INTERVIEWER(S): Richard Allinson
SUMMARY: Radio interview to promote UK 2003 tour.
BROADCAST DATE: Thursday 13th February 2003
RUNNING TIME: 11 minutes 51 seconds (excluding songs).
KEY: RA=Richard Allinson
..........GP=Gene Pitney

(Transcriber’s note: There are several names mentioned in this interview that I don't know/can't understand and therefore don't know the spelling of...I have done my best to get it to as close as it sounds)

RA: And we’ve got Gene Pitney on Late Night Radio 2, right after Ricky Nelson...You know why I’m playing this, don’t you?
<<'Hello Mary Lou' by Ricky Nelson>>
RA: Ba-Boom-Tish, or should it be ‘Cha-Cha-Cha’? I always forget how that one, ho- Well, how you come off the back of that record, probably. H-Hello Mary Lou by the excellent Mr Ricky Nelson. Uh, the song written by the man who’s sitting with us on Late Night Radio 2 tonight: Mr Gene Pitney. And, it’s good to see you again.
GP: Hi Richard.
RA: Uh, the last time we met I said ‘Have you lost weight?’ and you said ‘Yeah, a little bit’, and that was about eighteen months ago. You’ve joined a gym since then.
GP: I...I was in a gym then, but I’m in better regimentation now. I’m...I’m doing it-
RA: Right.
GP: -a little bit stiffer. Actually I dropped the, uh, personal trainer since then.
RA: Good.
GP: And I think I’m more regimented than she was.
RA: That’s a bit...’Personal Trainer's’ a bit too LA
GP: What, by the wording you mean?
RA: Yeah.
GP: Yeah. <laugh> Alright.
RA: It’s a bit <small chuckle>...’Cos I don’t think it’s got anything to do with keeping fit.
GP: I’m my own trainer now!
RA: Yeah, I thought so! Slimmer and fitter.
GP: <sipping sound>
RA: Hasn’t joined the gym. Um, it’s good to see you again. Is the tea going down well?
GP: Ohh, it tastes great.
RA: ‘Cos when you sip it like that it sounds like-
GP: I’ve been talking my head off.
RA: Yeah...When you sip it like that it sounds like <chuckle> you’re doing something entirely different.
GP: Can you hear all that on the mic as well?
RA: Oh, oh yes, we can hear everything!...Um, another long, long gig list, um, but it’s...It’s twenty-one dates you’re doing-
GP: Right.
RA: -as opposed to, I think, the...uh...the quarter-century you did the last time <shuffling papers> you were here.
GP: Yeah, we did twenty-five and those...That last week is the one that really starts to hurt - catch up with you.
RA: How many do you do a year, on average? Do you keep count? <sniff>
GP: I did seventy-two concerts last year between, uh, the end of January and the middle of July, so-
RA: You do keep count.
GP: Yeah...Only because that was unusual - the...a lot of the tours were back-to-back last year, and just fit that when they gave me this induction into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall Of Fame it was smack-dab in the middle - I had, like, a two week window. And it fell on March 18th - right in the middle of the two
RA: Fantastic. What happens at those inductions? ‘Cos they announce them and then you’’re inducted, aren’t you?
GP: It’s an absolute zoo!
RA: Re- <laugh>
GP: <chuckle> It really is. It’s the funniest thing. Somebody said to me ‘make sure you take your sense of humour with you when you go to do this thing’.
RA: Right.
GP: It’s in a...a ballroom. You know, first of all I didn’t realise that the physical Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall Of Fame is in Cleveland, Ohio.
RA: Hm-mm.
GP: This thing - the induction - has nothing to do with that whatsoever. This is like a...a creation of the hierachy of the music industry. When I looked out - when I was up on stage - in the sea of faces in front I saw all these people that over the years I have known that all run all the different..Clive Davis, uh, Armed Urdegan, uh,...
RA: Yeah.
GP: ...Chris Blackwell. All these people were sitting-
RA: The big guys.
GP: It was almost like, and looking out at these people and any minute you’re gonna get a thumbs up or a thumbs down-
RA: <chuckle>
GP: -and the lions were gonna come ripping in from the side of the stage and either take you out. But the, uh...the presentation itself...There’s three thousand people there - it’s a very big at the Waldorf Astoria-
RA: Yeah.
GP: -in New York. It’s all disjointed. And you’re also...You always go...Whenever you work in a ballroom in any hotel you always have to go through the kitchen to get on stage.
RA: Mm.
GP: I don’t care where it is in the world, it’s always the same.
RA: It’s traditional.
GP: Yeah. I can’t tell you how many guys with double trays came wheelin’ at me as I went through the night with my tux on. And I thought they were gonna take me out before I got on stage. But they disjointed it because you would sing your songs at one period of time, then - *way* on down the road - you would get inducted with the induction speech. So wasn’t like ‘da-da-da-da inducted now: Gene Pitney’ and then you would go and sing your songs.
RA: Right.
GP: It didn’t work that way. For...For whatever reason...For VH1 who was filming it - it was for their benefit.
RA: And do they induct more than one artist at once?
GP: No. They have one, uh, inductor-
RA: Right.
GP: -the person who is doing the induction for you, and, uh, there’s...uhhh, I’m not sure if it was eight people...I think it’s eight different artists that are inducted-
RA: Right. So-
GP: -s-same evening.
RA: -as an inductee how long does the whole thing last?
GP: <laugh>
RA: Sounds like a week!
GP: Yeah. Oh, it went on for ever. Starts at 7 o’clock with a meal. And, you know, I’m very, very careful...I was having, urm...
RA: You can’t eat before you sing, can you?
GP: No. But luckily it was just grilled salmon. You know, I...I...I just figured on killing somebody in the front row with a dislodged piece-
RA: <laugh>
GP: -of grilled salmon, you know, as the show went on. <laugh>
RA: Those old fish bones - they can get stuck in there.
GP: I know!
RA: There goes the career!
GP: But it was a, uhhh, a great evening. I mean, you don’t go up...This thing doesn’t start ‘til 8:15. And it finished at about half past twelve or 1 o’clock in the morning.
RA: Right.
GP: They tried to do my song with Darlene Love - who was the original singer on ‘He’s A Rebel’-
RA: Yeah.
GP: -and they tried to do ‘He’s A Rebel’ as one of the, urm, after-the-fact - when the thing was all over...A jam session-
RA: Right.
GP: -as they call it.
RA: ‘Cos you wrote that song for The Crystals, didn’t you?
GP: Right.
RA: Yeah.
GP: It...It all fell apart...It was God awful...Most of the people had already gone home.
RA: <small sniffle of laughter>
GP: They...They did this thing, uh-
RA: You make it sound farcical! <laugh>
You know this song...I don’t whether it’s called ‘To The River’...Is that the title of it? ‘#To the river, junk-junk-junk#’
RA: That’ll do.
GP: ‘#To th-#’ Just keeps going ‘#To the river!#’ over and over and over again. Well, that was their jam session song, and they just did that over and over and over and over again. Then I was supposed to start to do the ‘He’s A Rebel’ jam session, right? And I was making my way up on the stage with my microphone and they all said ‘No. No. No, we’re gonna do it again!’ <chuckle> And that was it-
RA: <chuckle> Oh, no.
GP: -everybody went home. Everybody got up and I could just see everybody trailing out, so-
RA: So you’re really delighted to be inducted into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall Of Fame!? <laugh>
GP: It was...As long as you bring your sense of humour, it was fun.
RA: Gene Pitney’s with us on Late Night Radio 2 tonight-
GP: <sipping sound>
RA: -just a-ahead of the UK tour. That tea’s going down remarkably well, you wouldn’t believe it.
GP: Oh, it’s so good. Just keep it strong.
RA: Um, is there one song - ‘cos you do all these gigs and you’ve been gigging for years - um, is...Is there one song that you’d get lynched if you left the stage without singing?
GP: (pause) Probably now ‘Something’s Gotten Hold Of My Heart’, which is a great song. When it was a big hit again with, uh, Marc Almond-
RA: Yep.
GP: -I called one of the writers - Roger Cook - uh, at his office in Nashville. And I said ‘Roger...’ - he didn’t even know that it had done what it had done ‘cos it jumped so quickly into all the charts...And I said ‘Have you got anymore of those?’ And he’s got this real deep voice and he said ‘Gene, you only get one of those in a lifetime’. <chuckle>
RA: <chuckle> Which is the best intro to that song I’ve ever, ever heard.
GP: Ahh!
<<’Something’s Gotten Hold Of My Heart’ - original 1967 version>>
RA: Did you only get one of those? Uh, Gene Pitney’s with us on Late Night Radio 2. And don’t forget, if you wanna play...
<<break for commercials and 11 O’Clock news>>
RA: Late Night Radio 2.
GP: <sipping sound>
RA: It’s Thursday night. My name’s Richard Allinson with Gene Pitney and the biggest cup of tea I think we’ve ever <chuckle> had in the length-
GP: You hear that slurp it’s only ‘cos it’s delicious!
RA: <chuckle> Yeah. Uh, we played just before the news, uh, the original version of ‘Something’s Gotten Hold Of My Heart’. Th-The...You had it...a hit with it again with Marc Almond-
GP: Right.
RA: -a few years ago now. And, um, the vide-...I remember the video was...was filmed, um, with all these old bits of neon in the background. And, apparently it was quite dangerous...
GP: Well...It’s the most exciting thing I think I’ve ever done.
RA: Mm.
GP: My entire career was that video. It was in...I mean, only in Las Vegas can you have a place called The Neon Junkyard. And all it was was neon signs from the big casinos that over the years they had just piled up there. And whoever went in there had a brilliant idea - they just took all the broken signs, built the stage right in front of a whole pile of ‘em and then hotwired the, uh, the neons, and so part of them lit up, part of them didn’t light up and it was just brilliant there in the m-...’cos it was night time by the time we got out there to do that. We started it at the, uh, Tropicana Hotel - the original part of the video-
RA: Right.
GP: -then moved out into the desert. Freezing cold - God does it get cold out there! I mean, during the day-
RA: Red hot.
GP: -you’re seventy-five, eighty degrees. And then at night when that desert...When that sun goes down...Phooh...But, the...Being out in the desert with this booming sound system. And, I mean, the poor cameramen were completely wrapped in blankets with belts around the outside of ‘em with big, fur hats on and towels-
RA: <sniffle of laughter>
GP: -over their ears and everything. That’s how cold it was. And they were up on the, uh, whatever you call that thing...
RA: The cranes.
GP: Yeah.
RA: Yeah.
GP: That shoots up so that can shoot down.
RA: And you just had a tuxedo on, didn’t you, I think?
GP: Yeah, well, I had to go out, do it as quickly as we could - the parts of it that we were doing - and then run back into these trailers that they for u- Just to keep warm. I had a wicked headache the next day.
RA: <laugh>
GP: I also hit a jackpot that night on the slot machine.
RA: This is rock ‘n’ roll! Um, in the area of the rather dubious area of firsts, cos, uh, we...We played, uh, Ricky Nelson ‘Hello Mary Lou’ - the song you wrote. Urm...
GP: Right.
RA: You also wrote ‘He’s A Rebel’, uh, for The Crystals...Uh, you also wrote, uh, ‘Rubber Ball’ for Bobby Vee - although if you look at the publishing credits-
GP: <sipping sound>
RA: -it’’s your mother’s maiden name you use, isn’t it? Orlovski?
GP: Ann Orlowski. Right.
RA: ‘Orlowski’, right, okay. Um, also you are...W-we discovered recently, um, the...Because the Rolling Stones, Keith Richards and, uh, Mick Jagger, gave you a song...’This Girl Belongs To Yesterday’...and apart from the Stones - obviously - you are the first artist to take a Jagger/Richards song into the US charts.
GP: Right.
RA: And I didn’t know that.
GP: Yeah, that was the first one. I was here and they played me a track that they had recorded with a guy...Believe his name was George Bean...And they didn’t like it the way it came out. But when I heard the track of the song I thought ‘Wow! That really is terrific. I love the strengty of it - the power and the enerhy’, you know? But it didn’t fit with the type of song that I was having success with melodically.
RA: Mm.
GP: So I said to them ‘Can I change this melody over that same track to make it fit what I’m doing right now?’ and they said ‘Go for ir.’ So, we were at, um, Olympia Sound and we re-recorded it and I took it back to the States with me, and the guy at the record company loved it. So they put it out and it was their first...(pause)...first hit in the US.
RA: Did you feel...’Cos th-the one thing about your career is...Well, the two things about your career...One: Yo-You’re synonymous with those big production ballads.
GP: Right.
RA: And-
GP: <sipping sound>
RA: -your voice fits those big production ballads. But you also seem to choose the right material, and...Were you aware that you were gonna be successful with them or did you just feel more comfortable singing those sort of songs?
GP: It just happened - it evolved. There wasn’t any planning on making those big, uh, songs, and - actually - what happened was the market split for me as well. The big songs became more successful in the UK and Europe when...where the up-tempo songs stayed constant in the US market-
RA: Yeah.
GP: -so it made it harder because it meant now you’re looking for a double set of songs when you go in to do a recording session.
RA: So you gotta keep your voice working.
GP: That’s going very well <sound of shuffling papers in background> and a lot of it’s got to do with that...uh...the gym and the, uh, working out. The stamina and the aerobics makes it so much easier.
RA: But Gene Pitney, he’s just so fit it’s unbelievable. Uh, May 13th, Dublin National Concert Hall. It all wraps up on...some time in June,uh, in the London Palladium. And you haven’t added ed-...any extra dates yet. I reckon you might.
GP: Yeah? No. I don’t know.
RA: You sure?
GP: No, that’s good enough for me. I mean, I’ll have done it...Given it all away by the time I get to the Palladium.
RA: I also had a call from Sue Lawley the other day ‘cos, um, you’re on Desert Island Discs in a couple o’ weeks time.
GP: Ah! She’s great! Yeah, I had a wonderful time doing that.
RA: And, um, I-I’ve got your running order here. I’ve got the stuff you’’ve chosen. Um, you’ve got some Norah Jones, some Gypsy Kings.
GP: Right.
RA: You got ‘Time To Say Goodbye’ sung by Andrea Boccelli and Sarah Brightman.
GP: Right.
RA: Um, Elton John, some Chuck Willis with ‘CC Rider’, and...uh...Chuck Berry’s ‘Roll Over Beethoven’.
GP: Right.
RA: Fantastic.
GP: Pretty ecclectic group.
RA: Are you sure you’d be okay on a desert island with all those?
GP: Well, I don’t know. But I gotta tell ya, at the end of the show what my wife said. You know you get a luxury as well to take with you?
RA: Yeah.
GP: And my book was ‘Great Mensa Riddles’, I think it is,
RA: <chuckle>
GP: -and my-
RA: Why?
GP: -my luxury-
RA: What the hell for?
GP: Because I didn’t want to take a book to read. I wanted something that was gonna be challenging to me. That...Something’d mentally keep me...
RA: Yeah.
GP: know.
RA: ‘Cos you’re not allowed to build the boat and get the hell off this desert island part work.
GP: No. But I-
RA: You’re not allowed that.
GP: I went a step further. My luxury was a case of Opus One Wine, which is a fantastic wine from the Roughchild Mondavi - the two-
RA: Yeah.
GP: -families, uh, put together. My wife said to me, when she...I told her what I was doing...I was at the computer one day and she said ‘Are there any trees on that island?’
RA: <snort of laughter>
GP: And I said ‘Why?’. She said ‘Because knowing you, if you get into that Mensa book and you can’t handle puzzles that are there, you’re gonna drink that case of wine and you’re gonna want a tree to hang yourself’. <laugh>
RA: Very good. <small chuckle> Let’s hope you never get there! Uh, Gene Pitney will be in a town near you, uh, very, very shortly. It’s good to see you again.
GP: Thank you, Richard.
RA: You’re always welcome on the radio-
GP: Nice to be back.
RA: -(
Transcriber’s note: RA says something else, but it’s not clear as he says it at same time Gene says his line)
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