Phase One, as Dean Torrence puts it, of Jan & Dean's California saga ended 13 years ago when Jan Berry slammed his brand new Corvette Sting Ray into the rear of a parked truck.The fiberglass body shattered, and Berry spent the next six years in a coma.
Phase Two began last August, when Jan & Dean rejoined their old teenage buddies, the Beach Boys, on tour, coming out in the middle of the show to sing two oldies they had added harmonies to in the early '60s: "Babara Ann" and "Fun, Fun, Fun."
"The question," says Torrence, who is 39 now, sitting in his hotel room in a bathing suit and running his fingers through his sun-bleached hair, "is what you consider an oldie. Our audiences today are under 20, so when 'Surf City' was a hit, they were barely walking. These songs don't sound old to them."
Jan & Dean are back on the road. They're in Washington specifically for two reasons: three sold-out nights at the Cellar Door, and a performance for the President's Committee to Hire the Handicapped.
In their prime, Jane & Dean were probably the truest exponents of the surf-sun-girls-parties California beach sound, even more than the now better-known Beach Boys. They had 10 gold records ("Little Old Lady From Pasadena," "Dead Man's Curve"), a more fanatical following than the Beach Boys, and were themselves caught up in the myth they were singing about.
"I suppose you could say we believed in it," says Dean. "Jan realyy was into cars, and I guess I loved the Southern California image. But everyone loved it. Our biggest following was in the South and the Midwest. I used to find better surfing clothes in Atlanta than in LA. It wa just a symbol of escapism, I guess. You think of the Rose Bowl, and all these people are bundled up in Michigan watching television, and the sky is blue and people have short-sleeved shirts on and they think, 'California, that must be paradise. There's snow on the ground here.'
"And cars. They're just part of the culture. You really can't get anywhere without them in Southern California. Gas could be $10 a gallon, and there'd still be lines."
All this car talk perks up Berry, who still upon occasion has some diffeiculty following conversations.
"I was driving in my Sting Ray late one night," he says, reciting the lyrics to 'Dead Man's Curve,' "When the XKE pulled up on the right."
He stops and smiles, saying, "In my mind I have to learn to handle the whole story, the accident thing."
Torrence smiles as Berry gets up to walk to his room.
"Sometimes," says Torrence, "I think that Jan just has no concept of time anymore - and then I remember the old days, and we were supposed to catch the last plane out of a town, and I'd be running and he was still in the bathtub.
"He's getting there. I let him drive me to our first date at the Roxy in LA. Some things dont't change. He's still a crazy driver." CAPTION: Picture, Jan Berry, left, and Dean Torrence; by James A. Parcell