I bought blue sneakers because that’s what Dean was wearing on the cover of the live album “Command Performance.”
And they were not easy to find. In Fairfield, Connecticut, everybody wore P.F. Flyers or Keds, in white, black had gone out with the fifties, this was not California, Fairfield’s a lonely town when you’re the only surfer boy around.
This was pre “Endless Summer.” The only way I knew about surfing was…
And the Beach Boys are the most famous musical exponent of the surfing culture, but Jan & Dean came first, they were already an established act when the Surfaris released “Wipe Out.”
“Command Performance” was not the first album I bought, but it was close. I played it so much it turned grey, back in the day of heavy tonearms, when you’d put a nickel or a dime on top to make sure the needle didn’t skip.
Guys, hold on to your girls
Girls, you just hold on…
HERE COMES JAN AND DEAN
And after a fanfare and tons of screaming out of the one speaker in the side of the record player came…
Two girls for every boy
At this point that was meaningless. I’d had no girlfriend, was not interested in the opposite sex, but this mellifluous sound..IT WAS EVERYTHING!
In case you’re under sixty, that line is the opening lyric of “Surf City,” now known as Huntington Beach, where Dean Torrence presently resides. Yes, he surfed.
I’m not sure if Jan Berry did. But Jan was no music nerd, they met on the football team, Jan was on his way to medical school and Dean was studying architecture at USC and…
Jan crashed his Corvette into a parked truck on Sunset Boulevard and although that wasn’t all she wrote, Jan was never the same thereafter, speaking was hard, but the records remain.
And the records got me to Pasadena last night. Come on, give up on a chance to hear “The Little Old Lady (From Pasadena)” in Pasadena?
OF COURSE NOT!
It’s a free concert under the stars and despite Periscope, never mind television, you can’t really understand unless you’ve been there, here, Southern California.
It’s a different culture. You don’t need a jacket and tie to get into a restaurant, a college degree is nice, but where it’s from is irrelevant… The most important things are your image and your outlook, if you’re up for anything, Southern California is your place!
That’s why I moved here. For that attitude, for that mental perspective, and it was the right move, but once upon a time I lived on the east coast.
So, I’m sitting there reminiscing. The memories flowing fast and furious. Summer camp. School dances. This was the soundtrack…
To a time long gone, in the rearview mirror never to be replayed, eventually not even to be remembered.
Fifty channels and nothing on? We only had three networks!
And the radio was our internet, we were addicted, it was how we connected.
We were living in the dark and didn’t even realize it.
But it was the music that midwived our transition into the future. A sound far different from what came before, played on guitars, about subjects that would never be sung about again.
What did Jimi Hendrix say, we’d never hear surf music again?
And it won’t be long before you don’t even own a car, never mind drive. Spending hours in your garage tweaking your hot rod? Today’s kids have no idea what a mill is!
Dean is 76. But not only is he still alive, he’s still active. Retirement at 65 is out of the question for baby boomers, who still believe their best days are ahead of them.
But we’re fading into irrelevancy. Not even given a thought. We’ve seen the trick, the marketers want to reach the youngsters.
But we’re still around, and it’s so weird.
So it’s billed as a “Beach Party.” And the set is heavy with Beach Boys numbers, after all…does anybody know Jan & Dean’s deep cuts? Even hits like “Linda”? Go see your favorites now, because soon you won’t be able to. As for those album tracks you loved… There’s no money in that, so they’re never played.
Before the show Dean and band did a private rendition of “The Anaheim, Azusa and Cucamonga Sewing Circle Book Review and Timing Association” for Larry, who paid for the show. I had hopes they’d play it in the show. But it turns out Jan & Dean never even played the song live, they never went on a bus tour, they were in COLLEGE!
But now Dean does thirty to fifty shows a year, keeping the summer alive.
And it’s still alive in my brain, but so much of what was there is now gone.
Like my dad. Who came into my bedroom and sang “Tell ’em I’m surfin’,” not “Surfin’ U.S.A.,” but the track from Jan and Dean’s 1964 LP, “Ride The Wild Surf.” There’s more to it than that actually: “Hey mom, if any of the guys from my baseball team ever call me on the phone to ask me to play in an important game, just say their captain ain’t at home, tell I’m surfin'”… That’s right, baseball took a back seat to my new passion for music, which my father understood, even if we could never talk about it or much of anything else.
Camp Laurelwood is still there, but in pictures it’s different, my formative years in Botwinik and Fox live on in my memory, and there only, those photos are long gone.
I’ve still got the records, they’re on Spotify, but today oldies radio plays the music of the eighties and nineties. And sure, I can hear the originals on Sirius but…
The tracks are set in amber, they’re making no new ones.
The torch was passed when I wasn’t even looking. Other than the Beatles and the Stones, a bit of Beach Boys and a smidge of Eagles, all my musical building blocks have been plowed under.
I’ll never climb Everest.
I’ll never have my first girlfriend again.
The hourglass is emptying.
It’s bittersweet, but I couldn’t stop thinking about all this last night.
Dean sang about “The New Girl In School” yet I haven’t been in a classroom for decades and have no desire to return, but…
In my heart, I’m still ready to ride the wild surf.
Gotta take that one last ride.
Which is why I journeyed to Pasadena last night.
I took a left at Dead Man’s Curve, drove through Drag City, waved to Linda and the Honolulu Lulu and got my board and went Sidewalk Surfin’ once again.
The same way I did back when.
I’m still here.
Where is everybody else?