Bass Transcription: Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons – December, 1963 (Oh What A Night!)

One of the group’s best-known hits, ‘December 1963 (Oh What A Night)’ was The Four Seasons’ last number 1 single, hitting the top spot on both sides of the Atlantic in 1976 (Frankie Valli aficionados will note that he had one final chart topper as a solo artist in 1978 with the theme song from Grease).

Featuring lead vocals split between three of The Four Seasons (of which there are five members, confusingly enough), ‘…Oh What A Night’ has become a staple of the wedding band landscape, much to the joy of audiences and the dismay of many musicians. Fortunately, there’s plenty for bassists to get their teeth into.

The song sits firmly in the key of Db, giving the chart enough flats to make most people feel uncomfortable; the good news is that there are only three sections to get your eyes and fingers around. The main groove, which also underpins the verse and chorus sections, finds the bass doubling the piano’s left hand in an ascending major scale figure.

On the transcription you’ll notice that there are several ghost notes that appear between the pitches – I find it easiest to achieve these by raking through the string above the target note with my right hand, but you can also play them as unfretted notes on the same string; experiment with both approaches and listen to which sounds best to you.

The bass drops out temporarily in the prechorus, before returning with some smooth, middle register lines that feature long notes connected by slides and punctuated by melodic fills before leading back to the main riff for the chorus.

The biggest challenge is the bridge section, which features some disco-influenced semiquaver lines based around Bbm7 that leads into an ascending figure that climaxes with a rapid high register flourish over the final Ab chord; listen carefully to how the articulation changes as the line progresses, with the lower notes slurred and the high notes plucked clearly. Spare a thought for Four Seasons bassist Don Ciccone, who had to sing the falsetto vocal line while playing this!

A side note: the lick in question was the subject of this blog post on ‘Lick Recycling’, which is worth a read if you want to know where Pino Palladino used it again almost 40 years later.

Frankie Valli – December 1963 (Oh What A Night!) bass transcription pdf