For some people 'Pet Sounds' is the 'ultimate' album....the best ever mixture of songs, sounds, melodies, harmonies and arrangements they have ever heard.
For me though it is the 'changing colours' Bob Gaudio saw in the 'Chameleon' sessions that match anything that Brian Wilson and The Beach Boys conjure up. Love them though I do.....'Chameleon' is just....'me'
I didn't feel it at the time (late 1972)......I didn't 'hear it' till 1975.....well not quite.!
I rejected it first time after hearing the 'Prelude-A New Beginning' and the opening chords of 'Sun Country'. I'd popped into Boots The Chemist in Runcorn Shopping City to sound test it in their record booths(yes they still had them back then). It was not the Four Seasons I knew from my 'Dawn' and 'Rag Doll' albums. They had moved on to adulthood and left me behind!!
But by 1975 I had changed and like a growing child I was taken by the 'changing colours' Bob Gaudio saw in the magnificent music on this album.
Watching the film 'Love and Mercy' based on the life of Brian Wilson this weekend and the traumas of Brian's life made me realise that Bob Gaudio may feel that the traumas they suffered during the Motown Years make re-visiting the 'unreleased' tracks from the period too much. The whole period from the end of their Philips tenure through Motown and the re-birth of Valli's solo career and the rise of a NEW Four Seasons 'sound' is almost another film script in itself. From the depression at Philips to the broken promises of Berry Gordy it was a rough ride. And with Bob Crewe's bankruptcy and aftermath, Bob Gaudio and Frankie Valli's marriage break-ups, Frankie's battle to save his hearing and the collapse of the group in 1973 it was a downhill spiral. But also a period of re-birth with Frankie's new love and marriage, Bob Crewe's return and Bob Gaudio's partnership with writer and soon to be wife Judy Parker…....together with a new and musically talented band …....it is all a great back-story to the music.
But the music largely remains unheard 'lost masters' sitting in an air-conditioned vault in NYC. Trapped and without the love of doting fans. Unlike The Beach Boys music!
How can this be.?
The reason why Brian Wilson is 'iconic' is because of his motivation. There is clear evidence he was pursuing music for spiritual reasons, for the art and for the love of creating, to make a valid contribution to the world of music. Is there any evidence that this was the case with Frankie Valli and Bob Gaudio?
Some would argue 'yes' as evidenced by 'Genuine Imitation Life Gazette' and 'Chameleon'. Whilst the former is a 'social/satirical commentary', 'Chameleon' explores human and adult perspectives on love and relationships with great perception. And it is shaped by experience. Things didn't get to be an easy ride at Motown. Are the traumas of the time still too painful or are there so many legal and commercial barriers that art and creative talent can't surface to tell the story of the re-birth of what we see as an 'iconic' artist and group.
What we have we genuinely treasure. Well I do. The Motown Years remain my 'companion'.....my 'Pet Sounds'.....the 'unreleased' the equivalent of 'Smile'.
Gradually people are discovering these lost 'connections' hopefully through our 'facebook' group although so much remains unheard. Someday their time will come and people will wonder how so many great tracks remained lost for so long.
And it remains a mystery how artistic gems like this are not given a much higher profile.