It was 60 degrees at my home in North Carolina today and where am I you ask! I am in Maine where the wind is blowing, the thermometer never got above 35, and the snow banks are about six feet high. What better time than to put some Jan & Dean on the old stereo system.
Jan Berry and Dean Torrence, and early during their career Arnie Ginsburg, performed together as high school students. They would release a series of hit singles, 1958-1961, for a number of labels. Songs such as “Jennie Lee” (#8), “Baby Talk (#10), and “Heart and Soul” (#25) may not have been essential to the development of 1950’s rock ‘n’ roll, but were enjoyable lightweight pop.
During 1962, they switched to the Liberty label, and for the next five years produced a series of surf and car singles that were only topped by The Beach Boys for quality and commercial success. Jan Berry developed into one of the more capable producers of mid-1960’s pop. He was able to layer and multi-track his and Dean’s voices into a virtual choir of sound.
Their first two singles for Liberty did not make the top fifty but by the time “Linda” was released, February 23, 1963, Jan Berry had the formula for a hit single down pat. “Linda” would become a top thirty hit single and set them on the path to fame and fortune.
They would quickly assemble an album to support their hit. Jan & Dean Take Linda Surfin’ was quickly released and became their first album to reach the Billboard Magazine Pop Album Chart climbing to number 71.
As with most of Jan & Dean’s studio albums, it is a spotty affair. They took their hit and surrounded it with a number of popular songs of the day. If you want to hear them at their best, stick to their Greatest Hits compilations. Still, the album is fun and a nice reminder of a by-gone era.
The title song is by far the best as the layered harmonies remain excellent nearly 50 years later. Two Beach Boys songs, “Surfin’” and “Surfin’ Safari” are included and they mark the beginning of a long and productive relationship with Brian Wilson. He would provide backing vocals on the two tracks.
The worst track is a cover of The Cascades hit, “Rhythm Of The Rain,” although I’m not sure if Jan Berry was serious or not. “Walk Like A Man” was an early use of a falsetto which would become an important part of their sound. Their performance did not equal The Four Seasons hit version. “The Gypsy Cried” suffers from the same problem.
The best of the cover songs are “My Foolish Heart” and “When I Learn To Cry,” on which they do a credible Everly Brothers interpretation.
Jan & Dean Take Linda Surfin’ is a product of its time, as many artists in the pre-Beatles era would quickly paste together albums to cash in on hit singles. It remains an album only as a reminder of summer on a winter night.