In our last post we compared Bob’s Crewe and Gaudio as producers and Ray Ricci thought this somewhat unfair (see his comments on our last post). So we asked Casey Chameleon to redress the balance with a perspective on Bob Gaudio’s biggest strength – that of a songwriter.
“Wikipeadia describes a Songwriter as….” an individual who writes both the lyrics and music to a song. Someone who solely writes lyrics may be called a lyricist, and someone who only writes music may be called a composer. Although songwriters of the past commonly composed, arranged and played their own songs, more recently the pressure to produce popular hits has tended to distribute responsibility between a number of people.”
Although the composer is the most important element in the writing of a hit song, the need for a good arrangement and good lyrics are vital. Bob Gaudio was fortunate in the collaborators he had during his career as a songwriter
He has said on many occasions that he was lucky…but so too were his collaborators and we were the beneficiaries of their creative combination.
As well as being a performing member of The Four Seasons, Bob Gaudio was on most occasions also their main ‘composer’, and sometimes their lyricist, but if you examine the hits in his BMI listing , it becomes apparent that by collaborating with other lyricists he achieved his greatest successes. And he didn’t always give credit in interviews…but he probably feels his contribution was somewhat under-estimated. So let’s redress the balance and examine what really happened with the help of two men who know his work very well – Charlie Calello and Larry Russell-Brown.
Bob Gaudio found by working with Bob Crewe initially as his lyricist and producer (or co-producer) that he was able to create pop songs that really struck a chord with the record buying public of the 60s and 70s
His own compositions, when he wrote the lyrics too, tended to be somewhat ‘doom-laden’ or morose and his approach has been described as “very mechanical and methodical” but it is his collaborations that found a counter-balance, it seems, and achieved greatest success. His approach whether alone or in collaboration, as he said in interview with Stuart Miller in 1972, was not always the same. He had a different focus at different stages in his career.
During the early 60s he did sit down specifically to write a hit song for The Four Seasons (“I was writing a record” and one for Frankie’s voice) – but as the 60s progressed he often didn’t sit down with the intention of writing a ‘hit’ song at all…. he often just decided to write with a collaborator (and in that interview he used the example of him and Bob Crewe sitting down to write a song and the result was ‘Can’t Take My Eyes Off You’…arguably their biggest songwriting success together). The songs since then he said just came out of the ‘process’. He even commented that if you stripped the 60s hits back to their ‘bare-bones’, there is not much there. The strength was in the arrangements. Much of these he wrote with Charlie Calello’s help.
The best example of how a song changed as result of this was perhaps ‘Dawn’. Charlie Calello tells the story….
“Although I was working on the 4 Seasons records, I really didn't have a chance to have complete input until "Dawn." In the beginning I was there mainly because I knew how to write music and I worked with Gaudio writing the arrangements together. "Dawn" was originally written with a totally different feel than what is on the record.” In fact originally it was a slow folk-ballad.
Charlie again….” How that happened was: Frankie Valli and I were in a car when "More," the Kai Winding record came on. Frankie said, "that's the kind of feel we need on our next session," which was in two days. When we recorded "Dawn," we recorded 5 other songs on the same date. I usually worked on the arrangements with Gaudio the day before the sessions and the night before the sessions, when it came to "Dawn" I asked Gaudio to give me around 10 minutes as I felt the song wasn't happening. After around 10 minutes Frankie, who was sleeping on one of the desks in Crewe's office jumped up and both he and Gaudio come into the writing room and said, "what's that?" I said “I'm working on "Dawn." It blew them away. In 10 minutes I had come up with the basic figure that was the glue to the song and the bell sound that became part of the Seasons' sound for the next few years. I changed all the chords, wrote the whole tone scale rise at the end of the bridge and wrote all the instrumental parts in around an hour. The next day I made my "first" Calello track for the 4 Seasons. Although my input was important on the other records that I worked on, "Dawn" was the first record I felt I really made the track and controlled the musical taste of the record.”
Collaboration took Bob Gaudio’s composing qualities to a new level and allowed others a chance to innovate and contribute to make a good composition a great song. This happened not only with Charlie but others like Linzer and Randell but it is clear Charlie was the one in those early Philips days that made a big difference, as he told us…
“Another record I really loved was "Let's Hang On." I had the Stones….."Satisfaction" fuzz guitar sound added on the intro. I not only wrote the arrangement for the band but also wrote the vocal parts. The Seasons were in Atlantic City performing and after we made the track, Denny Randell took the vocal part down to them to teach them the song. The intro was added when the guys came into town to do the vocal. The intro was also good - I think it was Crewe's idea. (Denny Randell’s description of this recording makes interesting reading too and expands on Charlie’s memory)
The cool part about the instrumental is, I basically wrote the melody off "The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine, " which we had recorded a few months earlier. I didn't realize it until I heard it on the radio. “
Gaudio, actually got the idea for Rag Doll from Sandy Linzer and Denny Randell. He and Denny were writing in one of the writing rooms at Crewe's office and Gaudio popped in. He asked what they were working on, so they played him the song. The lyrics were not complete so when they sang him the song they did ooh's and ah's - - - thus two weeks later, "Rag Doll". Crewe helped Gaudio finish the lyric and arrangement and The Seasons made that record on there own. They actually made it as a demo but it turned out so good they didn't re-record it. "Rag Doll" maintained the bell sound from "Dawn" “
But Charlie is clear that the composing and songwriting driver of these hit songs was Bob Gaudio. He continues…..
“No doubt about it, Gaudio was the main guy! Crewe was talented and was very instrumental in keeping us on our toes but Gaudio was the 4 Seasons.”
Larry Russell-Brown another collaborator and co-writer on songs like ‘C’mon Marrianne’ ,’The Singles Game’, ‘Watch The Flowers Grow’ and ‘The Girl I’ll Never Know (Angels Don’t Fly This Low ) has a huge respect for Bob’s ability.. “When it comes down to his input to any and all creative projects, he involves himself ‘in-depth’. He has that amazing ability to recognise greatness, uniqueness, and the commercial value of music.
He has that God given magic ‘unschooled’ touch, when it comes to the creative process. Lyrically his input is oftentimes quite basic but earthy and youthful. Unlike Bob Crewe who is a modern day Cole Porter, Bob Gaudio can at times find it laborious to write a clever lyric, thus the combination of Crewe and Gaudio, produced spectacular results.(ie Crewe’s creative ‘genius’ mentioned in our last blog article)
My own area of expertise seemed to be parallel to Bob Gaudio’s, in that like Gaudio, I too found writing the music, a God given gift, however, I also possess the ability to tell a story in a song, as good as anybody has ever done. When I wrote with Bob Gaudio he leaned on me for the lyrics just as he did when he wrote with Crewe. Although Bob Gaudio and I enjoyed writing together, we at times laboured at the process. Crewe and I employed a different method when writing together. We basically threw the ball back and forth and completed all parts to our songs in tandem”
But Larry is quite sure about one thing…….”Bob Gaudio is no doubt one of the finest creators of classic melodies of all time as well as a superb arranger. Truth be told, Gaudio had his hand in nearly all the arrangements ever written of his hit songs as well as most other hits involving the 4Seasons, Frankie Valli and the brilliant Neil Diamond.
For instance, with Frankie Valli, had it not been for Gaudio's editing and instruction, the chart for “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” would have been nowhere near as BRILLIANT as it is on the record. I know this as a solid fact!
I also know that Neil Diamond brought many of his songs to the recording sessions Bob Gaudio produced for him, in a disjointed condition and Bob had to not only clean them up and edit the hell out of them: he actually wrote bridges where needed and "NEVER" took credit for his writing in these instances. In essence, Bob Gaudio is truly deserving any, and all praise heaped upon him, and more.”
The fact that we can see how the collaborators brought out the best in him doesn’t diminish that original ‘composing’ and ‘arranging’ brilliance that made the songs hits.”
For the final word though, Charlie Calello (being an arranging collaborator who worked so much with him and so closely) perhaps best sums up Bob Gaudio’s ability ……”Today, we don't speak that often, but whenever we do, he is still the same guy he was when we were kids. Whenever I'm in his company, I never lose sight of the fact that he is one of the best song writers and creative minds I have ever worked with; he truly was a "pop" genius!”
PS Following on from our last post and Bob Crewe’s contribution to the Four Seasons hits and his general contribution to songwriting we are not the only ones that believe this is understated. Check out this Goldmine Magazine article.
A confused Phil Elms asked……”Gaudio has repeatedly told the story of his inspiration to write Rag Doll(traffic lights, little girl in tattered clothes washing car windscreen) and that Crewe contributed to the second verse. Now we are told that Randell and Linzer came up with the idea and that Crewe and Gaudio merely finished it off. Is Gaudio being economical with the truth? Did Crewe get a writing credit for not very much? Should Randell and Linzer have got composing credits? Has Calello mis-remembered? Or is the reportage sloppy? I realise all this happened (or didn't happen) nearly half a century ago, but Rag Doll remains such an iconic recording that I'm sure a lot of us would like to know the ultimate version of how it came to be written. Or is this another unanswerable case of "You ask four guys, you get four versions"?
And Charlie Calello was able to clarify the situation…
“Ahh - - ya see how things get twisted! Linzer and Randell played Gaudio a song they were working on that didn't have a lyric so when they performed the song they sang it with oohs and ahhhs. As far as the melody of Rag Doll- - That's Gaudio!!!! He may have even been inspired by the girl washing car windows but the idea of the oohs and ahhs was what inspired it. Gaudio didn't steal the song - - he just used the concept.
Both Linzer and Randell relayed that story to me. They were never upset and/or thought that Gaudio stole the song or idea from them. They were just proud knowing they sparked the Gaudio idea, whether he was aware of it or not.
Keeping in mind we all influenced each other and that's what helped make Crewe, Frankie, Bob, Tommy, Nicky, myself and Linzer and Randell all part of the 4 Seasons recording team.
And what a great team….thanks Charlie
Ken, that was one of the most incisive articles I have ever read about the
incredibly talented Bob Gaudio. I hope he gets the opportunity to read it.