Monday, July 12, 2010

Jan & Arnie - "Gas Money"


Arwin Records (1958)
Listen to "Gas Money" MP3

I had never heard of this great song until I heard it covered by The Turtles at the 2010 Dundalk Heritage Fair (or as my GF Amy calls it, "The Fundalk Fair"). Though it was recorded over half a century ago, the topicality of America's addiction to fossil fuels remains timeless.

Yup, even in 1958 the price of gas was a big deal. Especially to James Dean-doting, hot rod-worshipping, testosterone-teeming teens who wanted to save up enough dough to be able to cruise for chicks or take their honey out to the drive-in.

Though released in 1958 on Arwin Records (a small company owed by Doris Day's husband, Marty Melcher) by *Jan & Arnie* - who are pictured at right - "Gas Money" was really an early incarnation of Jan & Dean, back when Jan Berry and Dean Torrence were in a band called The Barons with a drummer name Arnie Ginsberg. (The Barons was actually a musical offshoot of Jan's University High School glee club of the same name, an all-male group that included future actor James Brunderlin - better known as James Brolin - future Beach Boy Bruce Johnston, and drummer extraordinaire Sandy Nelson.) But because Dean was off serving his time in the Army Reserves, the song was released under the duo name "Jan & Arnie." J&A actually scored a national Top 10 hit with an earlier single "Jennie Lee," which was about about a real-life stripper they'd seen at LA's New Follies Burlesk, Jennie "The Bazoom Girl" Lee.


Big tits, big hit

A cool blog called The Devil's Music tells the backstory on this curious wax platter:
As teenagers, Jan Berry and Dean Torrence were in a garage band, called "The Barons", with a third man, Arnie Ginsberg. Shortly before entering the army, Dean sang with Jan on a recording called, "Jennie Lee", but it was released under the name of Jan and Arnie. The song was a top ten hit and Jan and Arnie released two more singles,"Gas Money" and "The Beat That Can't Be Beat", that didn't fair as well.

On these humble, early sessions, Berry played piano while Ginsburg played a drum set consisting of nothing more than a piano bench and a baby's high chair being hit with drum sticks heavily echoed. The duo overdubbed their vocals, layering them in mono on the same two track machine, also heavily echoed. This 'master' was then brought to bandleader Don Ralke, who utilized a small combo of Los Angeles session musicians to overdub these songs into a releasable form for the "Arwin" label.

After a couple of years, Arnie had decided he had had enough and informed Jan that it was time to look for a new partner. Dean had just gotten out of the service, and once again, teamed up with his old friend to record with the Dore label. And thus Jan & Dean were born…

Teen Suite: All the girls flip for Jan & Dean!

This is a hard song to track down, but thankfully you can still find it on the Varese Sarabande label's 1995 CD release Teen Suite: Best of 1958-1962.

You can also watch a fan video dub of the song set to footage of "All Pontiac Day" (whatever that is).



***

"Gas Money" lyrics:

Say man, let's split (who's driving?)
Not me (well not me)
What'd ya mean not you?

(Chorus)
I need some gas money

I need some gas money
Well if you really want to go
You'll have to come up with some dough
I need some gas money

Well if I'm in your car
No matter where or how we are
You try to get my cash
'Cause you say you're out of gas
So just stay just where we are

(Chorus)
I need some gas mone

Well I done run out of bread
And that's the only thing I dread
I don't got any money
'Cause I spent it on my honey
So I'm going home to bed


(Chorus)
I need some gas money

Well if I'm in your car
No matter where or how we are
Oh you try to get my cash
'Cause you say you're out of gas
So just stay just where we are

(Chorus)

Well if you really want to go
You'll have to come up with some dough
I need some gas money

***

See also:
Barons 'n Bomps (jananddean web site)

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