Jersey Boy Frankie Valli and “Grease”
Frankie's Manager to Frankie: What do you want to do? Be in the movie, or sing the title song?
Only in Jersey. Right?
Frankie Valli was born Francis Castellucio in Newark, on May 3, 1937.
From an early age, he loved music.
And, he didn't wait long to walk into the recording studio.
He recorded his first solo song as "Frank Valley" on the Corona Record label in 1953.
Two years later, in 1955, Frankie formed his own band, the "Variatones."
They changed their name to the "Four Lovers" in 1956.
This group evolved into the "Four Seasons" by 1961.
Did you know...the name came from a North Jersey bowling alley.
The Four Seasons ruled the pop charts through the 1960s, with such classics as:
"Sherry," "Big Girls Don't Cry," Walk Like A Man," "Rag Doll" and so many more.
And, yes, "new music fans," the Four Seasons sang "Beggin'" in 1967...just a few years before "Maneskin" made it a hit (again) this year (2022).
Into the 1970s, the Four Seasons scored a big comeback with "Who Loves You" in 1975, and "December 1963 (Oh, What A Night)" in early 1976...establishing "how many people still loved The Seasons' original style" (quoting the above "Anthology" liner notes).
Read my feature article on "December 1963 (Oh What A Night) by clicking here.
Frankie Valli scored big in his solo career, too.
"Can't Take My Eyes Off You" went to #2 on the charts in 1967.
Eight years later...
...the "Closeup" album (1975) put Frankie back in the public spotlight, spawning two Top-10 hits:
"My Eyes Adored You" went to the top of the charts, #1, in early 1975...
and, "Swearin' To God" was a #6 hit, in the summer of 1975.
But, Frankie Valli's biggest solo hit was yet to come, thanks to a movie that traded on late 1970's nostalgia for the "good old days" of the 1950s.
"Grease" was written and produced specifically for the movie, by "Bee Gee" Barry Gibb.
Albhy Galuten and Karl Richardson assisted Gibb, just like they did two years earlier on the "Saturday Night Fever" soundtrack. You remember that one, too, don't you?
Peter Frampton plays lead guitar on "Grease." Bet you didn't know that.
The late 1970s disco beat may seem out of place for a song that was supposed to represent the 1950s...but radio listeners and record buyers didn't seem to care too much.
The song spent 2 weeks at #1, and 22 weeks on the "Hot 100" chart in 1978.
"Rolling Stone" magazine says it sold over 7 million copies, making it one of the biggest songs to come from the "Grease" soundtrack album.
Funny...I can't find my "Grease" 45-rpm single (I've looked everywhere)...I wonder who borrowed it from "DJ Craig," and when.
Below, is the cover of my vintage album...
By the way, the song "Grease" was never a part of the Broadway musical "Grease."
In 2013, Frankie Valli told "Billboard Magazine" how the biggest song in his career came his way: Valli tells the publication that he gets a phone call from Barry Gibb, who tells him that he (Barry) has just written a song that he thinks is just right for Frankie to sing.
Further, it's the title song for an upcoming movie.
Frankie proceeds to get a call from his then-manager, Allan Carr, who is already aligned with RSO Records owner Robert Stigwood, a partner in the movie which would become "Grease."
Carr asks Frankie: What do you want to do? Be in the movie, or sing the title song?
By this time, Frankie has heard Barry Gibb's song and says that he loves it.
Famed arranger Don Costa has also heard the song, and tells his pal Frankie Valli that he's crazy if he passes on the chance to sing the title song.
So, Frankie asks his manager what song he'd be singing if he takes the on-camera role in the movie:
"Beauty School Dropout."
Another Frankie, Frankie Avalon took on the part, and sang "Beauty School Dropout." It's on the soundtrack (Side 2, Cut 1), but it was not one of the radio hits. Avalon did make money from the song being on the soundtrack, but...it has never been equal to Frankie Valli's long-running paycheck/royalties.
In Frankie Valli's own words: "Grease was one of the biggest records I ever had in my career."
I recently came across some astonishing numbers:
The movie "Grease" was produced for about $6 million dollars in 1977.
The movie's total earnings are now approaching $500 million, worldwide.
"Grease is the word." And, always will be.
Thanks to Jersey Boy Frankie Valli.
Just one more thing...who borrowed my "Grease" DVD...?
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