Gene Pitney Dead at 65


The passing of Gene Pitney two days ago would be an unremarkable, though undeniably sad, story were it not for the fact that barely a whisper of it issued from the organs of mass media in this country. This was not some obscure teen idol trafficking in Brill Building obscurities, but a singer of tremendous (if often melodramatic) gift who racked up a sizable number of hit singles in his season of success (he was also, with George Jones, one of the creators of a very strange Country LP, For the First Time! Two Great Singers; recorded in Nashville for the Musicor label in 1965). Yet his passing was bigger news in the UK (indeed, I only heard about it early this morning courtesy of Our Man in London, Richard Gibson) than here . . . and not just because he died in Wales, I suspect.

As we ponder the values of our epoch and listen, as I hope you do, to Pitney's 1964 recording of Burt Bacharach and Hal David's Twenty-Four Hours from Tulsa, here is as good an appreciation as one is likely to find, from yesterday's Times of London.

6 comments:

Ivan G. said...

This is just one more reason why I revere the British--they're the ones who continued to recognize Pitney's important contributions to pop music long after he'd been forgotten in this country.

That Little Round-Headed Boy said...

THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE, truly one of the finest vocal performances of the early pop era, and probably Bacharach's most underrated song. You should check out Karen Schoemer's recent book on '50s pop idols, GREAT PRETENDERS. Pitney is not in the book, but her thesis matches yours. Basically, she says, popular music is the only history that is based on coolness/hipness standards dictated by critics (mostly males) and not based on simple, verifiable, objective facts, but based solely on subjective opinions. Therefore, artists who sold millions of records and pleased millions of fans, as Pitney and others surely did, are relegated to the margins because they do not meet the cognoscenti's definition of cool. I think you could make the same argument for film and other cultural endeavors, as well, and I'm sure many of us would hate to see certain films that are very popular be considered the greatest because they simply pleased the masses, but she makes a very compelling, straightforward argument. Anyway, may the Rebel rest in peace. And you're right about the British — they understood Brian Wilson long before we did.

Bill said...

Pitney was one of the greats. And at least he's in the R&R Hall of Fame.a

Richard Gibson said...

This is a great picture Tom and a nice post. I was in the city that day and caught a glimpse of the headline but it just said 'Pop legend dies' or somesuch, I had no idea who it was until I got to a PC.

I'm a big Scott Walker fan myself. He lives in London, you probably know this but he's lived here since The Walker Brothers. He's a massive recluse, I think there's something crazy like only 2 recordings of him making any kind of an appearance in the 80's at all. Anyway, he must have got a bit more willing to be seen in public as he selected the acts for Meltdown in 2000. I went to see a couple, one of which was Hannah Schygulla, famous for her films with Rainer Werner Fassbinder, anyway Walker was hanging around after that, although most people probably walked past him not knowing it was him. For me Scott 3 is one of the best LP's of all time. I know it doesn't tie in too much with the passing of Gene Pitney but I thought I'd share that with you all the same.

TLRHB - I'm off to research the Karen Schoemer book you mention.

swac said...

LOVE Scott Walker. Actually saw a recent interview with him on YouTube, about his upcoming new album which is due any day now. I have his first four albums, and the recent five-disc box set. A great, uncompromising talent. And he's said he's not a recluse, he just has a knack for staying out of the media when he wants to, and only makes records when he feels like he has something to say. Gotta respect that.
As for Pitney...my favourite track of his is Mecca...great over the top pop tune with crazy Middle Eastern overtones. Revolutionary for its time. Also liked his duet with Mark Almond (of Soft Cell fame).

Richard Gibson said...

Stephen, I am very grateful for you pointing me to You Tube, I'd seen a couple of clips on Flikhead's blog but hadn't realised what a treasure trove there was on there.

The Scott interview is interesting, he seems at ease and he rebuffs the interviewer calling him reclusive quite nicely and his point about only coming out when he has something to say is a valid one. As you say gotta respect that. There is a lot of mystery around the godlike genius of Scott Walker.

Have you heard the track/album 'Any Day Now'? That's an underated album as is 'Stretch', I recommend those as well if you haven't heard them.