According to the co-writer and longtime group member Bob Gaudio, the song was originally set in 1933 with the title "December 5th, 1933," and celebrated the repeal of Prohibition. Neither lead singer Frankie Valli
nor co-writer (and later, Gaudio's wife) Judy Parker were thrilled about the lyrics (and Valli objected to parts of the melody) so Gaudio redid the words and Parker redid the melody until all were content with the finished product. It ended up being a nostalgic love song.
The group had to play down the sexual overtones in this song to appease conservative radio stations, but lead singer Frankie Valli later admitted that the song was "about losing your cherry" - a guy having sex for the first time. It's a similar theme to the Shirelles hit "Will You Love Me Tomorrow
The lead singer on the first verse is Four Seasons drummer Gerri Polci - Frankie Valli comes in on the second verse. As well as sharing the lead in "December 1963," Polci was the lead singer on the group's third hit from the Who Loves You LP, "Silver Star," which made #38 in the US.
Their fifth and final #1 hit in the US, this was the only Four Seasons recording to top the UK charts.
The Four Seasons had a series of hits from 1962-1968. In 1975, they returned to the charts with "December 1963 (Oh What a Night)
," which hit #3 in the US. "December 1963" was the follow-up to that song.
A dance remix by the Dutch producer/DJ Ben Liebrand hit #14 US in 1994, introducing the song to a new generation. The remix stayed in the Top 40 for a stunning 20 weeks, and if combined with the 15 weeks the original spent on the chart, the song has had the longest stay on the Top 40. Valli, however, is not a fan of the new version. He told Billboard: "I'll never like it better than when it was pure."
Liebrand remixed the song in 1988, but it was only released in Europe that year. In 1993 it was issued in the US, where it was rediscovered by those how heard it 18 years earlier and by a younger generation that was hearing it for the first time. The US single contains two radio edits (running 3:59 and 4:22) and an extended version for club play that runs 6:13.
When this hit US #1 in 1976, it made The Four Seasons the only artist in history to have #1 songs before (several), during ("Rag Doll") and after the Beatles. (thanks, Dan - Buffalo, NY)
This was used in the 1994 movie Forrest Gump, and the song was re-released as part of the soundtrack. It once again entered the charts, and became the longest-running single in the Billboard US chart's history, with over 50 weeks total.
December, 1963 was one of the less-celebratory months in American history: President John F. Kennedy was assassinated on November 22, 1963.
In 1976, the French pop star Claude François recorded a translated version as "Cette année-là," which means, "That Year." The lyrics to his version were written by Eddy Marnay and set the song in 1962, with François referencing his rise to fame.
In 2000, this version was interpolated by the French rapper Yannick as "Ces soirées-là," which means "These Evenings." This version was a #1 hit in France and was used in the opening act of the stage show Jersey Boys, which is based on the story of The Four Seasons.