Jersey Boys

Jersey Boys started as a trio and would later end up as four guys standing under a street lamp, and from there, they went on to become the Four Seasons, or the American Beatles. If you came of age in the 60’s, the 70’s, or even the 80’s, The Four Seasons, and their iconic lead singer Frankie Valli, probably figured in your life.

lookin' good and not getting any younger

lookin’ good and not getting any younger

Whether you were with your best girl parked in a car, submarine race watching (a term coined by NY radio personality Murray the K), or driving to work, or just stuck at home on a rainy day, it is entirely likely that you listened to these guys sing.

Jersey Boys is a film that’s just opened. Directed by Clint Eastwood, the film is an adaption of the long running Broadway hit musical Jersey Boys. Rather than me writing a solo review of the film, we are going to have a discussion about the impact of The Four Seasons, Frankie Valli, the merits of the film, and some personal remembrances.

My guests are Mike Pandolfino (DJ Mike) of Sarasota, Florida, and Guy Breen (The Ghost) of College Point, New York. While none of us were Jersey born and raised, DJ Mike and I both lived in New Jersey for a while. The Ghost is a Brooklyn born guy who nows lives in College Point.

I’ve asked these gentlemen to join me because we all came of age when the The Four Seasons were in their heyday, and their music was being played on every radio station in the country. So this will be three guys from New York talking about four guys from New Jersey.

These days, DJ Mike does the music for everything from Graduations, Sweet-Sixteens, Weddings, Engagement Parties, Proms, Anniversaries, Birthdays, and School Reunions.

The Ghost hosts his weekly 2 hour radio show, called The Ghost, on the internet’s All Noise Radio, every Monday night from 8:00 PM to 10:00 PM. As for me, as JustMeMike, this post is my 700th on this website.

I’ll start things off with a question for both DJ Mike and The Ghost.

JustMeMike: While I truly like the Four Seasons, I’ll admit to having none of their CD’s. Nor do I have any cassettes, 8-tracks, or vinyl discs of them in a box somewhere. But that’s because, these days,  I write about film, tv, art, travel, and sports. But you guys have a far greater connection to music than I do. How much a part of your DJ work involves the Jersey Boys aka The Four Seasons and Frankie Valli? Let’s start with DJ Mike –

DJ Mike: As a DJ I have not had a lot requests for the Four Seasons, but I always play December 1963 and Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You to great responses, but I’m sure that with the success of this movie I will be getting a few requests for their music. My favorite song is Working My Way Back To You but the remake by The Spinners.

The Ghost: The great thing about my show, and All Noise Radio as well, is there are no boundaries. I’m not pigeon holed in what I can play. So I play everything  from Classic Rock to Funk, Disco, Punk Oldies, you name it. Oldies and Disco is where the Four Seasons fall in, especially Oldies. I have played their music. The song “Dawn” is my personal favorite.

JustMeMike: I’ll have to say that My favorite song is Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You. Let’s switch over to the film. When you first heard about the film, what was your reaction to Clint Eastwood as Director?

DJ Mike: I was a little surprised maybe that he was a fan of the Four Seasons, I do know that Tom Hanks has had success with That Thing You Do which is about a sixties one hit wonder, and taking another Broadway hit Mamma Mia to the silver screen.

JustMeMike:  At first I thought it was a bit peculiar. But Eastwood is 84 and is certainly old enough to have enjoyed them as a younger man. Still it sounds crazy – Dirty Harry does Sherry …. Ghost?

The Ghost: I must admit I didn’t give it a second thought. He’s been in the movie business forever. I think he could handle anything that he takes on.

JustMeMike: This is so. Were  either of you guys surprised to see a couple of Soprano actors (Kathryn Narducci and Steve Schirripa) in this film?

The Ghost: Not at all. In fact they should’ve called this The Sopranos: The Musical. After all it takes place in NJ and you can see how they had to deal with the mob. Sort of reminds me of Raging Bull, when Jake LaMotta had to deal with the mafia to get his big shot. Also Goodfellas, but instead of three decades of life in the mob, this was three decades of a band’s life.

DJ Mike: I wasn’t surprised by the two Soprano actors in the movie, it was shot on location in New Jersey and Steve Schirripa is a Jersey Boy.

JustMeMike: But he only has the one scene – as the Barber –

The Ghost: Frankie Valli’s mom was also Henry Hill’s mom, I believe, in the two films. Or maybe it was A Bronx Tale.

JustMeMike – I barely remember the  Bronx Tale…and I lived in the Bronx for a time.

DJ Mike: It was A Bronx Tale.

The Ghost: I have a quick question for DJ Mike. Mike, did  you ever drink milk at the dinner table with your spaghetti and meatballs? I couldn’t believe that when I saw that early in the film.

DJ Mike: Sadly enough I have to admit it. Yes I did. There was never soda at the table – Wine for Pops and milk for the kids.

JustMeMike:   Dietary habits  and dinner beverages aside, I really didn’t like the Tommy DeVito character. But I guess that was what I was supposed to feel. I don’t know if it was his exaggerated accent , or his overbearing style – I just hated him…

DJ Mike: I loved Vincent Piazza as Tommy DeVito – he’s from Queens NY, so he was just being a typical Italian Guido from the NYC. He was great.

The Ghost: Yes, he was a cliché, but that’s what a lot of the guys were like and still are to this day. Neighborhood heroes until they’re introduced to the big picture and see how the other members of upper society live, like in that scene at Crew’s place where he pockets the lighter.

DJ Mike: I thought the Frankie Valli character (John Michael Lloyd had the role) was a little hard to believe as a 16-year-old, considering he’s 39.

JustMeMike: I agree with that. Though I didn’t know he was thirty-nine. Later in the film, they aged him by giving him longer hair (or a wig) – but Eastwood had nowhere to go with that (without using a younger actor).

The Ghost: Didn’t have a problem with that as he came off really green early on in the movie. As did the Bob Gaudio character as well. So you have to give credit to Devito’s character as he did take them under his wing. And that was a strong suit of his.

JustMeMike: Yeah, – took them under his wing and then fleeced them. I had no idea about any of that. Or the Mob ties, or the fact that they were dysfunctional as a group when they weren’t singing …

DJ Mike: I’m sure that happened a lot in the sixties & seventies. Groups were ripped off from within or by the record companies. Did you know that Clint Eastwood’s daughter is in the film as the waitress.

JustMeMike: I had read that some where but forgot about it during the film… was there much about the film that you guys  didn’t like, or contrarily, really loved? I liked Renée Marino who made her film debut as Mary Delgado who would marry Frankie.

The Ghost: I enjoyed how Gaudio brought the song “You’re Just too Good to be True” to Valli and they didn’t tell you the title until he sang it at that club in Pittsburgh. Was wondering what tune it was. I didn’t like the Broadway ending where everyone was trotted out. Felt hokey to me, especially when Valli’s dancing with his wife and his mistress at the same time.

DJ Mike: I enjoyed it, but I hate when they change the chronological order of the music. My Eyes Adored You was a hit in the 70’s not the sixties and came out years after Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You.

JustMeMike: To reply to Ghost’s comment about how the film ended – I agree it was hokey, but if he didn’t tack that on, it would have ended with that sudden fade to black. As for DJ Mike’s comment – he’s a DJ and knows the music like he wrote the catalog himself. Most folks may not have known all of that. Still it was a good point.

I’d like to ask you guys to describe the crowd in theater when each of you saw the film. I saw a 3:30 PM show and it was packed – just short of being a full house. And almost all of the audience was older. I didn’t I saw anyone that could be considered a kid.

DJ Mike: I took my son and he enjoyed it, but he was the youngest person there, everyone in the theater was old enough to be his grandparents. But that doesn’t surprise me they were huge in the sixties so the age group that remember all their songs are in their 70’s.

The Ghost: I caught a 10;00 AM showing and the crowd was sparse. 20 people tops, all my age (54) or older. I just realized some irony. In Deer Hunter, Walken’s breakout role, he sings You’re Just too Good to be True in that bar scene with DeNiro and friends before they go hunting.

JustMeMike: I remembered that as well.

DJ Mike: I thought the film could have had a lot more of their songs like the Broadway Play. Mamma Mia another Broadway musical used every song from the show in the movie.

JustMeMike: I wasn’t counting the songs but as we were leaving the theater, a guy made a similar remark.  About Walken as the Mob guy –  I liked his performance, but was he the right choice for the role?

The Ghost: Sure, he performed it with enough levity. You didn’t want a real bent nose, menacing the guys. I think Eastwood wanted to focus more on the group and their music, not the mob factor. He had some of the best lines, especially when he told DeVito not to use his bathroom after the bass player went off in that meeting.

DJ Mike: I don’t know if you know this Mike, But Clint Eastwood was not the original director for the film it was Jon Favreau, but Frankie Valli had a say in the changing of directors

The Ghost: Was not aware of that. There were two things I wish they covered : Valli had a step-daughter who was killed in a car accident. I believe about 6 months prior to his biological daughter overdosing. Also, their big hit “Oh What A Night” was only mentioned at the end. That song’s lead vocal is not Valli’s.

JustMeMike: I had not read about the change in directors. But Eastwood is strong on the music side as he composes music when he’s not helming a film. Maybe they didn’t want to go too far into Valli’s personal life –  if they did the film would be too maudlin…

DJ Mike: Ghost is correct on December 1963 the lead vocal is drummer Gerry Polci

The Ghost: Yup…and what about Joe Pesci! Total surprise for me. Never knew his real name was Joe Fisher. Is that true? Funny.

JustMeMike: Wow – you guys know your stuff….let’s head to a wrap. What is your overall impression of the movie? Will you go thumbs up or thumbs down. Will you want to see it again, or buy the DVD?

The Ghost: I enjoyed it and would recommend it to anyone who grew up, like we did, in that time period and remembers their songs. The Four Seasons’ music is still toe-tapping fun and easy to sing along to. I would not buy the DVD, but if it were on Cable I’d probably watch it again.

DJ Mike: The Frankie Valli character never really grabbed me the way it should have, But the Tommy DeVito character glows as the fiery wild card, I think he made the movie. I would see it again on cable or DVD.  I would say it’s OK thumbs Up.

The Ghost: I have one last comment. I’m not sure if I liked how the characters spoke to the audience, addressing that 4th wall so to speak. Sometimes that could indicate a flaw in the story telling. I don’t think it hurt the film, but I think they could’ve done without it, or just let one guy narrate. Also why didn’t they just use the original songs?

 JustMeMike: Thanks Ghost. I happened to like the narrations by the guys. I guess I liked it in House of Cards – the Kevin Spacey as Francis Underwood asides were just great. The original songs would have been better but this was the B’Way show they were adapting and not a straight biographical film.

The Ghost:  Speaking of a film with a slightly different title, House of Games, doesn’t Piazza remind you of a young Joe Mantegna?

JustMeMike: Yes maybe he does. DJ Mike, thanks to you as well, I’ll give you the opportunity to close this out. You may have the last remark….

DJ Mike: Well they did use the actors from the Broadway show so that’s why they didn’t use the original songs I guess.

JustMeMike: Thanks to The Ghost and DJ Mike for their insights and knowledge. This was a lot of fun… glad to have you guys participate.

 DJ Mike: Thank you Mike this was fun.

The Ghost: You’re welcome, Mike. Thanks for the opportunity. I’ll be sure to spread the word of your blog on ANR Music. (www.allnoiseradio.com)

In case these guys sound like ancient history to you, have a peek at the trailer:

 

 

 

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2 thoughts on “Jersey Boys

    • Dan –

      I won’t disagree with your reaction to the film. As pure cinema it wasn’t even close to being called ‘classic or well-done’.
      But the film will sell mucho tickets not for how good of a movie it is, but rather because lots folks, know and love the music. Those people came of age when the Four Seasons came to be so successful.
      Those very people came out of the theater happy for the experience, and many of them were singing the songs. And many were talking about the Broadway show. And still others will see it because they know and appreciate Eastwood the director.

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