Our Top 10 Jan & Dean Songs list looks back at the music of a duo that stands as one of the most underrated acts in rock music history. The group consisted of Jan Berry and Dean Torrence. As Jan & Dean, the duo celebrated a very successful recording career in the 1960s, especially during the years 1963 to 1966. The band often collaborated with The Beach Boys Brian Wilson who wrote over a dozen songs for Jan & Dean. They were never given the credit they deserved for the substance within their songs and the brilliant productions they recorded with the Wrecking Crew on vinyl. The group had multiple top 10 hits and helped shape the surf sound of the 1960s along with The Beach Boys.
# 10 – Baby Talk
We open up our top 10 Jan & Dean Songs list with the duo’s first hit single entitled “Baby Talk.” The single was released in 1959. It was a hit for the two as it broke the Billboard Top 10 peaking at the number ten spot. The song was written by Melvin Schwartz. This is not the sound that we would come to know as Jan and Dean but it paints an early picture of where they came from in the late 1950s.
# 9 – Linda
Continuing with our top 10 Jan and Dean songs list we turn to a song that has an interesting backstory. The song “Linda,” was written by professional songwriter Jack Lawrence in 1943. At the time he named the song after his attorneys’ daughter Linda Eastman who was 1 year old at the time. Of course, rock and roll fans know that Linda Eastman eventually grew up and married Paul McCartney. The song “Linda,” would be released in 1963 just before Jan and Dean hit it really big with “Surf City.” Nonetheless, this is a great song that deserves its own mention on this top 10 Jan and Dean songs list.
# 8 – Honolulu Lulu
How could you not love a song titled “Honolulu Lulu?” The song was released on the 1963 album Surf City and Other Swingin’ Cities. It was released as the follow-up single to “Surf City.” While the song didn’t celebrate the number one success that the song “Surf City,” had, it still was a huge hit for Jan & Dean as it peaked at number 11 on the Billboard Top 100 songs chart. The song was written by Jan Berry, Roger Christian, and Lou Adler. Check out the middle eight on this one. This one is also filled with some cool modulations!
# 7 – Ride The Wild Surf
At number seven we present the great track “Ride The Wild Surf.” This one starts out with a little Chuck Berry riff and then explodes into their famous Beach Boys sounding style. The song was placed in the 1964 motion picture Ride the Wild Surf. The song became a top 20 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 Top 20 in 1964.
# 6 – Sidewalk Surfin’
The song “Sidewalk Surfin'” was a Jan & Dean released song that was written by Brian Wilson and Robert Christian. It is melodically the same song as the Beach Boys “Catch A Wave,” with a new set of lyrics. The song was originally released on the album Ride The Wild Surf album which was issued in 1964.
# 5 – Popsicle
“Popsicle,” is just one of those fun Jan & Dean songs. “Popsicle,” was released in 1966 on the album also titled Popsicle. The song was written by Buzz Cason and Bobby Russell. It has a bit of a novelty feel. Nonetheless, it was a hit for Jan & Dean as it peaked at number 22 on the Billboard Hot 100. There is a mix of their old do-wop 1950s sound and their spirited Beach Boys style all at work on this one.
# 4 – Dead Man’s Curve
“Dead Man’s Curve,” was a huge hit song by Jan & Dean released in 1964. The song was written by Brian Wilson, Artie Kornfeld, Roger Christian, and Jan Berry. Songs like this about teenage tragedies such as this one and “Leader Of The Pack,” as well as many others became very popular in 1964. The song would become a top 10 hit for Jan & Dean as it broke the Billboard Hot 100’s top 10 peaking at number 7.
# 3 – Drag City
Continuing with the race car theme on our top 10 Jan & Dean songs list we present the track “Drag City.” The song was released in 1963. “Drag City,” was composed by Jan Berry, Roger Christian, and Brian Wilson. The song “Drag City,” would become a top 10 hit for Jan & Dean on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1963.
# 2 – The Little Old Lady (From Pasadena)
As we close in on the number one spot on our top 10 Jan & Dean songs list we turn to one of the group’s biggest hits of their career. The song “The Little Old Lady (From Pasadena),” was released in 1964. The song shot straight up all the way up to the number three position on the Billboard Hot 100. The Wrecking Crew were utilized as the band on the track. Notably, Leon Russell played piano on the track. The song was composed by Don Altfeld, Jan Berry and Roger Christian.
# 1 – Surf City
We wonder how many people over the years thought that this was The Beach Boys. This song was written by Brian Wilson along with Jan Berry. On the recording was also a young Glen Campbell listed as one of the studio musicians along with such legends as Hal Blaine and others. The song “Surf City,” was released in 1963. “Surf City,” would become Jan and Dean’s biggest hit of their career. The song hit number one on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1963. It also was a top 10 hit on the Billboard R&B charts peaking at number three. Interestingly, “Surf City,” would become the first pop song based on surfing to hit number one on the Billboard Hot 100.
It would have been interesting to hear the record if it had been originally recorded by The Beach Boys. “Surf City,” is such a brilliant song and just further defined the genius of Brian Wilson. The song has been covered many times over the years by various groups most notably a rocking version done by The Ramones in 1997.
Top of the page photo – Photo: Author unknown; Photo courtesy Orange County Archives, No restrictions, via Wikimedia Commons
Updated September 23, 2023
Top 10 Jan & Dean Songs article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2023
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