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When We Get to Surf City: A Journey Through…
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When We Get to Surf City: A Journey Through America in Pursuit of Rock and…

by Bob Greene

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I have been jealous of Bob Greene's career for decades, at least until the kind-of-scandal that derailed much of it. But until reading this book, I had no idea of this previously unknown-to-me aspect of his life: In 1992, a member of Jan and Dean's traveling band picked up a copy of Greene's book about high school in 1964, "Be True To Your School", read a mention of Jan and Dean within, and contacted Greene. This led to a meeting, and an opportunity to tour the country with the band, singing the hits from summer days gone by when Jan and Dean were chart-toppers, and "Surf City" was a signature tune. Jan Berry had had a serious car accident in 1966, and was left broken in body and mind, and slowly and painfully over many years he knitted himself together enough to make his living traveling the country with Dean and other band members, playing their old hits. Bob Greene, over the next 15 years, toured with the group in the summers; this book is an account of those times. The nostalgia for those of a certain age (like myself) is delicious, and the band crossed paths with many other luminaries from the past. One of my favorite moments from the book is when Greene is invited by a band member who has migrated to another great band of times past, to play a set with them. Afterward, he called an old friend from Ohio, one of the friends from those past summer days who would understand what this had meant: "What would you have said if in 1964 I had told you that I could look into the future, and that one day one of us would sing with the Beach Boys?" His friend Jack replied, "I would have believed you more if you had said one of us was going to be president of the United States." I wish I had known about these excursions by Greene at the time. He wrote that the band made many stops to St. Louis, and at one of their St. Louis sets (they played at Union Station), Bob Costas met them afterward and took them to O'Connell's for cheeseburgers and Ted Drewes for frozen custard concretes - a couple of stops I made myself frequently in my single days in the city, often on the same night. It would've been a lot of fun to catch one of their sets. The book concludes in a bittersweet fashion when Jan Berry's long-ago car wreck finally exacts its toll on his broken body. This was a lot of fun to read, even though I was a little young and nerdy to be part of the music scene back in Jan and Dean's day. ( )
  burnit99 | Apr 9, 2011 |
Interesting view of how these bands live, but overly sentimentalized. ( )
  GaylDasherSmith | Aug 21, 2009 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0312375298, Hardcover)

In a dazzling and exhilarating display of narrative on-the-road reporting, award-winning journalist and New York Times bestselling author Bob Greene takes readers on an unforgettable American journey of music, memories, and universal longing.

Running away to join the circus is a dream we’re told to put away once we’re no longer young. But, as Bob Greene writes, “just when in our lives we give up on capturing the freedom and bright mornings of our world when it was new, sometimes something happens to keep the sun high in the sky a while longer. Sometimes we find something we weren’t even aware we were looking for."

For fifteen years beginning in the 1990s, Greene stepped into a universe that, out in the country every summer night, is hiding in plain sight: the touring world of the great early rock bands who gave America the car-radio and jukebox music it still loves best. Singing backup with the legendary Jan and Dean as they endlessly crisscross the nation, Greene takes us to football stadiums and minor-league ballparks, to no-name ice cream stands and midnight diners, to back roads and carnival midways as he tells a riveting story of great fame and lingering sorrow, of unexpected friendship and lasting dreams, of the things that keep us going in the face of all the things that threaten to stop us.

Striking chords of recognition and yearning, When We Get to Surf City glistens with cameos by the men and women with whom Greene traveled the United States on his deliriously unlikely journey, including Chuck Berry, Martha and the Vandellas, the Everly Brothers, Jerry Lee Lewis, the Beach Boys, the Monkees, the Kingsmen, James Brown, Lesley Gore, the Drifters, Little Eva, and the Coasters.

All of them—not just the people on the stage, but the people in the audiences, too—are seeking their private versions of the mythical destination Jan and Dean came up with all those years ago: Surf City as the perfect, cloudless place we all believe is out there, if only we can find it.

Hilarious and heartbreaking, moving and brilliant, this is the trip of a lifetime, a travelogue of the heart, accompanied by a thundering guitar chorus of Fender Stratocasters. It is a story destined to touch readers not just today, but for generations to come, as long as the music itself echoes.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:19:35 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Journalist Bob Greene takes readers on an American journey of music, memories, and universal longing. For fifteen years beginning in the 1990s, Greene stepped into another world, the touring world of the great early rock bands who gave America the car-radio and jukebox music it still loves best. Singing backup with the legendary Jan and Dean as they endlessly crisscross the nation, Greene takes us to football stadiums and minor-league ballparks, to back roads and carnival midways as he tells of great fame and lingering sorrow, of unexpected friendship and lasting dreams, of the things that keep us going in the face of all the things that threaten to stop us. All of them--not just the people on the stage, but the audiences, too--are seeking their private versions of the mythical destination: Surf City, the perfect, cloudless place we all believe is out there, if only we can find it.--From publisher description.… (more)

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