Author Topic: Surf City-where does it rank?  (Read 10593 times)

jdman

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Surf City-where does it rank?
« on: July 12, 2013, 06:17:03 AM »
I read one of Mark's comments on Facebook. He said that Surf City is not even close to being one of Jan's best productions. While I agree that Jan had several productions that were better, I wouldn't say that Surf City doesn't even come close. The backing track is very powerful. The vocals, while not awesome, were overdubbed and stacked until it sounded really cool. I think Surf City was a great production! Certainly better than anything Brian could have done in March of 1963. Now, I would rank DMC, Anaheim Asusa, Little Old Lady, Ride the Wild Surf, YRKHtHAG, and I Found a Girl ahead of Surf City. But not by a whole lot.
Opinions??

Mark A. Moore

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Re: Surf City-where does it rank?
« Reply #1 on: July 12, 2013, 04:24:48 PM »

I don't put "Surf City" near the top because it was the first of Jan's signature productions ("Linda" was really thin by comparison), and everything that followed was better . . . beginning with "Honolulu Lulu."
 
That follow-up -- with the same singers plus Dean (and no Brian) -- was superior vocally. And have you ever heard the instrumental track for Lulu without any vocals at all? Tons of great stuff happening there.
 
With "Surf City," the vocal blend shows Jan hitting his stride, but not quite there.
 
And as awesome as the instrumental track is, there is a bass-line mistake that was left in, which is pretty much covered by the vocals . . . but it's there.

2dean2

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Re: Surf City-where does it rank?
« Reply #2 on: July 12, 2013, 08:44:25 PM »
Wow that is an interesting ? . I never could decide what I liked better SC or DMC.
The horn on DMC make it a bigger sound. IM0 DMC has one of Rocks if not Music's greatest intro's
Right up there with JBG By C Berry. SC TG4EB is also a great hook.
I think Jan was right up there with Brian and Phil . He just does not have the body of work . This due to Jan doing it part time and B&P doing it full. Not to mention the accident . The other more serious IMO is the American Shepoles who for some reason when hearing X is/was a great ______.
They believe it and give no credit to anyone else of the era . I also wonder if the songs were more main stream , You know not about a LULU or an Old Lady drag racing..... If Jan would be taken more seriously as a producer.
It might be an interesting project to take the original tracks and rewrite the lyrics .
Of course you would want them to be 60'S and not 2000 type.

jdman

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Re: Surf City-where does it rank?
« Reply #3 on: July 12, 2013, 09:42:03 PM »
Yes, I hear that a lot that Jan would be taken more seriously if the subject matter was more serious. Kind of what Brian did with Parks writing serious lyrics to Brian's music.

Mark, I agree. I appreciate the answer. Lulu was a great production. Brian himself was very impressed by the backing track.
If Surf City is not even close to Jan's best, He was pretty damn good!!!

woodshedstudio

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Re: Surf City-where does it rank?
« Reply #4 on: July 13, 2013, 05:03:55 AM »
Ahem, where can I hear the Lulu track without vocals?? I do have a few CDs with instrumental tracks but I don't believe I ever heard the Lulu track.

Bitman

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Re: Surf City-where does it rank?
« Reply #5 on: August 21, 2013, 09:38:18 PM »
The great unanswered question remains...if Surf City did indeed have two girls for every boy, then why, pray tell, on the 45 picture sleeve for Surf City there are two boys (Jan & Dean) and one girl (Jill Gibson)?

Mark A. Moore

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Re: Surf City-where does it rank?
« Reply #6 on: August 21, 2013, 09:52:31 PM »
The great unanswered question remains...if Surf City did indeed have two girls for every boy, then why, pray tell, on the 45 picture sleeve for Surf City there are two boys (Jan & Dean) and one girl (Jill Gibson)?

Haha! . . . Well, in 1960, Jan & Dean appeared on a magazine cover, on a beach closely surrounded by four young girls . . . so it had already happened three years earlier. A perfect precursor to the "Two Girls" theme.

The blonde model on the "Surf City" picture sleeve is not Jill Gibson. And that same girl had appeared on the "Linda" album cover a few months earlier.

Salzburg Surf Scene

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Re: Surf City-where does it rank?
« Reply #7 on: August 28, 2013, 12:31:34 PM »
The great unanswered question remains...if Surf City did indeed have two girls for every boy, then why, pray tell, on the 45 picture sleeve for Surf City there are two boys (Jan & Dean) and one girl (Jill Gibson)?

The answer is easy - remember the lyrics: "Gonna go to Surf City" and "When I get to Surf City". The song is all in the future tense. So they are GOING to have 2 girls each! Indeed, the frustration at having to share just the one girl (who is Linda, obviously, who they took surfin' earlier) probably lies behind the motivation to get to Surf City...

Actually, on a more serious point - I think this is the very genius that lies behind the song. Its all about aspiration. The lure of Surf City - and surf music in general - is the aspiration which anyone, no matter where they are, can relate to. Surf City remains an idea, a utopian dream, and this is its power. Lyrically, the song is quite brilliant - on a surface level it epitomises the lure of surf culture. But it works on a much deeper level. Okay, I admit I spend far too much time thinking (and I mean REALLY thinking) about surf music - Surf City is both the most powerful expression of pop surf culture and the aspirations of a generation, but also carries the tacit realisation that this dream can never be - it is all in the future, an impossibly beautiful one.

So, where does Surf City rank? I agree with Mark that production wise, it doesn't compare with some of Jan's later work. But it is the very height of pop surf culture. The fact it sounds quite raw and ready compared to Jan's later productions adds to the appeal - it has the raw garagey feel which is a hallmark of surf music. The likes of Surfin USA (a song which, apart form being a Chuck Berry rip off, is lyrically gibberish) do not compare. I think the only surf songs which surpass it are a few which J&D would do later on - Surfin' Wild. Waimea Bay etc. And a few songs by other artists who were heavily J&D influenced (The Ripchords, Bobby Fuller etc). 

Salzburg Surf Scene

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Re: Surf City-where does it rank?
« Reply #8 on: August 28, 2013, 01:09:46 PM »
Yes, I hear that a lot that Jan would be taken more seriously if the subject matter was more serious.

I know what you mean - people will say this. Of course, I reckon they're missing the point. The subject matter was integral to the sound. Surf music is a form of garage music (or are garage and punk just offshoots of surf?) and the lyrical content is crucial. I have been thinking of writing a piece about surf music for a while, trying to define - and defend it. The general dismissal of the genre is based on various things, mostly ignorance and the assumption that the Beach Boys were the genre. Much as I love the BBs, I really don't consider their early stuff to be "surf" music as I understand it - or at least, I reckon its very different. Part of it is vocal -  I think Brian's voice was too pure, too spiritual; and Mike's voice too easy, too smooth. For me a hallmark of surf is the garagey rawness, which means singers need an edge and an element of angst  to the voice. Jan had it, as did Dean; as did P.F Sloan, Bobby Fuller, Ron Wilson (of the Surfaris), and Bruce Johnston (his surf stuff was before he joined the BBs, and by then they'd moved on to other things). The few times the BBs did get that element was when Dennis sang lead (Surfer's Rule, This Car of Mine).

The general assumption that surf music is meaningless good time/fun music has cursed the genre ever since. I for one don't believe it was in any way meaningless - surf music as a genre was as philosophically complex as anything the folk, hippie and psychedelic genres would do later on. The thing is - and perhaps the problem - is the surf in general, and J&D in particular, were so deeply ironic that far too many people missed the underlying sophistication. The hippie protest songs, on the other hand, were utterly lacking in irony and took themselves with an absurd seriousness (a feature Jan parodied in the Universal Coward). I suspect that the likes of Jan enjoyed playing with his listeners. People ever since have missed the point.

Even worse, these assumptions have meant that surf has been associated with the awful "sunshine pop" of the late 60s. But the true heirs of surf are punk and garage - from The Ramones to the Barracudas (a band I consider the truest heirs of J&D -  I'm also thinking of writing a piece on them!).

I know Jan once remarked that there was no such thing as surf music, just the different styles of singers/bands. But he could say this because surf music was fundamentally his sound. If others did songs about surfing before J&D, they did it with a heavy reliance on the J&D style, especially Jan's bass lines and Dean's falsettoes.

Anyways, my musings on surf probably need a lot more refining, but I still reckon I'm on to something!

Mark A. Moore

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Re: Surf City-where does it rank?
« Reply #9 on: August 28, 2013, 04:19:24 PM »

Great stuff, Salzburg :)

2dean2

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Re: Surf City-where does it rank?
« Reply #10 on: August 28, 2013, 07:23:52 PM »
The Rip Chords only two hit's (with Bruce and Terry Melcher) was Surf City . Heck 3WC was a Jan & Dean song. Jan 's SC was Brilliant . I 'm sure you've all heard the Version on youtube about a week ago without lead vocals Hear how Tony's wail is over dubed with the other building in the background. WOW.
There is another reason the crap from the Late 60's is deemed better than that of the early 60's
Liberals who run the industry . THey are always making those stupid dope head protesters sound important . Notice also how they've take R&R and took it from a form of music that kids LOVED THE SOUND OF. To something they didnt like but was a way to Rebel against their Parents , God and the Establesment.  Like people would've listened to crap to Piss their Parents off.

jdman

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Re: Surf City-where does it rank?
« Reply #11 on: August 29, 2013, 04:36:40 AM »
Great Comments! I just wanted to add that I have a Surf CD with Surfin USA and Surfin Safari from the Beach Boys and Surf City and Ride the Wild Surf from Jan & Dean. It also contains other great surf songs. The best thing about this variety CD is the liner notes. The writer says that Surfin USA and Surfin Safari sound under produced compared to the two Jan & Dean songs. The writer almost sounds like it surprises him a bit. I was glad to see someone besides Mark recognizing how far ahead Jan was to Brian at that point.

blue fox

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Re: Surf City-where does it rank?
« Reply #12 on: November 24, 2013, 01:43:48 AM »
Wow, Salzburg, that was the most lucid, intelligent, passionate and accurate pieces i've ever read on the power and grace and grunge that was surf music. Its up there with Ian Whitcomb's Chapter Surf City in his " Rock Oddessy" book, perhaps surf needed an outsider like Englishman Whitcomb to define its raw power and esoteric atmospheric resonance.

BTW, if you're looking for a Post sixties Jan & Dean, go no further than The Dictators 1975 LP " Go Girl Crazy", even if the lp didnt contain a cover of "California Sun" and the song " I Live for Cars and Girls" the ability of the Dicks to poke fun at po faced and bloated '70s rock dupes install them as J&D's rightful successors.
Salz, well done and well said.

2dean2

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Re: Surf City-where does it rank?
« Reply #13 on: November 24, 2013, 08:58:49 PM »
I've heard two live versions of Surf City on youtube . 1 the Steve Allen Show and 2 recently added to youtube  at the Hollywood Bowl . Both not so good . But they do a pretty good job on Honolulu Lulu . Not enough singers perhaps . Maybe Brian was wrong maybe Surfin U.S.A was a J&D song and Surf City a BB song after all.

surferbee

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Re: Surf City-where does it rank?
« Reply #14 on: November 25, 2013, 12:43:41 AM »
Thanks for the prompt. I hadn't heard the Hollywood Bowl before. The band seems very light - piano and drums but I guess the recording system was quite limited. I have never understood why Jan put so much effort into studio productions but seemed casual to say the least when live. Jan and Dean records were by a vocal group - Jan plus various others - to sing a 'harmony' song without harmonies seems odd. Especially as Jan was one of if not the first to give credit to musicians and backing singers on the albums. It would seem natural to have background singers - especially on TV. I wonder Mark if your researches found out the answer(s) to this riddle.