Between the Lines: December 1963 (Oh What a Night) – The Four Seasons

The Four Seasons were the biggest band in the world until the Beatles came along. Even after they were still a very popular band. What really was their undoing were the changing times and their inability to change with them. Kids were experimenting with drugs and psychedelic rock and The Four Seasons were just some kids from Jersey that played pop music that didn’t appeal to that demographic. Their hits dried up, but they were still a popular touring act. Come 1975, around the advent of disco, they start getting big again and with this hit in particular their popularity exploded.

One of the things I find really fascinating about this song is that it has three distinctly different voices and the one that you would expect to hear most of all, Frankie Valli is only used in the bridge. Gerry Polci actually sings the lead on this one while doing the always impressive feat of playing drums at the same time. Here are the lyrics for “December 1963 (Oh What a Night)” and what they mean.

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Oh what a night, late December 1963

So we have established the month and year. This is right after Kennedy was assassinated and right before we entered Vietnam. Crazy time! It is also stated that it’s late December so probably around Christmas or New Year’s Eve.

What a very special time for me

We’re still not sure why it was special, but he is saying it was so…

As I remember what a night!

It was only 12 years prior to the song being made so saying something like “as I remember” makes it sound ancient.

Oh what a night,

You know I didn’t even know her name

Ah and we are now coming to the crux of what made the night special. It’s about a woman.

But I was never gonna be the same

It was a special night, but he didn’t know her name and yet he’s never going to be the same. Sex?

What a lady, what a night!

Lady is a very telling word here. It could have many meanings. Lady meaning that she was older? Lady meaning that she was a lady of the night? Lady meaning that she was gentle and more experienced? The puzzle is starting to take shape.

Oh, I got a funny feeling when she walked in the room

Nice way of saying you got a hard-on. Again walking the room intimates that he was waiting, so this suggests a brothel or at least the “lady” in question is a prostitute. A classy one at that.

And I, as I recall it ended much too soon

Hey we’ve all been there pal, especially that first time. This is what happens when your expectations are what they are that first time.

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Oh what a night,

Hypnotizing, mesmerizing me

This experienced lady knows how to make a boy feel right his first time. I say first time because he remembers the month and the year and describes it as special. I think we can all deduce that this is about the boy losing his virginity to a prostitute, but certainly not the trashy kind.

She was everything I dreamed she’d be

There’s a movie I watched a lot when I was younger called Biloxi Blues and there is a scene where they all go to see Rowena who is a prostitute, but is a very gentle Southern lady who goes to great lengths to make it a memorable experience for the boys that come to visit her. This is what I envision this line to mean.

Sweet surrender, what a night!

Everyone has those expectations and this is a boy that clearly had his expectations met and is recalling that special time for him oh so many years later.

I felt a rush like a rolling ball of thunder

Spinning my head around and taking my body under (Oh what a night!)

That “moment” the first time is kind of life changing and he describes it perfectly here.

Oh, I got a funny feeling when she walked in the room

And I, as I recall it ended much too soon

Oh what a night! Doo dit doo dit dit doo dit doo dit dit

Oh what a night! Doo dit doo dit dit doo dit doo dit dit

Oh what a night! Doo dit doo dit dit doo dit doo dit dit

Oh what a night! Doo dit doo dit dit doo dit doo dit dit

Oh what a night,Why’d it take so long to see the light?

Seemed so wrong, but now it seems so right

Our archaic feelings towards sex, especially in the United States and assuming that these boys were raised Catholic (which we can assume because they’ve mentioned it once or twice) the “Seemed so wrong” part is due to that Catholic guilt and the oh so moral 1950’s. Those time lead to the repressionless 1960’s. A sort of unbridling of our inner passions and an era of discovery.

What a lady, what a night!

I felt a rush like a rolling ball of thunder

Spinning my head around and taking my body under (Oh what a night!)

I felt a rush like a rolling ball of thunder

Spinning my head around and taking my body under

A song about a boy losing his virginity shouldn’t be treated as disgusting or shameful. Instead it should do exactly what this song succeeds at accomplishing and that’s creating a sweet memory of a very special time in everyone’s life. It’s like he’s telling the story of the night he became a man, but in a very tender way. It’s a beautiful song with a disco beat. Good times!

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