Author Topic: What If ?  (Read 12829 times)

sunny13

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Re: What If ?
« Reply #15 on: August 05, 2014, 03:52:15 PM »
Well, I like Universal Coward and when it comes to the Pop Symphony, that's a master piece.  Jan liked to explore in different directions and I don't see anything wrong with that.  Doing always the same thing can get boring.  If you look at the Beach Boys.  Some of the band members wanted to do something different,  Dennis Wilson and even his brother Carl Wilson, both tried solo careers,  and the music was completely away from the Beach Surf music. 

Charles

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Re: What If ?
« Reply #16 on: August 05, 2014, 09:25:10 PM »
Jan was a talented guy who knew how to make the most of fads - at least up to 1964. I'm pretty sure he didn't harbor any deep interest in surfing, skateboarding or drag racing, but  he knew enough about them to create great songs to celebrate what were then current interests. Right now I'm spinning the Folk 'n Roll album, and while I enjoy spending time with Jan and Dean, I can see why it's not an album that had much attention either then or now. Jan cared less about folk music than he did about previous fads. Yes, "dirty hippie" songs like "Turn, Turn, Turn" were not their forte, and "Folk City" was an amusing turn back of the clock. The album reached #145 in the US.

Can you imagine a 1970's era album by Jan that would have found an audience? I just gave "Mother Earth" a listen, and thought it sounded pretty good. I would have bought Jan's efforts in the 70's, but who else would have? My prediction is that, if Jan had stayed with music, by the 1970's he would have been writing jingles for commercials. More likely he would have ventured into medicine.

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Re: What If ?
« Reply #17 on: August 05, 2014, 10:49:16 PM »
Jan was a talented guy who knew how to make the most of fads - at least up to 1964. I'm pretty sure he didn't harbor any deep interest in surfing, skateboarding or drag racing

Not true. In the teen rags published in 1960 -- before surf music existed -- Jan and Dean both claimed surfing and hanging out at the beach as a favorite sport and pastime. In Dean's case, he was citing drag races publicly before the Beach Boys even existed.

Jan Berry owned a brand new Corvette in 1958. With "Gas Money," Jan & Arnie did a car song years before the Beach Boys existed . . . just as Chuck Berry did cars songs before Jan & Arnie.

In 1960, the picture sleeve for "We Go Together" showed Jan & Dean at the beach. In the October 1960 issue of Movie Teen Illustrated, the cover image and article showed them on the beach in Malibu.

These facts did not go unnoticed by the Beach Boys. Just ask Mike Love and Al Jardine.

A lot of people don't like "The Universal Coward" . . . which is fine, it doesn't matter. It was counter-satire in 1965. There's no accounting for personal taste (or politics). But the fact remains that "The Ballad of the Green Berets" (about soldiers fighting and dying in Vietnam) was #1 on the Billboard charts for a whopping FIVE straight weeks in 1966.


BlackSea

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Re: What If ?
« Reply #18 on: August 06, 2014, 11:08:21 AM »
As much as I respect their music, I think they'd shot their bolt by 1964. My hat goes off to them for keeping it going as long as they did. I got into their music around 1980, and I remember talking to a friend's dad about Jan and Dean, and he said Universal Coward turned him off their music in a big way. Can you imagine touring California in the 60's and having Universal Coward in your set? For me, that and Pop Symphony demonstrate that Jan had lost touch with popular culture.
Charles if you have a look at the top 40 charts from 66 to 70 you'll find that there was a great deal of pure pop songs on the charts.There was room for Jan and Dean and I think they would have continued on until the end of the decade with ease. They were still in the top 40 right after Jans accident.
Remember they had a tv show that had been picked up and it was a high budget affair not some Saturday morning kids tv show.Have a look at the credits next time you watch the pilot. Jan and Dean were active guys they could both jugle university studies and the music business and this would have continued for both Jan and Dean.
BlackSea

Charles

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Re: What If ?
« Reply #19 on: August 06, 2014, 02:34:09 PM »
I've been enjoying this thread, hearing people's perspectives on my favourite music duo. It could be that Jan and Dean were at the height of their overall popularity when Jan had the accident, but my take is that, from a peak in 63-64, they were cruising out of the top 40. "I Found a Girl", from 1965, is a sweet song, but who remembers it?

Where did Jan's strengths lie? I don't think he was a particularly gifted vocalist or song writer. He was a talented arranger, composer, and producer, and he might have gone on to work with other groups. The kicker here is that I suspect Jan wasn't an easy guy to work with, and that many recording artists wouldn't take kindly to a "my way or the highway" approach. He was the kind of guy that did things his way.....Universal Coward/Pop Symphonies....and as the public stopped buying, he'd have to make a choice. I could see him in the 70's working as some manner of respected medical specialist.

I wonder how things would have gone at Kittyhawk if he and Jan hadn't start touring again. I was just looking online at an impressive collection of his album covers.

jdman

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Re: What If ?
« Reply #20 on: August 06, 2014, 04:27:11 PM »
Charles, there is no question that the hits were not going top 10 anymore, but the quality of work was actually just as good or better. Pop Symphony was innovative and strong. It didn't sell, but that doesn't mean it wasn't a great project. You Really Know How, I Found a Girl, I Can't wait to Love You, Batman, and It's a Shame to Say Goodbye were some of Jan's best productions.  I don't know what the late 60's would have meant for Jan & Dean, but Jan was still a very viable songwriter, producer and arranger in 65-66.
It's easy to undermine Jan's projects during that period because he lost respect when the music changed. Brian Wilson gets well deserved respect for everything he touched-but the late 60's were rough on him as well commercially. In fact, I don't think Smile would have sold well if it was finished. Everyone is making a big deal out of it, but there is only a couple of songs on that album that are enjoyable and radio worthy. But at least Brian went outside of his normal group of writers and found a lyricist that was more into the new scene. Maybe Jan would've done the same.

ripplewine

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Re: What If ?
« Reply #21 on: August 06, 2014, 07:35:22 PM »
Good points, Jdman.  Apart from Good Vibrations and Heroes & Villains, I don't hear anything on Smile that DJs would have played, or that would have drawn the record-buying public away from the likes of Sgt. Pepper or albums by the Doors, the Stones, or the Turtles.  It was just too much of a departure from the mainstream.  I still like Smile, but I think there's a good chance it would have ended up like Pop Symphony did had Brian finished it.

Perhaps a small part of the reason for Jan & Dean's waning chart performance in '65-'66 is the fact that they were with Liberty, who had a rough time competing with more powerful labels like Capitol--Liberty didn't seem to have as much money or the talented people to devote to promoting their artists.  I think this may have compounded Jan & Dean's problems after the decline of surf/hot rod music around 1965.  But I think it's true that the material Jan & Dean were turning out during this period, good and well-produced though it was, just didn't appeal to the public as much as what they'd done in '63-'64. 

Although I think Pop Symphony is a brilliant album, I tend to side with the Liberty execs on this one.  Jan should have devoted his energy (and George Tipton's) to cranking out more new songs, like Brian Wilson and everyone else was doing, rather than repeating his earlier material in symphonic form.  I'd have saved Pop Symphony for later, after starting my own label, had I been in Jan's place. 

In the late '60s, had it not been for the accident, finding a lyricist comparable to Asher or Van Dyke Parks may have been Jan's best bet.  And working with an outside lyricist would have made it necessary for him to scale back his "my way or the highway" stance--but he'd done that before, when working with Brian Wilson.  I get the impression that Jan could be diplomatic when he needed to be.
« Last Edit: August 08, 2014, 06:44:45 AM by ripplewine »

2dean2

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Re: What If ?
« Reply #22 on: August 07, 2014, 11:30:50 AM »
Ok first off . P S was 'nt done to be comercially viable . it  was to teach young people about music . Instead of 100 yr old songs you have recent hit's . Done like 100 yr old songs. Every artist has a down time Jan's train wreck and TV pilot was a big factor in theirs. I think Jan & Dean would've done well as they would've gone with the flow listen to the later stuff . He was changing their sound to the times as he did with DOO WOP and the "Surf Falsetto " stuff.

ripplewine

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Re: What If ?
« Reply #23 on: August 07, 2014, 06:30:28 PM »
I totally understand that; it's one of the things that makes Pop Symphony brilliant--giving young students material that they could better relate to, as well as showing critics that, in Jan's words, "they are making music like they used to."  Plus, all of the tracks sound terrific, with each one done in a different musical style.  But at the same time, I can see why Liberty was unhappy about it; record companies exist for one reason only:  to make money by selling records.  They signed Jan & Dean in the first place to do just that.  All of a sudden here they were, spending a huge amount of Liberty's money making a record that probably everyone knew was going to end up being a tax write-off.  Meanwhile, across town, the Beach Boys (and the Beatles, too) were raking in the dough with new singles and albums for Capitol, their competitors!  It's probably one of the reasons that Liberty were hostile to some of Jan & Dean's later projects, such as Filet of Soul and Jan's version of Norwegian Wood.

I definitely agree that Jan demonstrated an ability to change with the times--there's a good chance they'd have made it through the Sixties OK; as far as I know they never had any personal problems like LSD use that would have hampered their abilities.  And even Buddy Holly suffered a slump in popularity, toward the end of his career.
« Last Edit: August 08, 2014, 06:58:47 AM by ripplewine »

Bitman

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Re: What If ?
« Reply #24 on: August 07, 2014, 07:47:12 PM »
One cannot underestimate the impact of having a weekly TV series as J&D were going to have in the fall of '66. While their sales had been slumping, they would've been no doubt inundated with quality material from top songwriters as the Monkees were.  It's not unreasonable to think J&D would've been even bigger than they were in their peak years.

ripplewine

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Re: What If ?
« Reply #25 on: August 07, 2014, 08:03:22 PM »
That's a very good point.  Plus, Jan & Dean, unlike the Monkees, were already an established act with a lot of experience in the business.  A regular TV series would have served as excellent promotion for their songs, too.

Charles

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Re: What If ?
« Reply #26 on: August 07, 2014, 09:40:15 PM »
I wish I could talk with people who were around Jan at that time, to hear more about where he planned to head. I know he had done some fence sitting, trying to decide whether to stick with the music or to continue with medicine.

With the music, was he planning on further developing his abilities in the studio, or did he just want to make as much loot as possible? Pop Symphonies, among other things, suggests that it wasn't all about making money.

Has Dean said anything about the direction they planned to head in? Was he wanting to be more involved?

jdman

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Re: What If ?
« Reply #27 on: August 08, 2014, 04:40:55 AM »
I wish I could talk with people who were around Jan at that time, to hear more about where he planned to head. I know he had done some fence sitting, trying to decide whether to stick with the music or to continue with medicine.

With the music, was he planning on further developing his abilities in the studio, or did he just want to make as much loot as possible? Pop Symphonies, among other things, suggests that it wasn't all about making money.

Has Dean said anything about the direction they planned to head in? Was he wanting to be more involved?

That's some good questions Charles. On one hand, you have the TV show which is a goofy funny program. On the other hand, Jan was in the studio producing the backing track for "Girl, you're blowing my mind" which is an awesome piece of work. It's really hard to say which direction Jan & Dean would have gone.

ripplewine

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Re: What If ?
« Reply #28 on: August 08, 2014, 07:23:07 AM »
"Girl You're Blowing My Mind" is a fantastic track indeed--definitely a step in the right direction musically for the duo.  I've always wondered what songs like this one and "Louisiana Man" would have sounded like with Jan & Dean's vocals, had it not been for the accident. 

Perhaps J & D might have decided to go in both directions as they'd done in '63-'64--with a mixture of great music and comedy.  Based on what we hear in Pop Symphony, it seems possible that Jan could also have gotten into writing movie scores--with his skill set, I think he could have flourished there, too.  Much of Jan's classical arrangement of "Drag City" sounds as if it had been plucked right out of an action/drama film.  And then there was medicine, like Charles said.  Jan may have been trying to decide what to do himself, with so many options before him.

Dean once said in an interview about the movie "Deadman's Curve" that a conversation between them about career direction was not far off at the time of Jan's accident.

2dean2

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Re: What If ?
« Reply #29 on: August 09, 2014, 10:56:57 AM »
 As far as the Car song things go . Dean was in Hot Rod magazine before Jan & Dean.
A car song was the first Rock and Roll song Rocket 88 by Ike Turner though I understand he did not get credit. So the BB's were way behind the curve.
The "California Sound " created by Jan could've been about anything . Girls , Surfing , Cars , Skateboards were just  few.