The following conversation took place with Jan Berry in 1997, and with Dean Torrence in 2004.
What do you remember about writing “Surf City” with Brian Wilson?
Jan Berry: “Surf City” was the first song that Brian and I worked on together. I went to his apartment, and we sat side by side at an upright piano. I put together the arrangements on that while Brian played along. Once we put it together I brought in Hal Blaine, Earl Palmer, Glen Campbell, and the rest of those guys. We cut it at United (that’s now Ocean Way Studios) and laid down the rhythm track; shortly after that we laid down the vocals. I over-dubbed my voice on the lead microphone and had Tony Minicello (of the Matadors) and Brian singing in the background. The vocals on that were done in unison. Hal Blaine was always there — and all those other musicians too! Brian was such a joy to work with because he concentrated so hard when it came time to working, and he was such a nice guy to be around. I’ll never forget working with him. We had a lot of collaborations, but “Surf City” was such a great song. It’s my favorite memory!
Dean Torrence: Visually, the Surf City LP – at the very least – (included) a picture with a surfboard and woodie. The company who put our packages together [Studio Five] decided that the picture shouldn’t dominate the whole cover. All the songs weren’t about surfing, so on the other hand (I thought) it would be misleading to have that picture on the cover, but there weren’t that many songs written about surfing yet. We couldn’t fill up a whole album with surf songs … we didn’t have enough of them. (The) Drag City LP was the first time we could get out of the studio – and have pictures taken on location – about a place that you’re actually singing about … Tying the visuals into actual songs, so the continuity was finally there. I felt really, really good about that. That was the breakthrough! We got the whole cover, and every song on the record was about the car industry and the California lifestyle, which was totally-totally unique. At that particular time it had not been done. That’s pretty dang neat!,”
Jan & Dean’s original 15-album Liberty catalog, 1962-1966, has been reissued by Capitol Records for the digital market with extensive liner notes.
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