Dead Man's Curve (song)

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"Dead Man's Curve"
Single by Jan and Dean
from the album Drag City
B-side "New Girl in School"
Released February 7, 1964 (U.S.)
Format 7"
Recorded December 4, 1963
Genre Pop, teenage tragedy
Length 2:57
Label Liberty
Writer(s) Jan Berry, Roger Christian, Brian Wilson, Artie Kornfeld
Producer(s) Jan Berry for Screen Gems, Inc.

"Dead Man's Curve" is a 1964 hit song by Jan and Dean detailing a teen street race gone awry. It reached number eight on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart.

According to the song, the race starts at Sunset and Vine between a Corvette Sting Ray and a Jaguar XKE, traveling on West Sunset Blvd. going west, passing North La Brea Ave., North Crescent Heights Blvd., and North Doheny Dr. The original Schwab's Drug Store was located just east of Crescent Heights on Sunset. The North Whittier Drive curve, a nearly 90° right turn traveling west on Sunset Boulevard just past North Whittier Drive, is dead man's curve.[1][2][3] Jan Berry, of Jan & Dean, would later have a near-fatal incident in 1966 when he crashed his own Sting Ray into a parked truck on North Whittier Drive outside a house once owned by Roman Polanski near dead man's curve.[4]

The song was written by Brian Wilson, Artie Kornfeld, Roger Christian and Jan Berry at Brian Wilson's mother's house in Santa Monica. It's regarded as a teenage tragedy song, one of the most popular of all time. The song ends with the driver of the Sting Ray relating his last memories of the ill-fated race to a doctor. Crash-like sounds as well as screeching brakes are heard in the song. Deadman's Curve was used as the title for the 1978 biographical nationally televised movie about Jan and Dean.[5]

Versions[edit]

Overhead map view of Deadman's curve, an almost ninety-degree right turn traveling west on Sunset Boulevard just past North Whittier Drive near 9901 Sunset Blvd, Beverly Hills, CA 90210

Three versions of "Dead Man's Curve" were released:

  • Version #1: Original version from the 1963 Drag City album
  • Version #2: Single "hit" version with added horns, strings, additional backing vocals and sounds of a car skidding and crashing; from the 1964 Dead Man's Curve/The New Girl In School LP
  • Version #3: An earlier rejected studio mix from the 1966 Filet of Soul album.

Live versions appear on the 1965 Command Performance and 1971 Anthology albums

There are a few minor lyrical differences between versions #1 and 3 and version #2 listed above:

  • Versions #1 & 3 - "my frenched tail lights", "the strip was deserted" and "pulled her out and there I was"
  • Version #2 - "my six tail lights", "the street was deserted" and "pulled her out and there we were"

Cover Versions[edit]

The song was covered by The Carpenters as part of their oldies sequence on their album Now & Then.

This song has also been covered by the bands Blink-182, Nash the Slash, and the Belljars, whose version plays over the closing credits of the 1998 film, The Curve AKA "Dead Man's Curve".

The B-side "New Girl in School" was covered by Alex Chilton on his 1995 album, A Man Called Destruction.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Staten, Vince (1990). Unauthorized America: a travel guide to the places the chamber of commerce won't tell you about. Perennial Library. p. 307. ISBN 0-06-096514-2. "The real Deadman's Curve is on Sunset Blvd. just west of Whittier Dr." 
  2. ^ Kelly, Michael Bryan (1993). Liberty Records: a history of the recording company and its stars, 1955-1971. McFarland & Company. p. 278. ISBN 0-89950-740-9. "... and went past the UCLA athletic fields; then he passed 'Deadman's Curve' and turned right on Whittier Drive." 
  3. ^ Sherwood, Rick (November 30, 1987). "By the Numbers". Calendar. Los Angeles Times. p. 2. "Whittier Drive near Sunset Boulevard in Beverly Hills: Jan & Dean's infamous "Deadman's Curve."" 
  4. ^ Borden, Jeff (October 30, 1988). "No Lies, Just tales of Demise Hearse-Drawn Tour of L.A. Travels. Trail of Star's Deaths". Travel. Los Angeles Times. p. 1F. 
  5. ^ snopes.com: Dead Man's Curve

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 34°4′37.29″N 118°25′16.41″W / 34.0770250°N 118.4212250°W / 34.0770250; -118.4212250