Jan Berry, one half of the mid-sixties pop duo “Jan and Dean” (Torrence) possessed a very precious and rich talent for arranging pop tunes and producing records, a fact that too often has been overlooked, as the band was known for its surf sound and maybe songs about teenage activities in the first place.
Their competitors in this market were Brian Wilson’s Beach Boys (who wrote a small foreword of this edition). What most people may not be aware of, is that Jan Berry (1941 – 2004) already could look back on a history of successful hits before the Beach Boys – formed in 1961 – even recorded their first album.
By the late 1950s Berry wrote songs that changed the American music scene and started what was later named the “West Coast Sound.” Jan & Dean’s tunes scored 16 Top-40 hits and altogether 26 Top-100 national chart records; they also published five Top-40 albums. They did this as part-time musicians while attending college.
Another often forgotten fact is that Berry would easily overcome the limits of the 45 single and start out into concept albums; unfortunately, the band’s major record labels failed to release those back then (the LPs finally came out some 30 years later in their final versions.) In 1966, Berry had a near-fatal car accident where he suffered heavy brain injuries that for a long time stopped his career in music.
This book covers Jan’s and the duo’s history from 1958 – 1969 on an almost daily basis, and several thousand hours of research must have gone into this undertaking. Many comments, memories, letters and personal anecdotes of Berry’s friends and family add up to a very detailed portrait of this important musician.
However, this book is a “monster.” On 464 big 11” pages, we get tons of information, completed by almost 170 pictures, some of them rare. Unless you are a dedicated fan, starting such a huge project would be ridiculous. These 2,5 (!) pounds of content come at a price, but it is a good investment; the history of surf music and the California sound just got updated by Moore.
Mark A. Moore is a Raleigh, North Carolina based freelance editor, writer, historian, and cartographer and has written many texts on the Jan & Dean history, and edited liner notes and biographical pieces.
Review by Dr. A. Ebert © 2017
Mark A. Moore. The Jan & Dean Record. A Chronology of Studio Sessions, Live Performances and Chart Positions. Foreword by Brian Wilson. McFarland, 2016, 464 p.