The Cowsills In Books

The Jan & Dean Record: A Chronology of Studio Sessions, Live Performances and Chart Positions
by Mark Moore
McFarland - February 18, 2016


Page 407:
CAL TEAMED WITH Mary-Catherine Harold, producer of TV’s Knots Landing, to have Lorimar-Telepictures produce a documentary and concert video. The whole crew, including United's Rob Doughty and Gail Murphy of ABC News departed for Asia on November 29, 1986. The tour was set to last from November 30 to December 21, with Altfeld serving as road manager. They spent two days in Beijing for sightseeing and visited the Great Wall of China, where Dean and the Frisbee team skateboarded. On November 3, they flew to Shanghai and stayed at the Xijiao Hotel.

On December 5–10, Jan & Dean played six sold-out shows at the Shanghai Gymnasium. The band—billed specifically for the occasion as the West End Boys—did a fantastic job, both vocally and instrumentally. The lineup was Randell Kirsch (lead guitar), Mark Ward (guitar), Robby Scharf (bass), Gary Griffin (keyboards), and John Cowsill (drums). On opening night, the audience of 18,000 was polite but subdued. Don Altfeld and CAL had brought Jan & Dean to China without much thought for the cultural ramifications. The music of Jan & Dean and the Beach Boys was almost completely unknown (as was the music of the Beatles and Elvis Presley). Chinese youth were more familiar with modern American acts like John Denver and Michael Jackson. To spark at least some recognition, Tiffany Chu had asked the band to learn “Theme from Love Story,” “Close To You” by the Carpenters, and a Chinese rock song, “Wa Ishi Nichi Shiow” (which they performed in Chinese). Beyond the recognition factor, however, was the Chinese attitude toward handicapped people. The ugly truth is that in Buddhist tradition, disability is viewed as punishment for sins in a past life, or sins of a parent or ancestor—perhaps even work of evil spirits. Those afflicted are seen as worthless to society and are kept out of the public eye as much as possible. After the first performance, a Chinese official stipulated that Jan's appearances had to be curtailed. Back home, the band played very few Jan & Dean songs to begin with, so it wasn’t much of a stretch. The difference was that Jan had to leave the stage instead of singing bass parts on the Beach Boys tunes or other covers. “I had to ‘escort’ Jan across the street to the Hua Ting Sheraton,” says Altfeld. After the first night, the band learned John Denver’s “Country Roads” and Lionel Richie’s “Stuck On You,” both of which were sung brilliantly by John Cowsill with harmonies from the rest of the band. The reception grew much stronger and the crowds began grooving to the ‘60s music, as well.


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