The Four Seasons
Listen/Download – The Four Seasons – Beggin’
I hope all is well on your end of things.
I was doing my standard ‘look into the digi-ma-tization archive and see what I like’ exercise, and while selecting musical wonderment to pass on to you via the ones and zeros on the interwebs and what not I happened upon something I picked up earlier this year. The song in question had been on my radar for a while (in a once removed kind of way, but more on that in a minute) and the artist even more so.
Having had my pop music horizons expanded, nay blown the fuck apart back when I was a kid by an ‘oldies’ station, the music of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons has been hovering around my ears for decades, but it wasn’t until rather late in the game that I started to actually give it a listen.
Back in the day the music of the Four Seasons, though ubiquitous, was rather alien to me. I always had a hard time adjusting to Valli’s falsetto gymnastics, and the Four Seasons’ sound was an odd amalgam of things that I was too young and inexperienced to grasp. As the years went by and my musical vocabulary expanded drastically, I began to encounter Four Seasons records with what was basically a new set of ears.
What was once a jumble of seemingly incongruous parts started to come into focus. Once I understood the group’s modern adaptation of doo-wop style harmonies, and gave their records a “deeper” hearing I started to realize that what I was listening to was a bridge of sorts from the pop stylings of the early 60s and the new sonic playground of the mid-60s. I started to hear fuzz guitars, stomping feet, unusual keyboard sounds and what was in essence a tightening (focusing) of the Wall of Sound within a small group context.
This had a lot to do with group member – as well as producer (with Bob Crewe) and main songwriter – Bob Gaudio, who would eventually leave the performing end of the Four Seasons to work exclusively behind the scenes. The AllMusic Guide entry on the band by William Ruhlmann is an excellent appreciation of the band and places them firmly in the ranks of major American bands of the 60s.
That said, I came to appreciate and respect the music of the Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons (even indirectly via the Walker Brothers cover of Valli’s ‘The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore’). The ‘once removed’ group I mentioned above was the UK freakbeat/blue eyed soul band Timebox who’s cover of today’s selection ‘Beggin’’ made its way into my ears long before I knew it had originally been written and recorded by the Four Seasons. The Timebox version has a certain amount of cache with the Northern Soul crowd, and though there are those that will tell you that it is superior to the original, I (and a recording of the latter) am here to tell you that they are incorrect.
When I finally got my hands on the Four Seasons 1967 LP ‘New Gold Hits’, I rushed home to give ‘Beggin’’ a spin, and was pleasantly surprised. There’s no question that the Four Seasons had a soulful side (with records like ‘You’re Ready Now’ and ‘The Night’ spun frequently on UK dancefloors) , but it really comes to the fore in ‘Beggin’’.
The song’s arrangement, opening with an arsty, neoclassical flourish, soons break open into a Four Tops*-ish dancer with a thumping bass line, layered with piano chords and strings. The chorus, with Valli and the Four Seasons in harmony with a ringing, sitar-like guitar and clapping hands takes ‘Beggin’’ over the top.
If this isn’t getting soul night spins, then it certainly ought to be. I know I’ll be packing in my record bag.
In 2007 the French DJ Pilooski did a re-edit of ‘Beggin” that eventually went to #1 on the UK dance charts. It has since been used in a commercial for the Adidas.
I hope you dig he song, and I’ll be back with something cool on Wednesday.
*The Four Seasons would eventually sign with the Motown subsidiary Mowest
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