‘I’ll Try To Carry On . . .’

As the Texas Gal and I were waiting for something to start on television the other week, we wandered up and down the music channels our cable provider offers, roaming from current hits to blues classics with a lot of stops in between. During one of our trips through the offerings, we chanced upon the channel devoted to Top 40 from the Sixties, which was playing “Rag Doll” by the 4 Seasons.

“That was one of my favorites when I was a little girl,” she said. “I loved to sing along with it.” The record, the fourth of five eventual No. 1 hits for the group from Jersey, hit the charts in 1964, when the Texas Gal was less than ten years old, but with sisters five and ten years older than she, the music of the early 1960s has always been familiar to her.

As it was to me, four-and-a-half years older and a thousand miles away. I didn’t always pay attention, but – as I’ve noted before – the music that my sister, my peers and their siblings listened to was always around me, even when I was more content listening to Al Hirt and John Barry. So when I gathered in a 4 Seasons collection on vinyl in the early 1990s, the music was familiar from years of radio play.

But I’ve not written much about the group or its music or about the music released by group leader Frankie Valli as a solo artist. The bulk of that music goes into a file of “stuff I heard when I was a kid but I learned about and appreciated later,” like “Rag Doll,” “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” “Walk Like A Man” and quite a few more. But the stuff from the comeback years in the 1970s – the 4 Seasons’ “Who Loves You” and “December, 1963 (Oh, What A Night)” and Valli’s solo hits “Swearin’ To God” and “My Eyes Adored You” – is all vivid from my Atwood Center hours at St. Cloud State.

One of those later hits, “December, 1963 (Oh, What A Night),” was one of the two-hundred-some records I selected for my Ultimate Jukebox nine years ago. I wrote at the time:

I was sitting at The Table at St. Cloud State’s Atwood Center in early 1976 when the 4 Seasons’ “December, 1963 (Oh, What A Night)” came on the jukebox. My friend Stu shook his head. “Man,” he said, “what a great bass line. One of the best ever.” I took that judgment under advisement, and over the years, I’ve polished it to the point where I credit the 4 Seasons’ hit – it was No. 1 for three weeks – with having the best pop music bass line ever. And it is the bass line that moves the song along as it tells its tale of a one-night stand.

And beyond a brief comment about the Jersey boys’ cover of Bob Dylan’s “Tambourine Man,” that’s about all I ever said about the group, except to note that in Billboard, the group “had thirty Top 40 hits between 1962 and 1976 (with a dance remix of “December 1963 (Oh, What A Night)” going to No. 14 in 1994 for a thirty-first hit).”

I’m not going to take off on a major tour of the group’s hit presence here (except to note that along with the Top 40 charting, some of their 1960s work reached the magazine’s R&B Top 40 and some of the 1970s records did well on the Adult Contemporary Top 40).

But Valli and the 4 Seasons have been getting some play here recently. As I did some simple work to get the Texas Gal a copy of “Rag Doll,” I dug more deeply than before into the Valli and 4 Seasons catalogs from both the 1960s and 1970s. The Seventies stuff remains favored because those tunes were part of the soundtrack of my college days. But there’s plenty, of course, to enjoy from the 1960s records. And the one I recall most vividly hearing and generally liking, no doubt at friends’ homes and quite possibly during an eighth grade dance at South Junior High is “Opus 17 (Don’t You Worry ’Bout Me).”

Did I dance to it back in 1966? Very unlikely, as I was mostly a wallflower in those days. But, as I said, I would have heard it around me as it went to No. 13. And its story of noble acceptance of a lover’s departure is still worth a listen today:

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2 Responses to “‘I’ll Try To Carry On . . .’”

  1. David says:

    I’m not a huge fan of Frankie Valli/the Four Seasons, but they had a really interesting period in the early 1970s on Motown’s “Mowest” label, including two great songs that were on Light in the Attic record’s compilation that came out a few years ago.

    https://lightintheattic.net/releases/572-our-lives-are-shaped-by-what-we-love-motown-s-mowest-story-1971-73

  2. jb says:

    I have been percolating a Four Seasons blog idea myself, but I think yours probably makes that unnecessary. Some of the Seasons’ 60s material hasn’t worn very well, at least with me (example: I heard “Working My Way Back to You” the other day and thought it sounded just awful), but their mid-70s material is aces. “Silver Star,” which was the followup to “December 1963,” was probably too ambitious for the Top 40, but it’s worth seeking out.

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