Summer In SoCal With Books And CDs In Surf City
I know it is summer by the usual indicators: the kids are out of school and the glorious free Santa Monica summer concerts are underway (thanks Amoeba Records!). But this summer, two items landed on my desk with an intriguing thud, and both are putting me in mind of summers past.
When We Get to Surf City: A Journey Through America in Pursuit of Rock and Roll, Friendship, and Dreams by Bob Greene (St. Martin’s Press)
Greene is a well-respected author who was on the receiving end of an unlikely offer: sing back-up on a Jan and Dean song in concert. That event segues into a few more gigs on the road. Soon he was strapping on his guitar and flying in to meet the band on occasional gigs near and far. Greene’s heartfelt amusement quickly evolves into astonishment as the summers pass and he becomes a full-fledged (and seemingly unpaid) member of the band. Greene describes his youth in land-locked Ohio, and how the California sound of the Beach Boys and Jan and Dean created a golden nirvana state of mind. The likelihood that Greene would ever get to perform any songs with the original California artists was as unlikely as being elected President. Greene points out that as evocative as is the music then and now on stage, it is the camaraderie of the road that binds the band. Jan’s surf god stature was cut short a few weeks after the duo cut “Dead Man’s Curve” in the 60s. (He was returning from class at UCLA Medical School). His harrowing recovery includes the need to memorize the lyrics he wrote before each concert. Dean’s business acumen kept the duo’s legacy alive over the years, working out summer tour logistics during the cooler California winter months.
Greene’s book is a great read, packed with myriad insights and encounters with other legacy music artists. The book is collection of vignettes, in much the same way the band’s summer tours are snapshots of life across the USA.
Pack the suntan lotion and head to the beach with this book, with or without your surfboard for further authenticity.
Beach Boys: U.S. Singles Collection – The Capitol Years, 1962-1965
Anyone interested in a highly collectible item for the bookshelf will soon have this set. Sixteen CDs reproduce the original vinyl singles, and completists will revel in the eight unreleased stereo and mono mixes. Sixty-six tracks in all. A 48 page picture book captures the essence of the band’s prolific three year period, as does the surfboard inlay of the box. The story is now enshrined in rock history: the genius Brian Wilson never really surfed or raced cars, but his songs set the stage for California dreaming across the world. Wilson recently performed his soon-to-be-released “That Lucky Old Sun” at the famed Capitol Studios as part of his return to the label. He is scheduled to play many of his classics (and presumably some of “TLOS”) at the Hollywood Bowl in September. That seems like a long time until the end of summer. But as Greene points out, the songs from Jan and Dean and the Beach Boys provide a shot of summer whenever they are played.