After seeing three of their songs taken to the top of the charts by different artists – The Walker Brothers, The Tremeloes and The Bay City Rollers* – and after well over a decade of hit-making, The Four Seasons finally get a #1 under their own steam.
December, 1963 (Oh, What a Night), by The Four Seasons (their 1st and only #1)
2 weeks, from 15th – 29th February 1976
Like The Tymes a year or so ago, they’ve taken their classic vocal-group sound and updated it, in this case almost drowning it in disco glitter. Oh what a night, Late December back in sixty-three… It’s the tale of a young man’s one-night stand, perhaps even his first time: You know I didn’t even know her name, But I was never gonna be the same…
Main man Frankie Valli is, unusually, not on lead vocals here, but his unmistakeable, slightly nasal voice comes in for the bridge: Oh I… I got a funny feelin’ when she walked in the room… And then, if this is indeed a song about losing your virginity, we can all have a chuckle at the line: As I recall it ended much too soon… What a lady, indeed!
I have to admit that I’m not enjoying this record quite as much as I expected. It’s another one of those: ‘I know this without ever having really sat down to listen to it’ songs that are coming along fairly often at the moment. There are some great sections: the main piano riff, the funky synth solo, the oh-so-seventies chucka-chucka guitars… But somehow it doesn’t all glue together. Still, it’s a killer chorus, one that always sounds great on a drunken dancefloor.
‘December, 1963’ is the second #1 in a little over a year to feature a month in its title, after Pilot’s ‘January’… and there hasn’t been another one since! It is also another seventies hit, along with ‘Kung Fu Fighting’ and ‘Barbados’, that I knew first and foremost through a dodgy nineties cover version, this time thanks to Clock, who made #13 with it in 1996, and which featured on the first Now That’s What I Call Music album I ever owned, aged ten.
I guess we have to see this as something of a swansong for The Four Seasons. It would be their penultimate Top 10 hit in the UK, while in the US it was their fifth and final chart-topper, after a twelve year wait, and the fifteenth Top 10 hit of a career stretching back to ‘Sherry’ in 1962. They are still a going concern, and still led by Valli at the sprightly age of eighty-six, having gone through a staggering forty-nine members in their sixty-odd years together. It feels right that they managed at least one #1 on these shores, even if I still feel slightly underwhelmed by this mixed bag of a song, which never quite adds up to the sum of its parts.
*I have to credit popchartfreak for this bit of chart expertise, which I am now passing on to you…