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Gene Pitney dies in Wales after gig

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PostPosted: Thu Apr 06, 2006 9:42 am    Post subject: Gene Pitney dies in Wales after gig Reply with quote

The World Today - Gene Pitney dies in Wales after gig

[This is the print version of story http://www.abc.net.au/worldtoday/content/2006/s1610347.htm]

The World Today - Thursday, 6 April , 2006 12:48:00
Reporter: Paula Kruger
ELEANOR HALL: He was one of the unsung heroes of the rock 'n' roll era, a musician, a talented songwriter and an emotive singer.

And last night Gene Pitney died in a hotel room in Wales just hours after he came off stage after a performance which left an adoring audience on its feet.

Today, music fans around the world are remembering the man whose long career included hits like '24 hours from Tulsa' and who was a major player in the evolution of pop music.

Paula Kruger compiled this tribute to Gene Pitney.

(Sound of 'Liberty Valance')

PAULA KRUGER: When Gene Pitney got his first break in the music business he was just a shy young man from a poor Connecticut family.

By his own account, the wild and often eccentric world of rock and roll was run by big fat men with cigars, as he explained to the ABC in this interview recorded in November 2003.

GENE PITNEY: The guy that brought me to New York the first time, brought me into George Goldner's office to see if he would record me.

I was in an outer office that had a piano and he came crashing through the door and said, "Sing!" I was just a green kid from this little town in Connecticut, you know.

I sat down and I played a couple of the songs I'd been writing, and he said, "Stop!" He said, "When's your birthday?" And I said, "February 17th." And he said, "Sign him!" And he said, "But he's an Aquarian!" But I didn't know anything about the signs at the time and I thought the guy said I was an aquarium.

So when he went back in his office and stormed off again, I told the guy who I was travelling with, I said, "This guy is nuts," I said, "I'm out of here."

So we left and vanished and years later he heard the story back and he came to me somewhere we were and he was roaring laughing. He said, "I can't believe I lost you as an artist because you thought I called you an aquarium."

But those were the guys that ran the industry and they were bigger than life.

PAULA KRUGER: It was a great time to be in the business and Gene Pitney was at the heart of the music machine that sent pop hits around the world.

He caught the ear of song writing duo Burt Bacharach and Hal David and became known as one of the best interpreters of their music.

The collaboration gave Pitney his biggest hit.

(Sound of '24 Hours from Tulsa')

His dramatic tenor was one of the more remarkable voices of his age, but Pitney recalled during the recording of 'A Town Without Pity' it did have its limits.

GENE PITNEY: Went into the studio at about eight o'clock at night. When you're recording everything is done live, so all the musicians that were there, all the singers that were there, the background singers and everything - every time that they said, "Yeah that was alright but let's do it again this way," everybody had to do it again.

So this went on from eight o'clock at night. Four o'clock in the morning I'm running out of throat and it's going away rapidly.

What happened was, what started out being "When you're young and so in love as we…" became…

(Huskily) "When you're young and so..." and they said, that's it, that's what we're looking for.

(Sound of 'A Town Without Pity')

PAULA KRUGER: But he wasn't just a success as a singer and musician. He was also a songwriter. And along with producer Phil Spector, the pioneer of the wall of sound recording technique, Pitney was responsible for hits like Bobby Vee's 'Rubber Ball', Rick Nelson's 'Hello Mary Lou' and the biggest hit ever for the all girl group the Crystals.

(Sound of 'He's A Rebel')

Gene Pitney's fame in the US may have waned after his heyday in the 60s, but he remained a popular attraction in the UK and he was in the middle of a tour when he died. He was found in his hotel room in Cardiff, Wales.

His Tour Manager James Kelly said Pitney was found fully clothed and on his back as if he had just paused for a bit of a lie down.

And according to Kelly, Gene Pitney's last show was one of the happiest and most exuberant performances he'd ever seen.

GENE PITNEY: Let's say I'm not feeling well and somebody would say to me, "Just do an easy show, just go out and do a light…" - I can't!

I cannot do that kind of a show. I have to still put 150 per cent in to it and it's funny, it's so healing to do that. I've actually gone out feeling miserable… I had wicked cold.

I remember one night everything that was possibly wrong that could go wrong except, and I got it, the nose bleed that came while the orchestra was playing the overture and I got that cleared up just in time to walk out on stage. When I walked off and did the whole show, I felt terrific.

(Sound of '24 Hours From Tulsa')

ELEANOR HALL: A great performer to the end – Gene Pitney. Paula Kruger put together that tribute.

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PostPosted: Thu Apr 06, 2006 9:44 am    Post subject: Tributes to 'rare talent' Pitney Reply with quote

Tributes to 'rare talent' Pitney

Burt Bacharach and Marc Almond have paid tribute to the late US singer Gene Pitney, who died on Wednesday.

A 1989 duet with Almond gave Pitney his only UK number one single, 25 years after he scored a hit with Bacharach's song Twenty Four Hours From Tulsa.

"He was a rare talent and a beautiful man, and his voice was unlike any other," Bacharach said.

"I have great memories of working in the studio recording with Gene. He was a great guy, and I will miss him."

Other Bacharach songs Pitney recorded included The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance and Only Love Can Break A Heart.

He was a great, unique singer of great, unique songs
Marc Almond
The singer topped the UK chart with former Soft Cell singer Almond with Something's Gotten Hold Of My Heart.

The song first took Pitney to number five in 1967.

"I am deeply saddened and shocked by the death of Gene Pitney," Almond said.

It was "an honour to have worked with him", he said.

"He was a great, unique singer of great, unique songs. Today is a sad day."

Pitney was found dead in a Cardiff hotel room on Wednesday, midway through a UK tour.

He had shown no signs of illness and the cause of death is not yet known but is not suspicious.

DJ Paul Gambaccini said Pitney's career was boosted by the duet with Almond.

He said: "The song had been a top 10 hit for Pitney in the 1960s. Marc Almond wanted to do it himself because he loved it when he was a kid and thought 'why not get the originator on with me?'.

"So they met and they did a video, and here were these two people from two different generations, with completely different lifestyles, thrown together in the service of this monster hit.

"I would not have expected them to have been best of friends, and they didn't do anything else together, but it certainly helped both of their careers."

'Cared about music'

BBC Radio 2 head of music Colin Martin described Pitney as "incredible".

"He really spoke about teenage life in the early 1960s. There's nobody else on the music scene who has ever recaptured that," he said.

"He really cared about his music - he was constantly writing.

"He could choose a good song for himself to sing - that was one of his gifts. He wasn't overtaken by the fact that 'I need to write my own song', which of course a lot of artists have done and they've suffered for it.

"He was great at selecting good songs. And of course he worked with the Rolling Stones - they loved him."

Story from BBC NEWS:
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