Pitney’s career was still on the way up.
His career hadn’t been derailed by The Beatles or by changes in taste as had happened to so many other white male solo vocalists of the early 1960s.
Ultimately, it was the excessive noise and experimentation later in the decade as well as age that eventually ended his chart making status.
Pitney, though, was always more than the others of his ilk. He was the yard stick by which they all measured up to. He was never outright rock ‘n’ roll but there was a fair bit of rock attitude in his up-tempo pop but there was also soul, country, folk and trad pop balladry when he wanted it.
But, it is his ballads where the rock ‘n’ roll (attitude) is most noticeable.
The up-tempo pop rock song (as well as the rock ballad) is a style Elvis invented (whatever that word means). The arguments will always exist (especially amongst the slack jawed yokels) as to who (or what) invented rock ‘n’ roll when referring to the up-tempo rock we associate with the 50s, but, when it comes to the up-tempo pop rock song, Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, Little Richard, Fats Domino, Bill Haley never even attempted the same. Buddy Holly, The Everly Brothers and Charlie Rich did but they were a fraction later.
Pitney took those pop rock songs and added his musical personality to the mix just like Roy Orbison was doing in the (post-Sun records) MGM phase of his career.
Pitney was the natural successor to late 50s era Roy Orbison who was having concurrent hits but their personas were different. Orbison was thoughtful, mournful, and emotional but, perhaps, resigned to the difficulties that life throws up whereas Pitney was edgy, hyper emotional and not accepting.
Between them they created some of the best big ballads and pop of the 1960s.
Gene was no slouch when it came to writing songs but (much like Johnny Cash) he never felt compelled to write all his material and would always draw on other people’s songs if he saw something in the lyric. And, like Cash, or any great singer, he interprets the song and adapts it to his musical personality and world view.
Here, Gene writes a few tunes, records some songs by established songwriters like Bacharach-David, Udell-Geld, and Pomus-Shuman, and also records songs by new talents which would become influential in music like Al Kooper and Randy Newman. There are relatively fewer covers than you would expect for an album of this type.
The songs are linked thematically by love in all its phases: new love, lost love, love gone bad, bad love, lustful love, rejected love, re-found love but, then again, there are precious few Pitney song that aren’t about love.
The beauty is of course if doesn’t matter if Gene writes the song or someone else does because they all end up sounding like Gene Pitney songs.
I have never shied away from an album populated by covers (if it comes from the right era) but Gene’s choice of new material is what gives him the edge over other male vocalists. Of course the beauty is that with him being a hit maker meant he got, potentially, first choice on newly written songs.
Tracks (best in italics)
- I Must Be Seeing Things – (Bob Brass, Al Kooper, Irwin Levine) – first released by Gene. A magnificent ode to a potential broken love. Hyper emotional which captures the anguish of the narrator.
- Marianne – (Gene Pitney) – could this possibly be a song for Marianne Faithfull, with whom Gene had a brief fling in the mid-'60s? The song both flatters the title character and is also quite realistic about the vicissitudes of life.
- Save Your Love – (Pitney) – a plea to keep love pure till the narrator returns.
- Down in the Subway – (Peter Udell, Gary Geld) – talented US composers Udell and Geld composed the immortal “Sealed with a Kiss”. I prefer being "Down in the Subway" than "Down in the Tubestation at Midnight"
- If Mary's There – (Udell, Geld) – first recorded by Brian Hyland in 1963.
- Don't Take Candy From A Stranger – (Bob Brass, Al Kooper, Irwin Levine) – it seems this was first released by Gene. Sage advice though there is more than on meaning here.
- One Day – (Doc Pomus, Mort Shuman) – it seems this was first released by Gene. A warning with certainty about what the girl will miss.
- She's Still There – (Kooper, Levine) – Patient love. First released by Gene.
- Just One Smile – (Randy Newman) – first done by The Tokens in 1965 then covered by Blood sweat & Tears in 1968. A hyper emotional mid-tempo ballad. The narrators position is immediately palatable. A great song. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Just_One_Smile
- There's No Livin's Without Your Lovin' – (Jerry Harris, Paul Kaufman) – first released by Gene. But covered by Manfred Mann later in 1965 and Peter & Gordon in 1966. (and then Mink DeVille in 1985). I can see why the British Beat groups took a shine to this.
- I Lost Tomorrow (Yesterday) – (Jay Darrow) – it seems this was first released by Gene.
- If I Never Get To Love You – (Hal David, Burt Bacharach) –first recorded by Lou Johnson in 1962 but Marianne Faithful did a version in 1965 (just before Gene?). A beautiful song with tasteful strings.
Wonderful … I'm keeping it.
1965 I Must Be Seeing Things #31 Pop
1967 Just One Smile #64 Pop
1966 Just One Smile #8
1965 #15 (as "Looking through the Eyes of Love" – see note at end)
1966 Just One Smile #55
I Must Be Seeing Things
Save Your Love
Down In the Subway
If Mary's There
Don't Take Candy from a Stranger
She's Still There
Just One Smile
There's No Livin' Without Your Lovin'
I Lost Tomorrow (Yesterday)
If I Never Get To Love You
- This album (in its American and Australian pressings) has the song "If I Never Get to Love You" whilst UK copies have "Looking Through the Eyes of Love". I believe it was normal for US and Australian copies, to have the former track. The UK release of the album featured "Looking through the Eyes of Love" which was a Top 10 hit in the US, UK as well as Canada. The album was released as "Looking through the Eyes of Love" on the Stateside label in the United Kingdom. The American album "Looking through the Eyes of Love" also released in 1965 had a totally different track listing apart from the title track.
RIP: Red West (1936-2017)