's Still Talking Baby Talk"
  • 1963 - "Honolulu Lulu" note /"Someday (You'll Go Walking By)"
  • 1965 - "Here They Come (from All Over the World) note /"Freeway Flyer"
  • 1966 - "Fiddle Around"/"A Summer's Dream" note 
  • 1966 - "Summertime, Summertime"/"California Lullaby"
  • 1967 - "Hawaii" note /"Tijuana"
  • 1967 - "Vegetables"/"Snow Flakes on Laughing Gravy's Whiskers" (credited to "The Laughing Gravy")

Two tropes for every boy!

  • The Alleged Car: "Bucket 'T'".
  • The Band Minus the Face/Dolled-Up Installment: After Jan's accident, Dean recorded and released a few singles and an album under the Jan & Dean banner.
  • Biopic: Deadman's Curve, a 1978 Made-for-TV Movie with Richard Hatch as Jan and Bruce Davison as Dean, divided up evenly between their rise to stardom and Jan's long path to recovery after his accident. Also has Cameos by Dick Clark, Wolfman Jack, Mike Love and Bruce Johnston. It helped revive interest in the duo, particularly in Europe where it was released theatrically.
  • Car Song: "Bucket 'T'", "Dead Man's Curve", "Drag City", and "The Little Old Lady from Pasadena", among countless others.
  • Christmas Songs: They did a version of "Frosty the Snowman" for a 1962 single.
  • 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.
    • The following album, Drag City, is centered around cars and hot-rod racing.
    • Dead Man's Curve/The New Girl in School is kind of a "split" concept album: the A-side, featuring "Dead Man's Curve", follows on the cars theme of Drag City while the B-side, featuring "The New Girl in School", has songs about school. Both title songs were previously issued on the same single, which featured a picture sleeve with two distinct sides for each song.
  • 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".)
  • Death by Childbirth: "A Beginning from an End" initially describes a girl that reminds the narrator of an ex-girlfriend that suddenly left him. A spoken interlude a la "Dead Man's Curve" then reveals that the ex-girlfriend actually died in the hospital while giving birth to the girl that was described earlier in the song.
  • 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 Doo-wop than surf pop and their first couple of "surf" albums only included a few actual surf songs alongside covers of regular pop songs. Despite that, their style began to resemble the California sound as early as 1959. Compare "Jennie Lee" and "Gas Money" to "Baby Talk" for example.
  • 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:
  • Naked People Are Funny: "One-Piece Topless Bathing Suit" is about a 90-year-old lady wearing the titular garment and causing quite a commotion. The trope is invoked In-Universe, with some of the guys "laughing out loud" at the sight of the topless lady.
  • 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-pop acts in their time, they're nowadays remembered mostly as a footnote in the history of the Beach Boys, with 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 Liberty Records material himself. During their earlier stay at Doré Records their producers were the then-little-known Herb Alpert and Lou Adler; Alpert later founded A&M Records and became famous for his Tijuana Brass albums, while Adler founded and produced for Dunhill Records (Barry McGuire, The Mamas & the Papas) and later Ode Records (Carole King, Cheech & Chong).
  • 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", which is about a street race between a Corvette and a Jaguar gone awry. Though the song's narrator doesn't die, it's implied the guy he was racing wasn't so lucky.
  • Ur-Example: Their early doo-wop hits weren't exactly what we know of as the California sound that they'd develop around 1961, but they did contain many elements, especially with how they combined the standard doo-wop sound with close harmony in the style of the Four Freshmen and the Four Preps.