The 4 Seasons

TrackAlbum
Beggars ParadeWorking My Way Back To You
Big Girls Don’'t CryBig Girls Don’'t Cry & 12 Others
December, 1963 (Oh, What A Night)Who Loves You
Let’'s Hang OnEdizione d’'Oro
Opus 17 (Don'’t You Worry '‘Bout Me)Edizione d’'Oro
Rag DollRag Doll
RavenThe Genuine Imitation Life Gazette
Walk Like A ManBig Girls Don’'t Cry & 12 Others
Who Loves YouWho Loves You
Working My Way Back To YouWorking My Way Back To You

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Contributor: Peter Viney

The Wanderers is a much-overlooked five-star film from 1979. It opens with the Italian-American gang members barging around the street to Walk Like A Man by The 4 Seasons (their early albums always have a number 4, not f-o-u-r). Big Girls Don’t Cry is also placed in just the right scene on the soundtrack. Here’s the opening sequence from The Wanderers

I’m lucky my 1963 Stateside 45 of Walk Like A Man survived my dad’s wrath. I’d loved Sherry and its follow-up Big Girls Don’t Cry but Walk Like A Man was the culmination of their style. I played it non-stop for days until no one could bear hearing it again. I’m still word-perfect on it.

Nowadays, with the stage musical Jersey Boys packing in the punters, you’ll find most of their compilation CDs are credited to Frankie Valli & The 4 Seasons. This is because they want to increase appeal by including solo hits such as My Eyes Adored You and Grease. The complicated identity goes back to 1964, where Dawn was credited to The 4 Seasons, then most subsequent releases to The 4 Seasons featuring the ‘sound’ of Frankie Valli. It was inconsistent. e.g. Beggin’ was just attributed to The 4 Seasons, then Can’t Take My Eyes Off You to just Frankie Valli. Just to confuse even further, they also recorded as The Wonder Who, notably with a cover of Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright which was patently them. CD era compilations ignore it all and use Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons.

Bob Gaudio was an original member of the group on vocals and keyboards, and ended up producing and co-writing for The 4 Seasons with Bob Crewe. Crewe and Gaudio had started writing together with Short Shorts for The Royal Teens, then co-wrote Sherry, Big Girls Don’t Cry, Walk Like A Man, Ronnie, Rag Doll, and Connie-O. Bob Crewe, while not a member of the group, is just as vital to the story as Bob Gaudio and Frankie Valli. Crewe also wrote and recorded Music To Watch Girls By as The Bob Crewe Generation in leftover studio time from recording the Barbarella OST.

Because of their high profile, it’s surprising that some tracks were covered in Britain. Silence Is Golden is better known by The Tremeloes, and Timebox did an even more soulful version of Beggin’. The 4 Seasons version would have been in the ten on song quality if Timebox hadn’t improved it. On the other hand, The Hollies revived Maurice Williams’s Stay months before The 4 Seasons version. The 4 Seasons is the better version (but the Maurice Williams and The Zodiacs original is the one to have).

The 4 Seasons were one of the very few white bands played in discotheques between 1966 and 1968, with Let’s Hang On and Working My Way Back To You leading their white soul repertoire. My local DJ couldn’t stop playing the B-side Beggars Parade, a sneering, ultra-conservative anti-protest song by Crewe and Gaudio, that looked ahead to Frankie Valli’s appearances in The Sopranos. Mind-boggling lyric, but sublime production and great melody. The A-side of the 45 was Opus 17 (Don’t You Worry ‘Bout Me). I include both sides of the single. Opus 17 and Let’s Hang On were both written by Sandy Linzer-Denny Randell for The 4 Seasons. They date from the same time as the Working My Way Back To You album, but had their main album release on 1968’s Edizione d’Oro compilation. Apparently Opus 17 ties with Mack The Knife for the most chromatic key changes in a popular song.

In spite of that Beggars Parade anti-protest blip, The 4 Seasons, like The Monkees and so many others, sought to do a serious concept album with The Genuine Imitation Life Gazette in 1968. All tracks were written by Bob Gaudio and Jake Holmes and the sleeve was an elaborate fold out pastiche newspaper. The first track is American Crucifixion Resurrection starting with a heavenly choir and huge drums before the strings come in, then the bass starts a frantic pace and the lyrics are abysmal. Mrs Stately’s Garden is just the sort of title beloved of British mod/psych groups in 1968. Raven was a 1967 B-side to Watch The Flowers Grow and neither were on the original LP but are bonus tracks on the CD. Gaudio had clearly been listening to recent Beach Boys, and both tracks are excellent.

Berry Gordy admired The 4 Seasons sound as much as they admired the sound of Motown, and the group were signed to Motown label MoWest, where they had a hit with The Night which is a Northern Soul classic, with characteristic Motown bass guitar. They produced the 1972 album Chameleon (MoWest), which 4 Seasons fans often claim is a masterpiece. It’s not, but it is inventive with a soupçon of pretentious. The New Beginning sounds like a stage musical. Touch The Rainchild was ahead of its time, sounding like 1980s Toto. When The Morning Comes opens side two with a full orchestra. On the album songs are variously attributed to The 4 Seasons or to Frankie Valli. Gaudio co-wrote all but one. You’re A Song (That I Can’t Sing) nearly made the Toppermost ten and displays Gaudio’s penchant for parentheses.

Who Loves You, Silver Star and December, 1963 (Oh, What A Night) all came from the Who Loves You album in 1975. December, 1963 was a #1 hit in Britain and America, leading to reviewers wondering how you could be a in a major hit band through 1962 and 1963, and remain a virgin until December 1963. Never assume songs are autobiography. All the songs on the album were written by Bob Gaudio and Judy Parker and Gaudio explains that December, 1963 was about the repeal of prohibition in December 1933, but Frankie Valli and Judy Parker urged the date and lyric change. A remixed version was a hit in 1994. Judy Parker became Mrs Gaudio.

Helicon came in 1977, then Streetfighter in 1985. I reckon Who Loves You was the last essential album.

Off Seasons: Criminally Ignored Sides from Frankie Valli & The 4 Seasons is a 2001 compilation from Rhino/Warner that rounds up twenty lesser-known album tracks and B-sides, including both Beggars Parade and Raven.

The 4 Seasons Partnership (their legal entity), still performing in the 2010s, is, and has always been, just Bob Gaudio and Frankie Valli, however many names they used, with Bob Crewe as the influential producer and co-writer until the end of the 60s. Nearly forty people have at one time or another been “members”. The criterion here is whether Gaudio AND Valli were involved on a song. So Grease which would otherwise be in the ten was discounted: written by Barry Gibb. No Gaudio involvement.

The Genuine Imitation Life Gazette – Officially Unofficial Internet Site for Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons

The 4 Seasons biography (iTunes)

I agree with our contributor that it’s hard to differentiate The 4 Seasons from Frankie Valli, that they are interchangeable, but he did have a “solo career” and there are several studio albums and singles credited solely to Valli, including Grease. So, you know what’s coming next – who’ll be the first to toppermost a Valli top ten? Who loves you baby …

TopperPost #64

1 Comment

  1. Peter Viney
    Aug 19, 2014

    See my review of Clint Eastwood’s film of “Jersey Boys” here.

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