Genuine Imitation Life Gazette


Tim Neely and Ken Sharp. "The 4 Seasons: Their Unique Vocals Got Under Our Skin - Interviews with Bob Gaudio & Frankie Valli." Goldmine 28:7:566 [5 April 2002] p. 14-17.

Upon the recent release of Rhino's exemplary two-CD Anthology and Off Seasons collections, Goldmine sat down for a far-reaching discussion with [Four Seasons] founding members [Bob] Gaudio and [Frankie] Valli.

Bob Gaudio

Goldmine: Rhino's new Off Seasons CD proves that The 4 Seasons were much more than a singles band.

Bob Gaudio: When something happens as quickly as it did, you come to a place where you start to listen a bit to the record company. They're always looking for the obvious radio-oriented follow-ups. Doing as much traveling as we did, we really focused on singles for a long while. But there were a number of places where we took a few giant steps. One of the disappointments of our career for me on a creative level was the Genuine Imitation Life Gazette album. It was just something that I had to do at that time. It got wonderful reviews, but obviously it was not an acceptable piece from us. Everybody was expecting Top 40.

Goldmine: It's a very psychedelic record. Was there a direct Beatles influence? Was it shaped by the general time period?

Bob Gaudio: I think it was the times. This was the album that started it for me. The album was something that Frankie and I wanted to [do to] spread our wings. The inspiration for that album was a song that Jake Holes did. We used to play The Bitter End a lot. I was hanging around in the Village and saw him perform the song "Genuine Imitation Life," and that's what started that whole project. I was very much into doing a concert album. I later did a concept album with [Frank] Sinatra called Watertown.

Goldmine: Tell me about "Something's On Her Mind" from that album.

Bob Gaudio: Jake and I would hole up in my writing room. I bought an Elizabethan castle replica in Montclair, N.J. It had 28 rooms. We'd go up on the third floor and wrote the whole album. I was pleased with the whole album because it was not a typical approach to writing. We didn't focus on anything from a commercial stand-point, just whatever felt right. Jake was very quick with a lyric. So when a melody struck him we would hone in on it very quickly. Sometimes you do some very odd and unusual things that way. You don't have a whole lot of time to think it over and rework the melody.

Goldmine: "Saturday's Father" is very dramatic.

Bob Gaudio: It's interesting that you mentioned that one. After I left The 4 Seasons [in 1972] and stopped traveling, I went with Motown. I had lunch with Berry Gordy, and he said to me, "There's a song you wrote that wasn't a hit, but I used to play that song to my creative staff once a week to start the meeting off, to stimulate them to do something different." He said, "It was never a successful single, but to me it was some of the most creative work you guys have ever done." It's always nice to find [laughs] that somebody picks up on something that wasn't considered a commercial success.

Goldmine: John Lennon was a fan of that album, too.

Bob Gaudio: I had dinner with John and May Pang -- There were about four or five, six people there. We had a wonderful conversation about it. He said that it was one of his favorite albums.

Frankie Valli

Goldmine: Over time, The 4 Seasons have not garnered the respect and acclaim from critics that they deserve. Why?

Frankie Valli: I think that there's a lot of politics involved with that. We were never really an industry act. The Beatles were more of an industry act. Even when you get down to the voting, whether you're talking Grammys, Academy Awards®, those are all industry votes. I always looked at us at being a people's group, and I'm very happy with that. Another group who I think doesn't get the respect they deserve is The Bee Gees. I guess a lot of it has to do with the fact that everybody pegs them for doing pop music. We did an album called Genuine Imitation Life Gazette. When we travel, especially at some of the universities, so many kids have discovered that album and say, "Wow, man, what an album!" But I remember getting a review on that album which said had that album been done by anyone but us it would have been a smash album.

Goldmine: Speaking of that record, it was a landmark effort for The 4 Seasons, very artistic, almost psychedelic. The band really took a chance.

Frankie Valli: We talked about some of the social problems on that album. Nobody was expecting anything like that from us. The record company wasn't very pleased with the fact that we turned in an album like that. They didn't do very much work on it. It certainly is an album that I've always been very proud of. I wouldn't call the album exactly psychedelic, [although] it did have kind of a flow or a taste of that. "Wall Street Village Day" was an incredible song. "Soul Of A Woman" was another really great song, and the title song, "Genuine Imitation Life," is also great. Of all the bands out there, we have touched on almost every kind of music that there is. Everything from "Sherry" to the album Genuine Imitation Life Gazette to touches of jazz with "Swearin' To God" to "My Eyes Adored You" to "Can't Take My Eyes Off Of You" to "Who Loves You." I don't know many acts out there who have done it as successfully as we have done it. We did an album for MCA that got lost in the shuffle called Heaven Above Me, which was kind of a dance-oriented record. The amazing thing for me about that was there was a song on that album called "Soul" which was on the dance charts for a year, and you couldn't buy the record anywhere! [laughs] But I'm sure that's happened to a lot of acts too. I mean "Don't Think Twice" happened as an accident. The song was recorded on an album that contained six Bob Dylan songs and six Burt Bacharach/Hal David songs, and The Wonder Who? came out of the Dylan segment of that. The Wonder Who? was really an impression I was doing of a jazz singer from the '40s whose name was Rose Murphy. Her big hit was "I Can't Give You Anything But Love."

Goldmine: Speaking of serious songs, I wanted to ask you about a Genuine Imitation Life Gazette song that is featured on Rhino's new Off Seasons: Criminally Ignored Sides CD -- "Saturday's Father."

Frankie Valli: I thought it was a great song. When Bob Gaudio and Jake Holmes wrote the song, I thought it was an incredible song. The biggest social problem we have [is] with marriages breaking up and how children are affected and [how often/seldom] the kids get to see their dad, usually on the weekends -- that's what "Saturday's Father" is about. I remember doing The Kraft Theater and we did "Saturday's Father" for the show, and when we finished it there wasn't an eye in the audience, including the technicians and the camera people, that wasn't wet. It was a total moment of silence, and then it erupted into applause. It was really strange. It was a subject that we touched upon that no one had come near. There's a little segment in there where we used [the sounds of] our own kids playing in a playground.