Just after 6pm on Tuesday March 22nd 2005 was just an end to another day at work. I slipped into my jacket, and went to make my way home, on the way stopping into a local store to pick up some things that I needed. I came out of the shop, and made my way to catch the public transport, and standing at the stop my mobile phone began to ring.
This was no normal phone call. Indeed, I was not expecting this at all. It had been over a month since sending my number via email and trying to arrange this very moment. Emails had come and gone, and nothing more was mentioned. Suddenly, Dean Torrence’ name and number sprung up on my phone! (I had been lucky enough to have Dean’s number at an earlier date, but never had the courage to make that all important phone call.)
“Hi Mark”, the sound of Dean’s voice so obvious after watching all those shows with him speaking. “Hiya Dean!” I shouted with delight, not an ounce of nerves showing, and acting like it was an every day occurrence. I found somewhere to sit down and take notes, expecting to have a quick question and answer phone-call. Just over thirty-eight minutes later I would have learned more about Dean Torrence than I had ever learned from reading about this living American Legend.
Dean started off by explaining that he was just tying up a few loose ends, and answering his last 94 emails that he had left to answer. We chatted about various things at this point.
While we were on the subject of internet sites and general chat about the internet, I slipped in a question to Dean asking him what he thought of my website, whilst reminding him that my site was in no way any competition to his site. Dean’s reply was quite assuring as he answered that he liked my site and all the good it was doing to the Jan & Dean name. (The more Jan & Dean sites the better I guess!)
Dean talked a little about his site at www.jananddean.com. “You see, my site is meant to be different to your average site. Think of it more as a book. I’ve created it so you can go back on a day to day basis and read it bit by bit.”. That was very interesting, and for those of us who have ever visited this site, we can plainly see that it is indeed laid out different to your average internet site.
“Ok Dean” came the first of quite a few questions. How would Dean react? “Why is it that you have never liked your song “Honolulu Lulu””? Dean paused for a second or two. “Oh, I don’t know. Maybe because it’s really corny lyrically speaking. The lyrics they were a lot of the problem. I’ve actually began to appreciate the melody over time.” This was a great start. Dean was being honest and he made me feel comfortable.
“We all know that you should have some writing credit for the song “Surf City”. Exactly how much of that song did you write?” Dean’s answer to this was far longer than I had ever had hoped for. “The actual original lyric sheet is in my possession. The words are written out by Brian Wilson as given to us, and the scribbled out bits have my writing on them. Technically speaking, you could ask the question “How many of the lyrics did Jan write”, as there is none of his writing on this sheet.” I of course, as many Jan & Dean fans have seen this original sheet.
“So, how come you were never credited on the record?” I asked. “Thing is Mark, back in those days I didn’t care. We thought the songs would be in the charts one week and out the next. It was no big thing. Of course, things are different now”. Oh yes, things are different now, all these projects coming up and the last thing you want to do is have a new lease of life with no credit, where credit is deserved! This conversation went on taking various directions. Dean does not seem too worried about not having his name on the writing credits, he certainly is in no rush to have them put back on. Yet, as a business man, and one half of Jan & Dean he realises that for histories sake he needs his name on the records he helped write, and contrary to popular belief, he actually co-wrote a hell of a lot of Jan & Dean material.
“We all know that you appeared on The Beach Boys “Barbara Ann” single, various articles and conversations between fans though suggest that Jan actually done the “bom bom bom’s” on “Help Me, Rhonda” Can you actually put us right as to who sang that part, as I think it’s Mike Love, as it sounds like him.” This was a long question, and I didn’t know what to expect as an answer. “Gosh Mark!” Dean replied “I have never had this question thrown at me before, and I did not know it was an area for contention among fans and the like. The answer is definitely Mike Love! No doubt. Jan NEVER sang on any Beach Boys records!!!”
Moving swiftly on I changed the subject “What is your favourite record of all time?” This should have been an easy question! Dean replied “Ours? Oh, of all records? Well there are just too many, thousands maybe”. Dean really loves his music!
“What is in your CD player right now?” I asked Dean, I should have known this guy was so modern he did not use CD players! “I don’t actually use CD’s. Everything I have is stored on my PC. I can check the most played songs for you if you would like.” At this point, Dean rolls off some very obscure Hawaiian artists, followed by “Little Star” by the Elegant’s and “Since I don’t have you” by the Skyliners among many.
“On an early version of the 1971/1972 Anthology 2 record set, some of the mixes seem really mixed up. Any ideas?” Dean replied “You mean the “Filet” side? - right the whole thing - I didn’t remix it like that”. So I asked if he knew of any early production problems, and he had no idea. So a technical question and the only answer we both came up with was that it must have been a pressing error on the LP.
As a big Elvis Presley fan, I just had to ask Dean about his time with Elvis, “Did you and Jan ever get a chance to sing with Elvis?” Dean chuckled a little, and reminisced about his old days he spent with the King. “We spent Sundays playing football together, but we never sang with Elvis. If he’d have asked, we’d have jumped at the chance!”
“What’s it like knowing that you still have fans all around the World in 2005?” Dean seemed really excited, in a Dean kind-of-way with this question. “It’s Unbelievable!!! I never thought that people like you and the others would dedicate so much time to us after all these years.”
“On a tangent, what is your very least favourite Jan & Dean song?” Dean replied “Well, there’s a whole bunch of them (chuckles) especially the early “Doo-Wop” stuff, yeah, especially the early stuff”. I asked why that was the case, Dean replied “Some of it is just so simple, you know, just me and Jan in the garage, it sounds so bad, so corny, so primitive.”
“On the song “You Really Know How To Hurt A Guy” it is claimed that you never sang on that record, yet on a number of takes you can be clearly heard. What is the story behind that?” Dean replied “Oh, I can’t remember. I was on that record? Well if you can hear me I guess I was. It’s like all these stories that come out about me and Jan arguing. Those people who think they know, and ask Jan about the events which he doesn’t remember after his accident. Yeah, I was on that record.”
““Save for a rainy day” is an amazing album, do you have any plans to re-record or tour with it, in the same way Brian toured with “Smile”?” Dean replied “You know, I don’t like that album.” I quickly interrupted “But your vocals are awesome on it, and the mixes are great”. Dean replied “Yeah, but it’s just an album of re-recordings, you know, old songs with hardly any new stuff on there.” Indeed, straight from the horses mouth so-to-speak. Dean really does not like this album!
“Ok then, final question - Do you plan to tour the UK in the future?” Dean replied “Well, we are under new management now, and I can’t really say. As a matter of fact I was supposed to be over there last November with The Beach Boys, as Bruce Johnston had had heart-surgery and I was taking his place.” I interrupted again “Oh!!!! I went to see The Beach Boys in Cardiff then! You should have come with them!” Dean replied “Well, once Bruce realised that the European part of the concert was coming up he quickly got better and made it. I did actually do a lot of the US shows on that tour though.” How unlucky was I and other Dean Torrence fans not to see Dean perform in the UK!
I sneaked in one last question “Why is it do you think that Jan & Dean are not in the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame?” Dean’s response was as in-depth as all his answers that he felt passionate about. “You know, I have no idea. If the Hall Of Fame was like a Sports Hall Of Fame and went on record sales and figures, we would have been there along time ago. I don’t particularly care if I am not in there, but Jan should be in there. One day his time will come.” I totally agreed with Dean on this, and reassured him that the fans are trying all they can to get Jan & Dean into the Hall Of Fame.
In our conversation I continually assured Dean that his fans were spreading the word, and as an individual I was doing my best in the battle to promote one of the greatest duo’s of all time. We laughed, we joked, we were serious and I personally learned more about Jan & Dean than I ever thought possible.
I learned more about Dean than I knew was possible to know. I did not realise that someone as well known, such a star, such a pioneer in Rock & Roll as Dean Torrence would be this easy to talk to. This honest and caring about his fans.
“Right, I have to go Dean, it’s been great talking to you, and I hope we can do it again.” Dean replied “It’s been all my honour, thank you and thank all the fans for supporting me all these years.”
The truth is, I can never thank Dean enough for phoning me on that cold and wet day. To learn so much in so little time. More than any book or film can ever do, was more than any person can ask for. Dean was far more involved in the making of Jan & Dean than any writer or historian will ever give him credit for. Yet he is as humble today as he presumably ever was.
After Jan’s accident it is evident that all Dean wanted to do was keep Jan happy. Not to cross Jan he would agree to things that perhaps never happened. In turn, Jan’s gang of followers took these words and made them “the truth” without ever consulting Dean.
Dean is a joker, Dean was one half of Jan & Dean, to many Dean was the lesser half. After all these years, it is about time that people learn that Dean Torrence was an equal half in that relationship. It had to be an equal half, or it would never have lasted as long as it did.
Dean Torrence. Thank you for being apart of my life for so long, and thank you for that 38 minutes and 30 seconds of mind-blowing learning experience.
Mark (aka Scooby) - 22 March 2005.