Off Topic Messages

The Four Seasons: Rock's Missing Link (btw EP and Beatles)?

Tue Oct 18, 2005 10:31 pm

In and out of harmony: THE FOUR SEASONS ... 1411c.html
Sunday, October 9th, 2005, (N.Y.) Daily News
by David Hinckley, Critic-At-Large

Somewhere in rock 'n' roll lore you can still find the remarkably wrongheaded notion that nothing happened between Elvis joining the Army on Aug. 4, 1958, and the Beatles singing for Ed Sullivan on Feb. 9, 1964.

In between, goes this view, real rock 'n' roll died and every song was sung by Fabian, who couldn't sing.

It's a tidy way to capsulize six years. But it's nonsense. The forces set in motion by Elvis, Chuck Berry and their fellow pioneers spent those years simmering and incubating. Artists like Paul Simon, Phil Spector and Bob Dylan and groups like the Beach Boys, the Temptations, the Rolling Stones and the Beatles were working under the radar, getting good


So were the Four Seasons, whose members had been singing in various combinations since the early '50s. So by 1961, when Bob Gaudio joined Frankie Valli, Nick Massi and Tommy DeVito, they brought along some history.

"We came along at an interesting time," says Gaudio, whose first break was co-writing the 1958 novelty hit "Short Shorts."

"I liked R&B instrumentals like Bill Doggett's 'Honky Tonk,'" he says. "But we were also listening to street-corner groups and traditional pop harmony groups like the Four Freshmen and the Hi-Los."

The group's 1962 breakout hit "Sherry" was "a combination of those influences," he says.

To many young music fans today, of course, the story of "Sherry" and the Four Seasons might as well be a story out of 12th-century Bulgaria. But it's good enough that, as of this week, it's being told on Broadway.

The biographical show "Jersey Boys" started previews last week at the Virginia Theatre and opens Nov. 6. Gaudio, who wrote or co-wrote the music, says he's optimistic it can succeed where shows about the Beach Boys and John Lennon recently died.

A difference, Gaudio notes, is that "Jersey Boys" may have a fuller story, touching on the dark underside of the music biz and tense intragroup conflicts.

Also, the story is fresh.

"Even people who loved our music really didn't know anything about us," Gaudio says. "We were never glamorous. We were never a phenomenon."

However, with "Sherry," "Big Girls Don't Cry" and "Walk Like a Man" - three straight No. 1 hits - the Seasons did create a critical bridge between the pop/rhythm and blues harmonies of the '50s and the incoming sound of the '60s. Alongside the Beach Boys, they were among the first kids on that new playground.

"We liked the Beach Boys," Gaudio says. "There was kind of that friendly East Coast, West Coast thing between us. We were always fans. 'God Only Knows' is a brilliant record."

If Brian Wilson is properly considered a master of harmony, Gaudio and his partner Bob Crewe were no slouches either with harmonies or production.

"The first thing people look at with Four Seasons records is the vocals," Gaudio says. "But for me, the drum fills and rhythms are as much a part of it as anything. They're the base on which the harmonies were built."

One listen to the Four Seasons hit "Dawn" will confirm that.

"I'm a frustrated drummer," Gaudio says. "That's why our songs tended to be drum-heavy. But our harmonies were complex, too. You'll never hear 'Rag Doll' in a Holiday Inn lounge because it's just too hard to sing."

After those first three hits, Gaudio says, he changed the Seasons' sound just to keep it fresh. Not long thereafter, by coincidence, the Beatles arrived.

"To be honest, I didn't feel a sense of competition," he says. "Then I looked at the charts and the Beatles had No. 1, No. 2 and No. 4; No. 3 was 'Dawn.'"

The Seasons would expand their sound several more times in the next few years, scoring at one point with a chirpy recording of Bob Dylan's "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right." In 1967, Gaudio sent Valli back to their pop roots with the solo "Can't Take My Eyes Off You," which became the signature song in "The Deer Hunter" and one of the most-played songs of the 20th century.

It was hearing that song in "The Deer Hunter," says Gaudio, "that first got me to thinking our music would work in a show. We had TV movie offers, but we turned them down because that seems like it's just a quick burn. ['Jersey Boys'] serves the songs better."

Whether or not they add up to a Broadway hit, they sure didn't come out of a dead zone.
Last edited by Gregory Nolan Jr. on Tue Oct 18, 2005 10:52 pm, edited 4 times in total.

Tue Oct 18, 2005 10:34 pm

"Sherry"!! I just love this song!!

Wed Oct 19, 2005 6:06 am

My wife's name is Sherry spelled the same way. I can sing a little bit high but nowhere near the way Valli used to sing.
I do enjoy The Four Seasons too. But, to me, they have to be listened to in smaller doses. I can throw on one cd of theirs but then I'd have to give it a rest. Well, maybe two.
Just yesterday, I went to Amazon and Ebay to check out the two-fers that they came out with some years back. I noticed they were selling, some for up to $50 a pop. I guess I will wait until Bear Family or someone just as capable comes out with a box set.

jeff R

Wed Oct 19, 2005 8:31 am

Jeff you can get barebones original Seasons albums on the Curb label for under $10. Rhino has a wonderful two disc set and a single disc companion of rarities. To me, they are essential. The level of sophistication production, lyrics and performance on the best Seasons' songs was rarely eclipsed in their era. "Rag Doll" is certainly one of the greatest records ever made.

Some people find the falsetto hard to take. To me if it is used wisely like the chorus of "Sherry" it's spine tingling.

Hinckley is a great writer and one of the best champions of the original rockers and especially the lost era of 1959-1963.

Wed Oct 19, 2005 8:36 am

I was, and still am, a BIG fan of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons.

I have some very nice, (one still sealed), original Four Seasons Lp's in my closet and it looks like your stepping back in time when jus lookin' at it.

I jus love poppin' in their cd's when my family and I go on long trips.
I start hitting those high Frankie falsetto notes and my kids look at me like I'm totally insane, but it krax us up and the music is great.

still lots of fun after all these years... :lol:

Thu Oct 20, 2005 12:11 am

Especially as oldies radio dies out or changes, I have in time come to
miss the Four Seasons. I used to know their songs but just tolerated them.

In time, I realize they made some of the best pop music ever.

Play it in a mix of other music and see for yourselves. :D

Thu Oct 20, 2005 1:13 am

Frankie Valli - anyone who's been in 'The Sopranos' is okay by me.

Thu Oct 20, 2005 1:30 am

I have most of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons on tape. Glad to hear that Rhino has put out a two CD set of their basic songs. I do love the high falsettos and I like guys like the Newbeats. Don't know Queen or Kiss, but the oldies are heaven to me!!

Thu Oct 20, 2005 4:47 pm

Tits McGhee wrote:Frankie Valli - anyone who's been in 'The Sopranos' is okay by me.

He fits into that show very does Little Stevie from Bruce's band,
who by the way is doing an apparently popular underground rock radio show on satellite radio..