Thursday, 28 August 2014

Music: GENE PITNEY - He's No Rebel


He started out as a songwriter. 
GENE PITNEY wrote “He’s A Rebel” for the Crystals
Then he had hits of his own… and seemed to lose 
the ability to write songs, so when the hits 
stopped, he couldn’t write his way back. 
ANDREW DARLINGTON tries to find out why… 

Who’d would believe it? It’s ten-thirty and the ‘Frontier’ is already cram-full of the usual pot-bellied trendies-that never-were and business-suited twerps trying to pull the perennial birds in a grim half heaven half heartache of fading dreams and phony grandeur, yet they’re jigging up and down, unashamedly blowing their ages and what remains of their cool by singing every word of “Twenty-Four Hours From Tulsa”. It’s not that Pitney doesn’t have to contend with the habitual rudeness of the club’s chatterers queuing at the Bar, he does, but his determined professionalism in reliving his legacy of well-performed oldies makes for a winning set. And, grudgingly – yes, he still looks reasonably sharp.

And he’s enjoyed a good innings. Something like twenty-three chart-making singles, neatly divided into American and British hits, sometimes with the same record, frequently with different ones, as well as some considerable album success. Even now, when it comes to the grim scampi and chicken-in-a-basket northern club circuit, the ‘Frontier’ is about as big as it gets. Louis Armstrong played here, Shirley Bassey too. But the most reliable tickets are for the golden oldies, the Everly Brothers, Roy Orbison, Marty Wilde… and Gene Pitney. Familiar from all those ‘Top Of The Pops’ and black-and-white ‘Ready Steady Go’ appearances, his strong, distinctive tenor works best with big productions which transmute every two-and-a-half-minute Pop song into full theatrical drama, mouth twisting in odd sideways contortions to wring out the full pain and pathos. When he sings “Just One Smile” – the ultimate self-pitying paean to hurt, he grimaces ‘all that I had has been taken from me, now I’m crying and tears don’t become me,’ he’s wrong. Tears do become him. He cried his way through a succession of heartbreak torch-ballads. Each hit single tells a story. And he tells it with absolute conviction.

There’s a strange phenomenon in the inter-relationship between Pop and songwriting that’s worth considering here. There are a number of stars – such as Billy Fury and Leo Sayer, who start out writing their own material. Billy auditioned for Larry Parnes intent on interesting him – not in his voice, but in his compositions, and once signed, his first few singles plus the acclaimed ‘Sound Of Fury’ (1960) album were his own songs. While Sayer not only wrote his own first trio of hits but provided the songs for the Who vocalist’s ‘Daltrey’ (1973) solo album. But once they both achieved stardom, professional writing teams began feeding them hits, and they got to rely on other people’s songs, until it’s as though their own writing abilities atrophied. Once their celebrity burned out, and they were no longer the favoured vehicle sought out by royalties-hungry songwriters, it seems when they most needed it, they’d lost the ability to write their own new material, falling back instead on other’s reject-songs or reviving oldie’s. Neil Sedaka, by contrast, was always a writer. When music changed and his record sales crashed he wrote for other people – The Captain & Tennille, Andy Williams and Tony Christie, until fashion switched back and he had new hits of his own. Songs are the vital component of a career, to keep that commodity in-house is just about the most valuable asset you can have.

Gene Pitney was a writer too. At the famed Brill Building he wrote “Rubber Ball”, an irritatingly catchy hit for both Bobby Vee and Marty Wilde (although he adopted his mother’s maiden name ‘Orlowki’ for the credit). He wrote “Hello Mary Lou”, one of Ricky Nelson’s most enduringly memorable hits, plus “Today’s Teardrops” recorded by Roy Orbison (as ‘B’-side to “Blue Angel”), and “Blue Heartaches” for crooner Tommy Edwards. But best of all, he wrote “He’s A Rebel” for the Crystals. One of the most era-shaping Phil Spector wall-of-sound productions, it’s a career-defining song. At a time when the post-Rock music scene had largely blanded out, dominated by inoffensive songs sung by conformist pretty boys, it defiantly champions the outsider. The guy in Pitney’s lyric is ‘not just one of the crowd,’ he has the inner strength to stand out against mainstream convention, he’s ‘always the one to try the things they’ve never done.’ And Darlene Love, vocalist on the single, is standing by his side, two against the world, ‘just because he doesn’t do what everybody else does, that’s no reason why I can’t give him all my love.’

On the record-sleeve the ‘Rebel’ is a leather-clad biker, a ‘Leader Of The Pack’ direct from Marlon Brando in ‘The Wild One’ (1953), and looking forward to the counter-culture outlaws of ‘Easy Rider’ (1969), even if it must also lay the ground-rules for the devolved Biker chic of ‘Grease’ (1978). If Gene Pitney had done nothing else, this one song would guarantee him a respected place in Rock history. Oddly enough, with the Crystals at the American no.1, Gene’s own concurrent single as an artist – with Bacharach-David’s “Only Love Can Break A Heart” remained one chart position beneath it, sitting it out at the American no.2.

Gene Francis Alan Pitney, destined to be one of the biggest vocal heartthrobs of the sixties, was born 17 February 1941 in Hartford, Connecticut, one of five children – two brothers and two sisters, in a middle-class family. Under the influence of Doo-Wop, the smooth R&B of Clyde McPhatter and the maudlin Country-Blues of Moon Mullican he formed his first group – Gene & the Genials, as a pupil at Rockville High School, and edged into recording as one half of the Jamie & Jane duo, cutting two singles with Ginny Arnell aka Mazarro (“Classical Rock And Roll” and “Snuggle Up, Baby”). His debut solo single was “Cradle Of My Arms”, by-lined on the Blaze record label as ‘Billy Bryan’.

 But his route into mainstream Pop came through his writing, his first credit going to the Kalin Twins who cut his “Loneliness” in March 1960. Encouraged by other writer-sales to the likes of June Valli (“Looking At The World (Thru A Teardrop)”), Billy Bland (“Harmony”), and Steve Lawrence (“Tears From Heaven”), he visited a small Seventh Avenue four-track studio where – for just $30, he demo’d his own song “(I Wanna) Love My Life Away”, impressively playing and overdubbing every instrument, while multi-tracking his voice seven times to achieve the depth of harmonies. He’d dropped out of studying electronics at the University of Connecticut, but this demonstrates a high degree of dexterity over every aspect of the recording process. When it was issued on Aaron Schroeder’s Musicor, he was rewarded with his debut hit single. It reached an American no.39 in 1961, and became his only UK single issued on the London-American label.

But he became best known working through other people’s songs and arrangements. His single “Every Breath I Take” was written by the superlative Goffin-King team, and was a lavish early production at Bell Sound for Phil Spector. Then came movie-theme “Town Without Pity”, which he was astute enough to also record in German and Italian for the foreign market. The 1961 Kirk Douglas film concerns the gang-rape of a German girl by American GI’s, their subsequent trial and her suicide. The song takes the lines – ‘it isn’t very pretty what a town without pity can do’, but softens its adult theme into the regular two misunderstood young lovers, ‘ours is not an easy age, we’re like tigers in a cage’. 

As it climbed to no.13 on the ‘Billboard’ chart, radio play brought his strong interpretive vocal talents to the attention of Burt Bacharach and Hal David, who wrote “(The Man Who Shot) Liberty Valance” for his next single. Although based more closely on another movie plotline – a John Ford Western starring John Wayne and James Stewart, it was not included in the 1962 film itself. Yet session drummer Gary Chester even hits two distinctive drum-strikes to represent the bullets that take down the outlaw, played in the film by Lee Marvin. And while the single becomes his biggest to date, all the way no.4, it also emphasises Gene’s ability to act out strong narrative lyrics. Bacharach-David also wrote “Only Love Can Break A Heart” for him, which was even bigger.

Although Bacharach-David were considered the songwriting gold-standard, with each new tastefully faux-sophisticated song fiercely competed for, and even though their finely calibrated melodies, incessant key changes and melancholy top-notes were picked up and re-celebrated by a later generation of musicians including Noel Gallagher, they essentially came out of the classic Broadway Great American Songbook tradition. They were old-fashioned pre-Rock ‘n’ Roll writers who started out with the twee cutesy fifties Pop of “Magic Moments” and “The Story Of My Life”. Rock ‘n’ Roll is all about taking Daddy’s car and cruising to the hamburger stand. It is taking your high-school Baby to Lookout Hill hoping for a fumbling make-out in the back seat. “Twenty-Four Hours To Tulsa” – opening with its famous two-trumpet phase, is not like that, it is full mature adultery. Written in the form of an apologetic goodbye letter to his wife, the narrator is a comfortably middle-class married businessman heading home for the suburbs from a trade weekend when he’s seduced away by the charms of the girl in the small hotel. ‘She took me to the café, I asked her if she would stay, she said ‘Okay’’ taking them into a whirl of orchestration. This is not teen-kid’s stuff. This is a grown-up Harold Robbins storyline. It was a novel, a movie, at least a Soap-opera plotline. That it was soon to be reconfigured into a drugs-fable by the Eagles torturous “Hotel California” merely adds another dimension. And it was this song that spanned the Atlantic and made Gene Pitney an international contender.

Meanwhile, in another universe, check out the liner-notes of the Rolling Stones debut LP, side one track five reads “Now I’ve Got A Witness (Like Uncle Phil And Uncle Gene)”. Pitney was in London with Phil Spector, hot after their collaboration on “He’s A Rebel”. Andrew Loog Oldham modeled himself on Spector’s cool, and was an arch-opportunist. He spirited the duo down to the Regent Sound Studio where the Stones were recording, sufficient to justify adding the star-endorsement credit, and got them to contribute piano and maracas to “Little By Little” (also the ‘B’-side of “Not Fade Away”). But there was more. Oldham was keen to move his disreputable group away from their diet of R&B covers – which every other club group in Britain was doing anyway, and to get them into writing their own stuff. Like John and Paul. In response they wrote “That Girl Belongs To Yesterday” in the anguished Pitney style.

It’s difficult to imagine Jagger singing it, his limited range seems hardly equal to its vocal contortions, yet a lack-lustre November 1963 songwriter demo – called “My Only Girl” (with a fade-out chorus ‘the girl belongs to yesterday’) has emerged, preserved on the bootleg ‘Unsurpassed Masters Volume 7 (Odds And Ends)’. From this it’s possible to gauge to what extent Gene tweaked and remodeled it, by accentuating and emphasising its modest contours. Re-titled, and with a dramatic Charles Blackwell arrangement, the Pitney single opens with a crashing Spector-style crescendo with descending piano phrase, Gene’s three-octave voice climbing into near-falsetto as its moody drawn-out structure peaks into climax. Until this unlikely link yields a mutually-beneficial top ten hit. The Stones got a respectable writer credit (it also provides their first-ever composition on the US Hot Hundred), while Pitney was oddly ushered into the Swinging London swirl.

 He was on ‘Ready Steady Go’, drooled over by Cathy McGowan, his photo in the ‘Rave’ Mod magazine. There was even gossip about romantic as-close-as-this moments with Dusty Springfield, obviously concocted by the record label publicity department. Pitney’s forays into the London Rock subculture includes a further unlikely collusion. “Lips Are Redder On You” is a fairly inconsequential song written by cult producer Joe Meek for his protégés the Colorados, which caught his attention. With Gene producing to Charles Blackwell’s arrangement – using original guitarist Mick Tracey, it became ‘B’-side to his 1964 single “I’m Gonna Find Myself A Girl”.

At a time when the American Pop-hegemony was collapsing, with established hit-makers as big as Bobby Vee, Ricky Nelson and even Elvis dropping chart-places or tumbling out of the Top Twenty altogether, Gene Pitney began hitting a kind of commercial career peak. Maybe because he hadn’t previously been as big as the others had, or maybe the Stones’ endorsement granted him insider status? If he was sharply-dressed, he was certainly no Mod. Although earlier shots show him with pompadour quiff, by the time of his high-profile post-‘Tulsa’ hits his hair is combed forward into a fringe. But clean, scrupulously tidy. “I’m Gonna Be Strong” (UK no.2) might have been written by top-team Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, but it’s uniquely personalised by Gene’s overwrought peak-falsetto in its final moments, rising to express the pain he’s unable to verbalise. It’s followed into the UK Top Three by another of the duo’s songs “Looking Through The Eyes Of Love” (UK no.3), another story-in-song about the anonymous city loser redeemed by the devotion of his lover.

But he was sharp enough to champion new writers. According to Gene’s own account he took demos by struggling newcomer Randy Newman and restructured them into the hits “Nobody Needs Your Love” (UK no.13), and “Just One Smile” (UK no.8), demonstrating again his interpretative ability to arrange and customise songs by other writers. ‘They were awful, as far as being Pop songs’ he told journalist Roger Dopson, ‘you literally had to dissect them! You had to pull them apart and take all the best things out of them, as he’d often just noodle on the piano. You had to think really hard, to extract the right things... sometimes, it was like a jigsaw puzzle with some of the pieces missing’ (sleeve notes to ‘Gene Pitney: The Collection’, Demon 2005). So, while not writing the songs, he was focusing his songwriterly instincts to restructure other’s songs. Maybe Randy Newman learned from his revisions? While “I Must Be Seeing Things” (UK no.6) was lifted from a demo by Al Kooper, who would later form Blood Sweat & Tears (although Gene wrote the ‘B’-side “Save Your Love”).

Already there were ‘Greatest Hits’ albums – ‘Gene Pitney’s Big Sixteen’ made the UK LP charts as early as February 1965. Even as the hits continued. Unlike others of his ilk, Gene recorded albums of some integrity. He was never tempted into, or suckered by the psychedelic experiment that derailed some, although it could be argued that his use of ‘world music’ instrumentation as early as “Mecca” (US no.12 in May 1963) prefigures the Beatles forays into orientalism. Probably not, more likely Gene was using them as effects in the same way that Elvis did in the appalling ‘Harem Holiday’ (1965). Instead, Gene reverted to the Country roots that had been an early influence, duo sessions in Nashville resulted in a well-received album with George Jones – ‘For The First Time! Two Great Stars: George Jones And Gene Pitney’ (June 1965) which usefully extended his audience. It was followed by a second Jones collaboration, then an album with Melba Montgomery (‘Being Together’, 1966). Although there were no hit singles from these albums, they proved an astute foray into broadening Gene’s fan-base. Singles remained the most vital Pop currency, but these projects were early examples of what would later be termed country-rock concept albums.

So, with so many positives, why and when the downturn? “Backstage” was another major hit, a song immaculately tailored to his image-requirements. Almost a personal story built around his persona, ‘out on that stage I play the star, I’m famous now I’ve come so far.’ Yes, he emotes the lines with thespian-skill, with perfectly enunciated clarity, an authenticity underlined by the TV-cameras spooling it all in. Yet ‘every night a different room, every night a different club… when I sign my autograph, when I hold an interview’ he’s lost in a lonely isolation that only that special girl can cure. With the implication that maybe – just maybe, that fan watching the screen, could be that special girl. It’s there, in the degree of calculated deliberation that the flaws begin to show.

His uneven chart profile was increasingly tilted towards Europe, where jobbing songwriting teams began offering him custom-crafted material specifically designed around his perceived requirements. Producer Ron Richards acted as go-between for Roger’s Cook & Greenaway – already famous as the David & Jonathan duo, to induce Pitney to record their “Something’s Gotten Hold Of My Heart” which required no tweaking whatsoever. It fit effortlessly. He went on to record their lesser-effective “A Street Called Hope”. Anthony ‘Tony’ Hazzard performed the same service with “Maria Elena” – a UK no.25 hit (in March 1969), arranged by slick professional Keith Mansfield. But in some ways it proves a serious miscalculation. The narrative of a young man off to war doing his patriotic chore was at odds with trendy anti-Vietnam sentiment, and distanced him from whatever credibility he retained. 

Another British team, Les Reed and Barry Mason – responsible for Pop-fluff by Edison Lighthouse, Tom Jones and Engelbert Humperdinck, provided the slight “Twenty-Four Sycamore”, which had earlier failed as a single for Wayne Fontana, but yields a no.34 for Gene. A mildly tuneful if fairly routine song, swathed in weeping strings, it barely provides Pitney’s voice with any challenge, with the lazy ‘whoa-whoa-whoa’ fillers inserted as if in lieu of lyric inspiration. Gene had never done ‘whoa-whoa-whoa’s. His repertoire was always more literate than that. By January 1970 his single “She Lets Her Hair Down (Early In The Morning)” was adapted from a Silvikrin shampoo TV-ad! In fairness, others were doing it too. With one commercial TV-channel, an ad on ITV guaranteed massive awareness, and Honeybus, Bobby Goldsboro and the New Seekers were using it to score hits. But from the man who wrote “He’s A Rebel” and “(I Wanna) Love My Life Away” it’s a disappointing career-development.

Falling back on the Musicor team of staff producer George Tobin writing with Johnny ‘Mr Bass Man’ Cymbal, Gene recorded “Somewhere In The Country” (UK no.19, April 1968), about the social disgrace of illegitimacy, the ‘quiet girl’ spirited off to Aunt Nora’s house to avoid the ‘morning paper social page’ scandal. It was constructed in what ‘Mojo’ called the ‘classic Pitney mould: grand melodrama with a murky backstory.’ Gene performs the role of unreliable narrator, posing the question, is he the errant father? But at the dawn of supposed Free Love and Permissive liberalisation its sensitive sympathy seems quaintly out of time. Now was when Gene Pitney most needed to revert to his own songwriting abilities, to extricate himself from the image he’d been swallowed up by. But it was now that it failed him. There were no new songs. The angry burn that had provoked “He’s A Rebel” had long since ossified. And the material he was being offered was second-rate facsimiles of what he’d already done. “She’s A Heartbreaker” – his final American chart hit (no.16 in April 1968), is a shot at sock-it-to-me R&B underwritten by the writer-producer team of Jerry ‘Swamp Dogg’ Williams and Charlie (brother of Inez) Foxx. It’s outta-sight funky Stax-style horns work. It could have been a direction worth exploring. But it proved to be a one-off.

Not that it was over. Far from it. The hits compilations continued. After all, there were plenty of hits to rummage through. Despite a health scare in 1974 he toured regularly, cutting his on-the-road schedule to six months of each year, but always to good response. And he continued recording. There was even a final hit – his first and only no.1, when Marc Almond invites his participation in his revamp of “Something’s Gotten Hold Of My Heart” in January 1989, reigniting a new wave of interest. In much the same way that the Pet Shop Boys revived Dusty Springfield’s career, Take That took Lulu onboard, or the Smiths recorded with Sandie Shaw. The video, filmed in Las Vegas shows Pitney in red cummerbund, looking a little worse for wear, but his voice still packs considerable power.

With the first reports of Gene Pitney’s death, 5 April 2006 in his Cardiff room at the Hilton Hotel, it was difficult not to recall his lines ‘every night a different room, every night a different club’. He died alone, during a British tour. He’d sung “Backstage” at the ‘Frontier’ in Batley the night I saw him. He’d probably sung it more times than even he could remember. But he still sang it with a degree of conviction.


27 February 1961 – “(I Wanna) Love My Life Away” (Musicor 10020) reaches US no.39

23 March 1961 – “(I Wanna) Love My Life Away” (Gene Pitney) c/w “I Laughed So Hard I Cried” (London HL 9270) reaches UK no.26

October 1961 – “Every Breath I Take” (Goffin-King) c/w “Mr Moon, Mr Cupid And I” (HMV POP 933) reaches US no.42

18 December 1961 – “Town Without Pity” (Musicor 1009) reaches US no.13. Song revived by Thin White Rope on their late-1988 ‘Red Sun’ EP

8 March 1962 – “Town Without Pity” (Ned Washington-Dmitri Tiomkin) c/w “Air Mail Special Delivery” (HMV POP 952) reaches UK no.32. This was the last song Gene ever sang on stage, as an encore at the St David’s Hall, Cardiff

19 May 1962 – “(The Man Who Shot) Liberty Valance” (Bacharach-David) c/w “Take It Like a Man” (Musicor 1020) reaches US no.4. UK HMV POP 1018)

29 September 1962 – “Only Love Can Break A Heart” (Bacharach-David) (Musicor 1022) reaches US no.2. The ‘B’-side, “If I Didn’t Have A Dime (To Play The Jukebox)” (Bert Russell-Phil Medley) charted in its own right, reaching US no.58. UK United Artists UP 1005

5 May 1963 – “Half Heaven, Half Heartache” (Wally Gold-Aaron Schroeder-George Goehring) c/w “Tower Tall” (Mandel-Sachs) (Musicor 1026) reaches US no.12. UK United Artists UP 1012. Gene rerecorded the song as a duet with Jane Olivor on her 2000 album ‘Love Decides’

13 April 1963 – “Mecca” (Johnny Gluck-Neval Nader) c/w “Teardrop By Teardrop” (Halley) (Musicor 1028) reaches US no.12. UK United Artists UP 1021

3 August 1963 – “True Love Never Runs Smooth” (Bacharach-David) c/w “Donna Means Heartbreak” (David-Hampton) (Musicor 1032) reaches US no.21. UK United Artists UP 1030

16 November 1963 – “Twenty-Four Hours From Tulsa” (Musicor 1034) reaches US no.17

5 December 1963 – “Twenty-Four Hours From Tulsa” (Bacharach-David) c/w “Lonely Night Dreams (Of Faraway Arms)” (United Artists UP 1035) reaches UK no.5. Arranged and conducted by Burt Bacharach

5 March 1964 – “That Girl Belongs To Yesterday” (Jagger-Richards) c/w “Who Needs It” (Conrad-Beadle) (United Artists UP 1045) reaches UK no.7, reaches US no.49

April 1964 – “Yesterday’s Hero” (A Cleveland-W Gold-C Spencer-A Schroeder) c/w “Cornflower Blue” (Musicor) reaches US no.64

11 April 1964 – ‘BLUE GENE’ (United Artists ULP 1061) reaches UK LP chart no.7


June 1964 – “I’m Gonna Find Myself A Girl” (Adams, Adams and Avon – the Avons of ‘Seven Little Girls’ 45rpm fame) c/w “Lips Are Redder On You” (Joe Meek) (United Artists UP 1055)

29 August 1964 – “It Hurts To Be In Love’ (Musicor 1040) reaches US no.7. Written by Howard Greenfield and Helen Miller it was intended for Neil Sedaka who was unable to record it for contractual reasons, so Gene Pitney’s voice is dubbed over Sedaka’s backing track

15 October 1964 – “It Hurts To Be In Love” (H Greenfield-H Miller) c/w “Hawaii” (United Artists UP 1063) reaches UK no.36

7 November 1964 – “I’m Gonna Be Strong” (Musicor 1045) reaches US no.9. Originally recorded by Frankie Laine in 1963

12 November 1964 – “I’m Gonna Be Strong” (Barry Mann-Cynthia Weil) c/w “Aladdin’s Lamp” (Gene Pitney) (Stateside SS 358) reaches UK no.2

6 February 1965 – ‘GENE PITNEY’S BIG 16’ (Stateside SL 10118) reaches UK LP chart no.12. When vinyl albums usually ran to twelve tracks, sometimes ten, occasionally fourteen, sixteen constituted good value!

18 February 1965 – “I Must Be Seeing Things” (Bob Brass-Al Kooper-Irwin Levine) c/w “Save Your Love” (Stateside SS 390) reaches UK no.6

20 March 1965 – ‘I’M GONNA BE STRONG’ (Stateside SL 10120) reaches UK LP chart no.15

20 March 1965 – “I Must Be Seeing Things” (Musicor 1070) reaches US no.31

22 May 1965 – “Last Chance To Turn Around” (Vic Millrose-Tony Bruno-Bob Elgin) (Musicor 1093) reaches US no.13

10 June 1965 – “Looking Thru The Eyes Of Love” (Mann-Weil) c/w “Last Chance To Turn Around” (Stateside SS 420) reaches UK no.3

August 1965 – ‘Geno Italiano’ (Stateside SE 1032), EP of hits sung in Italian

21 August 1965 – “Looking Thru The Eyes Of Love” (Musicor 1103) reaches US no.28

November 1965 – ‘GEORGE JONES AND GENE PITNEY’ (Stateside SL 10147) followed by April 1966 ‘IT’S COUNTRY TIME AGAIN’ (Stateside SL 10173) also with George Jones

4 November 1965 – “Princess In Rags” (Helen Miller-Roger Atkins) c/w “Amore Mio” (Stateside SS 471) reaches UK no.9

20 November 1965 – ‘LOOKIN’ THRU THE EYES OF LOVE’ (Stateside SL 10148) reaches UK LP chart no.15

18 December 1965 – “Princess In Rags” (Musicor 1130) reaches US no.37

17 February 1966 – “Backstage” (Fred Anisfield-W Denson) c/w “In Love Again” (Stateside SS 490) reaches UK no.4. Arranged by Gary Sherman. Produced by Pitney-Kahan

14 May 1966 – “Backstage’ (Musicor 1171) reaches US no.25

9 June 1966 – “Nobody Needs Your Love” (Randy Newman) c/w “Dream World” (Stateside SS 518) reaches UK no.2

17 September 1965 – ‘NOBODY NEEDS YOUR LOVE’ (Stateside SL 10183) reaches UK LP chart no.13, arrangements by Garry Sherman, ‘Record Mirror’ says ‘the little chap with the big voice is not everybody’s idea of a class singer, but you can’t deny his emotional impact and his enormous range’

September 1966 – ‘BEING TOGETHER: GENE PITNEY AND MELBA MONTGOMERY’ (Stateside SL10181), ‘Record Mirror’ says ‘much more country-slanted than most Pitney sides, but there’s still enough pop flavour not to offend Pitney fans’

10 November 1966 – “Just One Smile” (Randy Newman) c/w “The Boss’s Daughter” (Stateside SS 558) reaches UK no.8, reaches US no.64

February 1967 – ‘There’s No Living Without Your Loving’ EP (Stateside SE 1045) ‘NME’ says ‘one of the most distinctive voices around is at its peak on one here, ‘The Rising Tide Of Love’. If you dig Pitney, dig this.’ Three hitherto unissued tracks, plus ‘The Boss’s Daughter’

23 February 1967 – “(In The) Cold Light Of Day” (L Weiss-S English) c/w “Flower Girl” (Stateside SS 597) reaches UK no.38. Arranged by Artie Butler, Produced by Gene Pitney and Stanley Kahn. Coincides with UK tour opening Friday 17 February at Finsbury Park Astoria, as ‘America’s International Singing Star’ with the Troggs, David Garrick, Sounds Inc. Last date Sunday March 19 at Coventry

March 1967 – “Animal Crackers (In Cellophane Boxes)” (Musicor) US only

4 March 1967 – ‘YOUNG WARM AND WONDERFUL’ (Stateside SSL 10194) reaches UK LP chart no.39, ‘NME’ says ‘Pitney cools the atmospherics and presents an album of warm, romantic songs to fit in with his new image of wedded bliss’… he married Lynn Gayton in Italy while appearing at the San Remo Festival

22 April 1967 – ‘GENE PITNEY’S BIG SIXTEEN Vol.3’ (Stateside SSL 10199) reaches UK LP chart no.40. ‘NME’ says ‘he has to class backing throughout and varies the pace from the up-tempo ‘Rags To Riches’ to the slow low-key ‘Born To Lose’’. ‘Record Mirror’ awards it four-stars

October 1967 – ‘JUST ONE SMILE’ (Stateside SL 10212) ‘NME’ says ‘another well-produced album by this talented American hit singer, who varies the intensity and pace but never the quality of his performance’ ‘Record Mirror’ adds ‘the arrangements are superb, and Gene’s vocalistics are really up to standard’

15 November 1967 – “Something’s Gotten Hold Of My Heart” (Greenaway-Cook) c/w “Where Did The Magic Go?” (Stateside SS 2060) reaches UK no.5. UK promotion includes (Nov 4) ATV’s ‘Golden Shot’, and Radio 1’s ‘Pete’s People’, ‘Juke Box Jury’ (8), ‘Top Of The Pops’ (9), ‘Dee Time (Nov 11), plus daily on ‘David Symonds Show’

3 April 1968 – “Somewhere In The Country” (J Cymbal-G Tobin) c/w “Lonely Drifter” (Stateside SS 2103) reaches UK no.19. Coincides with UK tour opens April 5 at Lewisham Odeon, with Paul Jones, Simon Dupree Big Sound, Don Partridge

15 June 1968 – “She’s A Heartbreaker” (Foxx-Jerry Williams) (Musicor 1306) reaches US no.16

June 1968 – “Love Grows” c/w “Conquistador” (Stateside SS 2118)

October 1968 – “Billy, You’re My Friend” (E Goldman) (Musicor) reaches US no.92

27 November 1968 – “Yours Until Tomorrow” (Goffin-King) c/w “She’s A Heartbreaker” (Stateside SS 2131) reaches UK no.34

5 March 1969 – “Maria Elena” (Tony Hazzard) c/w “The French Horn” (Stateside SS 2142) reaches UK no.25. Arranged by Keith Mansfield. Produced by Gerry Bron

20 September 1969 – ‘BEST OF GENE PITNEY’ (Stateside SSL 10286) reaches UK LP chart no.8. ‘NME’ says ‘Gene has a way of giving a song an injection which makes it way above average’ while ‘Record Mirror adds ‘sixteen big ballads from the fastest vibrator in the west’

November 1969 – “She Lets Her Hair Down (Early In The Morning)” (P Vance-L Carr) c/w “I Remember” (Stateside SS 2157) reaches US no.89

14 March 1970 – “A Street Called Hope” (Greenaway-Cook) c/w “Think Of Us” (Tony Hazzard) (Stateside SS 2164) reaches UK no.37. Coincides with UK tour with Badfinger, Clodagh Rodgers, Mike Cotton Sound from 20 March at Finsbury Park Astoria

3 October 1970 – “Shady Lady” (Gentry-Lordi) c/w “Billy, You’re My Friend” (Stateside SS 2177) reaches UK no.29

April 1971 – “Stand By The One Who Loves Me” c/w “Pretty Annabelle” (Pye Int 7N 25549), ‘Record Mirror’ says ‘in this attempt at an up-dating of his style (it’s a rumbling slow Country-tinged chugger), Gene is co-prod/penned by Robert John. There can be no disguising that noisily plaintive voice though’

August 1971 – ‘GENE PITNEY SINGS BACHARAC, DAVID AND OTHERS’ (Pye Special PKL 4404) ‘NME’s Richard Williams says ‘ his voice was strangulated, and therein lay his appeal: though motionless, he seemed to be tearing himself apart inwardly’

August 1971 – “Run Run Roadrunner” c/w “Rainmaker Girl” (Pye Int 7N 25564), ‘NME’ says ‘come the verse his voice moves into the stratosphere and from then on it’s all down to an oxygen tent. Strangely, it’s quite an attractive sound and could become a hit’

November 1971 “It’s Not That I Don’t Love You” (John Carter) c/w “I Just Can’t Help Myself” (Pye Int 7N 25573), produced in UK by Barry Murray. ‘NME’ says it ‘may well re-establish Gene on the chart scene’

April 1972 – “I Just Can’t Help Myself” (Barry Murray and Mike McNaught) c/w “Beautiful Sounds” (Pye 25579), coincides with ‘GOLDEN HOUR OF GENE PITNEY’S GREATEST HITS’ (Golden Hour GH805) includes this with ‘Town Without Pity, ‘Liberty Valence’, ‘I’m Gonna Be Strong’ etc

July 1972 – “Summertime Dreaming” c/w “It Aint The Same” (Pye Int 7N 25585)

October 1972 – “Twenty-Four Hours From Tulsa” c/w “Maria Elena” (Pye Int 7N 25596)

March 1973 – ‘GOLDEN HOUR OF GENE PITNEY Vol.2’ (Golden Hour GH818) ‘NME’ says ‘he possessed a distinctive style like a cultured Neil Sedaka. All good clean American fun from a good clean son of Uncle Sam. His heart was always breaking; but it broke ‘tastefully’ and without mess’

28 April 1973 – “Twenty-Four Sycamore” (Les Reed-Barry Mason) c/w “Billy, You’re My Friend” (Pye International 7N 25606) reaches UK no.34. Europe release only

October 1973 – “Love Grows” c/w “Hate” (Pye Int 7N 25624)

2 November 1974 – “Blue Angel” c/w “Song Without A Friend” (Bronze BRO 11) reaches UK no.49, re-enters to no.39. Produced by Roger Cook for Europe and Australia release only

March 1975 – “Trans Canada Highway” c/w “Take Me Tonight” (Schroeder-Gold-Alfred) (Bronze BRO 14) ‘NME’ says ‘Ol’ Gene’s mellowed a little. He no longer screams like his Big 16 was trapped in a car door.’ Europe and Australia release only

October 1975 – “Train Of Thought” (Alan O’Day) c/w “I’d Still Be In Love With You” (Bronze BRO 19) revival of old Cher hit. ‘NME’ says ‘Pitney double-tracked in octaves, gently lurching sax solo, orchestra in late in the track, and just right’

November 1975 – ‘PITNEY ‘75’ (Bronze ILPS 9314) with ‘Train Of Thought’, plus songs by Albert Hammond, Paul Williams and Elton John

April 1976 – “You Are” c/w “Oceans Away” (Bronze BRO 25)

2 October 1976 – ‘HIS 20 GREATEST HITS’ (Arcade ADEP 22) reaches UK LP chart no.6

October 1976 – “Hold On” c/w “Running Away For Love” (Bronze BRO 32)

February 1977 – “Sandman” c/w “We Wrote The Show” (Epic EPC 4491)

November 1977 – “We got Love On Our Hands” c/w “Walkin’ In The Sun” (Epic EPC 5783)

December 1977 – “It’s Over, It’s Over” c/w “Walkin’ In The Sun” (Epic EPC 5897) revival of old Roy Orbison hit, a twelve-inch edition includes ‘Twenty-Four Hours From Tulsa’

October 1978 – “Train Of Thought” c/w “I’d Still Be In Love With You” (Bronze Bro 63)

August 1982 – “I’m Gonna Be Strong” c/w “Backstage” (Dakota BAK 14)

April 1983 – “Twenty-Four Hours From Tulsa” c/w “I’m Gonna Be Strong” (Old Gold OG9287), both tracks on September 1977 ‘Soda Pop Vol.2’ compilation (DJM) with ‘NME’ ‘Pitney with the stiff upper lip of ‘I’m Gonna Be Strong’ and the luxurious agony of ‘Twenty-Four Hours From Tulsa’, a jukebox rumba of illicit love and flashing motel neon’

14 January 1989 – “Something’s Gotten Hold Of My Heart” with Marc Almond (Parlophone R 6201) reaches UK no.1


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