Bob Dylan and Jersey boys


Jersey Beat Frankie Valli and the 4 Seasons

Over the last week or so I’ve been enjoying listening to the Frankie Valli & The 4 Seasons boxed set …Jersey Beat…, the latest of the expensive boxed sets from a few years back that Warners have repackaged in a slip case and bunged in the supermarkets for a tenner, after Rod, Fleetwood Mac, Bee Gees. Happy days for the indiscriminate consumer such as myself as we approach the apocalypse of the physical carrier.

For me this is a re-approach to this material, as many years ago when CDs were just coming out I was given a very similar compilation. So I was aware of the embarrassment of riches contained within a three CD compilation of Valli, Gaudio, Crewe et al.

I had not forgotten, however, the horror of The Wonder Who?, an alter-ego used by the band presumably when they were sick of having hit singles (although it didn’t stop the run.) Under this name, they recorded a version of Bob Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice (It’s Alright)” which is almost unlistenable. God knows what they were thinking of.

This compilation boasts comments on each track from someone somehow involved, so here we have comments from Bob himself on the slaughter, ending “They had a completely different take on the song. Sort of like adding rouge to a bloodless stone.”

Seems like he may even have liked it, which brings me to the point.

The other hit by The Wonder Who?, which is included on …Jersey Beat…is Nathaniel Shilkret and Gene Austin’s “Lonesome Road,” which suffers the same cartoon cat fate as the Dylan song, but maybe Bob was still listening and even enjoying.

Dylan’s 2001 album Love and Theft concluded with a song called “Sugar Baby,” which many really enjoyed. It didn’t do much for me, but I immediately recognised the bulk of the melody of “Sugar Baby” was that of “Lonesome Road,” which I knew from Sinatra’s version. It soon became apparent that the album title Love and Theft also described Dylan’s songwriting method of the time, as several songs were revealed to be influenced by other American classics.

Knowing Bob’s respect for the older man, I’d always assumed that he had lifted “Sugar Baby” from Sinatra’s version of “Lonesome Road,” but now I’m wondering if he actually remembered the other hit by the other Jersey Boys’ evil twin, The Wonder Who?

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