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When We Get To Surf City
When he first went to a modern Jan and Dean concert and heard these old guys singing "I've got it bad for the new girl in school" he expected audience wd be at least a little bit sceptical; that the response wd be a bit ironic. But it wasn't - the audience was buying it completely. All the way back to the last row people were out of their seats and singing along, word for word.
And that was the second surprise - kids who weren't even born when the songs were hits were dancing and screaming out the words. (And when he asked kids how come they cared about these songs and knew the words, they told him they'd grown up hearing them on parent's car radios, and having to listen to parent's obvious love for the songs.)
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Dean talking about how used to play touch football on weekends and Elvis wd play with them.(At that stage in early 60's Jan and Dean were big stars and Elvis was just making his way back after being in the army). Dean said they wd have a pickup team going and Dean wd tell a new guy "OK on this next play you guard Presley," and the kid wd look up and notice for the first time who the receiver on the other team was. "And he wd just stare as Elvis ran past him for a pass."
Greene went to interview the group and they invited him to come to the show, he went onstage and sang backup on a song, then they suggested he come to the next show, in another city, and from there he just kept moving with them.
For the last 15 years he feels he's been living inside a jukebox - "a jukebox programmed with songs I never tire of hearing. It's as if the names on the little labels beneath the unseen jukebox's glass cover - the names of the men and women who once sang the 45 rpm rock-and-roll singles that roused a drowsy nation, that lit it up and brought it to its feet - have come to walking, talking life."
Dion. Martha and the Vandellas. The Everly Brothers. Jerry Lee Lewis. James Brown. Lesley Gore. Freddy Cannon. he Kingsmen. Brian Hyland. The Drifters. Jay and the Americans. Chubby Checker. Lou Christie. The Ventures. The Coasters. Gary U.S. Bonds. The Monkees. Ronnie Specter. The Grass Roots. Fabian....
So it has been for me, a time of living inside that invisible jukebox, with my favourite songs playing full blast - except that somehow, against all the odds, one of the voices coming from the jukebox is mine.
I tried to explain it to my younger brother. He's a football fan. I asked him what he wd do if he was invited to play for (insert yr favourite team here). He said he wd drop everything, of course. I told him that he knew why I was doing this.
Jan had to relearn his songs again before every show. (Had his own personal Dead Man's Curve incident when totalled his Corvette two years after writing the song. They were at height of their fame; he was in a coma for weeks, and never fully recovered.)
Author located a tape of 1964 film The T.A.M.I. Show , a live concert film which had Rolling Stones, Chuck Berry, Beach Boys, James Brown, The Supremes, Marvin Gaye, Gerry and the Pacemakers, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, and Billy J Kramer and the Dakotas. Jan and Dean were both performers and comperes.
"The first time I viewed the tape, it was almost painful. Jan was so handsome - tall, rangy, athletic, self-confident in the manner of a star quarterback - that his presence blasted everyone else off the screen. The rest of them were rock stars; Jan was a movie star. The Rolling Stones in particular were brilliant in the concert; they were young and brand new, just starting to make their way in the business ... I don't think I have ever seen a performance quite as riveting and raw. But of all the performers, Jan was the one person who stood out, a dweller on a separate stratum from the rest."
Describes a huge grandstand at a county fair where Little Eva was singing "The Loco-motion" as opening act. "Little Eva wasn't so little any more, but she was magnificent, with a throbbing, throaty voice." Lou Christie was also on the bill and he milked his encores shamelessly (and Jan and Dean ran short of time bc of a curfew)" I asked the promoter straight out 'Lou Christie gets to stretch "Never My Fucking Love" and Jan and Dean don't get an encore?"
Sense of detachment watching people dance - observing their lives - so many stereotypes, like the pregnant young girls with their mother and father, each of them looking sad and glum, as if realising that the concert is not going to cheer them up as they hoped.
Why are we here? moments. Jan and Dean had recorded Surf City more than 30 years earlier, a song that lasted 2 minutes and 41 seconds, but it had endured far longer than that. And that is why we are here, on this road, going to this place.
Greene on stage in an empty stadium by himself for few minutes before rest of band arrived for sound check, so he launched into a full-bore version of the Kingsmen's hit Louie Louie, then turning around and seeing the Kingsmen themselves, who were also playing that night, watching him from the wings "to say they were watching me with some amusement wd be an understatement."
Describes a show at Mile High Stadium in front of 55,000 people where J and D played short set then watched Mamas and Papas and America play theirs. Then a police-escorted Beach Boys arrive. "The Beach Boys were in middle age of course and because of that it was easy to push aside, if only for a moment, just how important, just how new and fresh they had been when every succeeding single they recorded was more urgent than breaking news to millions of kids who counted on them to provide the serial soundtrack of their lives."
Someone noticed all the Beach Boys songs that started with word "Well' - Little Deuce Coupe "Well I'm not braggin' babe so don't put me down ...", California Girls "Well East Coast girls are hip. I really dig those styles they wear...", Don't Worry Baby "Well it's been building up inside of me for oh I don't know how long....", Fun, Fun,Fun "Well she got her daddy's car and she cruised to the hamburger stand now...", Help Me Rhonda "Well since she put me down I've been out doin' in my head...."
One of the guys who'd been playing backup for Jan and Dean was now in Beach Boys band. When they came to Chicago, he arranged for author to sing one song out in front of the BB. He sang Little Honda when BB came out for their encore. And when he got home he called up his old school friend, who had bought BB records with him, and who now lived in Ohio, and gave him a minute-by-minute account of the evening. "Serious question Jack. What would you have said if in 1964 I had told you that one day I would sing lead with the Beach Boys?" He paused and gave me a serious answer: "I would have believed you more if you had said you were going to be President of the United States." President wouldn't have been as good. Given a choice, neither of us would have picked being President.
Then Jan Berry died. (He never fully recovered from the effects of his Dead Man's Curve accident). Posed a semantic problem for the group - The Who cd keep touring with just 2 of the 4 originals. The Drifters cd just replace anyone who left; they still were The Drifters. But Den cdn't just hire another jan. Eventually they solved the problem by reforming as the Surf City Allstars.
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