Bob Greene has written several fine books that look back at the 1960s. When We Get to Surf City is an account of the four summers he spent singing and playing guitar with Jan and Dean. For music fans, this is a tale of a dream come true as Greene both travels and performs with a pair of childhood idols. The author did well enough to sing lead on “Little Honda” for both Jan and Dean and the Beach Boys.
Yes, this is one joyful tale, and Greene’s writing radiates his happiness. He is one lucky man. Yet the tale is appropriately balanced with some sadness. As we join Greene, he gets to know not only Dean Torrance but also Jan Berry, a near-genius who came close to being killed in a real life “Dead Man’s Curve” automobile accident. In this account, Berry hobbles and has memory problems, each day having to re-learn the songs he wrote. But it’s clear that Berry was a strong man, the foundation of Jan and Dean. He died in 2004, of a seizure, at age 62. His fans will always miss him and in this book they have one marvelous tribute to his memory.
St. Martin’s Griffin, $15.95, 368 pages
Reprinted courtesy of Sacramento Book Review.