In a culture that still clings to the Horatio Alger mythos, rags-to-riches stories are about a dime a dozen. After all, with enough courage and determination, any kid in America can become the President of the United States, a self-made millionaire, or a successful reality TV star.
One such success story is The Four Seasons, four working-class kids who started singing doo-wop on street corners, spent a few months behind bars for attempted burglary, and became the leading vocal group. charts whose music and life are celebrated in the hit musical Boys jersey.
During his decade-long tour of Broadway, Boys jersey racked up over $2 billion in box office revenue, won a handful of Tony Awards, and inspired the Clint Eastwood-directed feature film of the same name. He also ensured Frankie Valli’s piercing falsetto on such iconic songs as “Rag Doll”, “Walk Like a Man” and “Big Girls Don’t Cry” – all of which reached No. 60s – will ring in our ears for decades to come.
Later forays into disco like “December 1963 (Oh, What a Night)” – as well as Frankie Valli solo singles like “These Eyes Adored You” and Bob Gaudio’s work with Neil Diamond and Barbra Streisand – facilitated the characterization of The Four Seasons Music as a throwback to a bygone era that has little or no connection to the here and now.
But that would be a mistake. Ultimately, the mainstream success of the Four Seasons is perhaps less telling than the musical risks they took along the way — many of which didn’t pay off.
With that in mind, here are four reasons to respect the Four Seasons:
1. The real gazette of imitation life: This 1969 album was nothing like what the world expected from The Four Seasons. The original cover was a fake newspaper front page with the banner title “American Crucifixion And Resurrection”, accompanied by stories below the fold like “Human Torch Has Misgivings” and “Tomorrow’s New In Brief”, with a “newspaper of eight pages. » insert inside. Other than an easily overlooked “4 season edition” in the upper right corner of the bear, the cover gives no indication of the identity of the recording artist.
The songs in it don’t offer many clues either. Here’s a band that, five years earlier, topped the pop charts with “Dawn (Go Away),” which featured gagged lyrics like:
“I want you to think what your family would say / Think what you throw away / Now think what the future would be / With a poor boy like me.”
Compare that to the opening lines of “American Crucifixion”:
“Unbound slaves stand outside the door / With lengths of chains broken they wait / Empty stomachs filled with hatred / No one warned the heads of state / The prince of peace sleeps late.”
Along with its civil rights and anti-war lyrics, the album also boasted innovative chamber pop arrangements and beautiful vocal harmonies that, at their best moments, rivaled those of the Beach Boys. animal sounds. No wonder Brian Wilson and John Lennon both ranked it among their favorite albums.
2. Chameleon: The Four Seasons signed with Motown for this aptly titled 1972 album, which took the Motor City Sound in previously unexplored directions. The must-have track is “The Night,” a bass-heavy single that could practically be mistaken for German trance band Can, at least until the band’s signature harmonies burst in at the half-minute mark.
The single never charted in America, but became an underground hit in Britain’s Northern Soul scene, where dance club DJs taped white labels to their vinyl singles so rival crate diggers couldn’t. not see what they were playing. Almost three years later, “The Night” reached number 7 on the UK Singles Chart. It has since been picked up by Lene Lovich, Soft Cell and Pulp.
3. Watertown: You won’t find this one on any Four Seasons playlist, mainly because they didn’t record it. Watertown was a concept album that Gaudio co-wrote and produced for Frank Sinatra while the Four Seasons were on hiatus. A deeply moving song suite with a storyline that I won’t spoil here, it was distinguished by The Paris review as Sinatra’s best album, his most enduring contribution to American culture, and his “only chance to be truly felt by listeners in hundreds of years”. At this point, Sinatra had over 50 albums to his name. It would be the first not to enter the Top 100.
4. I can’t take my eyes off you: The fourth reason to respect America’s best-known white vocal group is that it has, well, a soul. “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You” – a 1967 single written and produced by Gaudio and Bob Crewe which was released as Frankie Valli – has since been covered by nearly 200 artists, from Isaac Hayes and Aretha Franklin to Nancy Wilson and Lauryn Hill.
So this is it. If you’re still not convinced that the Four Seasons is worth taking seriously, that’s fine. But you are going to miss something.