Billy Joel has certainly put his money where his mouth is regarding his love for Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons. The “Piano Man” talked in depth about his appreciation for the group in the liner notes for their new, career-spanning 44-CD, single LP box set, Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons – Working Our Way Back To You: The Ultimate Collection.
During a new chat with journalist Ken Sharp at Rock Cellar, Billy spoke candidly about one of his earliest and most enduring influences: “I was immediately attracted to their music when I first heard Frankie Valli singing 'Sherry.' This is something really different. There was a kind of a sense that the Four Seasons were our East Coast band, and the Beach Boys were the West Coast band. They were our guys. They were like the neighborhood guys.”
Billy Joel went on to explain, “(The Beach Boys') stuff was softer and more polished. It was more spiritual and floaty, whereas the Four Seasons were like a gang. You didn’t want to mess with them in a dark alley. But a lot of that had to do with Bob Gaudio‘s material. He was a brilliant writer over there. Some of their chord changes were absolutely unique, and you didn’t hear that in a lot of other pop music but you heard it with the Four Seasons.”
He shed light on how his 1983 Top Three hit, 'Uptown Girl,' was his ultimate salute to the Four Seasons: “I was trying to write a Four Seasons song and I wanted it to sound like Frankie Valli. It was so different than anything I had written before. . . Once I had that rhythmic pattern with the foot stomps and the handclaps it pretty much directed me to this marching nature of the song, which gave it that Four Seasons vibe. . . And it was essentially a celebration of life. Here I was, this divorced guy going out with this bombshell and I wrote it about a poor downtown guy trying to win over a rich uptown girl. And what better way to record this than do a Four Seasons type of production.”
Billy Joel admitted that “Uptown Girl” becoming a smash Top 10 hit pretty much took him by surprise: “Who thought that, y'know, songs that sound like the late-'50s, early-'60s could ever be hit records in the '80s — and they were. 'Uptown Girl' was an homage to the Four Seasons, of Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons — and it became a hit record! Who woulda thought there woulda been a hit record by the Four Seasons in the '80s? That's where I was at.”
Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons perform on June 30th in Chautauqua, New York at The Chautauqua Amphitheater.
Billy Joel will next perform on July 7th at London's Hyde Park.