385. ‘December 1963 (Oh, What a Night)’, by The Four Seasons

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…


25 thoughts on “385. ‘December 1963 (Oh, What a Night)’, by The Four Seasons

  1. Thanks for the name-check (though I’m proud enough that you quote the info, reward enough for me! 🙂 )!

    I love this one, a big disco anthem at my Aunty’s wedding that Spring along with the next disco chart-topper. I can see why Frankie’s voice isn’t to everyone’s taste, it veers over into dog-only territory at times his range is so upper register, so it was nice to see the new band members gave the band a new contemporary sound, especially after all the cover hits that they were denied – as the band’s Bob Gaudio was the prime songwriter it seemed unfair to me they didn’t get the hits – and the sheer variety of covers of his songs show the quality of future show Jersey Boys, and it’s biog-plot, the Mob, bankruptcy and relationship dramas.

    A few covers worth checking out:
    Madcon – Beggin’
    Divine – Walk Like A Man
    Pet Shop Boys – Where The Streets Have No Name/Can’t Take My Eyes Off You

    and the originals of Rag Doll (should have been the chart-topper) and The Night (Northern Soul classic) 🙂

    • I thought I’d like this one more than I did… I thought it would be more of a banger. It’s fine, though. I like their earlier hits, even when Frankie Valli goes into dog-whistle mode. And I remember the Madcon cover of ‘Beggin’ very well, and am amazed to discover it was released 13 years ago!! Jeez. And no worries about the shoutout – I do like a footnote!

  2. I’m not a fan of Frankie Valli ….that is probably why this is my favorite song by them. I’ve always liked it. It’s catchy and I like the riff.

      • Yea…this one also I just like…no matter who would have done it….but yea his voice grates me. It’s what Dylan is to other people…I love Dylans voice.

      • LOL…but you know what no one talks about? Seeing him live is NOT like hearing him on record. He actually has a good voice. I saw him live and was knocked out…then a few weeks later I saw him on a tv show and he went out of his way sounding bad…that is just Dylan.

      • Last time I saw him the only classic song he sang was Tangled Up In Blue…he did a lot of Frank Sinatra covers. It was enjoyable though. I’ve seen him 8 times so far.

  3. My cousin and I used to like this song and once we were singing it and I said “’65” instead of “’63” 😀 Great memories. Of course, it was already an oldie by the time we were listening to it.

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  5. I grew up listening to the Four Seasons via my parents. My dad was a fan. I’ve loved most of their music with some pieces boring me to tears…usually the singles that were just Valli as a solo.

    This song, I love but, the original, only. Gerry Polci did very well as the lead. There was a remake/remaster/remix some years ago that added some additional drum beats, and other instruments, and it was annoying.

    Perhaps the Four Seasons would have done better if Valli had stepped aside more often and did more bridges. He has (had?) a stunning voice and I’ve even struggled to reach some of his pitches in his younger years.

      • It’s been worn out. I love Grease (the movie) and loved the soundtrack as a kid (still have it) but, the title song is boring and has never matched the music in the movie. The music is period-pieces to the late ’50s. “Grease” sounds like Bee Gees disco (because it is). Bleh.

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  7. I’m a bit more tolerable to Frankie Valli’s falsetto than most mainly because they had some fun tunes like “Sherry” and “Walk Like A Man.” “December 1963 (Oh What A Night)” is also a fun fusion of disco and doo wop that considering its title is essentially the Four Seasons reflecting on their glory days when they were originally on top disguised as a sex song. Even though Valli doesn’t sing as much, the other guys in the band do a good job with their parts sounding very enthusiastic even if their voices aren’t as recognizable as Valli’s. Regardless of what you may think of the group, their run it’s pretty amazing being one of the few early ’60s acts to maintain success after the Beatles’ arrival in America having their last Hot 100 #1 before “December 1963” with “Rag Doll” during the height of Beatlemania in the summer of ’64 even landing in the Top 10 as late as 1967 before their ’70s comeback. There are also the hits from Frankie Valli solo such as “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” (#2) and even kick-started the comeback era with 1975’s “My Eyes Adored You” hitting #1. He’d even have his last #1 after the Four Seasons did with the title theme to Grease in 1978 that Barry Gibb wrote. And this song would get big again in the early ‘90s when a dance remix sent it back up to #14 in America in 1994. And in recent decades, they’ve mainly become notable for the Jersey Boys musical about them that I remember seeing on Broadway at 11 basically being introduced to their music through it and the Clint Eastwood biopic adaptation that no one liked.

    • I don’t mind Frankie Valli’s voice, and I do like many of their songs, mainly the 1962-64 hits. Their longevity is impressive, too. I think I came to ‘December ’63’ under the impression that it was going to be better than it is – it being such a disco/seventies staple – but somehow it doesn’t quite click and comes off a little light in the mix. Still a decent song – a ‘six’ if I were scoring them! As I maybe wrote in another comment, ‘Grease’ was the only Valli song I was aware of for many years, thanks to endless childhood viewings of the movie, which I can still quote word for word in places. But it’s nowhere near the best song on the soundtrack, thrown away and somewhat overlooked in the opening credits. Anyway, ‘Grease’ songs will be hitting the UK charts with a vengeance soon enough, so plenty of time to admit my love for it then.

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