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‘The Night’: The Four Seasons’ Motown Surprise

The prolific 1960s hitmakers got a 1975 UK hit out of their incongruous time of the early 70s in the Motown family.

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Four Seasons The Night

By the early 1970s, the Four Seasons seemed to have reached the end of the line as a commercial force in new music. A later line-up of the New Jersey group was still active on the road, but often found themselves playing for the nostalgia market. Small wonder, with a fantastic track record of memorable hits from their glorious 1960s, when they sold scores of millions of records and hit the US singles chart 40 times. Then came the phenomenon of “The Night.”

The group had cut the song, written by their own Bob Gaudio with Bob Ruzicka, as part of the Chameleon album. That was released in 1972, under the deal they signed with Motown’s subsidiary label MoWest. “The Night” was a brilliantly brooding track with stirring keyboards and strings, an infectious beat, fine harmonies and Frankie Valli’s ever-impressive lead vocals. It was issued to media as a promotional single in the US, but was never commercially released there. Meanwhile, the album failed to make the US chart at all.

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Saved by Northern Soul

In 1975, the Four Seasons seemed almost consigned to history, as Valli enjoyed new solo acclaim thanks to “My Eyes Adored You” and other hits. That ballad, too, dated from the Motown archives. But something remarkable was about to happen. Since its first release, “The Night” had been winning a reputation as a floor-filler on the UK’s northern soul scene, the influential underground club circuit in the north of England.

Released as a UK single by public demand, it entered the charts on April 19, 1975, at No.36. It was the Seasons’ first chart appearance there for eight years. Within three weeks, “The Night” peaked at No.7, the group’s highest-charting UK single since “Let’s Hang On” a decade before. That paved the way for a second coming that produced such phenomenal 45s as “Who Loves You,” “December, 1963 (Oh What A Night),” and “Silver Star.” These and many other great releases ultimately became part of the global stage phenomenon that told their story, Jersey Boys. So huge was the musical’s success that it then became a movie, directed by Clint Eastwood.

From the Motown vaults

“The Night” wasn’t the first time that Valli had the northern soul clubs to thank for a British hit. “You’re Ready Now” had travelled the same path some years earlier. Of the MoWest hit, he told Record Collector in 2008: “That’s the irony of the situation. A song from our less than happy time as part of the Motown family went on to become one of our biggest hits long after we’d left.

“The Northern Soul scene in the UK had always been really good to us. Then a couple of generations later, only last year, there was a club mix of one of our early songs, ‘Beggin,’’ that did pretty well. We’ve had our share of ups and downs along the way, but the UK has always been really good to us. I have an incredible love for the country and the people, because they’ve been so supportive. You guys have always been pretty terrific.”

“The Night” (and two more songs from the Four Seasons’ MoWest era) are on Motown’s MoWest Story (1971-1973), which can be bought here.

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