One of the most popular and enduring pop songs of the Seventies is now old enough to look in the mirror and sigh at its encroaching gray hairs.
This month marks 40 years since the Four Seasons — Sixties hitmakers in the midst of a surprising Seventies resurgence — released the single most people know by its subtitle: “December 1963 (Oh, What A Night).”
According to the song’s Wiki page, it was originally set in 1933 and was meant to recall the end of Prohibition.
But various parties involved with the song, including Frankie Valli, urged songwriters Bob Gaudio and Judy Parker to reconsider the lyric. And, instead of a meditation on the narrator’s first legal bender, the song turned into a warm recollection of a first romantic encounter.
(In 2015, the narrator is probably old enough to watch Viagra commercials more intently than he watches the football games that surround them.)
“December 1963” would hit Number One on the singles charts in the U.S., the U.K. and Canada early in 1976. And — buoyed by remixes, covers, party and wedding spins, and general nostalgia — it’s remained popular since.
I’m not the world’s biggest fan of the song, me. (No, this guy might hold that title.)
But, as a person who admires pop-music productions the way some people admire Renoirs, I have to concede that Frankie Valli and company built themselves quite a single.
This is also one of a group of pop hits (“Silly Love Songs” is another) that I can remember hearing on the radio in my parents’ big Plymouth Satellite during long holiday road trips to Stamford. So it has a pleasant childhood connection.
For Hope Street purposes, “December 1963” nicely spans the time period of my grandfather’s calendars: The ones still in storage start in January 1961 and end in December 1975, when the song came out.
I thought I’d look back at the calendar for December 1963 — or at least the portion of it I took pictures of — and see what the Blumenau family of Stamford, Connecticut, was up to during that fateful month.
Of course there’s nothing intimate or personal on the calendar that month. Just the usual errands — plumber’s appointments, trips to the dentist, appointments to babysit, times to unload unwanted household trash.
(I’ve never heard “junkie” as slang for “junkman” before. But it’s consistent with other New England slang I learned during my years near Boston — “statie” for state cop, “packie” for package store, “Eastie” and “Southie” for East and South Boston respectively. Nowadays, I’d like to think someone would recycle that water tank, but who knows.)
Of course there is a Christmas tree — an angular streamlined jobbie of the sort Charlie Brown might have seen on his famous errand two years later, yet not high-end enough to satisfy my aunt.
And then there’s this potpourri of seasonal action. A son comes home from college and sees the dentist; a materfamilias goes to the doctor; the daughter of the family makes a few bucks overseeing someone else’s brats on a Saturday night; the sun goes down pisser early on the shortest day of the year; and the weather is by turns cold and winter-sloppy.
(I am reminded that I have written before about that Dec. 21, 1963, calendar entry. Three years later, the pain of that week’s news from the other end of Fairfield County is still fresh … and we, as a country, have not moved perceptibly forward. My grandfather would shake his head in frustration, and so do I.)
The rest of December 1963 I didn’t bother to take pictures of, which suggests there was nothing of interest on the calendar. Just everyday action even more mundane than that I captured.
Wiki’s page for December 1963 suggests the month was generally quiet in terms of news items, as well. A few births that became noteworthy later (Brad Pitt, Donna Tartt, Sergey Bubka, Lars Ulrich) and the first Beatles singles in the U.S., but nothing that would have really stirred people at the time — especially compared to the events of the prior month.
So, while the narrator of the Four Seasons’ single might have had a memorable month, December 1963 was not otherwise noteworthy for most actual non-fictional Americans.
The Sixties would go on to get a whole lot more eventful … but that’s another story.