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Author Topic: Jan & Dean are terrible singers  (Read 4448 times)
Sam_BFC
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« Reply #25 on: September 21, 2021, 05:41:28 PM »

Another vote in defense of Bob Dylan over here.

It Ain't Me Babe and Forever Young are but two examples of iconic vocal performances on popular record.
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« Reply #26 on: September 21, 2021, 06:06:03 PM »

I think it’s hard to put Jan & Dean into context of the ‘60s groups, today.

They really never had true artistry. It seemed like the goal was commercialism and good times. It’s hard to juxtapose Jan Berry the creative, even groundbreaking producer w/ Jan Berry, the guy who re-used Barry McGuire’s exact backing track on his own semi-parody version of “Eve of Destruction”. In what universe would someone like Dylan, or even Del Shannon do that?

I have to say, Del Shannon is really and truly underrated. To me, he’s top 10 all time artists.
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« Reply #27 on: September 21, 2021, 06:49:46 PM »

I think it’s hard to put Jan & Dean into context of the ‘60s groups, today.

They really never had true artistry. It seemed like the goal was commercialism and good times. It’s hard to juxtapose Jan Berry the creative, even groundbreaking producer w/ Jan Berry, the guy who re-used Barry McGuire’s exact backing track on his own semi-parody version of “Eve of Destruction”. In what universe would someone like Dylan, or even Del Shannon do that?

I have to say, Del Shannon is really and truly underrated. To me, he’s top 10 all time artists.

I actually think Jan did have his artistry on those early tracks as Jan & Arnie and then just after Dean replaced Arnie, and right there is some truly exciting, home-brewed rock and roll that could only come from a certain time and place. And the rawness of it added to the excitement. I see that original Hite Morgan cut of Surfin in the same way, it's just pure youthful energy that was so raw and unpolished, yet still polished enough to have a distinct feel and sound, that it transformed itself from being kids bashing out music in a garage or a spare room into something more. I dig those early sides Jan was cutting in the 50's, and the DIY ethic was very strong on all sides of those early sessions and releases.

Why - oh why - that TV movie bio Dead Man's Curve had to rewrite history and show Jan cutting Surfin and other Beach Boys hits is still one of the most absurd and maddening things I've ever seen, especially when several actual Beach Boys were involved with that movie, but that's another topic.  Grin

I think part of the reason why Del is no longer with us is that maybe he never felt like he had the recognition and love he deserved through his music, and combined with lifelong battles with depression and alcohol, it was ultimately a lethal combo. But people who know and played rock and roll through the years knew and loved Del's music, and yet again he was another case like Eddie Cochran where Del's brand of rock and roll was much more popular and appreciated in the UK than it was in the US, except for the handful of chart hits he had, and a generation of influential rockers in the UK took inspiration from Del's music. I love watching that video of Del on the old NBC Letterman show with Paul Shaffer and the band, where Paul looks like a little kid again acting out his fantasy of playing Max Crook's Musitron solo with Del on stage. And Del's stance and posture while he's singing was straight from the 50's book of cool, and something sorely lacking in rock and roll...and that combined with Elvis, Gene Vincent, Eddie Cochran, Buddy, and their peers is what you saw in Lennon's stage look too. Sorely lacking indeed. I guess I miss seeing Billy Zoom play guitar on stage too.

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DonnyL
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« Reply #28 on: September 21, 2021, 08:16:16 PM »

Yeh I guess I’m using “artistry” in a particular way- meaning the shift beginning in 1965 to the pop musician as ARTIST. Seems like Jan & Dean were “exposed” as mere entertainers when Highway 61, Revolver, and Pet Sounds were out- but J&D were doing Popsicle and Batman.

But I do think Jan was a very creative and innovative producer, in his way. I just think his way was so of the time and place (‘60s SoCal) that it doesn’t make a lot of sense in the context of how the ‘60s are perceived by most today.

I think The Further Adventures of Charles Westover proves that Del Shannon was a serious musical force. As you say, unrecognized in this way. But he was a great songwriter and a big influence on people in a way that is maybe not realized. I don’t think it’s easy to put him into a box or a soundbite (“he was the guy to do XYZ”).
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« Reply #29 on: September 21, 2021, 08:25:32 PM »

… also the ‘66 records Del Shannon did are two of my all time faves. Total Commitment and This is My Bag. Consistently cool sounding and some undiscovered gems in there, like this one:

https://youtu.be/74ruahZ66-k
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« Reply #30 on: September 21, 2021, 10:51:18 PM »

Another vote in defense of Bob Dylan over here.

It Ain't Me Babe and Forever Young are but two examples of iconic vocal performances on popular record.
I hear the criticism of Dylan's vocals all the time. On those mid-60's records, he's sort of talk-singing. It's a style people found hard to accept after listening to people with wonderful voices like Elvis Presley and Roy Orbison. But it was a style that worked for those songs. Dylan's rock and roll wasn't about being melodic and pretty (although he could do that too), it wasn't like the Byrds versions of his songs; it was harsh and loud, with that organ way up in the mix, and Bob himself howling over the wailing of the guitars and the pounding of the drums.
Bob has proven to have many voices through the years. I think he was at his vocal peak from 73-78.
Neil Young just has a strange voice - but again, it works for him.
Randy Newman has an awful voice - and it's perfect for the material he writes.
Neither Jan or Dean was ever going to be any match for Brian Wilson, or Carl Wilson, or even Mike Love as lead singers. The Beach Boys were blessed to have 4 or  5 guys that were all good lead singers. Not many groups can claim that. The Beatles, Eagles, not many others.
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« Reply #31 on: September 22, 2021, 02:51:57 AM »

Another vote in defense of Bob Dylan over here.

It Ain't Me Babe and Forever Young are but two examples of iconic vocal performances on popular record.

Another vote here!

To some degree, Bob and Jan & Dean "can't sing" because they don't always "hit the notes"... HOWEVER...

Have a listen to Bob Dylan singing Isis live on the Rolling Thunder tour, or Gotta Serve Somebody live in Toronto in 1980. The guy was an amazing singer. Listen to the resonance, the passion and conviction and how he inhabits the songs. He makes them feel elemental and immortal.

In contrast, to me, Jan & Dean sound like karaoke. Off-tune, thin voices, no feeling, frequently poor material.
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« Reply #32 on: September 22, 2021, 06:23:21 AM »

Yeh I guess I’m using “artistry” in a particular way- meaning the shift beginning in 1965 to the pop musician as ARTIST. Seems like Jan & Dean were “exposed” as mere entertainers when Highway 61, Revolver, and Pet Sounds were out- but J&D were doing Popsicle and Batman.

But I do think Jan was a very creative and innovative producer, in his way. I just think his way was so of the time and place (‘60s SoCal) that it doesn’t make a lot of sense in the context of how the ‘60s are perceived by most today.

I think The Further Adventures of Charles Westover proves that Del Shannon was a serious musical force. As you say, unrecognized in this way. But he was a great songwriter and a big influence on people in a way that is maybe not realized. I don’t think it’s easy to put him into a box or a soundbite (“he was the guy to do XYZ”).

I agree about J&D not really fitting into the overall arc of the 1960s. They don't really sound like anyone else, for better or worse, their well-known records are dominated by trite, teenage themes, and they stopped suddenly in 1966 after Jan's accident. And having Batman as their final album was cringe-worthy. I know some people like the comedy aspect, but I find it unlistenable. (BTW, Popsicle was actually recorded and released in 1963, and then re-released after the accident, so it wasn't indicative of what they were doing in 1966.)

Of course, the great what if is what they would have done if Jan hadn't had the accident. They would have had a TV show on the air in the fall of 1966 which, even if it had just run for a season, could have dramatically changed the perception of them. (The Monkees only ran for two seasons.) Now, they would have needed to produce Monkees-level music, and we will never know if Jan had it in him. It is interesting to take a look at Carnival of Sound. Is that the direction Jan would have gone in if he hadn't had the accident? Much of the music on that album is wonderful, in my opinion, and would have fit in perfectly in 1966/67. Songs like Carnival of Sound, I Know My Mind, Girl, You're Blowin My Mind (which Jan had started work on before the accident), Mulholland, etc. are great mid-60s California pop. If J&D could have combined that kind of music with a TV show, they would likely be considered classic artists. Or, would Jan have just continued on in the Batman, Only A Boy direction?

Jan and Dean also had no advocte for them after 1966. Jan wasn't able, and Dean didn't care. I am surprised someone like Lou Adler wasn't able to get them into the RnR HOF. He was their manager for years, and even helped Jan record in the 1970s. Lou is in the Hall, so I'm surprised he couldn't or wouldn't use his influence. Whatever you think of their music, having Jan get into the Hall and perform Deadman's Curve at the induction ceremony would have been very emotional and dramatic.
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« Reply #33 on: September 22, 2021, 07:07:38 AM »

The Monkees comparison is an interesting one. I've watched the unaired Jan & Dean show, and it is a pretty enjoyable show overall, with the highlight being the live concert finale featuring the Wrecking Crew on stage with them. But it has nothing on what The Monkees would be doing with the same media.

If we're talking voices, The Monkees creators and producers struck gold musically. The actors they assembled could not only act, but they also each had a distinct voice, with maybe Peter Tork not on the same level but still able to contribute distinctive vocals where needed. Micky Dolenz had one of the best voices of that era for AM radio pop, a distinct voice in the higher register that could cut through the mix. And he was a good singer, period. Davy Jones had the showtune and stage chops to be the ballad crooner when needed, and he became the sex symbol for obvious reasons, and with a British accent to boot. Mike Nesmith had that country twang and swagger that was a perfect compliment to Micky, and when they harmonized or sang in tandem, it was a classic blend. Peter was more of the Woody Guthrie/Pete Seeger folk voice, and when needed on the records, it was ready to go.

And these four guys literally came together at a casting call, minus Davy who had already been cast. It just worked musically, and the guys had a magnetism that translated on screen and on record. You can't plan on hitting the lottery, but they did with that casting.

Reminds me of The Partridge Family a few years later - When David Cassidy walked in to audition, the producers again struck gold and hit the lottery. He could sing, very well, he had a perfect AM radio pop voice, he had superstar looks, and had a good personality that the cameras liked. That's why they had to dumb him down in the show's scripts and make him a dim bulb, they thought he'd be too perfect and would turn people off if they wrote his character as being intelligent on top of everything else. They originally thought Shirley Jones would carry the show, and Cassidy ended up carrying it musically and on screen. Again, you can't plan to win the lottery with casting like those.

Just consider, were Jan & Dean strong enough personalities who could carry a TV show like The Monkees or like Cassidy did with the Partridge Family? Could their voices sustain the type of material that those shows were featuring, that blend of pure pop and innovation ironically often played by the same guys who played on Jan's productions?

I just don't see Jan's strengths in songwriting and production being anything on the level of Last Train To Clarksville, Daydream Believer, I Think I Love You, etc. And that's where those producers of the aforementioned shows had the ace up their sleeve, they had the music that was equal to or in some cases better than the shows which were written around the music.

And I don't think the J&D vocals would have carried that type of material for mass consumption, and perhaps the personalities would not have carried the shows either. If comedy was their game, The Monkees did it better, and it didn't look like the characters were much of a stretch for the actors to play, except Peter who had to play dumb when he was really introspective and intelligent. I just don't know how long fans would have tuned in to see J&D playing...what...themselves?     
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« Reply #34 on: September 22, 2021, 07:23:11 AM »

I'm going to go slightly off topic for this point, but it really does bother me and I remember discussing it here previously but can't recall any resolutions or reasons why.

We're talking about Jan & Dean in the hall of fame, and Jan's legacy, and the band's legacy, etc. So they did that TV movie bio in the late 70's called Dead Man's Curve, and I remember watching it as a little kid (and digging the music) when it was rerun, which it was often in the early 80's. Standard TV biopic of J&D, with several Beach Boys involved, and when all principals were still alive.

So I still cannot get over how they rewrote the history of both J&D and The Beach Boys in this thing to show Jan producing and recording Beach Boys songs.

My thought and question is, after this discussion this week, if Jan's legacy is firmly in place as a producer and musician and the band's history earned them a place in the hall of fame, then why would the producers combined with others close to the group see fit to erroneously give credit to Jan for what Brian and the Beach Boys did musically in this bio pic?

It's fairly easy to trace how and why such bogus rewrites of history were seen in the two major Beach Boys TV movie biographies, especially the "American Family" long-form movie on ABC, which was as someone close so perfectly called it "Love propaganda". And the classic scene in "Summer Dreams" showing a bearded 1970's era Brian caricature wearing a robe and listening to Sgt Pepper in 1967 speaks for itself.

But to show Jan cutting Beach Boys records and give that as part of his history, while all band members were alive and could call bullshit on those scenes...all the time knowing Jan's legacy in reality...it makes no sense to try to punch up Jan & Dean's credits that way.

Maybe that's part of my issues with the whole ball of wax involving the group, I don't know.
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« Reply #35 on: September 22, 2021, 07:28:48 AM »

I can't stomach more than a couple seconds of Dylan singing.  Oof.

I think we are closing in on the keystone of the Jan & Dean phenomenon -- I've read several really apt descriptions of what they were above.  I agree that it kind of does come down to them just not fitting in with what we retrospectively expect the 60s to be, and in general, what western art has become expected to be.

Artistic expression has become the "purpose" of art creation, thanks to the romantics throughout the actual romantic period and beyond.  I've written this elsewhere, but a simplistic way to look at it is that if Brian Wilson was the Bach of 60s pop, and Spector was the, I dunno, Puccini, then maybe Jan Berry was the Mozart -- the most purely commercially driven of the lot, the most playful -- not without some pathos, but mostly without the baggage of "profundity" that seems to be a sine qua non of "serious" music.

Now, like all classical music analogies on this board, it's not a perfect one.  But it does go to partly explain the state we find the legacy of Jan and Dean in now.  Jan wasn't plunging the depths of his soul to create spiritual music that would be an act of worship to the universe -- he just liked making records and having fun, and was really good at producing tracks and arranging.  I mean, heck, he should go in the RnR HOF as an arranger.
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« Reply #36 on: September 22, 2021, 07:49:34 AM »

Not to veer off track too much here, but I gotta defend Bob Dylan's singing.

I used to absolutely hate it! My father would put on tapes of Bob Dylan during road trips when I was a kid and I couldn't stand it - Dylan's voice made those road trips feel like they just wouldn't end.

But then one day I put on 'Blowin in the Wind' or something, it was the lyrics that captured me, entranced me. I used to be so put off by Dylan's voice that I'd never listen to the lyrics. But his lyrics coupled with his voice, it's full of conviction. 'It's All Over Now, Baby Blue' - I've heard many covers, but no other artist has ever convinced me that they really mean what they're singing like Bob does.

Anyways, I was once a former hater, then came to absolutely love his music. He's now one of my top played artists, even his later work where his voice isn't as strong. 'Murder Most Foul' is hypnotizing. Time Out Of Mind is one of my favorite albums ever. I just don't know how he does it. I shouldn't even really like his music considering how much I disliked it decades ago, yet I'm obsessed.

*and all that being said, I totally get why people dislike it, so I'm not trying to convince anyone (so I guess my post is less of a defense of his voice, and more of my story of how I came to like his voice/music).
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« Reply #37 on: September 22, 2021, 07:55:01 AM »

I'll wade into this issue, hopefully avoiding the political debate aspect of it, but it is relevant.

How do we explain or how can we view Jan's "The Universal Coward"? Was it Jan being earnest or honest in expressing his views, or was it a pure send-up or parody designed to be taken as tongue-in-cheek? Dean didn't participate in the recording, yet it's on the Folk And Roll album, which we're told was a send-up of folk music and folk rock. Yet Jan sounds like he's giving an honest delivery of the lyrics, if there is comedy it doesn't show on the surface. So is it parody or is it honesty?

Considering the friendship with The Beach Boys, the lyrics directly condemn conscientious objectors, and of course Carl Wilson was one. It also went against the grain of at least, what...99 percent of rock and pop music at the time that song was released? This one song put Jan in a place where he didn't fit in with the 60's music scene, and that was not in a good or innovative way.
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« Reply #38 on: September 22, 2021, 08:00:44 AM »

@Joshilyn.  I'll disagree with your point that Jan & Dean aren't more popular because they weren't "deep" or plunging the depths of their souls. I'm a huge fan of the Monkees and a lot of their stuff is bubblegum fluff. There's plenty of great 60s music that can be enjoyed on a purely surface level, like the Beatles' covers on their first few albums.

There's nothing wrong with making music to have fun, but deliberately singing bad on an album like Folk n Roll because it's a "send up" is just a poor joke Smiley

I won't try to dissuade someone from enjoying Jan & Dean (more power to anyone who does) but it is not a mystery to me why their standing is so low.

And we'll have to agree to disagree about Dylan's singing!
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« Reply #39 on: September 22, 2021, 08:21:42 AM »

While most of the J&D discography is pretty fun surface-level material, there is definitely some material (Jan's solo single "Mother Earth" comes to mind, as do some of Dean's 'Save for a Rainy Day' and Jan's 'Carnival of Sound' songs) that should not be overlooked for their emotional/artistic content, and while one can certainly debate quality on various levels I for one find that most of it definitely hits the sweet spot (again, this is just me). As for stuff like "Universal Coward" I used to figure that Jan was kind of playing both sides in a manner of speaking (including "Eve of Destruction" on the same album). Kind of like "Only a Boy" isn't really an anti-war song but isn't exactly a pro-war song (in my opinion). Was he too afraid to take one stand? Did he see both sides? Did he not care?

It is definitely a reach to put J&D on the same level as a lot of their peers who had more time to continue to discover themselves in the late sixties, but I don't think it's quite like filet mignon vs a McDouble.
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« Reply #40 on: September 22, 2021, 09:02:38 AM »

@Joshilyn.  I'll disagree with your point that Jan & Dean aren't more popular because they weren't "deep" or plunging the depths of their souls. I'm a huge fan of the Monkees and a lot of their stuff is bubblegum fluff. There's plenty of great 60s music that can be enjoyed on a purely surface level, like the Beatles' covers on their first few albums.

There's nothing wrong with making music to have fun, but deliberately singing bad on an album like Folk n Roll because it's a "send up" is just a poor joke Smiley

I won't try to dissuade someone from enjoying Jan & Dean (more power to anyone who does) but it is not a mystery to me why their standing is so low.

And we'll have to agree to disagree about Dylan's singing!


I'm not sure that my reasoning above applies to why they aren't more popular.  More like why they haven't been accepted as part of the classic 60s pantheon.  But the question of popularity is a good one, too--you're very correct that there are other groups out there whose driving principle was not catharsis via expression.  Perhaps the J&D oeuvre was simply too...in-jokey?  So if you're in on it you love it, but there's a wall up from the get go?  I'm not sure if that's the case or not.

The more I think about, the more unique J&D's position is, especially Jan's position.  There are very few creative forces I admire more than Jan Berry, but given my respect for his abilities, I admit that his catalog taken as a whole does leave me a little...disappointed.  I would love Mark Moore's perspective on all this.

Thanks for an interesting thread, people.
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« Reply #41 on: September 22, 2021, 09:22:54 AM »

I've rarely felt the need to use the word "dork" to describe music, but a lot of that J&D stuff is dork music, and not in an endearing way. It's kitsch/novelty stuff. I don't sense like a *ton* of people found it funny back then, and I certainly don't find it funny now.

I don't feel like it's a question of whether the writers of the material are plumbing the depths of their personal pain or experiences or anything. Good material is good material. Some writers for some amount of time in their career have so much oozing of them that even the stuff that maybe *didn't* mean a lot to them is jaw-dropping. McCartney was rolling out of bed with jaw-dropping material for many years there. Brian too.

I don't think the issue with J&D is that they didn't do personal music. I think the issue is that most of it was mediocre or worse, and they didn't have great vocals to fall back on either.

I've mentioned before, back 10 or 15 years ago when they did that 2-disc set of definitive Jan & Dean singles, I picked it up to give stuff beyond the core half dozen hits another chance. None of the rest of the stuff seemed very strong. I kept just going back to "Surf City" and "Deadman's Curve", and some fondness for a few other old songs that for whatever reason were played a lot when I was a kid, like "Ride the Wild Surf", "Honolulu Lulu", etc. And even some of that stuff kind of sounds embarrassingly like BB knockoffs. I think some of the stuff is *better* as BB knockoffs compared to, say, the Bruce & Terry stuff. But it's all a *million, kajillion* miles away from what Brian was writing, arranging, and producing even in his early days.

I'm all for people digging J&D or whomever they like, but there's a very justifiable reason J&D doesn't belong in the discussion with the likes of Brian Wilson/Beach Boys, or the Beatles, or Dylan.

I think it was Howie that said some years back that J&D's contemporaries worth comparing were the likes of Freddie Cannon and Gary Lewis.

Sometimes, band's have amazing deep cuts. Sometimes, though, the hand full of songs "we all know and love" actually *are* the best, and that's the case with J&D. It also just so happens that a number of those songs are Brian Wilson co-writes. I don't believe that's coincidental.
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« Reply #42 on: September 22, 2021, 09:48:45 AM »

I've rarely felt the need to use the word "dork" to describe music, but a lot of that J&D stuff is dork music, and not in an endearing way. It's kitsch/novelty stuff. I don't sense like a *ton* of people found it funny back then, and I certainly don't find it funny now.

"Dork music" does seem apt at times -- and that's an interesting idea worth exploring: did people appreciate the schtick at the time, or did it fall flat then?

Quote
I don't feel like it's a question of whether the writers of the material are plumbing the depths of their personal pain or experiences or anything. Good material is good material. Some writers for some amount of time in their career have so much oozing of them that even the stuff that maybe *didn't* mean a lot to them is jaw-dropping. McCartney was rolling out of bed with jaw-dropping material for many years there. Brian too.

I don't think the issue with J&D is that they didn't do personal music. I think the issue is that most of it was mediocre or worse, and they didn't have great vocals to fall back on either.

To clarify, my point about plunging the depths of the soul vs. being in it for the money was not about the quality of the material -- in fact I was basically saying what you are saying, even if I was saying it in a much less elegant way, that good material is good material.  But I do think that the perception of the artist that we've taken on in the west does contribute to a a band's long-term reputation, and that music acts that have traditionally been received as "artistic" and drawing their art from the well of the romantic tradition do seem to have stronger reputations among CURRENT tastemakers.  To go to the classical depository again, Puccini is my favorite composer by far and I think he absolutely composed out of the depths of his soul, and was a total genius.  But his reputation among facile pundits is bad because he's seen as someone who pandered to the lowest common denominator.  Now, was Jan Berry a genius of Puccinian scale?  I don't think he was -- but the point is, because of the way he did things, his work is automatically discounted before it can be more objectively assessed.  Of course, maybe the objective assessment is not great, in the end, but my point was that there is a bias there.

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« Reply #43 on: September 22, 2021, 10:29:28 AM »

I've rarely felt the need to use the word "dork" to describe music, but a lot of that J&D stuff is dork music, and not in an endearing way. It's kitsch/novelty stuff. I don't sense like a *ton* of people found it funny back then, and I certainly don't find it funny now.

"Dork music" does seem apt at times -- and that's an interesting idea worth exploring: did people appreciate the schtick at the time, or did it fall flat then?

Quote
I don't feel like it's a question of whether the writers of the material are plumbing the depths of their personal pain or experiences or anything. Good material is good material. Some writers for some amount of time in their career have so much oozing of them that even the stuff that maybe *didn't* mean a lot to them is jaw-dropping. McCartney was rolling out of bed with jaw-dropping material for many years there. Brian too.

I don't think the issue with J&D is that they didn't do personal music. I think the issue is that most of it was mediocre or worse, and they didn't have great vocals to fall back on either.

To clarify, my point about plunging the depths of the soul vs. being in it for the money was not about the quality of the material -- in fact I was basically saying what you are saying, even if I was saying it in a much less elegant way, that good material is good material.  But I do think that the perception of the artist that we've taken on in the west does contribute to a a band's long-term reputation, and that music acts that have traditionally been received as "artistic" and drawing their art from the well of the romantic tradition do seem to have stronger reputations among CURRENT tastemakers.  To go to the classical depository again, Puccini is my favorite composer by far and I think he absolutely composed out of the depths of his soul, and was a total genius.  But his reputation among facile pundits is bad because he's seen as someone who pandered to the lowest common denominator.  Now, was Jan Berry a genius of Puccinian scale?  I don't think he was -- but the point is, because of the way he did things, his work is automatically discounted before it can be more objectively assessed.  Of course, maybe the objective assessment is not great, in the end, but my point was that there is a bias there.


For sure, I think Jan Berry and many others of a similar ilk (and, well, just across the board I suppose, even with some truly great artists) are often automatically discounted from a more deep analysis because of any number of preconceived notions (or a lack of any notion).

To put it perhaps overly-simplistically, in being dismissive of Berry, some folks might be right about Jan Berry, but for the wrong reasons.

But among folks in the BB world and on this board, people who generally know their stuff, the J&D question is more complicated and nuanced. That is, there are some folks who kind of fetishize the J&D material, or Jan's stature, etc. to a strangely excessive/disproportionate degree, and in very extreme cases this has led to folks in the distant past putting Jan Berry in the same category as Brian Wilson (or Lennon and McCartney, etc.). Some of those folks tend to be the folks who are more into the early material than, say, "Carl and the Passions" or whatever. And I have to say, while I certainly don't like speaking in such broad strokes often, and while I don't like go out of my way unsolicited to knock J&D or Jan Berry, I'm very firmly of the mind that Jan Berry and J&D are not anywhere in the ballpark to the level of quality of *any* aspect of Brian/BB material. I'm not sure what analogy would even begin to work. Jan Berry is to Brian Wilson as, I dunno, Tony Sheridan is to the Beatles? Meaning, they were sort of contemporaries for like five minutes, and the Beatles and Brian picked up a thing here and there from Sheridan and Berry respectively. But it kinda ends there, and at that point, it is more like a Lou Christie/Freddie Cannon/Gary Lewis sort of situation when it comes to J&D.

In any event, I think the sometimes fervent push back we've seen in little waves on this board over the years against J&D comes from that occasional penchant to assert Jan was on Brian's level in any regard, or to defend J&D material in such a way to, say, compare Jan's voice to the likes of Dylan or Lennon.

As regards this thread, I actually don't like dogpiling on a "J&D were s***ty singers" thread. I don't mean this cruelly or sarcastically, but I kind of assumed we all kinda already knew this was the case.

I don't know how big of a fan I am of the "What If?" sort of questions, but here's one: What if Brian had cut all of the tracks he co-write with Jan, especially something like "Dead Man's Curve"; what if Brian had arranged and recorded/produced the track, and had the Beach Boys singing? That would be up there with the idea of hearing a Brian vocal on "Guess I'm Dumb." (Though, as an aside, I don't pine after that, because Glen's vocal on that is good and Brian-esque enough that I'm fine kinda just considering it nearly a de facto BB recording).
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« Reply #44 on: September 22, 2021, 10:43:36 AM »


"Dork music" does seem apt at times -- and that's an interesting idea worth exploring: did people appreciate the schtick at the time, or did it fall flat then?

I think (as someone who heard their music at the time) for those of us whose first earful of J&D was "Heart And Soul", well... it was hard to take them seriously, although "HAS" does have its charms.

I remember "Surf City" came as quite a shock! Was this the same J&D?? (To say nothing of "Dead Man's Curve".) But then "Popslcle" was released in the wake of Jan's accident and we were back to "shtick". But I'd say it was appreciated, definitely.
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« Reply #45 on: September 22, 2021, 12:25:09 PM »

Jan had his finger on the pulse of a particular "wave" of popular music that represented the adolescent period of rock. His skills as an arranger allowed him to move in heady circles for awhile, but when rock started to grow up, he was in serious trouble--and he knew it. There's a desperation captured in his work from late '64 up until the accident, a kind of "I'll throw anything up against the wall and hope something sticks" undercurrent, embodying someone who is all too aware that he's being left behind and is flailing against the dying of light (so to speak). And of course it was manifesting itself in his personal life as well.

A different version of the same problem confronted a group that still belongs in the RRHOF--the Shangri-Las, who were essentially abandoned by their svengali producer and allowed to die on the vine after a second LP that is one of the great records of the decade...but on the losing side of rock history, just as Spector was. Shadow Morton made a perfunctory effort to mold Mary Weiss into a version of the full-fledged "diva" singer that was emerging in 1966-67, but he didn't really have the arranging chops to pull off the transition, so he left them in a trash can adjacent to the Brill Building and moved on to Janis Ian and the Vanilla Fudge, signaling the exact type of phase shift that rock was undergoing at that time, a shift that made symphonic pop an endangered species literally overnight. SHANGRI-LA's '65, in its last incarnation (the label reissued it twice by adding singles) is the apex of the East Coast "symphonic pop" style and shows the range of talent in the singing group--check out their cover of the Ikettes' "I'm Blue," where its neither Mary or Betty Weiss but Mary-Ann Ganser, one of the twin "backup" singers, who gets one shot to step up to the plate and knocks it out of the stadium.
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« Reply #46 on: September 22, 2021, 12:59:28 PM »

A different version of the same problem confronted a group that still belongs in the RRHOF--the Shangri-Las, who were essentially abandoned by their svengali producer and allowed to die on the vine after a second LP that is one of the great records of the decade...but on the losing side of rock history, just as Spector was. Shadow Morton made a perfunctory effort to mold Mary Weiss into a version of the full-fledged "diva" singer that was emerging in 1966-67, but he didn't really have the arranging chops to pull off the transition, so he left them in a trash can adjacent to the Brill Building and moved on to Janis Ian and the Vanilla Fudge, signaling the exact type of phase shift that rock was undergoing at that time, a shift that made symphonic pop an endangered species literally overnight. SHANGRI-LA's '65, in its last incarnation (the label reissued it twice by adding singles) is the apex of the East Coast "symphonic pop" style and shows the range and singing group--check out their cover of the Ikettes' "I'm Blue," where its neither Mary or Betty Weiss but Mary-Ann Ganser, one of the twin "backup" singers, who gets one shot to step up to the plate and knocks it out of the stadium.

Indeed, an excellent rendition. The Shangs were in a field of one. R.I.P., Mary-Ann and Marge Ganser.
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« Reply #47 on: September 23, 2021, 04:43:00 PM »

I think that while the actual results were not as good, Jan was ahead of a Brian as a producer in 1963, for instance. Thing is, Brian quickly moved along and Jan kind of stayed where he was.

RE: “Universal Coward”- presumably, Jan Berry was a right-wing kinda guy … but I would also think it could be something as simple as “wouldn’t it be clever to make a protest protest song?!?” kind of thing.
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« Reply #48 on: September 24, 2021, 08:24:16 AM »

I think that while the actual results were not as good, Jan was ahead of a Brian as a producer in 1963, for instance. Thing is, Brian quickly moved along and Jan kind of stayed where he was.

RE: “Universal Coward”- presumably, Jan Berry was a right-wing kinda guy … but I would also think it could be something as simple as “wouldn’t it be clever to make a protest protest song?!?” kind of thing.

If the attempt with "Universal Coward" was to do a complete parody of protest music and flip the script with the lyrics, it was a total failure of a joke because Jan's legacy has been hung with that song around its neck like an albatross for decades, continuing to this day. I'd suggest most people took it and still take it at face value, and didn't get the joke if it was supposed to be a joke.I still question why something like that was even released, but then again it was on an album where singing folk music out of tune was supposed to be the punchline of the joke and that falls flat too.

I think Jan was great at copying what Phil Spector had trailblazed in terms of that production sound and style, using the same musicians too. In that way Jan was skilled at doing his version of what Spector had already been doing versus carving his own path. Brian was in that same line, of course, but his fastball was the vocals and vocal harmony, and he soon carved out his own space after doing the Spector model whereas Jan never found his unique calling card (and  the songwriting wasn't as good).
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« Reply #49 on: September 24, 2021, 08:20:56 PM »

I know you guys might think I’m nuts but … you know who I think was the producer who got closest to Spector?

SONNY BONO
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