Weekend Listening: “Hey Jean, Hey Dean”
Album: “Hey Jean, Hey Dean” by Dean & Jean
Released: 1964 by Rust Records
Recommended if you like: not giving a fuck
When I was very young I wanted to live in the clouds.
Because we moved every year I was in elementary school, the legitimate opportunity to bother my parents for permission arose once a summer as a new bedroom glowed stark white against the boxes of clothes and GI Joes. Although they allowed me to choose my room color, usually a crisply pale Victorian blue and once, regrettably, a lemonade color that was fucking sonic death in combination to the sunrise light that hit my teenaged eyes, I was never allowed to paint my room a cerulean blue and drag wisps of the stratosphere around the walls.
Please, I said in what was probably the sweetest voice to ever come out of a seven-year-old.
I’ll do all the work, I promised with a determination never before possessed by a nine-year-old.
I will make the fucking paint by grinding up roots and minerals and shit that I scavenge from the fucking wilderness, I swore with the vigor of a 12-year-old.
With all my efforts to no avail, I resigned myself to waiting until I was a grown-up, because I thought being grown up basically meant doing what you want to all the time.
I was wrong about that.
Being grown means bills and obligations and 80 keys on your keychain and 152 unread emails and 7000 unheard voicemails. Being grown means you have to do what you can to make the money to live in a place to house the things you don’t have time to play with because you have to go make the money. Sometimes, though, being grown means yelling fuck it and doing what you gotta do, and that’s exactly what’s happening in “Hey Jean, Hey Dean.”
Performed by the short-lived duo Dean & Jean (don’t come at me talking about Jan & Dean right now, babes, this is not a surf song), “Hey Jean, Hey Dean (Let’s Have a Party)” came out in 1964 and made it to #32 on the Billboard chart, which was the best of the three songs that ever charted by these guys. Though the band formed in 1958, after putting out 11 singles and getting modest airplay, they disbanded in 1965, never having recorded an EP. In 2012 Marginal Records put out a compilation of their singles entitled “The Best of Dean & Jean,” but that’s it. My roommate and I stumbled across this track on a compilation record, where it plays as a hidden track 6 because of a labeling error that jumps the listing from 5 to 7. Cleaning our house one day, Catherine organizing her records and listening through the comp section of her collection, as the opening guitar and laughing crowd played through our speakers we slowly stopped in our chores and just listened, amazed we’d never heard the song or the duo before.
Everything about this track is just infectious. The call and response between Dean and Jean, the chorus singing, handclaps, laughing and cheering voices – all of it draws the listener into the living room of Dean and Jean, who are about to be evicted because they can’t pay the rent. Hell, they even pawned the record player already, but they don’t give a fuck and throw a big ass party instead, one so good even the landlady joins the fun. Stomping your feet and grooving to the music form the chorus, sung in ragtag tandem by all the partygoers. Fast-paced but unobtrusive drums combine with a repetitive, unimpressive guitar broken only by the amazingly perfect mariachi sound that picks up after each chorus for a few measures, but even that is pulled back. The music here isn’t the point, your goddamn friends are, with the pitchy but happy group vocals punctuating the lines of the song.
Not only are you never alone in this song, but you are swept along in the letting go of all those adult worries. Not being able to pay the rent is a terrifying fucking situation, but here Jean and Dean give in and let loose, choosing to worry about it tomorrow, and there’s no way when you’re listening you can’t do the same.
Play this song on the blessed Friday after a long stupid work week.
Play this song when your boyfriend cheats on you the same day it rains and your dog dies and your best dress rips up the back.
Play this song on repeat until 2 AM, jumping and scream-singing it with your roommate to celebrate how your asshole neighbor moved out.
Play this song when you’ve done all the adulting and you just can’t do that shit for a minute.
Play this song and sing it as loud as you can with as few fucks as possible.