December 1963 (Oh, What A Night) by the Four Seasons (Warner/Curb, 1976)

By the time the Four Seasons moved from the late 60s to the early 70s, the hit machine had completely dried up or in ‘season’ talk, it was Winter. The presence on radio wasn’t needed anymore and they were relegated to playing Vegas to keep going. Then Berry Gordy started a new subsidiary label called MoWest and had the Seasons release an album to no applause. They were still in Winter, but it Spring was right around the corner.

Frankie Valli would finally hit #1 on his own in early 1975 with My Eyes Adored You. That opened the doors for a Four Seasons reunion and they introduced 4 new members of the group with Frankie still sharing lead vocal with Gerry Polci.(We’ll call this the Spring phase, cause new things were blooming) Bob Gaudio was now producing and writing songs such as the title track to their new album, Who Loves You. They took it to #3 in late 1975 and Summer was right around the corner. The 2nd single from the album, December 1963, went all the way to #1 in March of 1976 and stayed there for 3 weeks. Call it doo-wop nostalgia, band persistence or luck & timing (I say, a mix of all 3), but the Frankie Valli & the Four Seasons were back on top in the mid 70s. [A very interesting stat: The Four Seasons are the only artists to have a #1 song before, during and after the Beatles 1964-1970 chart domination.]

And so the seasons cycle turned until it was Winter once more through the 80s. Then in 1994, a remixed version of December 1963 hit #14. And Summer returned once more.

Of course, the fact that a band popular in the early 60s sang a sang about those days and a hit in the mid-70s during the 50s/pre-Beatles 60s nostalgia boom shouldn’t really come as a surprise. I reread the lyrics to see what those guys were really singing about. They didn’t have any during that month and weren’t even on the Hot 100, so I ruled that out. The obvious answer was falling in love with a lady or maybe just a one night stand. Maybe the guy lost his virginity. I’ve heard the rumours about the song being a paean to the first time one does drugs, specifically cocaine. Think about it…the funny feeling, the rolling bolt of thunder, taking his body under…what a lady!

I always found it odd that they chose that month & year. The country was reeling from Kennedy’s assassination in late November, trying to make sense of the collapse of Camelot, not knowing that Beatlemania would start almost immediately in January 1964. Can’t imagine that as the most fun month for many Americans. Unless of course you were snorting coke while popping your cherry. Does it change anything that the lyrics were written by Bob Gaudio’s wife, Judy? If you’ve seen Jersey Boys, let me know the answer.

An aside: I loved the way they held the bass out in the beginning and then dropped it in during the middle of the verse.

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2 Comments

  1. J.A. Bartlett

     /  December 1, 2011

    “Who Loves You” and “December 1963” are great, great records. I remember hearing someplace that the latter was originally “December 1953,” but they decided that 1953 was too far distant for the 70s audience and changed it. It might be the last great AM radio record—it sounded much better there than in any other setting.

    The Seasons followed “December 1963” with “Silver Star,” which is also insanely great, and which just sneaked into the Top 40 in the early summer of ’76. It’s here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aia_RxOt-uc

    Keep up the good work over here. I enjoy your stuff.

    Reply
  2. porky

     /  December 4, 2011

    that bass line right after “spinnin’ my head around and takin’ my body under” is absolutely killer. Slays me every time.

    Reply

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