THE ROAD TO SURF CITY….(Segue of the Day: 4/29/17)

In 2008, Collector’s Choice put out a collection of Jan & Dean’s Liberty singles. More on that later.

As a listening experience, I doubt any comp has matched the old 2-record vinyl Anthology everybody had back in the day (and, yes, some of us still do), which looked like this:

That was one of the great album covers as well (designed by Dean Torrence himself if memory recalls)–the group, the scene and the era, all summed up in six panels and a color scheme.

There have been numerous “expanded” versions on the same theme in the CD era. I recall this one (which got away from me in the Great CD Selloff of 2002), being plenty good:

But the one I have now, the aforementioned Collector’s Choice set, is this one…

…which has its own lesson to teach.

Minus the energy of the weird doo-wopping, I-can-but-hope-these-are-parodies, “Jennie Lee” and “Baby Talk” (which were on Dore), and rendered in crystal clear remastered sound, the A and B sides of their first five Liberty singles seem to exist as proof that Jan Berry was the lamest singer of the entire rock and roll era–and no great shakes as a writer or producer either….it all culminated in this….which was actually a small step up from some of what they had been up to previously.

Be sure to make yourself listen to every second. Then imagine nine other tracks on that level or worse.

Then know that their very next record was this…conceived after a certain someone who was about to become King of L.A. gave them a half-written song to finish. Short of getting hold of the album yourself and listening all the way through (which experience I wouldn’t wish on anyone) there’s no way to convey the shock of the transition from all of that, to all of this:

Gee, it’s almost like Brian Wilson was some kind of transcendent genius or something.

Okay, that we all knew.

But what’s weird is that this particular interaction seems to have turned Jan Berry into Chuck Berry….because the rest of the first disc of the Collector’s Choice set rolls out “Honolulu Lulu,” “Drag City” “Schlock Rod” “Dead Man’s Curve” “The New Girl in School” and their all-time killer “The Little Old Lady From Pasadena” in such short order it’s almost a relief that they throw in a couple of B-side mediocrities to let you catch your breath.

Clearly, there was some kind of trade-off. Whether Brian Wilson sprinkling pixie dust on Jan Berry in return for Jan introducing him to the Wrecking Crew (whom Dean Torrence has long credibly insisted were put together by Jan) was a fair trade is a matter to be adjudicated on the Last Day.

I just hope the vote is by secret ballot.

I wouldn’t want to give anything away. Especially then.

[NOTE: Brian Wilson lost interest in finishing “Surf City” (and gave it to Jan & Dean) because he was intent on another record called “Surfin” U.S.A.” which became his own band’s first top five record around the same time. Years later, one Chuck Berry successfully sued Wilson for copyrght infringement, claiming he lifted the melody for “Surfin’ U.S.A.” from “Sweet Little Sixteen.” Years after that, Chuck Berry’s piano man, Johnnie Johnson, sued Berry for a portion of his entire catalog—again successfully–for failing to give him a composer credit on virtually everything Berry had ever written. There’s some kind of karma operating there somewhere. That too, will be adjudicated on the Last Day,, no matter who gets paid for what under U.S. Copyright Law the meanwhile..]

 

SON OF THE BEACH….LATE NIGHT DEDICATION (Richard Hatch, R.I.P.)

Cross categorizing here so I can manage a tribute to Richard Hatch and start a new category as well. And why I never thought of Late Night Dedications before now is just one of those mysteries that is destined to haunt the universe down to the last days….Meanwhile.

Way back when, I liked Richard Hatch (shown at the right) in The Streets of San Francisco and the original Battlestar Galactica. But his one really remarkable performance–and his relevance to this blog–was his Jan Berry in the TV movie Deadman’s Curve which I saw when it originally aired in 1978 and never forgot. So far as I know, the movie is only available on YouTube or through various bootleg sites. That’s too bad, because Hatch nailed his fellow So Cal native to a tee and the movie caught a bit of the casual sixties’ hedonism which was intrinsic in the surf-n-car scene Jan and Dean exemplified which has rarely, if ever, been portrayed as affectionately elsewhere.

The movie is hard to see, but all you really need to know about Hatch’s performance (matched by a wonderfully callow turn from Bruce Davison as Dean Torrence) is that he caught what there was to catch about the spirit that created this, which can now be dedicated to his own ghost, as well as Jan Berry’s…and whoever that kid was who wanted to race all the way to you know where:

…And, no, I have no idea why the movie was called Deadman’s Curve instead of Dead Man’s Curve. That’s another mystery for the ages.

SEGUE OF THE DAY (8/30/12)

Joe Bullard/The O’Jays

The O’Jays (“Stairway to Heaven”–studio)

Errand day.

I got in the car and the station that now specializes in playing things rarely heard on the radio in their day kicked off the mid-morning drive to town with “Tonight’s the Night,” Neil Young’s hole-in-the-sun tribute to Jan Berry’s overdosed roadie brother (Berry was the creative half of Jan and Dean until he paralyzed himself in a car smash-up near enough to the real life “Dean Man’s Curve” for legend-building purposes). Then they backed it up with Elvis Costello’s “Alison,” one of his own hole-in-the-sun specials which Linda Ronstadt happened to cover in her I-radiate-so-much-sex-I-don’t-have-to-bother-with-changing-gender-specific-lyrics-unless-I-maybe-feel-like-it phase–a phase which freaked Costello so thoroughly he has been dancing around his objections to her existence ever since (not least, I imagine, because he also admits the massive royalties he received from her covers “gave me the freedom not to have to conform to any record company pressures”–a freedom he used to make the albums his reputation has rested on ever since. He eventually satisfied his habitual Cotton Mather impulse by donating some of the royalties to the African National Congress after Ronstadt defied the ban on playing South Africa and refused to explain herself.)

I really thought that would be something I could work with.

Then a commercial came on and I switched over to the R&B station where Joe Bullard–the local answer to why God made dee-jays–was preaching an uplift sermon, admonishing his listeners to take the time to read the four New Testament gospels between now and the end of the year. Somewhere along the way, the intro to “Stairway to Heaven” (Gamble and Huff’s, not Plant and Page’s) started playing underneath and when the gentle sermon finished, the O’Jays stepped in on cue.

Left the holes in the sun a long, long way behind.