First, you must embrace the falsetto. Don’t worry about how Frankie Valli’s voice could get so high. Don’t wonder why such a sound would even be desirable. Like the shrill keening of Chinese opera or the yodeling of the Swiss Alps, it is a vocal artifact of a foreign culture. If you are to enjoy the music, you must accept that tastes differ across time and space. If you are naturally inclined to appreciate these sounds, well, all the better.
Now that you’ve surmounted that hurdle, it’s on to the music itself. The Four Seasons’ sound derived from doo wop but was driven by rock and roll. Like Dion before them, The Four Seasons recognized that doo wop was becoming passé, and evolving was the way to stay relevant. But unlike the jazzy flourishes in “Runaround Sue,” “the group’s singles of this era (including “Sherry”) appeal more directly to the teenage fan. If one were feeling hyperbolic, it could even be said that The Four Seasons paved the way for The Beatles – rock and roll filtered through tight multi-part harmonies and polished production. Frankie Valli & co. haven’t aged as well as the Fab Four, though. The Beatles did have a few advantages that The Four Seasons lacked: a persistent need to experiment and evolve, a seemingly bottomless reserve of creativity, and (ca. 1967 aside) a disregard for effects that would instantly date the record. When Paul McCartney deployed falsetto, it was more Little Richard’s flamboyant hysterics than Frankie Valli’s preternatural shriek.
But don’t let negative comparisons with The Beatles dissuade you. One source claims that The Four Seasons were the most successful white pop group before The Beatles, and it’s not too hard to believe it. “Sherry” is similar enough to contemporaneous pop that it isn’t out of place, yet it doesn’t quite sound like anything else at the time either. While the group’s song catalogue would become increasingly dominated by formula, the Four Seasons’ first charting single is a fresh burst of energy in the increasingly lethargic pop charts. At least if you can accept the falsetto. 7
Hit #1 on September 15, 1962; total of 5 weeks at #1
78 of 975 #1’s reviewed; 8.00% through the Hot 100