Soundtracking is a regular column that appears on Cineplex.com looking at the music featured in the biggest new releases both in theatre and on home video. Shane McNeil looks at the cinematic legacy of Frankie Valli ahead of Clint Eastwood’s Jersey Boys.
Frankie Valli’s long journey from New Jersey to stardom finally comes to the silver screen Friday with Clint Eastwood’s cinematic adaptation of the musical Jersey Boys.
Instead of rehashing how Valli got from the Garden State to the silver screen, wouldn’t it be more fun to look at how the music of Valli and The Four Seasons has been used in cinema over the more than 50 years since their breakthrough on the pop charts.
Since it’s the most immediately applicable to the musical, let’s start with his work with The Four Seasons and the period that forms the focal point of the Jersey Boys script. The group cranked out a batch of hits in the early 1960s including three number ones in under a year between 1962 and 1963.
Valli’s ubiquitous falsetto and the rhythmic pre-British Invasion backbeat would go on to form the perfect introduction to any story set in the first half of the 1960s. Hits including “Walk Like a Man” and “Sherry” are often the songs that immediately come to mind when looking back on the period.
But it was another song that would help introduce a whole new audience to the group in a movie that would become essential to a whole new generation, more than 25 years later:
Before the credits have finished rolling on Dirty Dancing, Frances Houseman has informed us: “That was the summer of 1963, when everybody called me ‘baby’ and it didn’t occur to me to mind,” and “Big Girls Don’t Cry” is piping into the back seat of her parents’ sedan. The group is the audio establishing shot for the era.
Next, fast forward to Valli starting to break away from the Seasons in 1967, when an album entitled (appropriately) “The 4 Seasons Present Frankie Valli Solo” is anchored by yet another indelible tune that would help define his work as a solo artist. His breakthrough track on that album would also prove to be one of the biggest in his solo career.
At initial listening, “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” is a passionate, sweet ballad in which Valli expresses undying love for the object of his affection. Of course, playing it as intended isn’t always the fate of big hits. The song would be co-opted and re-imagined 30 years later thanks to Mel Gibson and Julia Roberts in Conspiracy Theory.
Two years later, it would get a softer tribute in Top Gun-meets-Say Anything… fashion courtesy of Heath Ledger in 10 Things I Hate About You.
But while Valli’s music would take a couple decades to become go-to flashback fodder, Valli still had a great original soundtrack moment of his own up his sleeve later in his career.
When it came time in 1978 to make a cinematic adaptation of another beloved musical, Valli got a tap on the shoulder. Chronicling the fallout from a 1950s summer, Grease looked to add some punch to its soundtrack for the big screen. To the reported chagrin of director Randal Kleiser two songs were added to the show, one being the climactic “You’re the One That I Want”.
The other was an original from one of the hottest hit-makers of the late 1970s: the Bee Gees’ Barry Gibb. He invited his friend Peter Frampton into the session and called on Valli to come in, drop the falsetto and wail over the opening credits.
Let Clint take on the Jersey years from Friday onward … Here’s Valli’s final number one to date: “Grease” is the word.