26 August 2013

Frank and Frankie Sing Friedan!

“‘Something’s On Her Mind’:

Frank (Sinatra) and Frankie (Valli) Sing (Betty) Friedan

Gilbert L. Gigliotti

By the late 1960s, popular music had undergone a sea change with which even the most successful acts of the past (all the way from the “older generation” to even more recent chart-toppers) were finding it hard to come to terms.   
     Frank Sinatra, for example, some 30 years into his career, would record his very first studio album dedicated to a single songwriter.  His choice for A Man Alone wasn’t Kern or Porter or Gershwin or even Sammy Cahn, but rather troubadour-poet-sixties’ icon Rod McKuen.  And hard on the heels of A Man Alone, a folk rock story album entitled Watertown.
     The Four Seasons, meanwhile, who, along with the Beach Boys, was the only American act to hold its own against the Beatles and the rest of the British Invasion, had been trying a variety of approaches of their own.[1]  This group of Jersey boys, whose remarkable success in the summer of ‘63, would lead some American disc jockeys to call the Beatles the “British answer to the Four Seasons,” were now releasing, among other songs:
          a)  a 1965 cover version of Bob Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice (It’s Alright)” with Frankie Valli singing in the style of 1940s jazz singer Rose Murphy,[2] and under the pseudonym “The Wonder Who?.”    
          b) a full-blown-Four-Seasons-treatment of the classic Cole Porter song “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” in 1966,
          c) a “message-type” song from 1968, “Saturday’s Father,” about a divorced father spending time with his daughters each weekend; 
          d) a harder sounding single “Electric Stories” in 1968.
The only thing these recordings share is that each is an attempt to figure out how to stay relevant in an impossibly fluid creative climate, an attempt to determine what would sell.
      Simple mismatches of artist and material can be fascinating indeed, but when two very disparate songwriters, Bob Gaudio and Jake Holmes, each of whom would have a remarkable career by himself, join forces and create the worst-selling albums of not one, but two, immensely successful and iconic pop performers – the Four Seasons and Francis Albert Sinatra – well, these are depths well worth plumbing.
      Bob Gaudio was born in New York in 1942 and began his career as a popular musician at the tender age of 17 as a member of The Royal Teens and, more significantly, the composer of their minor 1958 hit, “(WhoWears) Short Shorts.”  The song managed a post-hit life of its own while earning the composer an even greater monetary return by becoming the advertising jingle for Nair, the ladies’ hair remover in the 1970s.  In the early 1960s, however, Gaudio became a member of and primary musical architect (along with producers Charles Calello and Bob Crewe) for another group, the Four Seasons.  Gaudio and lead singer Frankie Valli would become 50/50 partners at that point, a business deal that lasts to this day and incorporates any and all work either of them does together or solo (Alexander).
     Jake Holmes was born in San Francisco in 1939 but was attracted to the New York scene early on.  He became one-half of the comedy musical duo “Allen and Grier,” with his then-wife Kate, and their parodies were released on the 1963 album It’s Better to be Rich than Ethnic.
     More interestingly, Holmes is the composer of two classic late-1960s, early-1970s songs.  The first, included on his 1967 solo album The Above Ground Sound of Jake Holmes, is the original version, with the very same title, of what would become known as the Led Zeppelin classic “Dazed and Confused.”  As the story goes, Holmes was playing at The Village Theatre in New York in a show on 25 August 1967 with the Yardbirds and the Youngbloods.  Jimmy Page, of course, then a member of the Yardbirds and a future founding member of Led Zeppelin, heard the song and, from that point, started including it among his concert repertory.[3]   And, when Led Zeppelin I was released in 1969, with his rendition of “Dazed and Confused,” Page was listed as its sole composer.  A lawsuit regarding songwriting credit and royalties is still working its way through the courts at this time.
     The second classic song that Holmes would anonymously compose a little later in his career is the evergreen Army jingle “Be All That You Can Be.”   An interesting pair of songs indeed.
     Gaudio and Holmes would meet occasionally, as both patrons and performers, at the popular Greenwich Village club The Bitter End.  It was there that Gaudio would catch Holmes performing another song from his Above Ground album, “GenuineImitation Life,” a condemnation of contemporary American consumer culture:

         People buying happiness and manufactured fun.
         Everybody’s doing what everybody’s done.
         You count on people who can only count to one
         Genuine imitation life.
Intrigued, Gaudio began discussions with Holmes on a collaboration, and, in the wake of the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds (1966), the Beatles’ Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967), and the Rolling Stones’ Beggars Banquet (1968), a “concept album” for the Four Seasons’ seemed, if not an obvious step, then at least a reasonable one.  Unfortunately, despite the unprecedented musical achievement those concept albums represented for their bands, Pet Sounds for the Beach Boys, and even Sgt. Pepper for the Beatles, did not sound entirely unlike what they had done previously nor dealt with material new to their longtime fans.
      Little, however, could have prepared Four Seasons’ fans for Genuine Imitation Life Gazette, when it was released in January of 1969.  The album’s packaging itself is an impressive artifact: a gatefold cover with six “pages” (including the front and back covers) of faux newscopy and photographs.[4]   On the front page are “before and after” photos of the group (Gaudio, Valli, Joe Long, and Tommy DeVito, Danny’s brother) in a crowd at a peaceful protest turned violent, which, while a not infrequent happening in early 1969, was hardly something associated with the Seasons collectively or even individually.  Indeed, on their 1966 album Working My Way Back to You and More Great New Hits, the Seasons recorded a Gaudio-penned anti-protest song, entitled “Beggars’ Parade.”   In it, they take equal aim at “Bankers’ Sons” and “Bowery Bums,” for being too lazy to work and interested only in collecting welfare checks and telling everyone else “who’s good” and “who’s bad.”  If, as producer Bob Crewe has suggested, that they “were kind of chasing Bob Dylan” (Dahl), then someone needed to explain “The Times They are a-Changin’” to them.

The Gazette, the motto of which is “All the News to Fit Our Advertisers,” also intersperses amidst its news articles the lyrics of many of the album’s ten songs (a first for a Seasons’ album, but clearly a requirement after Sgt. Pepper).  The news includes “World Peace Declared” (which turns out to be a April Fools’ joke sprung on the press by U.N. delegates); “Human Torch Has Misgivings;” “Hippie Cop Found Guilty on Pot Rap;” and “Jersey Teens Storm Gaudio Castle,” (an inside joke about the composer’s recently purchased 32-room Elizabethan style mansion in Upper Montclair, New Jersey, and the site of the collaboration between Gaudio and Holmes). 
          The paper also includes a Beatles-inspired political cartoon;  a society/lifestyle page; a stock market page; and a back cover sports page, replete with satiric pieces on “unfit,” “long hair” Olympians, lesbian footballers, and the “standings” for the American and National “Rock Leagues” (both of which – surprise, surprise! – have the Four Seasons well ahead of the Beatles, Stones, Beach Boys, Moby Grape, Fugs, Jefferson Airplane, and Cream, among others).  Not insignificantly, it should be noted that, despite – or, by this point in the Beatles’ history, maybe because – of the various digs at the band from Liverpool, John Lennon loved this album (Sharp). 

The elaborate packaging explains the $100,000 marketing budget that Philips Records invested in the project.  As explained in the 25 January 1969 issue of the industry magazine Cashbox:

…All bases are being covered.  Ads are to be taken out in major metropolitan newspapers through a co-op program aimed at local dealers.  Extensive radio spots will be used.  Ads will be placed in trade
publications as well as those serving the consumer, including certain aspects of the underground press.  University student newspapers, serving a total of 1½ million persons are receiving ads (44).[5]

One note about the “underground press” reference: In my research, I didn’t find a single mention of the album – neither advanced publicity nor a review – in any issue of  Rolling Stone from 1968 or 1969, which began publishing in 1967.  Aside from the extensive Cashbox coverage, I found only one ad in Billboard, but no review.  This may also explain Frankie Valli’s lament that the record company, despite the expense to produce, never showed much enthusiasm for promoting the album (Dahl). 

            Even considering the satiric feel of the album’s packaging, the opening track, the ominously titled “American Crucifixion andResurrection[6] begins in a style decidedly unfamiliar to long-time fans of the Seasons:

                        The king is dead – long live the king.

                        Unbound slaves stand outside the gate

With lengths of broken chain they wait

Empty stomachs filled with hate

No one told the heads of state

The Prince of Peace is sleeping late.

Who will wait on the lords and ladies?

Who will cry when they lose their crowns?

 In contrast to these baroque images, the audience is introduced to a more familiar character, a father who “once had a boy” whom he raised tenderly:

I taught him to love.

I taught him to care.

I taught him to laugh.

I taught him to share.

 But, in the late-60’s world of culture clash and generation gaps, this son, who had been raised with hope and pride, is given to the “world outside,” which only greets him with disdain:

Hey, boy, where you think you’re going?

Hey, boy, can’t you read the signs?

Hey, boy, you’re supposed to call me mister.

To which the young man responds in a soaring Frankie Valli tenor:

                                    I’m a man now!

                                    I’m a man just like you,

So, damn you, call me by my name.

You better call me by my name.

Of course, manhood, and learning what precisely that entails, had been a recurrent theme in earlier Four Seasons’ songs, such as “Big Girls Don’t Cry” (1962) , “Walk Like a Man” (1963),  and “Working My Way Back to You” (1966).  In those songs, however, manhood was tied exclusively to romantic relationships, but here the son is placed on a more prominent, and in many ways, more significant stage: standing up to the powers-that-be.  In short, “Walk Like a Man” finally has matured.

           The more general social critique of the opening track is echoed in the first three songs on Side II: “Wall Street Village Day;” the title track, arranged by Gaudio to a length twice that of Holmes’ original; and “Idaho,” the B-side of the album’s single released in 1969.[7]  Each of these songs attacks the false and complacent attitudes of America.  WallStreet Village Day” lampoons the pretense that underlies both white-collar Wall Street and bohemian SoHo.  Whether dressing up to shop on 5th Avenue or in Greenwich Village, the participants, the song underscores, are equally phony, similarly role-playing.  “Idaho,” meanwhile, takes on the unbearable status-quo of middle America:


Where I long to go

Thrilling checker games

Spelling bees                                      

Cherry trees

Idaho, lovely Idaho

                                    Daisies on the grass

Grandma Sue, the cows and you

If this type of critique, especially coming from four wealthy almost-thirty-year-old white guys, were all there were to the album, it would make sense that it would only spend 11 weeks and reach only #85 on Billboard’s “Top 100” album chart. 

The heart of this album, however, isn’t these now rather obvious societal satires; it is the plot that begins to unfold in the second song, “Mrs. Stately’sGarden,” with the discovery of a young woman’s suicide, and continues through the last track’s final liquid notes. 

“Why did she kill herself?”; “What did she want?”; “What, if anything, was she ever denied?”; “Could anyone have saved her, and, if so, how?” are all questions the album seems to try to answer. And these issues are the very things I’ve yet to see discussed in any of the (admittedly few) critical treatments of the album.  Too taken (or too distracted) by the packaging or the, at times, grandiose rhetoric of the more Holmesian lyrics, everyone seems to have missed the crucial element that makes the Gazette an important document of the late-1960s: the Miller girl’s death and what it can tell us about ourselves.
     The second song describes a weekly tea party at the Stately home.  Along with the usual talk of jasmine tea and new recipes, we learn that the daughter of Mrs. Marge Miller, one of the tea partiers’ number, has been found near Cooper’s pond.  “Poor thing,” they sing, but almost as quickly as they express their sadness, they spread the rumor of how “wild” all those Millers have always been, as well as some whispered “talk of a child,” and how the “boy that she’d been seeing went to Watertown.”  One woman takes comfort in the fact that [her] “boy Rodger would never have run,”  and, before song’s end, far from mourning the young lady’s demise, the women have decided that they should no longer include Marge in their gatherings because it isn’t proper to “mingle with people like that.”   The final insult is that the final emphatic “poor thing” from the chorus refers only to the woman at the party upon whose hat Alice has just sat.

The plot continues in the next song, “Look Up Look Over,” when we realize that the boy (the one who went to Watertown?) has returned and, in the morgue or funeral home, is saying goodbye to her:

                        I’ve lost her eyes

                        Where have they gone

                        Though she still feels so close to me

                        And it seems like it used to be

She’s gone, I know she’s gone.

The touching scene, however, shifts into something different with mention of the “One life” that they had been living “only in name.”   This cryptic remark is followed by the spoken

Now she knows who’s to blame.

                                    I didn’t see her see thru me.

It should have been enough what she was giving me.

Enough for whom, however?  For him or for her?

    The song ends with an inescapable finality (and even futility) since he now must love her without any reciprocity:

                                    I’ll be alone.

                                    So now I’ll be loving you,

                                    The way you used to do.

                                    You’re gone.  She’s gone. 

It’s over.

“The way you used to do” suggests her love was unreciprocated, that, as the ladies in “Mrs. Stately’s Garden” were gossiping, that, when he left, “she must have thought he had let her down.”  Was this why she took her life?
     The next song, “Something on Her Mind,” is the most traditional Four Seasons’ song on the album, and not surprisingly it was the A-side of the single released in January 1969.  Alone it’s a bouncy song about the insecurity of young love and the desire to be noticed, to be approached, and to have one’s feeling reciprocated:

Is she looking at me?

Is a feeling really happening?

It’s so easy to see something’s on her mind. 

Right after “Look Up Look Over,” however, listeners quickly realize they’re in full flashback mode, back to before the two have really met.  She wants, or so he hopes, to talk to him…at least he thinks so:

                                    Does she really want my company?

                                    Is she thinking like me?

                                    Does she wonder if I’m wondering

                                    Is she trying to see something on my mind?

But she carries herself differently than the girls he’s used to; she has an air of independence about her that he can’t quite believe (or, maybe, by which he’s intimidated):

                                    Is she really as free

as the girl

that she pretends to be?

Does she know that I see

something’s on her mind?

And it is her sense of independence that’s at stake.

            The final track of Side One, “Saturday’s Father,” mentioned earlier, was released in 1968 as a single and served, according to one of the items on the inside of the Gazette, as the “prototype” for the group’s  “message-themed album.”  A simple, but poignant, song about a divorced father’s weekend visits with his two young daughters, it captures well the sense of anticipation for, coupled with the brevity of, their time together:

                                    See them always smiling

                                    Full of games to play

                                    Fun to have a daddy every Saturday.

                                    He’ll bring them home at supper time

To where he used to stay

And so they kiss him on the cheek.

She sees him off

But they don’t speak

Today was Father’s Day.

Seen in isolation, this could be just another social commentary song (in preparation for the three opening Side Two), targeting the rising divorce rate in America in the late 1960s.[8]   The penultimate song on Side Two, however, “Wonder What You’ll Be,” suggests a more complex interrelation. 

“Wonder” is quite a tender song sung by a father about the inevitable sense of loss that accompanies a child’s growing up:

                               When you see the wrong

                               When you see the lies

                               Will the grown-up world begin to change your eyes

                               And as the years go by,

                              How many times will you mistake the truth for lies?

                              How much will you cry?
While this sentiment is not dissimilar to the disillusion experienced by the son in the album’s opening song, the reference to the “change” in “your eyes” cannot help but recall the vacant eyes of the dead girl in “Look Up Look Over” and, as a result, suggests that, just maybe, she had been one of the little girls who had a father only every Saturday:

You may be mine today,

But there will come a time

when you go your way.

You’ll go away.
The song then ends with a parent’s wondering:

…what you’ll find…where you’ll go.

Will I ever give you everything I know? 

And, when I set you free,

then will you wonder ‘bout your children

just like me.

What will they be?

Is this the same girl, who, “set free” by her father, was “really as free as she pretend[ed]” with her boyfriend?  Is this the same girl who is lying in the morgue?

            It’s hard not to come to that conclusion because the final song, “The Soul of a Woman,” coming in at just over seven minutes, both begins and ends with her eyes.   As if heading toward that bright light that comes, proverbially, at death:

Her eyes have opened to the sun.

                                    Her hands reaching out for what they’ve won.

And, by the end of the song, as its music insinuates being underwater:

                                    Her eyes are closing to the sun,

Hands giving up what they have won

Soon her life will be over.

Looking back now she can see

all the things that used to be.

Soon her life will be over.

But what happens in between the opening and closing of her eyes here?  What is it that dooms her? 

Well, she falls in love.

            The second part of the song, introduced by a rocking rhythm and the very ‘60’s refrain “Look at her, she’s groovy,” celebrates that free young woman the listeners met earlier:

                                    She’s got the look of a woman on her face,

but in her eyes the child still has a place.

So she learned the game now,

like a young girl should,

So she plays the woman and she plays it good.

But the game is over when she falls in love.
So, what replaces the youthful freedom she once had, that ability to play the game just like the boys? 

…a feeling inside that just can’t live without him.

And you know you will always be that way about him.

So you give yourself to him…forever. 

You live for him, he lives for you.

There’ll be a home, a child or two.

And now the flower is open all the way,

It’s beautiful today, but it’s not here to stay.

Yes, her future holds: the house and two kids that her mother had; giving herself to him forever; the inability to live without him; her own personal Idaho filled with “Santa Claus and apple sauce;” and being genuinely artificial in Mrs. Stately’s garden with the rest of those judgmental gossips.  In short, as the final line of the song reads, it’s not just the game that is finished:

Soon her life will be over.

The Miller girl walks into Cooper’s Pond with no intention of coming out because she feels she has no other choice.  Pregnant or not (and we have nothing but garden partiers’ gossip to support that claim anyway), her future is clear.  Her mother’s life (with or without a husband who stays) will be her own.  Her freedom is gone.
     Can this but recall Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique and its groundbreaking challenge to the status of the American woman at the dawn of the 1960s?
But forbidden to join man in the world, can women be people?  Forbidden independence, they finally are swallowed in an image of such passive dependence that they want men to make the decisions, even in the home (Friedan 50)
     Nothing that I’ve read in my research about The Genuine Imitation Life Gazette touches on any of this.  Choosing to focus on the more obvious counter-culture language and imagery or the packaging, those who have written about the album,[9] I feel, have missed the essentially tragic tale of many young women in America in the late 1960s… and maybe that, in the end, is what all the packaging is about too: how to conceal what this album is really about.

But, even with the death of the Miller girl, our story is not complete.  It continues with the relationship Frankie Valli and Bob Gaudio had with Frank Sinatra, which led, in turn, to the composition by Gaudio and Holmes of Watertown, an entire album of new material for the fifty-plus-year-old Jersey boy.

The Four Seasons were traveling with Sinatra on the 1968 presidential campaign trail for Hubert Humphrey, and Valli who, according to friends, could “sell anything to anybody,” told Frank about the new album they were working on.  He told them to call him when it was finished.  When they did (almost on a whim), he told them to come to Vegas and play it for him.  As music journalist Scott Regen wrote in a newspaper item published before the release of Gazette:

I was there…during the performance [in which] Frank Sinatra introduced the Four Seasons, who were in the audience, as one of the world’s top vocal groups. Later on that evening he listened, as he said he would, to their new album.  He was obviously very impressed, because he asked the Four Seasons to write, arrange, and produce an album for him.  The Seasons are doing just that.  A clue to what the Sinatra-Seasons album might be like, might be found in the Seasons’ new lp, due to be released very shortly.  You could say that they are both doing different things in music.  Putting the two together should be very stimulating to today’s pop sound…
     Now, Bob Gaudio had been under the sway of Sinatra and his music for at least a couple of years when he started going to Vegas to watch him perform; in 1966, for example, he would arrange that previously mentioned recording of “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” for the Seasons.[10]  Gaudio described the Watertown project this way:

It was designed to be a television special, a story about a small town and a guy’s trials and tribulations.  It lost the impact and turned out to be an album that not too many people understood(Sinatra 212). 
     And here is Jake Holmes’s take:

So I decided to write a story for him. What’s interesting was that after that album for Sinatra, I went on a tour in England.  Sinatra had just broken up with Mia Farrow.  The English press were thinking “My God.  This is brilliant.  You’ve written this album about a man being left by this woman.” I had no idea! They were together when I wrote the album.  I lucked into this whole thing.  I became a celebrity in England for a while because I had written this thing that mirrored Frank’s life.  I just thought it’d be cool to write an album that had a story with a beginning, a middle, and an end.  And that he would do as a television special or something. But it never worked out (Shade).

     The structure of Watertown (yes, the same name as the place to where the boy in Gazette had run) is much simpler than Gazette’s, as is the music.  Watertown, a commuter town, given the references to trains in the first and last songs, is a place where “nothing much is happening down on Main,” a place where the only crime is “killing time.”  It reminds one of “Idaho,” except without the cherry trees and four-part harmony.  After the scene-setting title track, the story proper commences with “Goodbye (She Quietly Says),” in which Elizabeth, a wife and mother of two boys, tells her husband that she’s leaving them.  From that point on, the remaining songs of the concept album deal with the husband-and-father’s attempt to understand why she left and to determine whether she will ever return.  

He adjusts to life as it now is (“For a While”);  thinks about her (“Elizabeth” and “What a Funny Girl You Used to Be”); writes to her about the roses and weather, their landscaper, and her mother; and admits (to himself at least) that, even had he known what would happen, he “would be in love anyway.”  He reminisces about her more, and enjoys seeing the how both of them are reflected in their sons, “Michael and Peter:”

                        Michael is you.  He has your face.

He still has your eyes, remember.

Peter is me, ‘cept when he smiles,

And, if you look at them for a while,

you can see they are you, they are me

Interestingly, but certainly not surprisingly, at no point does he try to determine what role, if any, he might have played in her leaving.  There’s nothing that we hear from him that suggests he was a bad husband or father.  He’s always been a good provider and loyal employee (maybe even too loyal), and perhaps is even ready to learn something from his wife:

                                    All those years I’ve worked for Santa Fe,

never ever missed a single day.

Just one more without a raise in pay

And I’m leaving.

In short, and perhaps the way it usually is in life, there’s no great moral or spiritual awakening here from him.  Just as when she broke the news in a coffee shop at the beginning and there was:

                                    no big explosion,

                                    no tempest in the tea.

                                    The world does not stop turning round;

                                    there’s no big tragedy.

 so now the ending will be equally undramatic.  By Side II, he comes to conclude that the past has passed, and it simply should not matter anymore:

                        What’s now is now

And I’ll forget what happened then

I know it all

And we can still begin again.

Whether this means she’s had (or is having) an affair that he now knows about, or whether the thing he’s going to forget is her leaving remains unclear.  No matter what the “it” means, and however the two will work things out, “She says,” in the penultimate song, “she’s coming home.”

            The final track of the album concludes with our hero, alone at the train station, waiting for his wife to arrive. “The sun has broken through,” suggesting (along with the driving rhythm) a joyous reunion, but it soon starts to rain again.   While waiting he thinks about the letters he had written but never sent, the “many changes since [she’s] been away” (like buying “that summer cottage yesterday”), imagines how they will be as a couple (“Pretty soon I will be close to you and it will be so good”), and even how they’ll talk about that “part of you I never understood.”  While we sense his hope and his genuine desire to give her what she wants, his language betrays that he doesn’t understand that she’s not that “funny girl she used to be:”

I will take good care of you and never let you cry.

We will be so much in love to people passing by.

The listeners, at record’s end, never know for certain if she has, in fact, returned, although the final lines are not hopeful:

                                    The passengers for Allentown are gone.

                                    The train is slowly moving on,

                                    but I can’t see you anyplace.

And I know for sure I’d recognize your face.

And I know for sure I’d recognize your face.

         What strikes me about Watertown is how closely it can be tied to Gazette.  Gaudio and Holmes have, essentially, offered a parallel universe, an alternate ending to their earlier collaboration.  What we have in Elizabeth, I would argue, is the young Miller girl, no more than a decade later, had she lived.  Instead of taking her own life, she marries, has a couple of children like her mother, and finds herself one morning unfulfilled and unable to continue in the very life she had feared as a teenager would ensnare her. 

            In Elizabeth, just like in the teenager in Gazette, we have this mix of girl and woman (“all grown up with freckles on her face”).  Their innocence is palpable – and exploitable.  In Gazette, the teenager “can trust ‘cause no one told her not to.”  In Watertown, she “falls for lines so easily; whatever they were selling [she’d] buy three.” While engaged in the very things that Mrs. Stately and the other women share every week in the garden, for Elizabeth there’s a frantic desperation to it:

You always had a thousand things to do,

Getting all involved in something new,

                                    always some new recipe,

                                   the kitchen always looked like World War III.

Compare this with youth of the wife and mother of the “new happy housewife heroines” of Betty Friedan’s Feminine Mystique, published 1963.  They:
seem strangely younger than the spirited career girls of the thirties and forties.  They seem to get younger all the time – in looks, and a childlike kind of dependence.  They have no vision of the future, except to have a baby.  The only actively growing figure in their world is the child.  The housewife heroines are forever young, because their own image ends in childbirth.  Like Peter Pan, they must remain young (44) while their children grow up with the world.  They must keep on having babies, because the feminine mystique says there is no other way for a woman to be a heroine (Friedan 45).
 The lines from “Look Up Look Over” now take on a new, darker, resonance:

                                    Now she knows who’s to blame

                                    I didn’t see her see thru me

                                    It should have been enough what she was giving to me.

The two albums clearly state that, of course, in neither case has it been nearly enough.

The feminine mystique permits, even encourages, women to ignore the question of their identity.  The mystique says they can answer the question “Who am I?” by saying “Tom’s wife…Mary’s mother.” But I don’t think the mystique would have such power over American women if they did not fear to face this terrifying blank which makes them unable to see themselves (71) after twenty-one.  The truth is…an American woman no longer has a private image to tell her who she is, or can be, or wants to be (Friedan 72).
     Neither of these albums was successful at the time of its release (and continue to be the least popular works in their respective canons) because neither was really understood then or now – since neither has ever been considered in relation to the other.[11]  Only by looking at these collaborations of Bob Gaudio and Jake Holmes together do they fully make sense.
     But why hasn’t this been seen before?  What I’ve done here, after all, is hardly the exegesis of the Dead Sea Scrolls.  
     This is where another kind of suicide comes into play, the commercial kind.  In 1969 and 1970 (and perhaps even now!), who’s looking for a Frank Sinatra/Betty Friedan duet?  Who’d have imagined the Four Seasons dedicating an entire album, even a “message-type” one, to the Hobson’s choice that American society was offering its young women.  And who’d be expecting anything like this from a bunch of older guys from New Jersey?  No one, that’s who…indeed, I’m not convinced that Sinatra or the majority of the Seasons really understood what these two projects were about.  Certainly nothing that I’ve read in any interviews suggests that they did. 
      It is true that both the Four Seasons and Sinatra were, in fact, looking to stay current, to remain youth-oriented, and Gaudio and Holmes offered each a very viable, and in my opinion, successful, musical project to do just that.  And, in each case, the record company even invested the money and creative energy in producing and packaging them.  But, in neither case, did they get the return they desired.  With 20/20 hindsight, while disappointing, it’s not surprising 
     The immediate results?
          Sinatra would retire within a year. 
          The Seasons’ “fortunes” would continue to “slip badly” (Woodard 18),[12] and founding guitarist Tommy DeVito would leave the group by year’s end.
     In short:

                        goodbye said so easily goodbye,

 said so quietly goodbye,

goodbye, goodbye 

Works Cited

“$100,000 Philips Promo Rolls on 4 Seasons’ Genuine Imitation Life Gazette.” Cashbox (25 January 1969):  44.

Alexander, Charles P.  “A Handshake for All Seasons.”  Time.  5/11/87.

Bronson, Fred.  “Walk Like a Man.”  The Billboard Book of Number One Hits. Fourth Edition.  New York: Billboard Books, 1997.  125.

Dahl, Bill. CD Booklet Notes.  Working My Way Back to You/The Genuine Imitation Life Gazette.  Two cds.  The Four Seasons.  Collectors’ Choice Music. 2006.

Friedan, Betty.  The Feminine Mystique: Twentieth Anniversary Edition.  New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 1983.

Gaudio, Bob, and Jake Holmes.  Genuine Imitation Life Gazette.  The Four Seasons.  Philips Records, 1969.

 - - - .  Watertown.  Frank Sinatra.  Reprise Records, 1970.

Gigliotti, Gilbert.  A Storied Singer: Frank Sinatra as Literary Conceit.  Greenwood Press, 2002.

Neely, Tim.  “The Four Seasons 1960s U.S. Discography.”  Goldmine 28:7:566 (5 April 2002): 18, 34.

Robins, Wayne.  Review: Working My Way Back to You/The Genuine Imitation Life Gazette.  Billboard 119.2 (1/13/2007): 38. 

Sharp, Ken.  “The Four Seasons: Their Unique Vocals Got Under Our Skin – Interviews with Bob  Gaudio and Frankie Valli.”  Goldmine 28:7:566 (5 April 2002): 14-17.

Sinatra, Nancy.  Frank Sinatra: An American Legend.  Santa Monica: General Publishing Group, 1995.

“Popular Music.”  Grove On-line Music Encyclopedia.

Shade, Will.  “Dazed and Confused: The Incredibly Strange Saga of Jake Holmes.”  Perfect Sound Forever: An Online Music Magazine.            

Woodard, Rex.  “The Four Seasons: A Lesson in Survival.”  Goldmine (August 1981): 18.

[1] The Four Seasons, it must be remembered, were the first group in the history of Billboard’s “Hot 100” to have three consecutive number one singles.
[2] Unsure of the reception the single would get, they released the single under the pseudonymous group name “The Wonder Who?”  With “Sassy” on the flipside, it reached # on the charts.  “The Wonder Who?” would also release “Peanuts”/“My Sugar,” and “On the Good Ship Lollipop”/“You’re Nobody Till Somebody Loves You” in 1966, and “Lonesome Road”/“Around and Around” in 1967.
[3] According to a 2001 on-line interview with Holmes by Will Shade, a cd including an archival performance of the song by the Yardbirds from French television in 1968 credits Holmes correctly.
[4] It even has been suggested that this was the first such newspaper-themed album. Others to follow would be….
[5] A review of 1968 and 1969 issues of The Recorder, the student newspaper of Central Connecticut State University, revealed no advertisements for the album, on x/x/xx and x/x/xx there were published ads for the band’s upcoming concerts at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City.
[6] While on the front album cover where the song lyrics are printed, the song is entitled “American Crucifixion and Resurrection,” on the record itself (as well as on the cd release and everything written about the album), the title omits the conjunction.
[7]  One of the main reasons for the increased length of “Genuine Imitation Life” is the mock-Beatlesque ending that incorporates both the sustained “naaaa-naaaa-naaaa-nanana-nanana” refrain of “Hey Jude” and the fading out / fading in technique of “Strawberry Fields Forever” and “Revolution #9.”  
[8] 1969 would see the passage of No-Fault Divorce legislation in California.
[9] In a 2007 review of the cd release, one critic refers to its “tone of confusion and pretension” and suggests that its “mélange of pretty sounds and portentous lyrics…makes one imagine a rock opera by a young, callow Jimmy Webb for Sammy Davis, Jr” (Robins 38.)
[10] Sinatra liked the version very much, even admitting to them that he didn’t think they were going to be able to make it work (Cite?)
[11] Even my own chapter on the Watertown album only made passing (and indeed inaccurate) reference to the Four Seasons (Gigliotti 46).
[12] Indeed a joint gig at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas on 3 September 1970, which would have been the Seasons’ Vegas debut, would be canceled when Sinatra walked out after an altercation with hotel Executive VP Sanford Waterman in his office.  Waterman had drawn his gun on Sinatra, so Jilly Rizzo “jumped over the desk and took possession of the gun.” “That’s it, I’m outta here,” Sinatra said (Sinatra 215). 


  1. Absolutely wonderful (and wonderfully written) piece. Bravo. Very conflicted, and absolutely in keeping with the meta-theory concerning a lack of resolution with the works, their critical reception, and the real world implications of feminism.

  2. Look at him, he's groovy