This Rock & Roll Hall-of-Fame group, led by Frankie Valli, was one of my favorite bands in the early ’60s. I loved listening to their great hits Rag Doll, Ronnie, Working My Way Back to You, Dawn Go Away, Big Girls Don’t Cry, Save It For Me, Sherry, Bye Bye Baby, Baby Goodbye, Let’s Hang On!, Candy Girl and others on my little $3.99 turquoise transistor radio, the one that melted under my pillow in the summer of 1964.
In those days, the two major New York City AM rock and roll stations were Music Radio WABC-77 and the Good Guy’s station, WMCA. ABC had “Cousin” Bruce Morrow, Scott Muni, Dan Ingram and Harry Harrison as DJ’s while WMCA came in with Joe Obrien, Jack Spector, Dandy Dan Daniel and Dean Anthony – Dino on Your Radio.
Without realizing it I had dropped out of being a big Four Seasons fan when the English Invasion came in 1964. I guess my musical tastes had changed by then. There was such an incredible variety of music played on AM radio at that time. English Invasion, Country, Motown, Garage, One-Hit-Wonders and West Coast bands. In spite of this competition, the Four Seasons had one hit after another under such an avalanche. They remain as one of two groups that had top-40 hits before, during and after the British Invasion. The other being the Beach Boys. That is significant.
The writing chops behind these hits was a band member and prolific lyricist Bob Gaudio. This from Wikipedia: Rag Doll is regarded by some as the greatest achievement of the Four Seasons. Bob Gaudio was on the way to a recording session and his car was stopped at a long traffic light in Hell’s Kitchen. Often kids would wash the car windows during the long waits and ask for some change. In Gaudio’s case, a scruffy little girl washed his window. When Gaudio went to give her change, all he had was a $10 bill. After a moment’s hesitation, he gave her the bill because he had to give her something. The astonished look on her face stayed with him and inspired the subsequent song.
What woke me up to the greatness of the Four Seasons as an all-time group was the 2007 song that I really liked: Beggin’ by the Norwegian hip-hop group Madcon. I had no idea that that hit was an original 1967 Four Season’s tune, written by Bob Gaudio, of course (with Peggy Farina) Another great original Four Seasons hit was Silence is Golden, covered famously by the English group The Tremeloes in 1967, who used the exact same arrangement. It took 50 years for me to make the Tremeloes connection and 45 years to ‘connect the dots’ for the Madcon cover. I am certain that the Four Seasons have written dozens of other hits that others have covered. I have indeed forgotten how many hits they had. Earlier, I stated that I had dropped out of being a Four Seasons fan. But now, 55 years later, it took Beggin and Silence to understand and appreciate their significance.
The Four Seasons lead singer then and now is Frankie Valli, who was born Francesco Castelluccio in either 1934 or 1937, no one knows for certain. What is certain though, is that Valli, Bob Gaudio, Tommy DeVito, and Nick Massi -The Four Seasons – remain one of the all-time rock & roll bands, who have influenced countless musicians down through the decades while providing cherished memories to untold millions including perennial teenagers disguised as aging rock & roll fans like me.