1965 - Folk 'n Roll

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In early August, however, Jan was seriously injured in a railroad mishap during the first day's shooting of Paramount's Easy Come, Easy Go. The bloody compound fracture of his left leg would leave Jan in a full, leg-length cast for many weeks to come. Jan's schedule was hectic enough as it was, and while the injury slowed him a bit, he still managed (for the time being) to continue with school and recording. 
 
As the summer of "folk-rock" came to an end, Phil Sloan's composition, "Eve of Destruction," was on its way to becoming a number one smash for Barry McGuire. In early September, Liberty released "I Found A Girl" -- another Sloan-Barri composition. This introspective rocker once again featured no input from Dean Torrence, and Sloan himself provided the falsetto accents. The song was a good fit for the times, with subtle but effective guitar riffs, and soon found its way into the Top 30. GOLDEN HITS VOL. 2 came and went, and by September Jan was in the studio (with George Tipton) working on material for the next album. He was also locking horns with Screen Gems and Liberty over royalties. Jan's accountants, after a careful study of statements from Liberty, were convinced that recent payments were unsatisfactory. It was the latest in a long line of skirmishes. Both Jan and Dean were incensed, and Jan's attorney fired off telegrams to both Screen Gems and Liberty, terminating all ties with the companies. Liberty, however, came through at the last minute with two sizable checks, and the letters of termination were quickly withdrawn. Nevertheless, neither company recognized that Jan & Dean had the right to terminate their contracts, and the battle would continue toward a final inevitable solution.

If anyone doubted that the days of sand and surf were long gone, Jan Berry had an answer. "There is no real 'surf music,' or 'surf sound,'" proclaimed Jan in early October, admonishing a reporter who made reference to his previous style. "There is just the 'sound' of the individual artists. We don't have a 'surf sound.'" No, indeed. Later that month, Jan released a solo single on Liberty (pulled from the forthcoming album) called "The Universal Coward" -- a clever, interesting, in-your-face platform for his right-wing, pro-establishment political views. It was a telling statement, (months before Barry Sadler's similar effort topped the charts), and the quirky FOLK 'N ROLL collection followed soon after in November.

Jan's stab at folk rock featured an interesting assortment of tunes. Including the recent singles, the album featured five original compositions from Berry and his writing team. Hot-rod guru Roger Christian was now writing "folk" lyrics. And the Gibson-Altfeld team provided yet another strong ballad with "It's a Shame to Say Goodbye," which had served as the B-side of "I Found A Girl." There were three Sloan-Barri related compositions, and four additional covers -- the latter featuring the most participation by Dean Torrence. Dissatisfied with Jan's artistic direction, Dean opted (or was allowed) -- with one exception -- to sing on the non-original cuts. Dean's solo performance on The Beatles' "Yesterday," accompanied by beautiful strings, remains his finest vocal performance. The cover of The Byrds' "Turn! Turn! Turn!" was also strong, as was Bob Dylan's "It Ain't Me Babe." On some of the other cuts, Jan amusingly delivered his vocals with exaggerated angst. And the original composition, "Folk City," served to tie the spirit of the entire album together. It was a celebration of the new "electric" folk genre, cleverly arranged on the model of "Surf City" (ironically, the very style Jan had recently, and publicly, denounced). This tune added satire to FOLK 'N ROLL. Jan even used the same falsetto melody to accompany the chorus of "Folk City": Yeah, I'm goin' to Folk City / Cause I gotta unwind / Ya know I'm goin' to Folk City / Gonna blow my mind. 
 
In December, Liberty released one last single from the album, "A Beginning from an End." This cut may provide a bit of insight on Jan's status as a medical student, as it dealt with the heavy subject of a mother dying in childbirth. There was even a spoken recitation, as with "Dead Man's Curve." The arrangement was complex, instrumentally, with an exaggerated, quavering falsetto from Dean -- who absolutely hated the song. Though it dealt with a theme that other artists were exploring at the time, a tune -- from Jan & Dean -- about someone dying was too much for the sensibilities of Dean Torrence. He simply did not appreciate the direction Jan was taking with the music. And it was while working on this cut with Jan that Dean left in disgust to make history, by going down the hall and doubling the falsetto lead with Brian Wilson on the Beach Boys session for "Barbara Ann."
Jan's studio invoices for the latter half of 1965 provide ample evidence of his brutal schedule. He worked long hours on weekends, and at all hours of the night during the week. "There were no days of the week for Jan," confirms Bones Howe. "It made me crazy, but I liked working with Jan. It was fun. Whenever the urge struck him, he would call me. You know, it's Sunday. It didn't matter. There were no days of the week for Jan." And with good reason. The other musicians Bones and Lanky worked with were not in school all day during the week.

So Jan did all of his studio work when it was best for him, and it was a situation that cost him at times. If he was late, if he canceled a session, if he worked at odd hours, if he worked on Sunday -- for these and any number of other infractions, Jan was charged extra, and the royalties for Jan & Dean were docked accordingly. The accounting office for Liberty scribbled plenty of notes on Jan's invoices, making reference to "Jan Berry's crazy hours." Or that "unusual scheduling" would cost him extra. The scheduling also meant that Jan had to pay for meal allowances and meal penalties for the engineers. On October 21, Jan worked from 1:00 to 6:15 a.m. on four-track, sel-sync, and dub cutting sessions. "Jan Berry called Lanky in out of schedule," complained the bookkeepers, with plenty of references to unusual hours and charging of royalties. 
 
Jan, of course, didn't care. He operated on his own timetable, regardless. And he was still just as demanding in the studio. In December, Jan was working on a really strong cover of The Beatles' "Norwegian Wood." In fact, he was planning for the tune to be the next Jan & Dean single. And while it had familiar elements of the original, it also boasted a fuller arrangement, with falsetto and backing harmonies. The instrumental track was superb, embellished with horns and marimba. The following year, Brian Wilson offered more proof that he and Jan Berry were on the same page, musically. Speaking of the effective simplicity of certain Beatles arrangements, Brian said specifically of "Norwegian Wood" (with its "one voice and a sitar"): "I would have orchestrated it, put in background voices -- done a thousand things." And that's exactly what Jan did with the song in late 1965.

Though Beatles "purists" and Dean Torrence would probably never agree, "Norwegian Wood" was a strong and interesting cover. It was very "Jan Berry," and he spent a lot of time on it. He pushed guitarist Don Peake to get just the right sound for his variation on the famous opening. "I was playing 12-string and Jan wanted me to go, Dah-hee-yow!" remembers Don, singing the signature riff. "He wanted me to do the sitar thing on a 12-string, which was almost impossible! So I ended up doing a compromise where I slid my finger up a few frets, because that's the only way I could do it. I couldn't bend the strings." Jan wanted Don to bend the strings. "I would actually move the note up and down the frets. I had to slide it, because I couldn't bend it!" Jan worked on a master and a mono dub for "Norwegian Wood" between midnight and 2:00 a.m. on December 21. And true to form, an admonishment from Liberty was typed right on his invoice a week later: "This work was not scheduled in advance - Engineer had to be held on overtime - Abnormal scheduling." And Jan was charged extra for the infractions. "Jan was in constant conflict with the record company," confirms Bones Howe. "And the money? You know, he wanted things done his way and that was it." Lanky Linstrot agrees. "Jan knew when it was right, but sometimes it took awhile to get there. And he didn't think much about money. He didn't care if he was running up the bill." In fact, Jan was so grateful to Bones and Lanky that he would sometimes pay them more (on the side) than they were officially due.

As the year 1965 drew to a close, Jan was busier than ever -- and his personal life was unraveling. His leg injury made it difficult for him to juggle his many commitments (Liberty had leaned on Jan -- in writing -- when he was late delivering "I Found A Girl"). And sadly, Jan's longtime relationship with Jill Gibson began to deteriorate late in the year. Jill had been living with Jan in his beautiful new home on Park Lane Circle, in Bel Air Knolls off Mulholland Drive. She had gone "all out" in decorating the place back in April. And for awhile, things had gone well. They were happy, and even talked of marriage. But it was not to be -- and Jill would soon be gone. Jan was now in his second academic year of medical school, and school would also soon become an issue. But for now, there was no time to let up. Though the singles and album since "I Found A Girl" had not performed to commercial expectations, new musical projects were in the works. And Jan & Dean were set to star in their own prime time comedy series for the ABC Television Network.

 

Source: "'A Righteous Trip': In the Studio with Jan Berry, 1963-1966." © 2001-2011 by Mark A. Moore. All rights reserved. (Dumb Angel #4, 2005).