Monday, March 30, 2009

Remembering Jan Berry

Last week marked the fifth anniversary of the passing of Jan Berry, a sad time for ALL of us who grew up loving the music of Jan And Dean.

One can always wonder "What Might Have Been" ... Berry was considered by anyone who ever crossed his path in the '60's to be a Musical Genius in the recording studio ... but all of that promise ended on April 12, 1966 when he was critically injured in a car accident not far from the spot known as "Dead Man's Curve", immortalized forever by the legendary duo in their 1964 Top Ten Hit.

While last month we speculated about the untimely death of Buddy Holly, reflecting how he was taken from us all too soon, never realizing the potential of where his career may have taken, I cannot help but wonder which is the greater tragedy ... losing Buddy Holly at the peak of his career without ever knowing what might have been ... or living through losing that career and then carrying on the memory of what you USED to be able to do for the next four decades, knowing full well that you'd never reach those heights again.

Jan Berry literally had to learn how to walk and talk again ... how to sing his own songs ... songs that he had written and produced back when Jan and Dean were one of the hottest recording acts on the planet. (Bob Greene paints a VERY sad picture in his excellent book "When We Get To Surf City" ... which is being re-released in paperback form this May ... of a very frustrated yet ultra-willing-to-please Jan Berry literally having to relearn the words to his own songs EVERY SINGLE NIGHT ... even though he had just sung them the night before ... because he couldn't retain the memory of the very songs he helped to create. It's MUST READING for ANY fan of this era ... and this very brave dynamic duo, who gave us SO much musical pleasure over the years.)

Jan's tragic accident was also immortalized in the film "Dead Man's Curve" ... and his courageous return to the performance stage is truly a fairy tale ending to this sad story. The fans loved this music SO much that they accepted him back without reservation, a true testiment to the power of his gift.

Of course here in Forgotten Hits we regularly remember the music of artists like Jan and Dean, The Beach Boys, The Rip Chords and many of the other surf / rock artists of the day ... and today is no different.

We've got letters from Fred Vail, who at one time MANAGED The Beach Boys (and wrote a very loving tribute to Jan Berry which can now be found on The Official Jan And Dean Website) and Mitch Schecter, guitarist for The Rip Chords, about his buddy Al Jardine (who apparently snubbed Forgotten Hits Reader Dwight Rounds in an airport a few weeks back!!!) Then we've got short tributes courtesy of David Beard, Editor and Publisher of "Endless Summer Quarterly", that GREAT Beach Boys fanzine that pays tribute to this music that we love as well has featured columnist Phil Miglioratti.

And, to top things off, we've also got one of MY favorite Jan And Dean songs to share with you today ... "I Found A Girl" from 1965 ... a #30 Billboard Hit (that went all the way to #9 here in Chi-Town, where the nearest ocean is at least a couple thousand miles away!!!) Talk about your Forgotten Hits ... when is the last time you heard THIS one on the radio???

Enjoy ... and remember ... the music of Jan And Dean.

Enjoyed the news as always. Did I ever send you my Jan & Dean story -- I wrote it the day I learned of Jan's passing and I wrote it more as a 'tribute' piece to Jan. It's on one of the 'official' J & D sites. Let me know if you have it and, if not, I'll send you a link. I've re-read it several times in recent months and it's still emotional for me -- and I was there:)
I have read somewhere that Dean, Alan Jardine and Dave Marks are appearing in North Myrtle Beach in either May or June. I believe it's a 'free' concert-- probably sponsored by a local merchant's association or Chamber of Commerce. Should be a great show. I believe they combine their bands -- who are ALL super dedicated musicians. Matt Jardine, Alan's oldest son, is a super singer in his own right and toured with the Beach Boys in the late 80's, 90's. He would often sing lead on some of the songs. Nice guy, as is his brother, Adam. Both toured briefly with Alan's "Family and Friends" group, which included Carni and Wendy Wilson, Owen Elliot, Cass' daughter, and my dear friend, Billy Hinche, of "Dino, Desi and Billy' fame. Talk about vocals! There were often seven singers on a number.
At one time they were doing "Add Some Music To Your Day," which Brian now includes in his opening set. A great 'forgotten hit' from 1970. "Sunflower," from which the single was taken, remains one of my all-time BB classic albums. It would have made a fitting follow-up to "Pet Sounds" but coming nearly four years later -- and since the BB's were pretty 'cold' at the time -- and under a new distribution deal with Mo Ostin and Warner-Reprise Records -- radio just never gave the album or single the exposure they deserved.
Among the album's tracks were two of Dennis Wilson's best songs, "Slip On Through" (which kicked off the album) and "Forever," which I believe to be the greatest epitaph to my dear friend and 'brother-in-spirit.' Ironically, this past weekend (early Saturday at 1:30 AM CDT) Turner Classic Movies broadcast "Two Lane Blacktop," which starred James Taylor, Dennis and Warren Oaks. It's become a 'cult' classic over the years.
Have a great week!
Fred Vail
Franklin, TN

Hi Fred!
We ran a link for your VERY moving Jan Berry tribute before but I'm happy to run it again for the benefit of any of our readers who may have missed it the last time around. I had heard that Dean Torrence, Al Jardine and David Marks were doing some shows together last year ... I would LOVE to see all these guys up on one stage. (Even cooler if Wendy and Carnie were participating!!!) But these shows NEVER seem to make it to Chicago for some reason. As you know, "Sunflower" is MY all-time favorite Beach Boys album ... even surpassing "Pet Sounds" in my book. It's too bad "The Boys" had fallen out of favor with both the critics and the fans at this point ... it remains an under-appreciated masterpiece. As for "Two Lane Blacktop", I honestly don't know if I could sit through it again. I remember going to see it when it first came out in theaters and it being just an AWFUL movie experience. I doubt that it's aged any better!!! But since it is making the rounds on the cable channels again, I may have to give it another shot, even if it's just for nostalgia's sake!!! (kk)
Click here: Jan & Dean: Jan Berry Official Website

Kent ...
I have to agree with my friend Fred Vail in respect to Al Jardine.
We played some shows with him and his "All Star Band", and Al was possibly one of the greatest guys I have ever met ... I also saw Al sign over 100 autographs between and after the shows, and I know he loves the fans. Then ... when I recorded his song "Lookin' At Tomorrow" for a Beach Boys tribute CD put out by Endless Summer Quarterly (and eventually our CD, "NOW!"), Al called me at home to tell me how much he liked it. Unfortunately, I wasn't home when he called, but fortunately, my answering machine recorded his message to me ... and I still have that message,transferred from tape to disc.
The Rip Chords Live On Stage (with special guest star Al Jardine) Syracuse, New York
And I must say, Fred Vail is a great guy too!
Here's a photo of Fred and I backstage in Austin Texas ... and us onstage with Al in Syracuse NY. That's Dr. Bob on the left holding a Danelectro Guitar, Richie next to Al, and me playing a Strat (eventually autographed by Al, and now my most prized possession) next to Richie. Also on the stage that day were Matt Jardine, Billy Hinsche, Ed Carter, Bobby Figeroua, Tom Jacob and Richie Canata ... all former Beach Boys touring band members, as well as Jim Fuller and the late Jim Pash of "The Surfaris".
Mitch Schecter / The Rip Chords

Mitch Schecter and Fred Vail, Austin, TX

A few more comments from our readers:

When a music legend leaves us we often find ourselves mourning because of a connection we made with them somewhere along the way. Such was the case for me with Jan Berry of Jan & Dean. I was born in 1965, but there was something so unique and powerful in Jan & Dean music that it captured my attention in the late 1970s when I was watching the made for TV movie, "Deadman's Curve." Within a few weeks time I found myself in record store and picked-up the two-LP Anthology album. This album was more than "a greatest hits package"; it had everything … Sides 1, 2 and 3 were some of Jan & Dean's foot-tapping best. Side 4 was an abridged version of (still) unreleased 'Filet of Soul' album. Jan & Dean had recorded two shows at the Hullabaloo Niteclub, they edited together to be a comedy show with music (not the other way around). So if you own the released 'Filet of Soul' album, guess what? That's not the original LP as envisioned by Jan & Dean; it's Liberty Record's release of material recorded from 'Command Performance' and the music parts from Hullabaloo. Dean Torrence has the masters with all the comedy.
Whether it was the humor, doo-wop, folk, extra-syrupy ballads, surfing music, skateboards … It didn't matter, it was all great. March 26 marked the fifth year since Jan's passing, and 2009 is the 50th year anniversary of Jan & Dean. There are those who say that Jan & Dean are vastly overlooked, I say there are crazy. There isn't a moment in my life that I don't think about Jan Berry and his unmistakable studio presence, and I simply don't buy into the "overlooked legacy" stuff. If you're a Jan & Dean fan you know what they mean to you. If you're not, then cruise on over to:, page down. There's a great DVD I put together with Dean at his house. Watch the promo trailers (there's two). It's an incredibly insightful interview. In the meantime, put on Jan Berry's pet project, 'Pop Symphony,' then play the singles collection from Collector's Choice, then listen to the team's best LP, 'Drag City.'
In Music-
David M Beard / Endless Summer Quarterly

To the casual fan, Jan Berry rode Brian Wilson's and the Beach Boys' coattails. To the average fan, Jan & Dean's (Jan Berry and Dean Torrence) career began with Surf City; a gift from Brian, at that. To the typical oldies listener, Jan co-wrote a few surf and street songs that became hits only because they pounced on the wave created by the Beach Boys. If that was the extent of Jan's accomplishments, even then, Jan Berry has a special place in the history of 60's rock and roll. But the legacy of Jan Berry is so much more:
He rode the top 40 charts while pursuing a medical degree; he was one intelligent (and probably workaholic) guy
Jan & Dean's pre-Surf City hits were as lasting as just about any of that era (Heart and Soul, Linda, Jennie Lee)
Brian Wilson has credited Jan's studio production style as having a strong influence on him
Jan (and Dean, as well) recognized the power of humor in music; their Batman album should be considered a classic! Their rejected Filet of Sole would have set the standard for rock music-pop humor.
Though he was a dictator in the studio, Jan successfully teamed with some of the best West Coast writers and studio musicians and vocalists of that day (Brian Wilson, P.F. Sloan, Roger Christian, Hal Blaine)
Jan could see around corners; as surf music waned, he produced new songs with a folk feel (Folk City album), a serious romantic tone (You Really Know How to Hurt a Guy), a pop symphony version of their hits, and a live concert performance No wonder Jan & Dean were chosen to sing the teenage anthem, hailing the arrival of rock and roll into the mainstream of American culture. Forty five years later, it still rings loud and clear: Here they come from all over the world ... You better go spread the word!

Phil Miglioratti /