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Music Review: Jan & Dean – The Complete Liberty Singles

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Even though they predated them, the vocal duo of Jan and Dean became associated with The Beach Boys and the vocal surf music craze of the early sixties. William Jan Berry and Dean Ormsby Torrence got their start in the late fifties in Los Angeles when they began singing together after football practice. By 1958 they recorded their first single “Jennie Lee” which made it to number 8 on the Billboard charts.

Beginning in 1962 they started recording for the Liberty label with the song “A Sunday Kind of Love.” Over the course of the next four years they scored 21 singles under Liberty including sixteen top 40 hits; four of which made it to the top 10, and their “Surf City” which hit number 1.

The Complete Liberty Singles is a collection of these hits as recorded for the Liberty label including “Surf City,” “Drag City,” “The Little Old Lady from Pasadena,” and the eerily precognitive “Dead Man’s Curve.”

The collection is a view into Jan And Dean’s commercial peak. It was during this time that the duo hosted and performed at the T.A.M.I Show, an historic concert film directed by Steve Binder and featuring acts such as The Rolling Stones, Chuck Berry, James Brown, The Supremes, The Beach Boys, and others.

Unlike most of their contemporaries, Jan and Dean were part time musicians. They were also college students that were performing on the side. Dean was in advertising and design and Jan was working his way through medical school.

On April 12, 1966, Jan Berry received severe head injuries and brain damage while driving his Corvette just a short distance from Dead Man’s Curve. He was on his way to a business meeting when he crashed into a parked truck on Whittier Drive in Beverly Hills. Berry returned to the studio one year later, but it was really the end for Jan and Dean. Jan Berry died on March 26, 2004.

Listening to The Complete Liberty Singles makes me imagine what it must have been like to be a teenager growing up in the early sixties — listening to the sounds of the beach, street racing, as well as experiencing the feel of more innocent times. A lot of the reason Jan and Dean’s music sounded so good was because of the sidemen who played on the songs. These included the likes of Hal Blaine, Glen Campbell, Joe Osborne, Leon Russell, and others. It was Jan who hand picked many of these guys also known as “The Wrecking Crew.”

The songs themselves are in their original format as monaural recordings. The 20 page liner notes were written by Jan & Dean authorities Ed Osborne and David Beard, along with comments from others who were on the scene. It is in full color and contains pictures and vintage album covers.

If you are looking for a blast from the past, or want to recreate that summertime feel of California beaches, racing, skateboarding, and girls, girls, girls, then you should get Jan & Dean: The Complete Liberty Singles.

Track listing:

1. A Sunday Kind Of Love
2. Poor Little Puppet
3. Tennessee
4. Your Heart Has Changed Its Mind
5. My Favorite Dream
6. Who Put The Bomp
7. Frosty The Snowman
8. She’s Still Talking Baby Talk
9. Linda
10. When I Learn How To Cry
11. Surf City
12. She’s My Summer Girl
13. Honolulu Lulu
14. Someday (You’ll Go Walking By)
15. Drag City
16. Schlock Rod (Part 1)

17. Dead Man’s Curve
18. The New Girl In School
19. The Little Old Lady (From Pasadena)
20. My Mighty G.T.O.
21. Ride The Wild Surf
22. The Anaheim, Azusa And Cucamonga Sewing Circle, Book Review And Timing Association
23. Sidewalk Surfin’
24. When It’s Over
25. (Here They Come) From All Over The World
26. Freeway Flyer
27. You Really Know How To Hurt A Guy
28. It’s As Easy As 1, 2, 3
29. It’s A Shame To Say Goodbye
30. The Submarine Races
31. I Found A Girl
32. A Beginning From An End
33. Folk City
34. Norwegian Wood
35. Batman
36. Bucket ‘T’
37. Popsicle
38. Fiddle Around
39. Surfer’s Dream
40. School Day (Ring! Ring! Goes The Bell)
41. The Universal Coward
42. Can’t Wait To Love You

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About T. Michael Testi

Photographer, writer, software engineer, educator, and maker of fine images.