Tuesday, March 04, 2014


"Sherry" / The Four Seasons

Here's a palate cleanser -- a true mouldy oldie. The Four Seasons' sound seems straight out of the 1950s, even though this record, their first big hit, came out in August 1962. The first time I heard "Sherry" blasting out of our car radio, I felt a sort of sick fascination about Frankie Valli's voice. Surely no man could sing that high!  (Though it wouldn't be long before Wayne Newton's "Danke Schoen" made Frankie Valli look like a baritone.)

On the surface, the lyrics weren't much, either -- mostly that ad infinitum doo-woppy chorus: "She-eh-eh-eh-ehrry bay-ay-bee (Sherry baby) / She-eh-rry can you come out tonight?  (Come come, come out tonight)." 

And where should she go if she does come out? Verse one explains: "To my twist party" where "I'm gonna make you mi-yi-yine." I love that image of the twist party -- I remember Chubby Checker on American Bandstand showing the youth of America how to dance the Twist. I also remember my parents and their friends at tipsy cocktail parties trying out their Twist moves and then pretending to call for their chiropractors. It wasn't their generation's fad; it wasn't mine either, though Kay Wolf and I did practice the Twist in her family 's wood-paneled rec room after school. 

The Four Seasons belonged to a more upright and innocent era of courtship, as the second chorus reveals: "You-ou-ou better ask your mah-ah-ma (Ask your mama) / Tell her everything is all right." None of this "I think we're alone now" stuff like you'd get a few years later with Tommy James and the Shondells. In fact, things only begin to get sexy in the last verse: "(Why don't you come out...) With your red dress on / (Come out)  You look so fine / (Come out) Move it nice and easy / Girl, you make lose my mi-yind...." Frankie even adds a little growl and grind to his vocals for good measure.

And yet it's a sexy song, if only sexy in code, which of course I didn't get when I was eight. Songwriter Bob Gaudio had a great pop instinct: it's the delirious melisma of those "She-eh-eh-eh-eh-rys" that communicates adolescent hormones and desire running wild. Not to mention that Romeo-and-Juliet scenario of Frankie Valli outside Sherry's window, begging her to come out and play. If I'd been fifteen at the time and hot for some duck-tailed boy in tight jeans, I think I would have felt very differently about this song.

48 DOWN, 4 TO GO


Dave said...

I'll never forget the first time I heard "Sherry" - the falsetto burned into my cranium. Still, even more than Sherry or Dawn, I'd go with Ronnie as my favorite 4 Seasons girl song. What an interesting melody!

Holly A Hughes said...

Ronnie -- how could I have forgotten that one? "I'll go on living and keep on forgiving because / You were my first love...." Monumental.