Jan & Dean
In a tragic case of life imitating art, Jan & Dean's hit "Dead Man's Curve" was prophetic. As the title indicated the "curve" was a particularly treacherous piece of road. There are sounds of crashing and destruction. Clearly, the driver didn't make it. It was just another saga of California life until Jan Berry, doing about 65mph in his Corvette, smashed into a parked truck.
The accident, in April '66, left Berry with injuries so severe, including brain damage, that he nearly died. And though he did recover he was significantly handicapped. Attempts at singing or performing were futile since he had to re-learn just about every aspect of life. From that point on he would need therapy and care.
In the late '50s Jan Berry was a fun loving kid who'd led doo-wop sessions in the shower after football games. Those impromptu sessions included future Beach Boy Bruce Johnston and Dean Torrence. After working briefly with another partner Jan teamed up with Dean.
Jan & Dean also had the good fortune to be friends with Beach Boy Brian Wilson. Early on, Jan & Dean and the Beach Boys performed at sock hops with the Beach Boys providing the instrumental backing on the Jan & Dean songs.
Wilson was so prolific that he not only wrote for his own group but he composed for Jan & Dean as well. And that was the thing about Jan & Dean. They weren't serious artists. They were fun loving and barely professional. Even though Berry worked intensely on the duo's production and arrangements, there was an off-the-cuff feeling to their records. On stage they had whole comic routines. It was all a lark. And when it was over, Jan would head off to Med School while Dean pursued a graphics art career (Dean actually achieved his goal).
Before Jan found his own personal Dead Man's Curve the duo racked up an impressive list of fun "California" songs with "wide ranging" topics: surfing, cars and girls (usually in that order). "Surf City," written by Wilson turned out to be Jan & Dean's only #1. It was also Wilson's first #1. And he got a ton of crap from his father (and Beach Boy's manager) for giving it away even though the Beach Boys provide the backing vocals. Jan & Dean returned the favor when they stopped by a Beach Boys recording session one evening and joined in on a free-form version of "Barbara Anne" which turned out to be a major hit.
The comical "Little Old Lady From Pasadena" ("Go granny, go granny, go granny, go") only made it to #3 but was probably their most memorable Rock song.
More than the Beach Boys, Jan and Dean are about fun: California style. Their hits read like a succession of novelty songs: "Surf City," "Little Old Lady From Pasadena" and the self-fulfilling prophecy of "Dead Man's Curve." Obviously, these guys are a singles act. "All The Hits, From Surf City to Drag City" captures the essence of Jan and Dean. There are other compilations that include their pre-surf career but these are recommended for fans only.