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673068 Posts in 27119 Topics by 3988 Members - Latest Member: davidTN December 06, 2021, 07:17:47 AM
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Author Topic: Jan & Dean are terrible singers  (Read 4512 times)
relx
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« Reply #50 on: September 24, 2021, 08:28:42 PM »

I think that Universal Coward was a totally serious song from Jan. He was a right-winger. The song was actually released as a single under his name alone, as Dean refused to appear on it. Jan also did Only A Boy right before his accident, which is in the same vein, so I think there is little doubt that this was how he felt at the time.

I am a big J&D fan, but I would never put Jan in Brian's orbit musically. I think there was a time in 1963 and 64 when both were in their surf and hot rod phase where Jan was ahead of Brian in terms of production and arranging, which is why they worked together. However, Brian had equaled or passed Jan in that regard by late 1964, and was always far superior in terms of vocals and songwriting, of course. Did Jan and Brian even work together after 1964? By 1966, Brian was doing Pet Sounds, and Jan was doing Batman, so whatever common musical threat they shared was likely gone by then.

I think Jan and Dean are a very good second tier 1960s act. I know it was mentioned that they belong in the company of groups like Gary Lewis and the Playboys, but Gary Lewis did not produce or arrange his records, or write his own songs for the most part. If you treat the California pop music of the early to mid-1960s as an important moment in American musical history, the two most important groups of that time are the Beach Boys and Jan and Dean, in that order. That is why I think J&D deserve more respect, despite their shortcomings.



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DonnyL
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« Reply #51 on: September 25, 2021, 12:12:01 AM »

I’m not so sure- why would he record “Eve of Destruction” on the same album if he was so serious about “Universal Coward”? The “message” of each song seem like polar opposites.

I haven’t had Folk N Roll for awhile, but my take when I bought a copy a few years back was that both tracks sounded like parodies. No idea if Jan really believed and/of felt strongly about “Universal Coward”, but I just kind of passively assumed it was like “let’s put on a protest song, and a protest of a protest song”. I might be naive on this because I haven’t really studied Jan & Dean. The main reason I thought Jan was right wing was because Dean seems to be super right wing these days. But then I hear Dean refused to be part of “Universal Coward”, and things get murky. Of course, Dean may have been anti war in the ‘60s or just averse to making a political statement of any kind.

I think PF Sloan might have noted something about this topic in his autobiography, but I can’t recall and I don’t have it anymore. Something about Jan’s political leanings being at odds with his but they were friends? *in relation to “eve” and/or “soldier” (he was involved with the Folk N Roll record).
« Last Edit: September 25, 2021, 12:25:51 AM by DonnyL » Logged

relx
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« Reply #52 on: September 25, 2021, 08:46:15 AM »

I agree that it is hard to tell where Jan's political sympathies lie back then--if he really even had any--because of the conflicting messages. Someone like Mark Moore would likely know better. I just base my assumption that he was right-wing on the fact that he included two songs, Universal Coward and Only A Boy, that clearly reflect that position. Add to that the fact that Dean wouldn't appear on Universal Coward, plus I think a comment that Dean made that Jan was pro-war as long as he didn't have to fight. If Universal Coward really were a parody, it is a terrible one, as no one gets the joke.
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« Reply #53 on: September 25, 2021, 11:24:03 AM »

I think Dean said the song was “counter-parody”.
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« Reply #54 on: September 25, 2021, 06:25:53 PM »

I just want to mention Pop Symphony No. 1 as a sort of rebuttal to the notion that Jan lacked ambition or artistic "merit". But I say that as someone who loves Meet Batman, so take that for what it's worth.

I do think the comparison with girl groups is apt, as both seem to have fallen out of favour in the mid-60s.
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« Reply #55 on: September 29, 2021, 06:08:07 AM »

It's interesting that you bring up Pop Symphony as an example oj Jan's artistic vision. IF I recall the liner notes to the record, Jan writes about how he is trying to show, by doing orchestral versions of his songs, how his music--and pop music in general--can be appreciated as "serious" music. Thus his aim with Pop Symphony seems to be to convince older people of the value of popular music. Basically, Jan is aiming for the parents of his typical audience, people in their thirties and forties, etc.

At the same time, Brian's PS record, Pet Sounds, is a "teenage symphony to God." So, you have Brian doing an album designed to advance the tastes of his regular audience, while Jan is writing music for their parents. That in a nutshell probably explains why Jan wasn't cool, as his ultimate artistic expression was essentially muzak, the kind of stuff that is played in elevators.

For lack of a better word, much of Jan's music lacked soul. It is all technically well-done, but it is not music that touches you emotionally, nor was it designed to. Jan just didn't have it in him to be emotional in his music. When he tried--for example, A Beginning From An End from Folk n' Roll, which talks about a woman dying in childbirth, and may have been based on Jan's experiences in medical school--it comes off a heavy handed. His most soulful music was Carnival of Sound, where he was expressing the real suffering of his physical and mental handicaps.
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FreakySmiley
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« Reply #56 on: September 29, 2021, 07:50:15 AM »

For lack of a better word, much of Jan's music lacked soul. It is all technically well-done, but it is not music that touches you emotionally, nor was it designed to. Jan just didn't have it in him to be emotional in his music. When he tried--for example, A Beginning From An End from Folk n' Roll, which talks about a woman dying in childbirth, and may have been based on Jan's experiences in medical school--it comes off a heavy handed. His most soulful music was Carnival of Sound, where he was expressing the real suffering of his physical and mental handicaps.

I agree with your first point to an extent (Jan presenting his teen-oriented music in a way that an older audience might more easily appreciate) but this further point is where we begin to wade into serious subjectivity. There are definitely more than a few J&D cuts that I find quite soulful and emotional -- "A Surfer's Dream" is a bit of a deep cut that comes to mind in that regard, featuring a superb vocal from Jill Gibson (who seems to be rarely given credit for her contributions to a few stellar J&D tracks). But I understand that this is my subjective opinion, and just because I might be deeply moved by a song or (out-of-key) vocal doesn't mean someone else will be. It strikes me as interesting the broad stroke statements made by some throughout this thread; all music is different things for different people.

I definitely agree that most of 'Carnival of Sound' is quite "soulful" as you put it, in my opinion, as is a fair amount of Jan's solo work (both released and unfinished) but I wouldn't necessarily say because of expressing "the real suffering" of his handicaps as you put it, but rather that he was expressing himself through those handicaps. Sometimes in suffering, sometimes in joy. Yes, Jan was CERTAINLY no Brian Wilson, it's been said again and again, but he was an interesting guy with a lot going on upstairs, and even after "the accident" had a lot of drive and passion right up to the end. Again, this is just one music listener's subjective opinion.
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« Reply #57 on: October 31, 2021, 02:50:18 PM »

Okay...sorry to revive this, but....man, I heard "The Joker is Wild" on the Underground Garage channel....holy hell, the singing was TERRIBLE. Really, I wonder how much more enjoyable the Jan & Dean stuff would be if someone went in and pitch-corrected the vocals. But wow...I could NOT listen.
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