Why Aren’t They In The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame: Jan & Dean

One of the disadvantages of examining the case of acts from the earlier days of rock & roll is that there is an assumption that all of the worthwhile acts from the beginning of the rock era have been inducted.  This is clearly not the case, but it is easy to assume that considering that we are nearly 70 years into the rock era and many younger listeners simply have very little understanding of the acts that were involved in the early days of Rock & Roll.  Such is the case with Jean & Dean.  For older fans of rock, the worth of Jan & Dean is obvious to see given the songs of theirs that are familiar.  For someone who was not around at the time, a look at the albums that the group released from 1960 to 1966 will indicate something of the group’s worth–their debut album was in 1960, followed by another album in 1962, three albums in 1963, three more in 1964, four albums in 1965, and a staggering five albums in 1966 [1], four of them after a car accident from Jan.  This sort of release pace could not last, as they had albums canceled in both 1967 and 1968 and did not release their next album until 1971, but all the same, for the first half of the 1960’s they were an amazingly prolific and popular band.  This is an obvious case for induction.

The Influence Of Jan & Dean

The influence of Jan & Dean is pretty straightforward, in that the group sang songs about girls and sunshine and cars and Southern California.  While the Beach Boys are generally thought of as rivals of the Beatles during the middle and later part of the 1960’s, during the first half of the decade the Beach Boys were the rivals of Jan & Dean over songs about the same general location and concepts.  And it should be noted that songs about sunshine, girls, cars, and Southern California are still relatively popular songs.  It is hard to imagine, for example, bands like the Neighborhood or Sugar Ray without the context provided by both Jan & Dean and the Beach Boys.  And while the Beach Boys have been remembered and honored, Jan & Dean has not really received the credit that they are do for their body of work.  Perhaps if there had been those album releases in the latter part of the 1960’s the group may have had enough success to be seen as having endured through the British Invasion as well as the hippie movement and that might have been enough, but it was not the case and as a result the group simply has not been given the credit their career would deserve from an obvious look.

Why Jan & Dean Belong In The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame

The obvious case for Jan & Dean belonging in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame rests on their singles, which show an obvious rivalry as equals of the Beach Boys and the foundation of the Southern California sound that would have a great deal of influence on later generations of rockers.  Jan & Dean’s singles career starts with a top ten hit in 1958 as Jan & Arnie, “Jennie Lee.”  As Jan & Dean, there was a further top ten hit in 1959 with “Baby Talk.”  Besides that, the band racked up an impressive number of hits, with a #1, “Surf City” in 1963, top ten hits like the #3 “The Little Old Lady (From Pasadena)” in 1965, the #8 single “Dead Man’s Curve” in 1964 (with #37 b-side “The New Girl In School”), the #10 hit “Drag City” from 1963 as well as the #11 hit “Honolulu Lulu” from the same year.  Other top 40 hits include 1961’s “Heart And Soul,” 1963’s “Linda,” 1964’s “Ride The Wild Surf” and “Sidewalk Surfin’,” and 1965’s “You really Know How To Hurt A Guy” and “I Found A Girl,” and even 1966’s “Popsicle.”    This is an enviable record of success that helped put SoCal music on the map and most bands would be very envious of such a record of pop success, especially given the label drama that led to the cancellation of two albums and the difficulties in recovering from a car accident that torpedoed the momentum of the act for the late 1960’s.  And that is not even considering the role that Dean played in singing co-lead vocals on the Beach Boys’ “Barbara Ann.”

Why Aren’t Jan & Dean In The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame?

It seems likely that the car accident that incapacitated Jan in 1965 is not considered to have made the band a sympathetic example of a group cut short in their prime, although it is easy to see that as the case looking back.  Likewise, even if the group had a short period of popular success it had a high degree of popularity and cultural influence during that time.  The group’s friendly rivalry with the Beach Boys also speaks highly in its favor, given that the Beach Boys were a strong enough group to compete with the Beatles for some time.  Jan & Dean deserve some credit for being a huge act, at least for a few years.

Verdict:  Put them in.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jan_and_Dean_discography

About nathanalbright

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11 Responses to Why Aren’t They In The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame: Jan & Dean

  1. Shawn Crossen says:

    Nice write up, I would say it’s important to note that Jan & Dean’s peak years were the late 50’s through mid 60’s, and in those years album sales were not the focus, it was all about producing hit singles, and with over 16 Top 40 hits (7 of which were in the top 10) and over 20 million record sales, this is where Jan & Dean surpass just about half of the already inducted hall of famers. But more than that, Jan Berry was a musical genius pure and simple, with an IQ well over 180, he was not only involved in the writing of their hits, but he produced and arranged all of it as well. He was using the “Wrecking Crew” studio musicians in his sessions at or possibly before the same time period as Phil Specter was. The production value of Jan & Dean records were second to none, Jan was one hell of a producer in those days. And the fact that Jan Berry nearly lost it all in that terrible automobile accident in 1966, where he had to learn all over again how to walk and talk , only to come back and produce music once again while touring on the road with Dean for another 25+ years is shear dedication unmatched by no one. Should Jan & Dean be inducted into the hall of fame? They should have been inducted in 1985 when they were first eligible.

    • It does surprise me given the band’s peak influence and the fact that their decline in output after 1965 was due to injury cutting short their career that they have not been inducted given the way that the Beach Boys were inducted so quickly. And yes, the focus on the album as being the measure of a band’s greatness is really a post 1960’s phenomenon.

  2. Charlie Papa says:

    Tonight I just introduced my 7 year old son and 40 year old wife to Jan and Dean. We listened to all of their hits and danced to them throughout the night. My wife thought that they where the beach boys prior to my introduction to her of Jan and Dean. We listened to the beach boys to compare the contrast of music and we all agreed that we enjoyed Jan and Deans style of southern California flare much more than the Beach Boys. Pet sounds in my opinion is a great tale of the struggle from teenager to attemptimg to be a responsible adult. Unfortunately Jan and Dean never got to make that album. Jan and Dean’s music for the time is much more influential and just plain better. Its a shame that Jan and Dean are not in the rock and roll of fame.

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  7. Dan Garrett says:

    To me, it is an obvious slight that Jan & Dean
    Isn’t in the Hall of Fame. The powers that be
    Apparently have a grievance against them.
    And that makes me both angry and sad. Jan
    Is gone now. “Dead Man’s Curve” became a
    Nightmare realty come true and eventually triggered the seizure that took him away.
    But their music endures. Their music illuminated my youth with many smiles and Dean taught me to sing falsetto along with Brian Wilson. This is just wrong!!!!
    Jan and Dean deserve to be in the Rock a
    Nd Roll Hall of Fame!!!

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