Addicted To Vinyl Musical thoughts from the open road, with headphones on

13Feb/0911

When We Get to Surf City

My friend Pat sent me a Twitter message, "Dude, I can't believe you didn't respond to my Fountains of Wayne reference on Twitter."

"I was READING A BOOK," I replied.

"In no way believes that @addictedtovinyl was reading anything that was not online" was the Twitter reply from Pat.

Strange but true.

You'll recall a previous mention of my purchase of When We Get to Surf City by author Bob Greene, written about his years touring as a member of the backing band for 60s surf legends Jan & Dean.

When We Get to Surf City

It wasn't a shock that When We Get to Surf City grabbed my attention when I read a piece from Bob Lefsetz about the book. As a kid, I grew up as a big Beach Boys fan, and my quest to soak up everything Beach Boys-related eventually led me to the music of Jan & Dean. I never owned any of their music, and it wasn't until a few years ago that my knowledge of the group grew a bit more from reading a different Lefsetz piece about the Jan & Dean live album Command Performance. All of this led to my eventual purchase of Command Performance, and when I read about Greene's book much later, I had to acquire it, pronto!

It sat on my bookshelf for a few short weeks before I picked it up last weekend, and I proceeded to crank through it in a few short evenings. Bob Greene's writing style is simple yet it paints a vividly detailed picture. He's a great storyteller, which allowed him to carve out an admirable career as a journalist and author over the past 30 years. When We Get to Surf City was a surprise from the first moment that I heard of it. I had no idea that Jan & Dean had been on the road throughout the years. Like many, I assumed that the group had faded quickly following Jan Berry's tragically ironic car accident in the late 60s. Instead, Jan & Dean had continued to tour regularly until Berry's death in early 2004.

When We Get to Surf City is a great look into the world of a band on the oldies circuit. The past glories have faded, and everyone has a few more pounds than they did back in the day. But they still have the songs that made an initial connection so many years ago via the car radio on a summer night, on the dance floor at a high school dance, and other locations, all the while providing a soundtrack to the memories as a generation came of age.

Greene is one of those people that grew up listening to those songs like any other music fan, and then got the ultimate unbelievable souvenir and gift - a chance to go on the road with his musical icons to play those songs for an incredible 15 year journey while discovering the hidden treasures across America. The gig put Greene front and center with many of the other groups that he grew up with as Jan & Dean shared the stage with bands and artists including James Brown, Ben E. King, Chuck Berry, Gene Pitney, and their musical peers The Beach Boys.

When We Get to Surf City offers many poignant moments, including a look at the daily struggles that Jan Berry dealt with, a lingering result of his injuries decades earlier.

One of the moments that really connected with me personally, was the following passage from Greene:

Who could have known it at the time - who could have known how long this would endure? On the loneliest nights, on the most joyful afternoons, during the sultriest summers and frigid winters, the music, since it was new, has been so profoundly and consistently welcome. In the very worst of times, and in the very best, this music - structurally uncomplicated, four chords in most of the songs, lyrics usually basic and bare - has been like a friend, something to be counted on and treasured. Magic: just guitars and drums and vocals, yet it has always been, without my even having to think about it, the most loyal and steadfast of companions. Wherever I have been, I have needed only to hear three or four seconds of any of hundreds of these songs, coming out of a radio or a loudspeaker or merely out an window on a city street, and I'm instantly somewhere I've been before, somewhere I want to be, familiar and somehow safe.

Wow.

Doesn't that just sum up everything that is great about being a music fan? Relationships, friendships, people - they come and go. But music has been in my experience, the one thing you can count on as something that will remain constant, something that will always be there for you with no letdown.

When We Get to Surf City is a getaway vacation that requires no plane ticket or travel budget. Whatever the purchase price, it might be the best money you'll spend on a book this year. And chances are good that after you read it, you'll be like me, sketching out plans for some future trips to some of the many landmarks that are part of the scenery in this book.

Relevant Links:

Jan & Dean official website

Purchase When We Get to Surf City by Bob Greene - Amazon

Purchase Jan & Dean - Command Performance / Jan & Dean Meet Batman - CD

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