As 1964 began, it became obvious that surf music itself was gradually being replaced by a new fad hot-rod music and so this influence was introduced into the ten film market. However one movie that was solely surfing orientated was Columbia Pictures’ Ride The Wild Surf. It was written and produced by Jo and Art Napoleon and released in mid-1964 and although a “teen movie” it does not strictly fall into the category of the “Beach Party” concoctions. The basic difference between it and say A.I.P’s releases was that Ride The Wild Surf in fact had a reasonable script and a believable storyline. However if the original cast had not been so radically altered, this movie could have become a classic of the genre. Columbia’s original intention called for Jan & Dean to feature as head liners which was the usual procedure at that stage of “teen movie” making, that is to feature a current popular recording star or two in the production. In doing this the companies thought they would have an audience even if the movie itself was below standard.
The reason why Jan & Dean were not eventually included in the movie is both interesting and in retrospect rather petty, but still the decision was made and as a result we are now unable to see Jan & Dean in a full length production. Dean explained:
“Well we were supposed to be in the movie, but unfortunately (or fortunately after I saw the movie - maybe it was fortunate we were not in it) a friend of mine from high school kidnaped Frank Sinatra Jr. This friend and I had been very close during most of this time. I had been loaning him money because he was short and had a family to support and after all I had more money than I knew what to do with. Anyway, little known to me, this guy was using the money I was giving him to finance the kidnaping. So we (Jan and I) got kicked out of the movie. I guess the movie people thought that another one of my friends might try to kidnap Fabian who was to co-star with us. I was more thrilled about being involved in the kidnaping than I was being involved in the movie.”
The two actors chosen to fill the vacancy left by Jan & Dean’s departure were Tab Hunter and Peter Brown. Tab Hunter by this stage was a fading pop singer having had his big hit back in 1957 with Young Love for Dot Records while Peter Brown was an upcoming young actor and quite suited for his part. By reliable sources, Pat (transcription note: I believe the writer meant Tab) replaced Jan and Peter replaced Dean. Their characters in the movie were very similar to what has become the generalized embodiment of Jan & Dean’s personages.
As co-stars, Shelley Fabares, Barbara Eden and Susan Hart were chosen while Fabian Forte (on his comeback now as an actor) was the headline. As it turned out, Fabian, Shelley Fabares and Susan Hart were to go on and star in a number of other “ten movies” of the period - Fabian and Susan Hart with A.I.P. and Shelley with Elvis and the M.G.M. studio.
The storyline of the movie had Fabian, Hunter and Brown trying to conquer Hawaii’s big waves and young women. Challenging them was “Eskimo” played by James Mitchum (*the son of actor Robert Mitchum) who was the Island’s top surfer and Susan Hart’s mother whose husband and been “rift-raft” surfer who let their ranch/plantation run to ruin. She was a sort of Barbara Stanwick “The Big Valley” type, having quite an influence on those connected with her. The underlying theme of the movie, the ‘meat’ of the script, was to be the one to “Take That One Last Ride” out at Waimea Bay. The surfer who did this was to be the King of The Islands for that season. This battle eventuated between Fabian and James Mitchum with of course Fabian coming out the winner. This theme of “gotta take that one last ride” was exemplified in Jan & Dean ‘s title song, Ride the Wild Surf, written by Jan Berry, Roger Christian and Brian Wilson:
“Basically, as I recall, they already had the title done so they said write a song that’s called “Ride the Wild Surf.” Brian had a lot to do with it and Jan and I kinda finished it. It was a real good song.”
A good song it was. It peaked at No. 16 nationally on Billboard and exemplified Jan & Dean’s surf sound and Jan Berry’s perfection in production techniques. Although the duo were ousted from the movie their title song remained and here is the bone of contention:
If Jan & Dean had remained in the movie, would more of their songs be featured in the movie and would they have performed.
The majority of the music for “Ride the Wild Surf” was written by Stu Phillips and apart from two exceptions was merely only incidental and used as background music to the action. These two exception were the main title and the previously mentioned Ride The Wild Surf vocal recording by Jan & Dean which was used to close the movie. The main title, simply called ‘The Main Title From “Ride The Wild Surf,’” was an instrumental written by Stu Phillips and introduced the movie, and even though no soundtrack album was issued for the movie, both these tracks were released onto disc. Jan & Dean’s Ride The Wild Surf was the original soundtrack recording and found it’s way onto a single, an album of the same name and various compilation lps while ‘The Main Title . . .’ was issued as a single only by the Colorado group, The Astronauts. However The Astronauts version was not the original soundtrack version as featured in the movie but nonetheless was quite impressive and personally I consider it better than the version of the movie soundtrack.
Jan & Dean’s Ride the Wild Surf album was rush released to coincide with the success of the movie. The lp itself was quite unexpected at the time as the duo’s then current smash The Little Old Lady From Pasadena (peaking at No. 3) was to headline the new album as had the practice been in the past. In fact The Little Old Lady From Pasadena lp was released the week before the Ride The Wild Surf lp, so how confused do you think their fans were? To add to the confusion, the add for the “Little Old Lady” lp featured on the back of the Ride The Wild Surf lp showed a different lp than you actually got. The content listing was what you got on the lp but the cover photo shown was rather interesting. What are those track depicted on the cover - Tell ‘em I’m Surfin’, Put A Dodge In Your Garage H-O-N-E-Y. Even Dean didn’t remember anything about the odd cover:
“Put A Dodge In Your Garage H-O-N-E-Y - I don’t remember that. I’ve got no idea of that song or why Tell ‘Em I’m Surfin’ is shownon it.”
Of course Tell ‘Em I’m Surfin’ eventuated on the Ride The Wild Surf lp but the other track never saw the light of day. It can only be assumed that Put A Dodge In Your Garage H-O-N-E-Y was an instrumental and probably found it’s way onto one of the duo’s other lps under a different name. The explanation of the odd front cover to the “Little Old Lady” lp and where it came from is possibly that it was the initially proposed lp cover and just happened to be used for the add by mistake. But what of the Ride The Wild Surf lp itself?
Ride The Wild Surf (Liberty LP LST 7368/LRP 3368) was released in October 1964, entering Billboard’s album charts on October 17. It peaked at No. 66 and stayed in the charts for a total of 19 weeks. The lp was produced by Jan Berry and featured the usual crew of engineers - Dayton “Bones” Howe, Harold “Lanky” Linstrot and Charles “Chuck” Britz. Hal Blaine conducted the orchestra while Phil “Flip” Sloan and Steve Barri as The Fantastic Baggys added background vocals. Shelley Fabares supplied the liner notes, which was only fitting. Although no soundtrack lp was issued for the movie, Jan & Dean’s album was apparently designed to appear to be a soundtrack recording. The front cover of the lp featured only one photo of the duo, with the rest of the photos being stills from the movie. The heading for the lp read:
Jan & Dean sing the original soundtrack recording of the title song from Ride The Wild Surf ( a Columbia Pictures Release)
Whether the intention was to actually deceive the record buying public into believing it was a soundtrack album is unimportant and really it would have been a pointless exercise because after all only one vocal song was featured in the movie and the background music, apart from the main title, was hardly riveting enough to make an lp out of it.
After analyzing the various tracks it becomes obvious that all the composing was done by a small “family” of writers, as were most of Jan & Dean’s material. Brian Wilson’s contribution was evident on three compositions, while Jan himself contributed the most with Don Altfeld, Jill Gibson, DJ Roger Christian and Gary Zelkley all offering help in the music and lyric field.
As mentioned previously, Steve Barri and Phil Sloan were featured as backing vocalists. This was by no means a new situation for them as they had been employed in this capacity on the pervious lp and I’m sure helped out on Drag City, although uncredited. However this time they were billed as the Fantastic Baggys, Lou Alder’s new creation. When The Baggys first single came out (coincidently the same month as the Ride The Wild Surf lp) it was to be their version of Tell ‘Em I’m Surfin’. In fact the same musical track was used on both their version and that of Jan & Dean, a situation which occurred later with Summer Mean Fun. Whether the Baggys’ track was first or second has never been ascertained but Dean himself recalled:
“Our tracks always came first. If we didn’t want it as a single we let the Baggys have it. They were quite capable of doing it on their own but I guess it was just easier to use one of ours.”
However what was clear was the fact that Lou Adler was attempting to parlay his one surf group into two surf groups while saving a lot of studio time in the process.
The tracks on Ride The Wild Surf were a fine selection of Jan and Dean at their best and unlike their previous albums all the tracks were new with the exception of She’s My Summer Girl which first appeared as the ‘B’ side of Surf City (LB 55580) back in 1963. However the version featured on the lp is somewhat different to the single release.
Now taking all the Ride The Wild Surf tracks in hand and examining their storylines and themes, could it be possible that some of these, if not all, were destined to be featured or performed in the movie if Jan and Dean had appeared in it?
Tracks like Waimea Bay, Tell ‘Em I’m Surfin’, Surfin Wild, A Surfer’s Dream and The Restless Surfer all fit perfectly into the storyline of “Ride The Wild Surf “ while the inclusion of Sidewalk Surfin’ and Skateboarding Part I gave the album it’s commercial appeal with the then current fad of skateboarding taking off all over the country.
Walk on the Wetside was the second instrumental included on the album and could have easily been used as background music for the movie. The only real odd track on the album is the final tract The Submarine Races - a true J&D satire based on a similar theme conceived by Danny & Gwen in their The Submarine Race (b/w Deep Dreams - Liberty 55490, 7/62). The inclusion of this track on the album could possibly be construed as the “token” satire track of the album as Jan and Dean had always included at least one “offbeat” track on all their albums up to that point. This was the true Jan & Dean at work.