Anyone Ever Hear “Beggars Parade” By the Four Seasons?

In my most recent post (“Earthblood . . . My First Literary Love), I mentioned the summer of 1966 as being a special time for my friend Rick and me. We were both fourteen at the time. That was the summer I fell in love with Earthblood.

But we also loved finding obscure songs that we could discover and call our own. In my last post, I mentioned our #1 musical find that summer: the Kinks’ great B-side, “I’m Not Like Everybody Else.”

But I suddenly remembered there was another song that we had discovered that summer and also fell in love with: “Beggars Parade” by Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons.

Now, understand, we were not Four Seasons fans, not by a long shot. I actually disliked their mainstream stuff–like “Sherry,” “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” “Walk Like a Man,” etc.

They sounded so five minutes ago and out of step with the great music that was exploding all around us. This was when the Beatles and the Stones and the Animals and the Kinks and the Who and the rest of the British bands had started their full frontal assault on our ears and airwaves.

But somehow, Rick and I had discovered that the B-Side of “Opus 17 (Don’t You Worry ‘Bout Me”) was actually a subversive little number that no one, but no one was hip to. Hardly sounded like the Jersey Boys at all, which was a big plus to my ears. (btw, Haven’t seen the hit Broadway musical about them and don’t plan to.)


So, “Beggars Parade” became our second anthem that summer. It had a great melody and some kind of undecipherable protest “message” (which neither Rick nor I ever came close to figuring out)–all coming from the world’s corniest group! So we were in. And, best of all, no one else in the whole wide world knew about it. To this day, I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who recalls having ever heard that song.

Anyone out there ever hear “Beggars Parade” before? And, even if you haven’t, what do you think of it now? Is it as cool as we thought it was back in our salad days?




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23 responses to “Anyone Ever Hear “Beggars Parade” By the Four Seasons?

  1. Mmm interesting! I can hear a bit of Dylan’s acerbic mid-sixties vibe in there, The Four Seasons’ vocal harmonies take on a Byrdsy vibe andf the piano part reminds me a bit of The Doors! So they were really reflecting the emerging conciousness of the times (even if they were only doing it on a B-side). Was this the only step thry took in that direction, then ? One thing that seems unclear: when Frankie sings “why should you work like the rest, when it’s easier to protest?” is he criticising the student protestors of the time, or saying that the bankers son and the bowery bum are joining in with the movement? It’s extremely ambiguous! Thanks for this intriguing slice of musical history, Erich

  2. I listened to that song a million times when I was a youngster and don’t think I ever figured out exactly what it meant. (I recall reading somewhere that it was actually an “anti-protest” song railing against hippies and protestors, but if that’s the case, that meaning flew right over my head.) I just loved the sound and the overall vibe.

    I have no idea if the Four Seasons ever went in this direction again (as I said, I never was big fan of their music). But this little oddity has always stuck with me. Thx.

  3. I’ve never heard of “Beggars Parade” before, but I agree — it’s a pretty neat song. Very atypical of the Four Seasons. Thanks for the tip.

    • Funny, that song was so much a part of my life for that one summer back in 1966 . . . then totally fell off my radar for like 45 years. Only when I started writing my previous post (on “Earthblood,” my first literary love) did I begin to think of the other “discoveries” I made that fateful year. When I listened to “Beggars Parade” again, just felt that I had to share it with the rest of the world. Still sounds really good to me after all these years!

  4. Really interesting song — never heard it before. Funny to think that your two favorite songs that summer of 1966 were about as different as could be. the Kinks and Frank Valli and the Four Seasons? Talk about opposite ends of the spectrum.

  5. Yeah, that split may explain a lot about me and my personality (besides which, I am a Gemini), so I guess it all makes some kind of sense.

  6. Love how certain songs can make up the personal soundtrack of our lives. I actually think I’ve heard this song, which surprised me cuz I didn’t know the name. (Btw- the musical is really great.)

    • Wow, as I said I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who actually remembered hearing “Beggar’s Parade” (not that I asked that many people). I’ve heard so many good things about the musical, “Jersey Boys,” I guess I’ll have to check it out. Thx

  7. I haven’t heard this song before-I like it -love the four seasons thxs.

    • Glad you liked it! “Beggars Parade” had totally fallen off my radar for decades. When I wrote my previous post about “Earthblood” — this book I fell in love with when I was 13 going on 14 — the songs of that summer of 1966 suddenly came flooding back. Funny how that happens.

      • Erich I’m really sorry but it sounds out of tune to me. Perhaps I should try it again tomorrow through the PCs speakers and not the phones, but I’m afraid my ears did that eurchh unhappy thing at discordant noise. ( runs away and hides)

      • Sorry you can’t hear the song. Thanks for trying! If you’re interested, you could always just go straight to YouTube and try to access it that way. Not sure if it’s that great a song, or it was just the time and place when I first heard it.

  8. Rick Agresta

    Of course, I owe my reintroduction to Beggars’ Parade to you. I have listened to it a few times the past week and agree, the point of view is not clear. Is it anti-protest or pro? I tend to think it is anti. This is, in part, due to the writing credits belonging to Bob Crewe and Bob Gaudio. They are a big part of the Clint Eastwood movie, Jersey Boys, which I saw instead of the musical on Broadway.Their working class Newark/Belleville backgrounds are emphasised in the film and this kind of sounds like the reactionary working class kids’ feelings when the student protests just started.

    When I got to Columbia in 1970, the jock fraternity was Beta Theta Pi. In the student strikes of 1968 (about building a gym in Morningside Park) and 1970 (fueled by Kent State the spring before I got there), the Beta wrestlers had opposed the protesters. When the strike of spring 1972 happened, following from Nixon’s (and John Kerry’s) Cambodian incursion, the Beta guys, including several friends of mine, were right out in front, among the most vocal and supportive at anti-war protests.

    The tune of Beggar’s Parade is so catchy that I am not surprised it was a favorite of ours that summer, and the content fit in with our search for lyrics that were about more important things than what John Lennon deridingly called “June, Moon and Spoon”.

    • You know, when all is said and done . . . it’s still a darn catchy little tune, no matter what its political message. I remember cherishing that oh, so adolescent feeling of being in on something that no one else knew about. Like that Kinks’ B-side that we loved so much — “I’m Not Like Everybody Else” — it was ours, man.

  9. ragnar51

    Wow!! And I thought I was the only one that liked this tune. I did indeed hear it first as the b side of opus 17 and kinda forgot about it for a long time. I recently heard the version by The Leaves ands there scratching my head (it sounds so familiar:)) To me it was definitely an anti protest song, not only deriding the rich kids but those too lazy to work for a living.

    • I’m still not 100% sold on this brave new world of social media and all that. But . . . there is something to be said for a medium that allows people who love an obscure b-side (like “Beggar’s Parade”) to connect with one another! So there’s at least two of us! Have to check out the version by The Leaves that you mentioned (totally unaware that anyone had ever covered “Beggar’s Parade.”) When I first heard this song, (I’m ashamed to admit) the political, anti-protestor subtext flew right by me. Just thought it was a really cool tune. Anyway, thanks so much for your comments.

  10. Joel

    This is a wonderfully daring, truly remarkable song unique for the period of hiippie protests, drug culture, peace and love…especially coming from the great hitmakimg writers of the Four Seasons. To me they are really expressing disdain tfor the professional protesters emerging at the time and observimg the undercurrent of hypocrisy.

    • Yeah, it’s a pretty cool song. As I said in my post, I really didn’t latch onto song’s anti-protest message back then — much to my current embarrassment. But there was something about the melody and vibe of the song that just captured me. Listening to it again, there is an unmistakable (and powerful) undercurrent of class resentment toward privileged college kids (the elites) who had the luxury of protesting while their parents were footing their tuition. While my politics are (and were) definitely left of center, I can certainly understand where the songwriters were coming from (working class guys from Newark viewing all the protests and protestors with a skeptical eye). Thanks for commenting.

  11. Peter Halse

    I remember the cover version by the Falling Leaves (released as a single, so played on the radio at the time). Loved it then without worrying about the lyrics too much.

    Rediscovered and heard the original recently, and love the edgy 60s feel (agree that the Byrds and Dylan are in there somewhere) while finding the reactionary lyrics hilariously OTT (hungry for bread? plant a seed, satisfy your evil greed…)

    Net result – this has to be one of my favourite tracks of all time. Along with a much more familiar Kinks track, Waterloo sunset. Now that IS a classic…

    • Ray

      40 years later this song lives on. Heard it last night on the HBO show “Vinyl” supposedly performed by the faux band “Nasty Bits”

      • I’m impressed!!! You caught that too. The song was on for just a few seconds, but I was really happy to hear it on the airwaves after all these years. Just wish the show itself(“Vinyl”) was a little better. Not crazy about the first episode (sorry Marty [Martin Scorsese directed the first episode]) but hopefully it will pick up. But they do get props for choosing “Beggars Parade”). Thanks for the comment.

  12. It’s a wonderful song, regardless of the meaning. Wonderful instrumental background and Frankie’s vocals are superb. If you like this one, try “Everybody Knows My Name.” I think it might be their very best (not counting the remarkable “Dawn”). Sad and joyous at the same time.

    • Thanks for the comments, David. I really love “Everybody Knows My Name” — it has a similar vibe to “Beggars Parade.” Hadn’t heard it before. I’m always looking for overlooked gems, so thanks for the tip. (btw, wonder why they didn’t title it “Much More Than Me”???)

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