July 25, 2009 – “Sidewalk Surfin'” by Jan And Dean


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Sidewalk Surfin’
Ride The Wild Surf

Concluding our week of Extreme Sports music with this classic.

Have you noticed that todays RTC SOTD has a lot in common with last Tuesday’s SOTD, Catch A Wave by The Beach Boys?


Here’s William Ruhlmann’s notes from the song’s AllMusic.com page:

Looking for another unusual sporting craze to turn into a musical trend after surfing in 1964, Jan & Dean’s Jan Berry hit upon skateboarding, a sort of dry-land version of surfing that could be done anywhere. After trying to come up with a song on the subject himself, he recalled a Beach Boys song called “Catch a Wave” that had appeared on the group’s 1963 album Surfer Girl and asked its composer, Brian Wilson, and Wilson’s current lyric collaborator, Roger Christian, to re-tool it. The result was “Sidewalk Surfin’,” which was “Catch a Wave” with different lyrics referring to skateboarding. Jan & Dean recorded it in an arrangement that aped that of the Beach Boys’ original, albeit with some skateboarding sound effects.

So in other words, Jan wanted a hit about skateboarding but apparently was unable to come up with something of his own, so he asked his friend Wilson to re-do one of their earlier hits.

Maybe that explains why Sidewalk Surfin‘ is my favorite Jan And Dean song outside of The Little Old Lady From Pasadena – it’s based on my favorite Beach Boys song.

The retreaded version, incidentally, wasn’t a huge hit, though – it peaked at #25 on Billboard’s Hot !00, far below other Jan and Dean hits of the same era.

But sometimes, songs don’t go completely away – they just lie dormant for a while.  22 years after it’s initial release, Sidewalk Surfin‘ charted again –  re-released by United Artists Records in 1976 as skateboarding entered it’s renaissance with the exploding popularity of the sport thanks to classic magazine articles about original Z-Boys members Tony Alva, Stacy Peralta and Jay Adams as depicted in the excellent documentary Dogtown And Z-Boys and its fictionalization, director Catherine Hardwick‘s 2005 criminally underrated masterpiece Lords Of Dogtown, the song hit Billboard’s Bubbling Under charts, peaking at #107.

So despite the fact that it wasn’t a HUGE hit, it’s fondly remembered by a lot of skateboarding fans, like myself, as the first hit about the sport – even if it was just Catch A Wave with rewritten lyrics and skateboard sound effects.

BTW, sorry for the abruptly cut off end of today’s audio – it’s the only version of the original I could find…most of the re-released versions over the years eliminated the sound effects, and this one didn’t….