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Author Topic: What if Jan & Dean had joined The Beach Boys?  (Read 4457 times)
NateRuvin
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« on: January 23, 2017, 08:33:04 AM »

I often fantasize about through BW and Jan Berry's friendship and collaborations, what it would be like if J&D became BBs. What would this have been like? Would BW and JB have competed for leadership, or could they have worked things out? I think in the early 60's, Jan Berry was miles ahead of BW in terms of production and arrangement, but Brian surpassed Jan in 1965 with the Today! album. Thoughts?
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Beachlad
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« Reply #1 on: January 23, 2017, 09:06:01 AM »

I could see Jan replacing Mike but not really seeing both of them  I think Smile would have been finished because Jan had the chops to help him out
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« Reply #2 on: January 23, 2017, 09:11:43 AM »

Jan Berry was miles ahead of BW in terms of production and arrangement, but Brian surpassed Jan in 1965

He was?  Arrangements?  Instrumentals?  Vocals?  I don't think so.  And wasn't Bones Howe more involved in the Jan [and Dean]  productions?  They did have a good over-all sound ...granted... but vocally Brian's works ate 'em for lunch from the 'Surfin USA' album on.  That said...in fairness to Jan...1/2 of that duo couldn't really sing all that well.  The Beach Boys were at least sitting at an 80% success rate.  They didn't need Jan and Dean.  Jan and Dean didn't even really need Dean.  We heard him once with the Boys.  THAT was more than plenty.
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« Reply #3 on: January 23, 2017, 09:47:39 AM »

I often fantasize about through BW and Jan Berry's friendship and collaborations, what it would be like if J&D became BBs. What would this have been like? Would BW and JB have competed for leadership, or could they have worked things out? I think in the early 60's, Jan Berry was miles ahead of BW in terms of production and arrangement, but Brian surpassed Jan in 1965 with the Today! album. Thoughts?

I'm admittedly not a J&D expert, but I don't see any evidence that Jan Berry was ever "miles ahead" of Brian in any regard. There are a handful of classic J&D tracks that stand up to Brian's work (and some of them have Brian involvement), and certainly there is some great J&D stuff to chew on.

But on every level, including not only production and arrangement but also vocal harmony and instrumental prowess, Brian was in a whole other league with the likes of Lennon and McCartney that Jan Berry, a talented guy no question, was never near.

Of course, I've never understood needing to rank any of these guys or pick teams or whatever.
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« Reply #4 on: January 23, 2017, 09:59:09 AM »

I often fantasize about through BW and Jan Berry's friendship and collaborations, what it would be like if J&D became BBs. What would this have been like? Would BW and JB have competed for leadership, or could they have worked things out? I think in the early 60's, Jan Berry was miles ahead of BW in terms of production and arrangement, but Brian surpassed Jan in 1965 with the Today! album. Thoughts?

I'm admittedly not a J&D expert, but I don't see any evidence that Jan Berry was ever "miles ahead" of Brian in any regard. There are a handful of classic J&D tracks that stand up to Brian's work (and some of them have Brian involvement), and certainly there is some great J&D stuff to chew on.

Agreed fully with this.
______

As for the topic, I wonder if Brian's crazy ideas would've been adopted more with the group. Jan and Dean put out that Batman album which seemed to be something right up Brian's alley in terms of experimenting and goofy-ness...especially in that '66/'67 period.

With another experimental musical ally at Bran's side could/would SMiLE have been completed?
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« Reply #5 on: January 23, 2017, 11:34:10 AM »

The closest you'll ever get is the Legendary Masked Surfers album, available on CD.
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Mark A. Moore
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« Reply #6 on: January 23, 2017, 12:55:03 PM »

Jan Berry was literally ahead of Brian Wilson.

Jan signed with Nevins-Kirshner Associates (Brill Building, New York City) as a songwriter and producer in September 1961.

Jan began receiving label credit as an arranger on Lou Adler's productions in 1961, the year the Beach Boys were formed.

Jan also began writing, arranging, and producing for other artists in '61.

Before it was destroyed by fire in November of '61, Jan had amassed thousands of dollars' worth of professional recording equipment in his garage studio . . . and learning how to use it had put Jan ahead of the game when he began producing in the Hollywood studio system.

When Nevins-Kirshner was acquired by Screen Gems in April of '63, Jan became a staff songwriter and producer for the company (a major music corporation).

In terms of arrangement and production, Jan's tracks were much more dense and sophisticated than Brian's—with two drummers, three or more guitars, two basses, etc.—from say March of '63 through '64-ish.

The instrumentals Jan co-wrote, arranged, and produced with the Wrecking Crew were superior to the Beach Boys instrumentals over the same period.

In terms of Bones Howe and Lanky Linstrot, they were engineers only on Jan's productions, as Bones explains in detail in my book. Of course, recording engineering is an art form in itself, and Bones and Lanky were two of the best. When Bones later became a producer himself, he cited Jan's influence among his other influences.

The Beach Boys were superior vocally . . . but Brian has compared Jan to Mike Love, in terms of his ability to sing bass lines.

I don't see much value in the head-to-head comparison. For me, it's more about the timeline and proper context, and  how Jan and Brian each helped each other's artistic growth.

When they first started working together, Jan was already fully established. And writing and working with Jan gave Brian a close-up view of how the system worked.



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« Reply #7 on: January 23, 2017, 02:20:59 PM »

Thank you, Mark.  Do you care to give some examples of, in your opinion, some of Jan's more notable or innovative early 60's production work?
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« Reply #8 on: January 23, 2017, 02:21:57 PM »

I think if we're talking timelines, then certainly it can be asserted that Jan got to certain things before Brian did, and that Jan influenced Brian in some key respects.

But in terms of big picture, I think even as early as 1964, I don't see putting Jan on that pedestal.

Not that anyone is drawing a direct overall comparison between Jan and Brian or Lennon/McCartney, but an old post from Howie Edelson, even if directed not at this specific precise topic, is worth reading (the last paragraph mainly):

http://smileysmile.net/board/index.php/topic,20232.msg508150.html#msg508150
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« Reply #9 on: January 23, 2017, 02:40:47 PM »

I think if we're talking timelines, then certainly it can be asserted that Jan got to certain things before Brian did, and that Jan influenced Brian in some key respects.

But in terms of big picture, I think even as early as 1964, I don't see putting Jan on that pedestal.

Not that anyone is drawing a direct overall comparison between Jan and Brian or Lennon/McCartney, but an old post from Howie Edelson, even if directed not at this specific precise topic, is worth reading (the last paragraph mainly):

http://smileysmile.net/board/index.php/topic,20232.msg508150.html#msg508150

Gary Lewis and Freddy Cannon might be Howie's personal opinion of Jan Berry, but Jan was clearly above that.
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« Reply #10 on: January 23, 2017, 02:45:24 PM »

Thank you, Mark.  Do you care to give some examples of, in your opinion, some of Jan's more notable or innovative early 60's production work?

Jan co-wrote, arranged, and produced "I'm Dying to Give You My Love" for Pixie in late 1961. It's in the Girl Group genre (likely Blossoms related). It was unreleased but completely finished. It features many of the hallmarks of Jan's later arrangements and productions for Jan & Dean.
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« Reply #11 on: January 23, 2017, 08:05:03 PM »

I tend to side with Howie's opinion in this matter. And I have one main reason for it. The songs and the records themselves, beyond the work that went into the production, seemed to fall just short in terms of catching the public's attention and becoming timeless classics.

I know that's controversial to say, but seriously: There is Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys, there are Lennon/McCartney and The Beatles...etc. Their recorded output even narrowed down to the 60's era is chock full of songs that a majority of people know and recognize, if not love. God Only Knows, Yesterday, Hey Jude, Wouldn't It Be Nice, She Loves You, Surfin USA...the list could go on by the dozens. They were writing original songs that captured whatever it was among the public.

How many of the Jan & Dean songs reached that level? A majority of the ones that did ironically featured Brian Wilson as a co-writer.

Brian took what he learned by sitting in on studio sessions by Jan and Spector and others and soaked it all in like a sponge, then found a way to put his own spin on the techniques, improve them, go beyond, add a little more of this and less of that...and he had the entire business listening for what he'd come up with next. He had the genie in the bottle, that magic. You can hear it clearly in I Get Around, Help Me Rhonda, California Girls...the list goes on. They grabbed the public's ear.

But, also the songs and the production evened up in terms of being on equal levels of quality. Brian's records sounded great on AM radio and on turntables. They still do.

We can argue all day about success equaling quality or whatever else, but there is something to be said for the records that really did stick and become those timeless classics. Not taking anything from Jan Berry, but for all the great techniques and studios full of musicians and his arrangements and the like, how many of the records bore out the total of the work and skill that went into them and became considered among the classics?

Brian's did. As did the Beatles. The songwriting was a notch above, the production resonated with listeners just that little bit more to give them the edge. So Brian was not lagging behind anyone, especially considering he was writing hooks and other contributions for those records among the most popular in the Jan and Dean catalog.

« Last Edit: January 23, 2017, 08:06:43 PM by guitarfool2002 » Logged

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« Reply #12 on: January 23, 2017, 08:56:28 PM »

That's true overall. Jan's tracks being more dense and sophisticated than Brian's in 1963 and into 1964 had no bearing on Brian's and the Beach Boys' overall trajectory.

It's not about elevating Jan above Brian or the Beatles, and no one was saying that.

Jan never considered himself a great artist. Arranging and producing were his forte, but he did it as a part-time musician who attended college and medical achool. Given the part-time status, it's a wonder they had as many hits as they did.

Jan and Brian's collaboration was huge . . . and it was Brian's only "outside" endeavor that led to success beyond the Beach Boys (an avenue and status that Brian actively sought).
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« Reply #13 on: January 23, 2017, 09:10:55 PM »

Mark -- you know how much I love and respect your work.

But knowing everything that I know about life and music  -- I stand by this:

I think it’s hysterical that Jan Berry gets lumped in with ANY of these people. That’s how marginal his output was. It’s fetish music and as far away as you can get when discussing even the worst of John Lennon and Paul McCartney. I’m all for people talking about Jan Berry (always was fascinated by the post-accident material e.g. “Natural High”) but to SERIOUSLY place him anywhere near John Lennon and Paul McCartney (or Brian Wilson, for that matter) is silly, amateur, and absolutely incorrect. I’m not saying he can’t be a favorite of yours or even THE favorite. Talk about him all you want -- but his peers were Gary Lewis and Freddie Cannon, nothing more, nothing less.
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Mark A. Moore
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« Reply #14 on: January 23, 2017, 09:19:30 PM »

Mark -- you know how much I love and respect your work.

But knowing everything that I know about life and music  -- I stand by this:

I think it’s hysterical that Jan Berry gets lumped in with ANY of these people. That’s how marginal his output was. It’s fetish music and as far away as you can get when discussing even the worst of John Lennon and Paul McCartney. I’m all for people talking about Jan Berry (always was fascinated by the post-accident material e.g. “Natural High”) but to SERIOUSLY place him anywhere near John Lennon and Paul McCartney (or Brian Wilson, for that matter) is silly, amateur, and absolutely incorrect. I’m not saying he can’t be a favorite of yours or even THE favorite. Talk about him all you want -- but his peers were Gary Lewis and Freddie Cannon, nothing more, nothing less.

Nothing wrong with standing by convictions.


I dig Gary Lewis and Freddy Cannon, but they were not arrangers and producers signed to a major music corporation.
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« Reply #15 on: January 23, 2017, 09:32:06 PM »

I think Jan Berry is very underrated as a producer and songwriter,,,
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« Reply #16 on: January 23, 2017, 09:46:21 PM »

Underrated is one thing and yes that case can be made. But to keep seeing the ways Jan is attempted to be elevated to the level of Brian Wilson, it may be opinion, and that's cool, but the success and longevity of the classic Beach Boys records versus Jan & Dean's best works aren't in the same stratosphere.

A producer who doesn't (or didn't) consistently cut hit records that sell but has great chops behind the board and a ton of talent...was that or is that a mark of success in the music biz?
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« Reply #17 on: January 23, 2017, 10:16:32 PM »

Focusing on the production side of things, no matter who was first, I think Brian cut better records and used the studio and the musicians better and more efficiently in terms of getting a "big sound". Yes, Jan wrote some solid arrangements and had multiple drummers, multiple guitarists, rooms full of players, etc. But if you put a Jan and Dean fully produced record alongside Brian's mono mixes (pre-Pet Sounds) of Help Me Rhonda, California Girls, Dance Dance Dance, I Get Around et cetera and do an A/B listening comparison...Brian's records sound "bigger" and have more life in the grooves.

Whether Brian was cutting tracks with his brothers and Al manning the instruments or shared the same Wrecking Crew players Jan was using, there was something about the sound Brian (and Chuck Britz, absolutely) would get on those records that Jan's records didn't quite have. Jan could have three times the number of musicians, but the records to my ears sounded thinner and more pushed into a narrow spectrum of sound. Brian on Help Me Rhonda, again sharing some of the same players Jan would use, had a much smaller group of players, far less horns and winds for one, with one main drummer behind the kit, and they still sound massive on any sound system or speaker setup. Jan had large ensembles doubling this or that but the sound wasn't as full and the records didn't have the same punch or size despite what went into them.

Having heard some of Bacharach's raw studio tracks from the mid 60's, he and Brian were doing similar things: They had smaller ensembles than the sound of their records suggested they had. It was all about how they used and "played" the studio. Jan outnumbered them with the size of his ensembles, but the records never matched the fullness of Brian, Bacharach, etc. working with far less musicians.
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Mark A. Moore
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« Reply #18 on: January 23, 2017, 10:20:56 PM »


A producer who doesn't (or didn't) consistently cut hit records that sell but has great chops behind the board and a ton of talent...was that or is that a mark of success in the music biz?

I guess you would have to define success. Money? Hit records? Classic status? Jan achieved all three, but not on the overall level of the Beach Boys.

Money: His contracts with Nevins-Kirshner and Screen Gems made him a success in the business. His production contract—not counting his songwriting and artist royalties—was a significant part of his income. His three contracts together—production, songwriting, and artist—made him a wealthy fellow in the early to mid-'60s.

Hit records: More than many of his peers, but fewer than the Beach Boys.

Classic status: A few classics. "Dead Man's Curve" is in the Grammy hall of Fame . . .  but again, not as many as the Beach Boys.


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« Reply #19 on: January 23, 2017, 10:40:16 PM »

Focusing on the production side of things

I love Brian's productions. I like listening to both as producers, and comparing and contrasting the various styles and sounds achieved while utilizing some of the same musicians.

But to my ears, the strength of Brian's tracks will always be the vocals.
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« Reply #20 on: January 24, 2017, 05:22:22 AM »

Mark --

I can honestly say, that your writing ABOUT Jan Berry actually trumps the work that he did do.
I've actually gotten more enjoyment reading your work about Jan Berry than Jan Berry's music.
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« Reply #21 on: January 25, 2017, 05:37:50 PM »

When "Deadman's Curve" came out in 1964, I think the arrangement was more complex than anything Brian had done to that point. That song has multiple horns, harp, guitars, two drummers. It's a feast for the ears. And the key change before the spoken word part is pretty groovy.   Smokin

Maybe I'm biased because I'm a huge J&D fan, but I think Jan Berry was on BW's level as an arranger/producer until Today!

My original point of creating this post was to ponder what it would have been like had J&D joined the BBs. They were certainly into the comedy thing that Brian was into. If Jan hadn't been in his accident, maybe he would've been able to help BW finish SMiLE. Jan was certainly capable of producing very advanced records as shown by 1965's "You Really Know How To Hurt a Guy" and his Pop Symphony Album. BW was also a huge fan of Berry's arranging as shown by the "Ride The Wild Surf" sessionography in Mark's book.

And besides, even if J&D were just singers, I think they are both great singers and it would have been cool hearing them on more BBs songs.
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« Reply #22 on: January 26, 2017, 06:20:06 AM »

If we're talking about the actual practicality of what would have happened had someone attempted to add Jan (or Jan & Dean) to the BBs, I don't think it would have worked.

The "non-family" members were already getting the short end of the stick, so I don't think J&D would have liked such a weird atmosphere and business set up.

Mike has shown over the years not exactly an "open arms" attitude towards other collaborators working with Brian.

I also don't think a seven-man Beach Boys lineup would have made sense in 1963 or 64. Plus, J&D apparently didn't play instruments on stage and thus you would have had three guys fronting the band doing nothing but singing?

I suppose one could make an argument that *one* of J&D could have been the "Bruce" of the group, but even then I'm not sure either Jan nor Dean could play or wanted to play mostly bass and fit into that four/five part harmony on stage.

I've been listening to more J&D lately, including the extant live stuff from the 60s, and a lot of Dean's vocals are pretty cringeworthy. I think any of Al, Carl, or Bruce back in the 60s could more accurately replicate Brian's falsetto.

So I'm thinking they would have been superfluous in studio and on stage (especially Dean), (not that Jan would have *never* been able to do some interesting collab with Brian), and considering how f-ed up the band business and politics *already* were in the mid 60s, having J&D in the band wouldn't have worked at all.

I don't think the "comedy" thing that Brian was into was ever going to go over well, and it certainly wasn't going to make him or the band "hip" the way other bands were in that era. Brian's forays into "humor" have always struck me as patently unfunny, and more like some sort of robot trying to understand and then calculate "humor." All that stuff is quite interesting in terms of tackling Brian's story and career, but it's not actually funny.

Not a knock on Brian, but while I've heard he can be a funny guy to friends and family in private, I've rarely found anything he has "published" so to speak to be particularly funny. The only times he has ever made me laugh have been his trademark quirks in interviews, or other things that are often unintentional (e.g. the leather pants on the Dick Clark show in '88, etc.). But his "I'm going to make an album about humor" idea circa 1966/67 sounds like it would have been painful, and the weird little studio bits that appear to be attempts at that aren't funny at all, even trying to fix your brain in the context of the 60s.
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« Reply #23 on: January 26, 2017, 06:42:37 AM »

Plus, J&D apparently didn't play instruments on stage and thus you would have had three guys fronting the band doing nothing but singing?

One has been more than enough...words can't even describe what three "frontmen" cracking bad jokes and one-liners would have been like.
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« Reply #24 on: January 26, 2017, 07:01:22 AM »

Jan played guitar and piano. This post was more about if Jan was in the group than Dean
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