Craig Allen’s Fun Facts: Four Seasons “December 1963 (Oh, What A Night)”
New Jersey's "Four Seasons" is the only band to have a #1 song before, during, and after the "British Invasion."
You know the "Four Seasons" story....in brief:
Frankie Valli formed the "Variatones" in Newark, NJ around 1954/1955. They evolved into the "Four Lovers" in 1956. Band members would come and go...and singles would be released with limited success. The band would play clubs and lounges.
In 1960, the Four Lovers failed an audition to play the lounge at a Union Township New Jersey bowling alley.
Bob Gaudio says: "We figured we'll come out of this with something. So we took the name of the bowling alley. It was called the Four Seasons."
The newly-minted "Four Seasons" also signed on as artists with Bob Crewe's production company. And, their fortunes changed...dramatically.
Hits including "Sherry," "Big Girls Don't Cry," "Rag Doll," "C'mon Marianne," and more would follow through the 1960s. Then, they hit a dry spell.
Frankie Valli would score a solo hit in the mid-60s, "Can't Take My Eyes Off You," and cruise right into the 1970s...
...with: "My Eyes Adored You," "Swearin' To God," and "Grease." Click here for the "Grease" story.
The Four Seasons would (finally) return to the pop charts with "Who Loves You" (#3/1975), another of the "Greatest Hits of the '70s, '80s, and More."
This brings us to "December 1963 (Oh, What A Night)."
According to co-writer Bob Gaudio, the hit song that we all know and love was originally set in 1933, called "December 5, 1933." And, it celebrated the repeal of Prohibition.
Neither Frankie Valli nor song co-writer Judy Parker (the future Mrs. Gaudio) was thrilled by the lyrics. Plus, Valli objected to part of the melody.
So, Gaudio started reworking the lyrics, and Parker returned to the melody...and a 1930's-centric prohibition song became a 1960's-based nostalgic love song.
Now, the Four Seasons had to try to downplay the sexual overtones of the song...to sell the song to the more-conservative radio stations and programmers...their gateway to the listening, and record buying, public.
"December 1963 (Oh, What A Night") is about a guy losing his virginity.
I know...you're shocked.
Remember...it was late 1975 when the song first hit the Jersey airwaves.
"December 1963 (Oh, What A Night)" went to #1 for the week of March 13, 1976, and would stay perched at the top of the pop charts for 3 weeks.
This would be the Four Season's 5th and final #1 song across the USA...and it would be the band's only song to hit #1 in England.
The lead singer in the first verse is Four Seasons drummer Gerri Polci (as you can see in the video above, and in the really cool LIVE video below).
Frankie Valli comes in on the second verse.
Don Ciccone, formerly of Union County NJ's "Critters" ("Mr, Dieingly Sad" and "Younger Girl" in 1966), is also prominently featured.
Since hitting #1 in the Bicentennial year, "December 1963 (Oh, What A Night)" has never left the radio airwaves.
And, 18 years later, it would be introduced to a whole new generation.
A dance/remix by Dutch producer/DJ Ben Liebrand went to #14 on the pop charts in 1994.
Liebrand actually remixed the song in 1988, but it was only released in Europe.
It was finally released in the U.S. in late 1993...and rediscovered by original fans...and making fans of younger listeners who had never heard the original version...
The single was released in the form of 2 edits (3:59 and 4:22), along with the extended version for club play coming in at 6:13 (as you see on the cassette version, above).
The 90's remix was so popular, that it stayed on the Top-40 charts for an amazing 20 weeks.
Combine that with the 15 weeks that the original version spent on the Top-40 charts in 1975-1976...and "December 1963 (Oh, What A Night)" has spent more weeks on the Top-40 charts than any other song.
Frankie Valli, however, is not a remix fan, telling "Billboard Magazine" at the time: "I'll never like it better than when it was pure."