Listen: Dead Man’s Curve / Jan & Dean JanDeanDead.mp3
Right after my little kid fascination with The McGuire Sisters, I moved on to The Ronettes and The Shangri-Las. This process seemed an eternity, but was actually only a year or two span. No sooner had the girl groups caught my ear, than surf took hold. Even though we lived in upstate New York, our favorite sport was surfing. At least that’s what we all agreed. I’m not a deeply knowledgeable collector of surf, but I do love a lot of the big hits. Summertime poured out of our transistor radios when any of the many surf singles were played, regardless of the season. Most friends were drawn to The Beach Boys, and indeed ‘Surfin USA’ and ‘Don’t Worry Baby’ still tingle like a first listen every play. But Jan & Dean for me were most consistent. These two singles, over time, have risen to the top. No secret that Brian Wilson co-wrote many of their hits, and that Jan was very involved in Beach Boys recordings too. It must have been an incredible time in LA.
‘Dead Man’s Curve’ is particularly eerie, given the near fatal crash two years after it’s release suffered by Jan Berry very close to the actual dead man’s curve, on Whittier Drive and Sunset Blvd. I have often driven past there, late at night, on my way back from John’s place just the other side of Bel Air, and would creep myself out by blasting this on the ipod. I know the route that the lyrics describe by heart. The fantasy of drag racing along Sunset, past Doheny and onward to the curve in a bright red Corvette is irresistible. Cheap thrills for a non resident basically.
Still all the history of LA and Hollywood never ceases to attract my morbid side. Years ago, Denise Zoom drove Joey and I to where the Tate murders happened. We were pretty buzzed, it was late and feeling adventurous. Halfway up the drive we both started shouting and screaming for her to stop – and back up. Never did make it all the way to the top. We were brave enough to drive past the garage where Sal Mineo was stabbed later that night though.
Listen: Ride The Wild Surf / Jan & Dean JanDeanRideWild.mp3
Even ‘Ride The Wild Surf’ has a spine chiller element to it. Never could place what. The melody? The strings? The power of the ocean? They all make for an anthemic song not often given it’s dues anymore.