INTERVIEWERS: Dermot Murnaghan and
Now, he's credited with helping the Rolling Stones crack America
and is the man behind scoresof hits including Ricky Nelson's 'Hello Mary Lou' and
Bobby Vee's 'Rubber Ball'.
DM: But it was the hit '24 Hours From Tulsa' and the massive 'Something's Gotten Hold Of My Heart' that endeared Gene Pitney to the British nation and after nearly thirty years - believe it or not - in showbusiness-
NK: (small laugh)
DM: -he's still belting out hits on stages across the world. We'll be talking to him in just a minute, but first here he is in action - get a look at this...
|'Something's Gotten Hold Of My Heart': clip
of Gene on stage circa 1970's/fade to duet with Marc
Almond on Top Of The Pops in 1989/fade back to 1970's
fade to - ''24 Hours From Tulsa': performance clip from circa 1970's.
fade to - 'Looking Through The Eyes Of Live' from concert at the Foxwoods Casino (USA) in 1999.
Note: as interview continues, the
same sequence of clips play in rotation on two large screens in
NK: Gene Pitney, welcome.
GP: Good morning!
NK: Fabulous to meet you.
GP: Another sunny day in London.
NK: Oh, isn't it just (giggle)
DM: (laugh) You've seen our weather forecast.
GP: Oh, wow.
NK: You brought your umbrella, no doubt?
NK: Now, listen, would it all have been the same for Homer Muzzy? This was the...the name that-
DM: (laugh) Who?
NK: -the record company wanted to call you at the beginning.
GP: Can you imagine if somebody got hung with that for the rest of their life?
GP: I mean the record people had given me two names before that: I was Jamie of 'Jamie and Jane' and then some really creative person called me Billy Bryan-
GP: -after that. And when it came down to Homer Muzzy...I said "That's it!" For some reason they...they didn't like 'Gene Pitney' and you don't know 'cos you're too close to it...I didn't realise whether it was a good name or a bad name, y-
NK: Well, it certainly turned out to be alright for you in the end, I bet.
GP: Yeah, it was alright.
NK: Better than Homer Muzzy, anyway (laugh)
GP: My mother was a happy lady.
DM: Would have put Homer Simpson out of a job, maybe.
DM: Now, thirty years in the business al-
GP: Actually, closer to forty.
DM: -alw- It's more, is it? Y-
GP: Yeah. <<Gene says something else but it's not clear>>
DM: So when...When...When precisely did you start? Did you start as a boy?
GP: Urrm, I was about nineteen or something like that, but it was about, uh, '61 - I think - was the first hit. So long time, but I still love it - I really do.
NK: But it's extraordinary, isn't it? I mean, your...Your career has spanned so many decades and you've been so successful and enjoyed such success as a writer as well. I mean, do you find that aspect really...re- It comes easy to you? Or do you have to struggle with that m-more than the singing?
GP: No, I think that they're all individual. I love...um...The songwriting to me is a unique thing because you create something, is kinda like your baby and then to hear it produced, maybe, by somebody else a-a different way than you envisioned it...That's - you know - on one side of it. The...The performing side of it is s-something again unique...Doing a live performance like th-the concert tour I have coming up.
GP: Uhhh, on the given night when everything works - when the sound is right, and the audience is right, the band is playing right you feel good.
DM: Y-You really like that kind of sense of feedback. But w-we talk...We talk now about this forty-year career and we...we talked about you belting it out in those clips - we really see that. You really give-
GP: The only way I can do it.
DM: But have you found the voice has changed at all over the years? Other...Other singers have said as they get on a little bit in years it gets a little difficult to hit some of the notes.
GP: I have to say - and I'm speaking objectively - but I really feel that I'm better today than I was during the period of time that these songs were hits back in the Sixties, and it's all got to do with taking care of yourself...I have a regimine, um, with a trainer in the gym which I didn't realise was going to relate so much to performing. But it really does. The stamina level and the aerobic level that it gives you is just amazing. The...The difference on stage-
DM: And that's made a-a difference to the voice, as well, the physical fitness?
GP: Yes. When we do a tour one of the criteria is to have a gym and a swimming pool in all the hotels, and if anybody ever told me that you can do an hour and a half in the gym in the afternoon, then do an hour and a half on stage that night and feel better for it I would have said "No, you-you're crazy," but it really works that way. It-
GP: It makes it almost effortless as far as the touri-...the, uh, show is concerned.
NK: It's clearly working for you. An-and what's interesting is how popular you are around the world. I mean, I taly and Spain particular, and you've recorded a lot of your songs in Italian. I mean, are you fluent, or you've had to learn it, or why...Why Italian?
GP: I leaned...I was there enough times in the Sixties where if I wanted to speak to women or I wanted-
GP: -to eat I had to learn-
NK: (laugh) Crucial!
GP: -I had to learn a little bit.
NK: Those things are crucial! (laugh)
GP: But then, about - maybe - six, seven years ago I didn't have enough vocabulary. So, in my gym at home I have a thing called a Nordatrac, which is like a innerplace ski thing.
DM: I know. Yeah. Yeah. (laugh)
NK: I know, yeah, the torture machines - I've been on one of them.
GP: And I put a cassette in, uh, a vocabulary thing in Italian and just in...put the earphones on whenever I was working out and just increased the vocabulary. And then went back to Catania in Sicily and it was my trial by fire...We did the whole thing i-in Italian.
GP: Yeah. I'm sure it was grammatically incorrect, but-
NK: And all you were saying-
GP: -they didn't care.
NK: -was 'Speed up your heart rate'.
GP: That's right! (laugh)
DM: Right - put the wrong tape in...Yeah...You go a bit faster... Now, we saw a clip of you a bit earlier there duetting with, um, Marc Almond...
DM: Now, that was some years back. It's become pretty common now to put two different characters together, like they say, wi-with one of these classics. But...But at the time it was a bit of a revelation. What...Why do you decide to do that?
GP: I had nothing to do with the idea at all. I gotta give all the credit to Marc...He was the one that took the song - and it was a hit for me in '67 they tell me - and he said, you know, 'if we do this the way I'm thinking about it, like, for this period of time - for the Nineties - with a different sound to it I really think this could be successful all over again'. And I almost didn't do it as I was on tour and I had to come in to London and then go on after the recording session - eleven o'clock in the morning - and I had to go on somewhere up North...And I had to go in and do two full versions...Marc wasn't even in the country at the time. When he came back and recorded his version he put the two together and the next time I heard it...I mean, it sounded like we were standing next to each other in the studio now.
DM: That's it.
GP: But it went on to be such a monstrous hit, I couldn't believe it.
DM: Yeah. D-
NK: Wha-what's interesting this morning, actually, Gene...when we said that you were coming in-
NK: -and e-mails have just been coming in thick and fast-
NK: -it's been fascinating.
NK: And what I wanted to ask you, because last time you were here was...you arrived on September the 10th-
GP: Oh, boy.
NK: -just before the September the 11th disaster.
GP: I seem to bring 'em - we don't want them this time of the year.
NK: Yeah, exactly.
DM: Now you arrive at Heathrow and it's full of soldiers-
NK: And-and now you're at Heathrow and, yeah, there's a whole load of tanks beat. You worrying about getting back?
GP: I came in on the 10th and I started, uh, doing some interviews and I was looking through a glass wall at one of the, uh, radio stations in London and I saw all the airplanes and the crash and I thought 'Why are they showing films in here?'
GP: And I didn't realise what'd happened, you know?
DM: Well, best of luck with the tour, Gene. STarts in May, over in Dublin, doesn't it? And then...
GP: May 13th in Dublin and we finish at the Palladium on June 8th. I gotta ask you one question.
GP: What is a 'square-legged umpire'?
DM: (loud laugh)
GP: What is that?
DM: We'll bring Rob back-
DM: -for that.
GP: You don't know?
DM: You can't ask Natasha...
NK: It's...It's the same as a in-swinging yorker-
NK: Is that right?
NK: (loud laugh)
DM: Natasha's the cricket expert as you can tell...
NK: I don't know very much cricket test. I just know two things (laugh).
GP: Oh, right. Caught my eye.
DM: While you're in your hotel room get off the Nordic Ski Track and watch a bit of satellite television.
GP: Will do.
DM: Mind you, they seem to spend most of the time arguing, so you might not...
NK: Gene, it's fantastic to meet you. Best of luck-
GP: Thanks very much. Thank you.
NK: -with the tour. That's great. Wonderful to meet you.
DM: Great to see you.
GP: Thank you.