Aug 10

MARC ALMOND WITH GENE PITNEY – “Something’s Gotten Hold Of My Heart”

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#622, 28th January 1989

Reaction amongst friends at the time was a sort of bemused approval: it was a Good Thing for this kind of record to get to number one, but nobody really seemed to love it, and the Pitney/Almond team up was faintly baffling. Of course, that was the odd-couple appeal of it: a gentleman from some ancient past allied to a leathered perv from a more recent one. And even though I remembered “Tainted Love”, in the bright world of Kylie and Jason both pasts seemed equally lost, both sides of this revenant alliance surprising.

Twenty years later, “Something’s Gotten Hold Of My Heart” has aged well, and seems to look forward rather than back – the cross-generational duet became a 90s fad, then a commonplace, and by the end of that decade we had Tom Jones and Cerys Matthews crooning at each other, and Jarvis Cocker writing for Tony Christie. Placed in that micro-continuum “Something” has aged rather well, mostly because neither singer acknowledges the curiosity value or leans too hard on their particular schtick. Almond, with a chance to be the old-style showman he’s always wanted to be, puts his back into it. Pitney glides witchily over the top with rather less audible effort but still steals the show.

So why Pitney anyway, and why this? Almond may have felt some sympathy for a man who’d began his prime decade as a new star only to not quite fit in. The Gene Pitney past feels exotic partly because it never really happened: he’s a wanderer from a parallel 60s, where rock’n’roll gave the pop establishment a shot in the arm then slipped into history. Or he might just have been attracted to Pitney’s voice, which could give corny material a sense of urgent dread – “24 Hours From Tulsa” being the obvious example, where the compulsion and mystery in the song is all down to Pitney’s delivery. As for the choice of song, Nick Cave had covered it before Almond took it on, identifying the Gothic streak in it which this version acknowledges and ripens. The strings do the heavy lifting, the intro cutting through whatever else was on 1989 playlists and the arrangement helping the two singers locate the exact point where kitsch bleeds into mystery.



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  1. 61
    swanstep on 8 Aug 2010 #

    Can anyone point me to a list of the #2s or to a charts data-base that allows one to ask queries along the lines of ‘What are all the #2s?’ I don’t have much of an intuitive grip on the subject and, since becoming a Popularista, my general sense has become that #2s are just pretty awesome. And let’s face it, atrocities like ‘Every loser wins’ laugh at things like the Macerana (‘You think you’re amateurish? I’ll give you amaterish….’). Full marks for the silly dance and hotties in the vid. alone surely.

  2. 62
    Rory on 8 Aug 2010 #

    Swanstep, I found this list yesterday when I was thinking the same. Only goes up to 2007, but it’ll keep us going a while.

  3. 63
    Tom on 8 Aug 2010 #

    I used Everyhit which is a bit laborious. I dunno what Lena’s source is!

    I used to think it was just rose-tinting which made #2s seem often better than #1s but of course it’s not wholly that. Records which successfully cross-over from one music-buying audience to another will chart high but might get to #1 or #2 or anywhere in the top 5. Records which break out from the total audience – i.e. attract people who don’t usually buy any records at all – are more likely to get all the way to the top. They are also usually rubbish. Though from a reviewing perspective they’re rubbish in interesting ways at least.

  4. 64
    swanstep on 8 Aug 2010 #

    @Rory. Thanks, that link’s exactly what the doctor ordered.

    I have to say, I was expecting to eyeball some obvious, tragically terrible 2s out of the 70s and 80s, but there’s really an incredible amount of good to v. good stuff there. The first few things I thought *might* be unbearable, e.g., ‘Bridget the Midget’, ‘Floral Dance’, ELP doing Aaron Copland, even the bloody Smurfs, aren’t completely horrible at all. They certainly pass any conceivable reviewers’ standard of ‘rubbish but interestingly so’. Again, Nick Berry laughs at such pretenders. :)

  5. 65
    wichita lineman on 8 Aug 2010 #

    Another #2 which won’t be troubling a ‘worst ever’ list is Gene P’s 1966 hit Nobody Needs Your Love, a desperate, dirt-eating Randy Newman song (‘I’ve tried so hard to make you see, that I’ll be what you want me to be’) which features his voice at it’s most needling, and really foreshadows Gary Numan’s voice-just-broken stylings, especially on the second verse. Again, it didn’t even reach the US Hot 100.

  6. 66
    Billy Smart on 8 Aug 2010 #

    ‘Nobody Needs Your Love’ is perhaps the quintessence of Pitney. It contains the particularly striking ultimatum –

    Take my heart!
    It’s all I’ve got to giiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiive!
    If you don’t want me –
    I don’t want to liiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiive!

    – which is no sensible way to persuade a girlfriend to come back to you.

  7. 67
    vinylscot on 8 Aug 2010 #

    Reading Rory’s list from post 62, it’s curious to note that there aren’t anywhere near as many bad number twos as bad number ones. Is there some unwritten law that states that real crap must not stop at number two? (Someone else can do the scatalogical puns)

  8. 68
    lonepilgrim on 8 Aug 2010 #

    Rory’s link is another great resource that could be added to the links in the side bar

  9. 69
    Snif on 9 Aug 2010 #

    “Red Sovine, there was a man who could teach so-called “balladeers” a thing or two about working a tear duct.”

    The story I heard was that Red used to do the song in concert and really lay on the pathos, leaving the audience wetting themselves with laughter – yes, it was a comedy number! He was approached by his manager, a producer, somebody, and told that if he recorded a copy of “Teddy Bear’ and did it dead straight, he’d have a stone cold motherless smasheroo….he did and did.

  10. 70
    MikeMCSG on 9 Aug 2010 #

    # 69 He was stone cold when it hit in Britain !

  11. 71
    punctum on 9 Aug 2010 #

    Unfortunately, yes – suffered a heart attack while driving his van, causing it to crash, in April 1980, a year before “Teddy Bear” crossed over to the UK charts (five years after I first heard Gambo play it on his American chart show; can’t remember whether the song’s belated success was yet another instance of the magic of Wogan).

    Our source for number 2s: we just go through ChartStats and write ‘em all down, but this link will save a whole lot of time and energy. Mind you, we also have a copy of The Complete NME Singles Charts and L may well be incorporating some of their number twos as a bonus. I know; there’s no end to it.

  12. 72
    Tom on 9 Aug 2010 #

    #67 – see #63 for my stab at a theory of why so many total stinkers get to #1 while good records stall at #2 (Briefly: The Great British Record Buying Public has basically good ears. But the Great British Don’t-Usually-Buy-Records-But-Isn’t-That-That-Nice-Boy-Off-Eastenders Public, er, don’t.)

    Though that doesn’t explain every stinker at number one. And on that note time to write the next entry…

  13. 73
    abaffledrepublic on 12 Aug 2010 #

    I had no idea there was so much love for the Macarena. I do take the points about great records being stuck at #2 while some rubbish gets to the top though-we’ve already had My Generation, Strawberry Fields, Vienna et al, and will happen time and again when we get to discussing the 90s number ones.

    How’s this for a stinker then: Love Shack by the B52s.

  14. 74
    Steve Mannion on 12 Aug 2010 #

    I don’t mind Love Shack at all. It’s a damn sight better than their Flintstones song (which could only make #3).

  15. 75
    Steve Mannion on 12 Aug 2010 #

    OK these are my least favourite/most hated number 2 hits of the 80s, just cos:

    1980: Happy Xmas (War Is Over)
    – don’t actually hate this but 1980 was actually a pretty good (and v disco) year for number 2 hits. I can’t remember Status Quo ‘What You’re Proposing’ tho.

    1981: despite Birdie Song, Hooked On Classics and Stars On 45 I’ll go for Shakey’s You Drive Me Crazy as worst.

    1982: Shakey again, with the eponymous EP! another strong year tho

    1983: Paul Young ‘Love Of The Common People’ just beats Spandau Ballet’s ‘Gold’ and FR David’s Words’.

    1984: Shakey again (A Love Worth Waiting For)! beating Neil even…

    1985: in a v strong year, probably King’s ‘Love And Pride’ but don’t hate it.

    1986: Su Pollard ‘Starting Together’ just ahead of Dire Straits ‘Walk Of Life’

    1987: Bruce Willis ‘Under The Boardwalk’

    1988: Climie Fisher ‘Love Changes Everything’

    1989: Linda Ronstadt ft Aaron Neville ‘Don’t Know Much’ – and easily the worst 80s year for #2s by my reckoning.

  16. 76
    punctum on 13 Aug 2010 #

    #73: Can’t agree at all, I’m afraid; “Love Shack” is one of my all-time favourite number twos.

  17. 77
    Mark G on 13 Aug 2010 #

    I thought it was the Sugarcubes the first time I heard it. Compare it to “Luftgitar” if you want to see why…

    *edit* Ha that looks REALLY SILLY on the Popular page. I’m meaning “Love shack” not “Something’s Gotten Hold Of My Heart”

  18. 78
    Erithian on 8 Sep 2010 #

    Rory #62 – that list was produced by a friend of mine, Sharon Mawer, who tells me she was unable to add to the list after mid-2007 due to its being on a virgin.net website she was no longer able to access. However she’s now managed to post a fully updated list at http://homepage.ntlworld.com/sharonmawer/UK%20number%20two%20singles.htm

    It would be remiss of me not to plug Sharon’s magnum opus on the album charts, which goes back as far as the closing months of World War II when the first US album chart was produced: http://homepage.ntlworld.com/sharonmawer/contents.html
    It’s more factual and less of a review project than Marcello’s own magnum opus “Then Play Long” (link in the column to the right, pop-pickers!), so I don’t think I’m treading on toes here…

  19. 79
    punctum on 10 Jan 2011 #

    Indeed, Ms Mawer’s work is almost beyond remarkable and has proved a fine and necessary fact-checking source for my own endeavours; it’s a real shame that The Official Charts Company pulled her data from their website following its revamp.

    No TPL toe-treading involved at all, since SM’s work is about The Facts whereas I use The Facts as a starting point.

  20. 80
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  21. 81
    Mark G on 3 Jan 2014 #


  22. 82
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  23. 83
    DanH on 2 Feb 2014 #

    Curious how Pitney had dual lives in the U.K. and U.S. Charts, with not a lot of crossover (“24 Hours” and “I’m Gonna Be Strong” being the only two to make both Top 20’s). As said earlier, the U.S. tended towards the more upbeat Pitney. “She’s a Heartbreaker” was already mentioned, but there was also “(The Man Who Shot) Liberty Valance” (NOT the movie theme for the John Wayne movie for legal reasons) and “It Hurts to Be In Love.” The latter was a Neil Sedaka track with Pitney vocals, that the record company used instead of Sedaka’s vocals for some legalese reasons…and Sedaka was none too happy about it.

    This song’s a fine one though, too bad it didn’t register in the States. Especially since it kept M&M at #2 with one of my first songs I actively hated at age 5 (see Foreigner’s sole #1 as the other).

  24. 84
    Patrick Mexico on 8 Feb 2014 #

    There’s a complete playlist of number twos here, going up to the present day:


  25. 85
    flahr on 30 Jun 2015 #

    What with my tastes being objectively perfect I don’t often find myself disagreeing with my past self; however, I don’t know what I think I was playing at attempting to have an opinion on this record before ever having fallen in love. This is the real thing: 9. “too much”, you (you! YOU!) callow fool.

  26. 86
    Lazarus on 30 Jun 2015 #

    It’s a little surprising that it hasn’t been mentioned before – unless I missed it – but Almond was telling anyone who’d listen from ’81 onwards that this was his favourite song; he was always going to have a stab at it sooner or later. And if he was a Pitney fan too, what better than to get the original performer to join him? He’s still releasing albums on a regular basis – no fewer than three last year, and ‘The Velvet Tree’ his 20th solo effort, in March 2015. Five star review, no less, from Record Collector magazine.

    #12 Natalie Cole duetting with Nat ‘King’ Cole, yes – that was ‘unforgettable’ all right, and not in a good way.

  27. 87
    Phil on 30 Jun 2015 #

    Sorry if this has been covered already, but this was far from being the first cross-generational collab – Sandie Shaw’s “Hand in Glove” came out in 1984, the gut-clenchingly wonderful (but sadly unbunnied) “WHIDTDT”* in 1987, and the Art of Noise & Tom Jones’s “Kiss” in 1988 (two years after the Age of Chance’s superior but sadly not chart-bound version).

    *You know how classical musicians are supposed to be able to get one or two notes beyond the top of their instrument’s range, and people in the know who book them for sessions will ask them if they could do that note? (That’s what I heard about the trumpet break on “Penny Lane”, anyway – I mean, I heard that that’s what Paul McCartney asked for, and that it’s something people do.) Well, that; Dusty’s usual warm, throaty voice**; and the second section she does on WHIDTDT. I’m actually tearing up just thinking about it.

    **Chesty, in terms of voice production, but that would sound wrong.

  28. 88
    Mark G on 1 Jul 2015 #

    Well, at this distance it probably doesn’t seem so, but pairing Bing with Frank on “Well, didja evah” was certainly a cross-generational meet-up.

  29. 89
    Chelovek na lune on 1 Jul 2015 #

    I’d go so far as to rate the PSB’s cross-generation colloborations, around this time, not only with Dusty, but with Liza-with-a-zee (not Lisa with an ess) – the album “Results” – as among their very finest work. (just) post-imperial phase pomp, even.

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