March 13, 2009

Today in Four Seasons History

March 13th, 2009

On March 13, 1976, The Four Seasons had their fifth Number One hit with “December 1963″ (Oh, What a Night),” which was their first hit to top the charts since “Rag Doll” in 1964. “December 1963″ remained in the top position on the Billboard Hot 100 for three consecutive weeks and was also their only British Number One single.

It broke right around Christmas of ‘75, and slowly climbed to Number One by mid-March. The song spent six months on the charts, and sold more than three million copies, making it The Four Seasons’ best-selling single ever.

I’ll never forget the first time I heard “December 1963.” It was on my fourteenth birthday, in mid-December 1975. My favorite birthday present that year was the brand new “Who Loves You” album by The Four Seasons! Forget the cake and ice cream that night–I was too busy playing and replaying “Oh, What A Night,” predicting that this was going to be the Seasons’ new single and a huge hit! Ten days later, my prediction came true!

Where were you the first time you heard “December 1963″?


  1. Susie, I remember this period so well, too. I loved Frankie’s resurgence with “My Eyes Adored You”, hearing it for the first time on Nov. 30, 1974, and always one of my most memorable songs, even before its reappearance in “Jersey Boys”. I didn’t have quite the same affection for “Swearin’ to G-d”, “Our Day Will Come”, or even “Who Loves You”; didn’t think “Who Loves You” had enough of a story, and had too many memories of Ruby and the Romantics to really appreciate Frankie’s disco version of ODWC.

    But oh, when OWAN hit, I felt the same way you did, and just loved the song, which was indeed ironic, since Frankie obviously wasn’t on lead. I recall Feb. 4, 1976, listening at a client to WABC radio from NY and waiting to hear if I passed the CPA exam. About 4 PM in the afternoon, the Tony Orlando oldie “Tie a Yellow Ribbon” came on followed by OWAN, Then came the call that I had passed the exam.

    Kept following the song, hoping it would hit the top, and Bingo!–March of 1976, I was riding home from a client in Deal, NJ to my then-home in Elizabeth, NJ and as I pulled into the driveway at about 6:30 PM, the drums on OWAN came on, with WABC disc jockey George Michael screaming “Nuuuuumber One” (had been #3 the prior week)…. I remained in the car singing along, and it’s remained a favorite ever since, although 1976 now only exists as a wonderful memory.

    Thanks for letting me relive a wonderful time, Susie.

    Comment by Howard Tucker — March 13, 2009 @ 6:29 am

  2. I think using two singers is cool. I wonder who came up with the idea? The first singer sounds young. Frankie sounds older. It’s like you hear it from the point of view of the guy when he was young and then remembering it when he was older.

    Comment by Janice — March 13, 2009 @ 3:07 pm

  3. I became aware of “December, 1963″ back around Thanksgiving, 1975, when I saw the WLY LP in a record store. I was going away to college, and pocket money was scarce. It was a choice between an album or a couple of Mickey D’s visits.

    I called the DJ at WTRX, (where Joey Reynolds worked for a brief while in 1963 and probably broke “Dawn (Go Away)” in December, 1963), and requested it around Thanksgiving Day, 1975. I waited a long time but I didn’t hear it. I returned for Holiday Break in December, 1975, and was listening to WCFL Chicago, “Big 10, Super CFL” “in my room” (no Beach Boys reference intended) and heard Frankie Valli singing one of his two 20 second solos in the song. It was December 20, 1975.

    Like Howard and Susie, I was concerned that the record didn’t move up the charts faster. When it only moved from 44 to 40 on the Billboard Hot 100 in its sixth week, I thought it was done, and I think that also slowed a lot of bigger stations from adding it sooner. However, the lag did keep it from competing more directly with “50 Ways To Leave Your Lover” by Paul Simon, which was released about the same time.

    Comment by Ted Hammond — March 13, 2009 @ 4:11 pm

  4. Janice

    There are actually 3 lead singers on “December ’63 (OWAN)”

    “Oh What a Night, late December back in ’63…” – Gerry Polci

    “I got a funny feeling…” – Frankie Valli

    “I felt a rush like a rolling ball of thunder…” – Don Ciccone

    Comment by David Cace — March 13, 2009 @ 4:38 pm

  5. The first time I heard this tune was on my family’s home stereo system, after going out and purchasing the “Who Loves You” album at Gimbel’s Department Store (shows just how long ago it was!) in the Cross County Shopping Center in Yonkers, NY (where I grew up). I remember hurrying home to unwrap the album cover’s contents and listening intently to each of the tracks on the long-playing disc. I believe it was sometime during the month of September when I made the purchase, and the only cut off the record that I was familiar with was the single “Who Loves You,” which was moving up the Billboard Hot 100 at the time. As I was listening to all the songs on the recording, I remember trying to predict which of the songs would be a potential follow-up to the album’s title song. My first reaction to hearing “December 1963 (Oh, What a Night)” was Oh, What a Song; as much as I loved the song “Who Loves You,” I felt December ’63 was the catchiest and most infectious of the new tunes. Interestingly, my third favorite track was “Storybook Lovers,” not the eventual third single release, “Silver Star.” Guess I was partial to songs Frankie Valli appeared on, “Silver Star” being the first Four Seasons’ single he did not sing on.

    To Janice’s comment above, there were actually three singers sharing lead vocals: Gerri Polci, carrying the bulk of the lead vocals, Frankie Valli and Don Ciccone, former lead singer of the ’60′s group The Critters, who’s biggest hit, “Mr. Dieingly Sad,” was penned by none other than Mr. Ciccone.

    Comment by Len Gersten — March 13, 2009 @ 9:06 pm

  6. A few more memories. (Too Many Memories?) Len, Wikipedia, which is not always right, has a decent article on the LP “Who Loves You”.

    It says it was released in November, 1975. The title single had been in production for quite some time before release.

    I remember the single “Who Loves You” being featured on one of the Rock Concert or Midnight Special type shows in August, 1975. Airplay of the single WLY on my favorite station began in September, 1975.

    When I first saw the album, I was drawn to the title “December, 1963″. I remember even commenting to others even before I heard it that I thought it was going to be a big hit. Thus my disappointment that week it only moved from 44 to 40. It did still have a Star (Bullet) though, and the next two weeks it went to 28 and 18. When it then went to 12 and 5, I figured it was pretty much going to me a multiple week #1.

    Len, I thought “Storybook Lovers” would possibly be the third single also.

    One thing about the single Warner/Curb 8168 that is different from the album cut is the phased piano track that is much louder with Frankie Valli’s solos. I thought that sounded great. The repeated guitar riffs which kind of say “De-cem-ber” appear in the left channel in the album but are in the right channel on the single.

    Mo Ostin at Warner Bros. was delighted that three consecutive Warner releases were all huge successes. Warner 8167 was “Dream Weaver” by Gary Wright and Warner/Curb 8169 was “Let Your Love Flow” by The Bellamy Brothers.

    Comment by Ted Hammond — March 13, 2009 @ 10:27 pm

  7. I was in my mid-20′s when December ’63 came out and I really don’t remember the 1st time I heard it. But I do remember how happy I was that the Season’s were back on top!

    I do, however, have vivid memories of three other songs and the 1st time I heard them. I heard Dawn one afternoon while listening to Big Dan on WABC. Then came the Sunday night in June 1964 when I was listening to Scott Muni “Sunday Ninght-Date Night” on WABC, the Sunday before school ended for the year. He announced “this is the Pick Hit of the Week” and I heard the drum starting Rag Doll. God, it was love at first hearing! I was upset when listening to Scottso counting down the Top Twenty that Tuesday night and the song wasn’t on the chart. It wasn’t 20 or 19 or 18…etc. It was, in fact on the chart. At number ONE! The first time in WABC’s Top 40 era that a song had gone from pick hit to #1 in a single week!

    The third song that I remember well is listening to CKLW one night and hearing the fuzz bass opening of Will You Love Me Tomorrow. Somehow, even before Frankie starting singing I knew it was the 4 Seasons and I loved their version of the song.

    If there was ever any doubt in Bob or Frankie’s mind at how many memories their songs have given us, the popularity of Jersey Boys should have ended those doubts!

    Comment by Jim Hicks — March 15, 2009 @ 9:10 am

  8. Ted, thanks for the correction on the release date of the “Who Loves You” album. As I think more about it, it is very possible I actually made the purchase just before the Thanksgiving holiday and not in mid-September as I initially recalled. It was also nice to read other fan’s (notably Howard, Ted and Jim) recollections of December 1963 and other Frankie Valli/4 Seasons single releases and memories associated with life events or just memories of hearing these tunes for the first time.

    Comment by Len Gersten — March 16, 2009 @ 11:42 am

  9. Len, I think I bought the WLY single during the fall when it was headed up the charts. I used to keep all the receipts, also, though I don’t know how well these are arranged. David and Howard are probably proud of me for keeping them. Probably sometime after I first heard 12-63, I remember buying “The Four Seasons Story” LP and the “December, 1963″ single. I bought the WLY album later but well before the single “Silver Star” was released. Mine had the album title in small print. Later versions had the title in larger print.

    Comment by Ted Hammond — March 16, 2009 @ 1:47 pm

  10. My wife and I(and friends) went to the Frankie Valli concert in Phoenix this last Friday night. It was simply amazing. We had such a good time. It was so much fun hearing him and those songs again. Also, the band was amazing.

    Comment by Gary — March 16, 2009 @ 2:11 pm

  11. Personnel FOR “WHO LOVES YOU”
    Frankie Valli – vocals
    John Paiva – guitar, vocals
    Don Ciccone – bass, vocals
    Gerry Polci – drums, vocals
    Lee Shapiro – keyboards
    Bob Gaudio – keyboards, vocals, producer
    Joe Long – bass, vocals

    Comment by jim petrecca — March 16, 2009 @ 7:52 pm

  12. attachment: to above comment” valli, long, and gaudio were the 1960s version of the 4 seasons , all together again singing in a 1976 hit song…..but the only “originals” are the rock & roll hall of famers frankie valli, nick massi,tommy devito and bob gaudio………..

    Comment by jim petrecca — March 17, 2009 @ 11:26 pm

  13. Jim, do you or any other collectors have a copy of Billboard Magazine for the week that “December, 1963″ was reviewed? I’m curious as to what it said. They only predicted that singles would reach 1-30 or 31-100 as I recall. I think they predicted that “Silver Star” would reach the Top 30, but it only reached #38. It was big in the UK though.

    Comment by Ted Hammond — March 19, 2009 @ 7:55 pm

  14. One more thing (Hope I’m not as irritating as Columbo). As I recall, American Top 40 with Casey Kasem was provided to its affiliates on LPs each week with the AT40 countdown on it. It would be interesting to piece together all the comments that Casey made when playing “December, 1963″ as it went up and down the charts, if anyone archived these shows. Probably would have to get Casey’s permission to do anything official though.

    Comment by Ted Hammond — March 19, 2009 @ 8:06 pm

  15. I just noticed Jim’s Comment #7 about hearing “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow” on CKLW. I remember going into a department store in 1968 and seeing that they had the CKLW Survey. That song was on that Survey! It was around #24, which is where it peaked on the Hot 100. Music had changed, like the “lights” in “A Day In The Life”, which I feel confortable mentioning around David and Howard because Frankie Valli remade it on the “All This And World War II” LP! Sadly, it would be several years before another FV4S song would crack the Top 30 on Billboard or CKLW.

    Comment by Ted Hammond — March 13, 2012 @ 12:29 am

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