I think that a lot of real Sinatra fans like the album, and I think that a lot of people who are not necessarily huge fans can like it because it’s so different from than other Sinatra albums that may not be their style.
It stands alone, for better or for worse.
A few years later, and by this time the Four Seasons no longer have the original lineup, these two songs come along, “Who Loves You,” and “Oh What a Night.” When you wrote those songs did you intend them to be Four Seasons songs or did you write them without any particular artist in mind?
I go to sleep and wake up hearing harmonies. There’s not much I can do about that. It’s just around, ever present. I was dating Judy Parker and I said let’s just sit down and write a song. It was a good collaboration. We eventually married. That was the beginning of the “new” Seasons for lack of a better term. Frankie had a band that were the Four Seasons he traveled with, and he was always raving about how good they were. So when I had to start writing, I wrote with that band in mind, knowing that Frankie’s love would still be going the singles route and doing the solo stuff. It worked out great because he had “Swearin’ to God,” and “My Eyes Adored You” on another label, and we had “Who Loves You” and “Oh What a Night” on Warner/Curb.
It’s one of the miracles in our history. I don’t know how many groups have been able to have successful chart records with their lead singer and then the group within what a year, year and a half? Call it a comeback. It came back with a vengeance. It was a great time to wake up and say geez, we can still do it.
Speaking of a comeback, you were involved in the origin of Jersey Boys, which has become an international phenomenon. How did it all get started?
The original conception goes back to a movie called The Deer Hunter. If you saw the movie you know there’s a scene where they’re all around the pool table drinking beer, ready to go (to Vietnam) to die and they sing our song “Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You.” It was inspiring because I had not heard any music of ours used effectively, attached to a visual. That was compelling. I sat back for a couple of weeks and decided I had to find a way to make this come to another level.
Some time later, Smokey Joe’s Cafe opened on Broadway. To my knowledge it was the first pop catalog, Lieber & Stoller, that had success on Broadway. That knocked my socks off. Things were starting to percolate. Not long after comes Mamma Mia, and things were really getting clearer. In the interim, I did a Broadway show that played in London called Peggy Sue Got Married, which was a musical adaptation of the film.
In that period of time I met Des McAnuff. He was thinking about directing Peggy Sue, but he didn’t and went off and did a bunch of films. But at a lunch I had with him he said that if I ever decided to do anything with my music he was interested because it was the first album he ever bought when he was living in Canada, Sherry and 11 Others, and it got him in the business. I remembered that, and he was always the first choice in my mind because he loved the music. Once people started coming aboard, it was a whirlwind.
I want to ask you about these new releases. You were deeply involved in the Jersey Boys soundtrack. How did you decide which tracks were going to be the Four Seasons, which were going to be Frankie Valli, and which were going to be the original Broadway cast, or the movie cast?
I’m glad you know the album because it was an interesting process in the sense that I didn’t feel comfortable with the ingredients that I got from the film. That’s not necessarily unusual because films are cut up and songs aren’t completed in many cases. So unless you plan it out to have a soundtrack you don’t have a whole lot of information to come up with a 50 minute CD. When I knew what I had or didn’t have I found myself in a position to say how am I going to do this, because I’m not going to put my name on an album that isn’t complete. The first thing that came to my mind was to revisit 50 years, 50 years of our music, catalog, Frankie, whatever, and having the autonomy to do what I wanted with the soundtrack, I jumped on it, and had a lot of fun. It took six weeks here in Nashville. I went through the archives and got our masters, our tapes, and our CDs, and had everything transferred to digital that wasn’t already. And between the source music I had from the film, and the Jersey Boys cast album, and from what I had from our masters, I put together the album.
Are you living in Nashville now?
I’m living in Nashville. This is where I try to do as much work as I can because the creative vibe here is just stunning. I’m very comfortable here.