Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons, The Night and Northern Soul

Last night I finally got round to watching the film Northern Soul which I had recorded on the machine the previous week. It was made in 2014 but was all about the dance culture that emerged in the working-class industrial towns of the North of England in the early 1970s. Instead of chart music, the DJs in the various dance halls and youth clubs of Bury, Bolton, Blackburn, Burnley and Rochdale, played American soul music from the mid ’60s. And, this wasn’t mainstream soul music that would have been familiar to these youngsters, these DJs played the more obscure records that had never even charted (e.g. Tony Clarke: Landslide, Gloria Jones: Tainted Love, The Salvadors: Stick By Me Baby) but they somehow managed to attract large crowds of young people, on a weekly basis, who literally danced all night.

The film Northern Soul is what would probably be classed as a gritty drama, but told the story of two lads from Lancashire who immersed themselves in this culture, working in a factory by day but playing DJ at night, and at the weekends frequenting the big all-nighters at venues such as Wigan Casino. Watching them dance, this was early break dancing, what with the spins and the athletic moves. Who knew it all started in Lancashire?

The standout record from the film for me was The Night by Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons. I knew this song well but didn’t realise that although it was originally released in 1972, due to poor promotion, didn’t chart. It did however become a popular track on the northern soul circuit and subsequently became a hit in 1975 reaching No.7 in the UK Singles Chart. An oh so familiar tale of a boy pleading with a girl he likes, to resist the advances of another – Sadly all the pleading in the world is not going to work in a case like this as we girls all seem to go through a (probably) hormonally-induced phase of being attracted to the wrong kind of boy. I did it myself and still remember the disappointment on the face of my lovely friend Joe when I told him I was now dating his “frenemy”.

The Night by Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons:

But going back to northern soul, as a fanatic of chart music between 1972 and 1975, carefully recording the chart rundown every Sunday night, it had not escaped my attention that there were a few listings around that time attributed to bands with the word Wigan in the title – There was Wigan’s Chosen Few with Footsee in 1975 and later on that year Wigan’s Ovation with three separate chart entries. They turned up on TOTP and we witnessed this very energetic style of dancing that was so different to what we were used to down the local youth club. I didn’t give it much thought at the time but in later life have been intrigued by how this movement took off to such an extent. It was hard enough getting boys to dance at all where I came from so to see a whole dance hall full of, let’s face it, very macho males showboating on the dancefloor was surprising indeed.

I will leave you with a couple of clips that kind of sum up what it was like back then – The dance halls had seen better days and life was a bit grim on the outside but when all that great American soul music was being blasted from the sound systems, life it seemed, was sweet. I am pretty sure that the Frankie Valli track that has become an earworm over the last 24 hours is not representative of the music that was played back then, and there are some music bloggers like Marie from It’s All In The Grooves who are experts in the kind of ’60s soul played at these venues, but watching the film it did remind me how much I loved Frankie’s falsetto. Still touring it seems at the grand old age of 82 and tickets selling fast so if you live in the North of England and want a little reminder of your days down at the Casino, get online fast!

The Night Lyrics
(Song by Bob Gaudio/Al Ruzicka)

Beware
Of his promise
Believe
What I say
Before
I go forever
Be sure
Of what you say

So he paints a pretty picture
And he tells you that he needs you
And he covers you with flowers
And he always keeps you dreaming
If he always keeps you dreaming
You won’t have a lonely hour
If a day could last forever
You might like your ivory tower

But the night begins to turn your head around
And you know you’re gonna lose more than you found
Yeah the night begins to turn your head around

Beware
Of his promise
Believe
What I say
Before
I go forever
Be sure
Of what you say

For the words may come too easy
If you don’t believe I’m leaving
And goodbye will come too quickly
If you really think he loves you
If you really think he loves you
You would give your love so sweetly
If that day could last forever
You would fall in love completely

But the night begins to turn your head around
And you know you’re gonna lose more than you found
Yeah the night begins to turn your head around

Author: Alyson

Whenever I hear an old song on the radio, I am immediately transported back to those days - I know I'm not alone here and want to record those memories for myself and for the people in them. 50 years ago the song "Alfie" was recorded for the film of the same name and I'm hoping that by writing this blog, I might finally work out the answer to his question, "What's it all about?"

17 thoughts on “Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons, The Night and Northern Soul”

  1. Funnily enough, this song popped up on my iPod shuffle during a drinking session last night, and I was reminded of the film. Needless to say, the soundtrack is well worth seeking out.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. What a bizarre thing to have taken off in the North of England but all down to one or two DJs no doubt at the beginning then grew from there. The dancing was just amazing and still going strong amongst the faithful apparently.

      It was the film Whiplash last Saturday – Caught up with Northern Soul now so any more recommendations from Netflix for this weekend?

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Thanks for bringing back some great memories. Northern Soul is a fine film and even though I’m no great Four Seasons fan, “The Night” is a classic. Back around 1975 my work had me located in Perth. One of my flatmates in the Fair City was a deejay who did Northern Soul nights at the Isle of Skye Hotel. I used to help him out (not spinning the platters I hasten to add) and was always amazed at the dancing prowess of the soul boys and girls with their gym bags, towels and talcum powder. It was a joy to watch them.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You couldn’t make it up could you – Northern Soul in a hotel called The Isle of Skye in Perth! I love it when males really get into a new dance movement as they treat it like an Olympic sport – I love dancing but don’t think I could have come up with many of their moves. Hope they didn’t wreck their knees!

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  3. Although I usually lean towards the classic ’60s “soul” discs from the Northern scene, this track is catchy and very danceable. As I recall, my former boss had a Four Seasons track in his Northern collection that was played frequently on a compilation tape in our store, but I don’t think it was “The Night.” I haven’t seen the movie, but am going to keep my eyes open for a viewing opportunity. (It’s not likely going to be broadcast here in Canada, but you never know.)

    I really enjoyed this interesting and fun post, Alyson – thanks very much for the kind “shout-out,” too.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have heard a lot about Northern Soul over the years but didn’t really understand how it had all come about before so this film was a real education. Yes The Night was a record made in the ’70s but very much fitted the whole Northern Soul dance culture but will investigate further the ’60s material – I know I’ve seen you mention records over at your place.

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  4. I consider myself a movie buff, but I’ve not heard of the film Northern Soul until now. Enjoyed The Night by The Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons, I can see/hear the 60s homage in the artwork+sound. Always nice to uncover something thanks to blogs like yours.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It was made in 2014 so quite new but very “British” so perhaps wasn’t released much out of the UK – Like these movies that teach you about a music/dance culture that you really wouldn’t have known about unless you were there. Incredible moves from these young athletic male dancers.

      Glad that being a “blogger of a certain age” (it’s ok I thought it was quite funny and am teasing you really) I have been able to uncover something new for you!!

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  5. I’ve not seen the film but I love ‘The Night’ – great choice! – and also more recently a lot of the Northern (and Southern) Soul material that Marie, and a few others, have posted on their blogs over the years. It very much passed me by at the time although I do remember selling a few (new) compilation albums in my record shop days in the mid 1980s when it seemed to make another ‘comeback’. Interesting too how contemporary young acts such as John Newman have helped bring it back into the spotlight even more recently too, I think ‘Love Me Again’ is a fine example of how to update that sound.
    I could watch those guys dance endlessly – bring out the talc!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes I think we were both just a bit too young for this movement and at the wrong ends of the country but think I would have loved these all-nighters. The music was great and although The Night is the song that really resonated with me if I give the film soundtrack a listen I’m sure I would get to really like a lot of the more obscure stuff that I’ve not heard before (although Tainted Love of course covered by Marc Almond later).

      Many of us in the blogosphere are having a bit of a wallow in the ’70s at the moment but I had forgotten just how grim things were back there in many of the towns and cities – case of selective memory I think about the past.

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    1. Well hello to our Portuguese correspondent! Glad you enjoyed this little reminder of how great Frankie was/maybe still is. Like you I will always have a soft spot for his rendition of Grease… is the word, it’s the word, that you heard, it’s got groove, it’s got meaning. night out.

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  6. I have family who were very into the Northern Soul scene, particularly the Rochdale element. If I’d been of age back then, I’m sure I’d have been there with them.

    That aside, The Night is one of the greatest records ever commited to vinyl. The bassline alone is a… no, words fail me. Sometimes that’s for the best.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re not the kind of chap who ever seems to be at a loss for words so that bassline must really be something – I agree by the way.

      Am fascinated by the whole Northern Soul scene – just seemed like the most normal thing in the world for young men to head down to these large ballrooms and dance all night! It did all look a bit grim and depressing though – I’d forgotten how our cities were really in need of a bit of gentrification around that time as most of the cinemas & dance halls were still the originals from the 30s/40s. Lots of amazing venues were lost for good though.

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