Wednesday, April 05, 2006

A Town Without Pitney

Gene Pitney was found dead in his hotel room in Cardiff yesterday. He was on a UK tour, where he enjoyed great popularity, ending his career with a standing ovation Tuesday night, 14 shows into a 23-date tour.

An early example of the singer/songwriter, Pitney had more success as a writer than a performer in the U.S. Ricky Nelson had a huge hit with "Hello, Mary Lou", the Crystals cut his "He's A Rebel", and Pitney wrote "Today's Teardrops", the B-side to Roy Orbison's million-selling "Blue Angel". His cover of a Jagger/Richards song, "That Girl Belongs to Yesterday", was the Rolling Stones' first appearance on a U.S. chart. Pitney was introduced to Mick and Keith by their manager, Andrew Loog Oldham, and subsequently played maracas on the Stones' version of Buddy Holly's "Not Fade Away", and piano on other tracks.

In 1961, while working with legendary producer Phil Spector, he recorded the song that was to be his breakthrough hit,"Town Without Pity". The title track from the film of the same name, "Pity" was a hit record in 1962. Burt Bacharach and Hal David were a steady source of material in the early 60's: "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance", "Only Love Can Break A Heart" - his biggest hit ever, and "Twenty Four Hours From Tulsa". He later recorded a couple of duet albums with country legend George Jones. Pitney had 16 Top Forty songs in the USA from 1961 to 1968, and he had 40 such songs in the UK through 1974. In 2002 he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

In an interview with Australian publication "The Age", Pitney gave his thoughts on modern recording technology and Pop.
As a student of electronic engineering in the '50s, and an early studio colleague of both Phil Spector and the Rolling Stones, Pitney has come as close as anyone to the original essence of the classic pop single.

"When I began recording, the technology was not anywhere near what we have today," he says. "Preparation was of supreme importance; that meant the producer, arranger, musicians and artist all had to peak in the three-hour session."

Although a big fan of digital recording, Pitney says there is often a shortfall between production and songcraft. "I feel that technology is used to the point of overkill . . . it covers a multitude of sins on inferior songs."

Read more details from the BBC article that I liberally borrowed from here


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