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. 31
    Billy Smart on 5 Aug 2010 #

    Light Entertainment Watch A: Marc Almond will always raise the tome of any programme that he appears on;

    BLISS: with David Cassidy, Marc Almond, The Cult, Duran Duran, Scritti Politti (1985)

    THE LAST RESORT WITH JONATHAN ROSS: with Steve Nieve & The Playboys, Mel Brooks, Marc Almond (1987)

    LATER… WITH JOOLS HOLLAND: with The Killers, Pendulum, Fleet Foxes, Little Boots, Al Green, Marc Almond, Monkey Journey To The West (2008)

    RIVERSIDE: with Danny and the Nogoodniks, Marc Almond, Victoria Studd (1982)

    THE TUBE: with Jools Holland, Leslie Ash, The Cocteau Twins, Kevin Smith, Death Cult, Chris Sivvey, Mark Hurst, Marc And The Mambas, Tony Fletcher (1984)

    THE TUBE: with Jools Holland, Paula Yates, Elton John, Mark Smith, Brixie Smith, Comic Strip Team, Marc Almond & The Willing Sinners, The Fall, Carmen (1985)

    THE TUBE: with Jools Holland, Paula Yates, Marc Almond, Patrick Donovan, Jaz Coleman, Paul Raven, Joanne Brown, Gordon Blacklock, Clint Ruin, Monochrome Set (1985)

    !VIVA CABARET!: with Mike McShane, Marc Almond, Harry Hill, Greg Proops (1993)

    WHISTLE TEST: with Marc Almond, The Bangles, Richard Thompson, Gary Moore & Phil Lynott (1985)

    THE WHITE ROOM: with Blur, Cast, Lou Reed, Marc Almond (1996)

    WOGAN: with Bronski Beat & Marc Almond, William Hall, Virginia Holgate, Peter Massey, Jimmy Nail, Geoffrey Thomson (1985)

    WOGAN: with Marc Almond & Gene Pitney, Leonard Nimoy, Dick Vane-Wright (1989)

    WOGAN: with Gary Glitter, Andrew Strong, Marc Almond, Peter Benchley (1991)

    THE WORD: with Frank Bruno, Marc Almond, Sleeper, Loveland, McAlmont (1995)

    That 1991 gold-lame-and-an-orchestra-of-millions Wogan performance of Jacky was one of the great pop television moments of my teenage years. Never seen it since…

  2. 32
    Billy Smart on 5 Aug 2010 #

    Light Entertainment Watch B: Aw! So many performances of Gene Pitney in his sixties prime are lost to posterity;

    BILLY COTTON’S MUSIC HALL: with Jimmy Edwards, Gene Pitney, Petula Clark, Don Maclean, Kathie Kay (1968)

    CELEBRITY SQUARES: with Kenny Everett (Voice Only), Elaine Delmar, Diana Dors, Noele Gordon, Larry Grayson, Don Maclean, Gene Pitney, William Rushton, Christopher Timothy, Terry Wogan (1978)

    COLOUR ME POP: with Gene Pitney, Mike Cotton Sound (1969)

    DEE TIME: with Gene Pitney, Brenda Lee, The Peddlers (1967)

    DEE TIME: with Jill Day, Gene Pitney, The Duke of Bedford (1968)

    THE EAMONN ANDREWS SHOW: with Bob Monkhouse, Clement Freud, Gene Pitney, Mary Wells, Pamela Mason, Spike Milligan (1964)

    THE EAMONN ANDREWS SHOW: with Anita Harris, Burt Bacharach, Gene Pitney, Gillian Reynolds, Maurice Woodruff, Wilfrid Hyde-White (1965)

    GADZOOKS! IT’S IN THE IN CROWD: with Gene Pitney, The Who, Dana Gillespie (1965)

    THE GOLDEN SHOT: with Bob Monkhouse, Carol Dilworth (Golden Girl), Gene Pitney, Andrea Lloyd (Golden Girl), Norman Chappell, Anita Richardson (Golden Girl), Jack Parnell’s Orchestra (1967)

    INTERNATIONAL CABARET: with Kenneth Williams, Gene Pitney, Lavedos, Irene Brethier, Robbie Royal (1967)

    JOE: with Gene Pitney, Sheila Bernette (1970)

    LATE SHOW LONDON: with Adam Faith, Alexis Korner, Gene Pitney, Trevor Evans, Victor Serebriakoff, Nicholas Tomalin (1966)

    LULU: with Sue and Sunny, Pan’s People, Johnny Harris and his Orchestra, Gene Pitney, Terry Reid (1969)

    THE MORECAMBE AND WISE SHOW: with Millicent Martin, Eric Burdon and the Animals, Gene Pitney, Gladys Whitred, Dinny Powell, Jenny Lee-Wright, Sally Douglas, Jackie Poole, Jonathan Barrett, The Paddy Stone Dancers (1968)

    READY STEADY GO!: with Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas, Kathy Kirby, Gene Pitney, The Hollies, The Zephyrs (1964)

    READY STEADY GO!: with Gene Pitney, The Beach Boys, Dusty Springfield, The Fourmost, Eden Kane (1964)

    READY STEADY GO!: with Adam Faith, Marianne Faithfull, The Roulettes, Gene Pitney, The Zombies (1965)

    READY STEADY GO!: with Gene Pitney, The Hollies, Herman’s Hermits, Chris Farlowe (1966)

    STARBURST: with Gene Pitney, Maggie Moone, Peter Saint, Steve Bor, Jim Bowen (1983)

    THANK YOUR LUCKY STARS: with Tony Orlando, The Karl Denver Trio, The Viscounts, Dan Charles, Barbara Kay, Gene Pitney, Sir Jimmy Savile (1962)

    THANK YOUR LUCKY STARS: with Brian Matthew, Cliff Richard, The Shadows, Bobby Rydell, Ronnie Carroll, The Rolling Stones, Christopher Sandford, The Breakaways, Gene Pitney, Dave Curtis and the Tremors (1963)

    THANK YOUR LUCKY STARS: with Brian Matthew, Gene Pitney, The Four Pennies, Patsy Ann Noble, Twinkle (1964)

    THANK YOUR LUCKY STARS: with Brian Matthew, The Dave Clark Five, Mike Hurst, The Overlanders, The Applejacks, Gene Pitney (1964)

    THANK YOUR LUCKY STARS: with Brian Matthew, Adam Faith, Herman’s Hermits, Jackie Lee, Gene Pitney (1965)

    THANK YOUR LUCKY STARS: with Brian Matthew, Adam Faith, Petula Clark, Gene Pitney, Lulu, The Moody Blues (1965)

    THANK YOUR LUCKY STARS: with Brian Matthew, Gerry and The Pacemakers, Gene Pitney, The Yardbirds, Joni Adams (1965)

    THANK YOUR LUCKY STARS: with Brian Matthew, Tom Jones, Gene Pitney, The Yardbirds, The Marionettes, Kiki Dee (1966)

    TIME FOR BLACKBURN!: with Gene Pitney, Esther & Abi Ofarim, P. P. Arnold, Grapefruit (1968)

    TIME FOR BLACKBURN!: with Gene Pitney, Malcolm Roberts, Cupid’s Inspiration (1968)

    TIME FOR BLACKBURN!: with Gene Pitney, Spencer Davis (1968)

    What does survive is a more modest list;

    THE BIG TOP VARIETY SHOW: with Gene Pitney, Showaddywaddy, The Brother Lees (1982)

    FROST ON SUNDAY: with Ronnie Corbett, Josephine Tewson, Ronnie Barker, Richard Murdoch, Sam Costa, Kelly Britt, Michael Bentine, Lou Rawls, Gene Pitney (1970)

    THE LITTLE AND LARGE SHOW: with Warren Mitchell, Gene Pitney (1986)

    SEZ LES: with The Syd Lawrence Orchestra, Les Girls, Gene Pitney, Aimi MacDonald, Design, Roy Barraclough, Anthony Verner, Sylvia Stoker (1972)

    SUPERSONIC: with Catherine Howe, Osibisa, Gene Pitney (1976)

    THANK YOUR LUCKY STARS: with Brian Matthew, Roy C, Keith Fordyce, Ray Ellington, Herman’s Hermits, Cleo Laine, Helen Shapiro, Gene Pitney, Miss Ruby Miller (1966)

    WHEELTAPPERS AND SHUNTERS SOCIAL CLUB: with Bernard Manning (Compere), Gene Pitney, Rivendell, Paul Daniels, Royal Polynesian Revue (1975)

    WOGAN: with Marc Almond & Gene Pitney, Leonard Nimoy, Dick Vane-Wright (1989)

  3. 33
    Billy Smart on 5 Aug 2010 #

    Re 25: Sadly, no 1973 editions of Crackerjack survive at all. Something tells me that they would have been the very first tapes that the BBC would have elected to wipe over.

  4. 34
    Snif on 6 Aug 2010 #

    >>Re 17: Oh, 24 Sycamore is a great song isn’t it, originally an album track in 1968

    I could have sworn this was a hit for Wayne Fontana back in days of yore….at least, his is the only version I know of.

  5. 35
    Billy on 6 Aug 2010 #

    At the beginning of 2003, I was 14 years old and a bit frustrated with the Pop Idol/Fame Academy crap in the charts at the time. I turned on the ‘Magic’ music channel, and they were playing this. I was convinced it was a brand new song, so to find out it was released just months after I was born surprised me.

    That channel introduced me to a hell of a load of songs, mostly from the 80s, that I’d never heard before, but this one always stuck in the mind – there’s just an incredible, movie-like feel to it that sounds so different to anything else in the Stock Aitken Waterman dominated charts at the time. It’s also never become overplayed – in fact I never see or hear it played now at all, which is a shame as I agree it’s never dated. The version of it on my iPod is copied from a cassette tape of a Now album, as I’ve never been able to find it on any CD compilations.

  6. 36
    swanstep on 6 Aug 2010 #

    So, heh, are any Popularistas going to (try to) watch the Arcade Fire youtube live-stream concert tonight (bit late for those in the UK I know)?

  7. 37
    punctum on 6 Aug 2010 #

    Although he was still registering Top 40 entries as late as 1974, the original “Something’s Gotten Hold Of My Heart” was Gene Pitney’s last UK top ten hit, reaching #5 at the tail end of 1967; fittingly, since the song seemed to provide his tortured story with a belated happy ending – and where else was there to go from there?

    From “Town Without Pity” via “24 Hours From Tulsa” to “Backstage (I’m Lonely),” Pitney as a balladeer (as opposed to Pitney as a rocker, who did exist but hardly registered with British audiences) was never allowed to be happy; ignoble defeat in love and life was his thing, his tarnished beauty mark. Something like “I’m Gonna Be Strong,” one of his biggest records (#2 in the autumn of 1964), manages even to outdo Orbison’s “It’s Over” in its slow-dawning realisation that all is ash. When Frankie Laine recorded the song to Jack Nitzsche’s arrangement the previous year, he maintained poise and stalwartness; but Pitney made his voice move up, along with the chords ascending to his private hell, on the final extended “cry” (and thus was the missing link between Johnnie Ray and Godley and Creme). In addition, his high-pitched androgynous voice suggested other subtexts; the about turn in “Tulsa” has been interpreted in gay terms, though the happily-married grandfather Pitney would have doubtless good-naturedly scoffed at such a thought.

    When Marc Almond came to tackle the song, it had been some five years since Soft Cell had fallen apart. Since then he had seldom troubled the Top 40 but had reined back on the life-threatening excesses of Soft Cell’s later days to reinvent himself as a respected songwriter and nearly matchless song interpreter (see, for instance, his 1987, lyrically unaltered reading of Cher’s “A Woman’s Story”) and established a comfortable and loyal cult following. In the wake of Nick Cave’s recording of “Something’s Gotten Hold” on his 1986 covers album Kicking Against The Pricks, Almond was inspired to have a go and, idolising Pitney, made overtures towards him to contribute at least some backing vocals to the track. Since Pitney’s teenage daughter’s bedroom was at the time covered with posters and pictures of Almond and Soft Cell, he didn’t need much persuading, and suggested turning the track into a full-blown duet.

    It’s significant that “Something’s Gotten Hold” surfaced at the end of 1967, since it was one of several ballads of the period tinged with hazes of the remnants of psychedelia (though its writers, Roger Cook and Roger Greenaway, were quick to dismiss any notion of its being a drug song) – “painting my sleep with a colour so bright,” “turning me up, turning me down” – but it was also ideal as a “happy ending” for Pitney, since his slightly fearful delivery on the original record suggests that he’s been down and beaten for so long that love now appears to him as something alien and frightening – note the “cutting its way through my dreams like a knife” and especially “dragging my soul to a beautiful land” as though he has to be frogmarched back to happiness, rather than walking back.

    Listening to Almond’s demo, Pitney was hugely impressed by the modifications which Almond had made to the song’s delivery, particularly the extending of “grey” and “blue” to three syllables apiece and the “you! You! YOU!” triplet at the song’s climax (“He’s made the song more singable,” Pitney said at the time). With this in mind he charges into the second verse, providing authority to underline Almond’s innocence, and is always prodding and supporting when he is not actually coming forward. He sounded more alive than he’d done for years.

    Overall, the Almond/Pitney “Something’s Gotten Hold” was a dream of a record, in the Frankie “Power Of Love” sense; as with the latter, producer Stephen Hague builds it up in layers of angel wings, and aided by the sumptuously relevant string arrangement, the record seems to ebb, flow and peak in total concord with the two singers. Its triumph was a late miracle for New Pop, but also New Pop’s own “happy ending”; its magic had been acknowledged by, and absorbed into, the continuum of history, such that New Pop now formed part of the basic fabric of pop music as a whole. It was its ultimate, and nearly perfect, blessing.

  8. 38
    Jimmy the Swede on 6 Aug 2010 #

    Apropos the demise of Gene. The Swede quotes Wiki:

    ‘Pitney died on April 5, 2006, aged 66. His tour manager found him dead in the Hilton Hotel, in Cardiff, Wales, in the middle of a UK tour. His final show at Cardiff’s St. David’s Hall was a success, with a standing ovation, ending the show with “Town Without Pity”.’

    After which, of course, Cardiff was dubbed “Town Without Pitney”…


  9. 39
    punctum on 6 Aug 2010 #

    Dunno about Frank Carson or Steve Martin but in the video (can’t see a link at the top, so here’s one), Pitney reminds me very strongly of Paul Gambaccini.

  10. 40
    vinylscot on 6 Aug 2010 #

    My dad had a copy of “I’m Gonna Be Strong”, which he bought when it was a hit in 1964, when I was three; it was quite a rare occurrence for him to buy a record, so Gene Pitney, and that song, have been around forever, as far as I am concerned. I can remember (some years later, obv.) noticing that Gene Pitney was the first singer I had heard, apart from cartoon characters and novelty songs, who “put on a voice” when he sang (our house obviously being devoid of Buddy Holly, Roy Orbison, Adam Faith et al).

    As a result, great though the song was, I could never really take Pitney seriously.

    That changed in the 80s, when a couple of his albums surfaced in a job lot I bought at a jumble sale. Most of the songs referred to above were on these albums, and, by now accepting that singers often “put on” their voices, I was amazed at what a fine stylist he was, brilliantly demonstrated in “Billy, You’re My Friend”, as pointed out by Mr Lineman above.

    I would like to have seen Gene Pitney, but he had become a bit of an anachronism – he should still have been concentrating on the singing, not visiting hospitals and old folks’ homes and reading out sob stories like some sort of Val Doonican wannabe.

    Both of these singers on this track, Pitney and Almond, are rather Marmite-y, and I can understand anyone not warming to their styles, but put them together here, and it works. Almond is outsung by the old master, but it’s not a competition, it’s nominally a joint effort, but to me Pitney bosses it – reining Almond in when he needs to, and showing him how it should be done at other times.

    A refreshing and somewhat surprising number one; i’m rather pleased it kept Mike and the Mechanics away from popular. Woo-Hoo. An 8.

  11. 41
    punctum on 6 Aug 2010 #

    Amen to that! “The Living Years” = worst number two EVER*

    (*at the moment anyway; the real “winner” is probably “Honey” since it had the nerve to get to number two TWICE)

  12. 42
    Jimmy the Swede on 6 Aug 2010 #

    Oh, God, Marcello. Don’t let’s get started on “the worst number two EVER”. There’ll be fighting in the streets of Lambeth North, mate! Something for another place, surely?

  13. 43
    MikeMCSG on 6 Aug 2010 #

    # 41 Honey is terrific ; let’s hope Lena knocks some sense into you when she gets round to it :-). Worst ever ? God knows but that “Raving I’m Raving ” thing must be in with a shout.

  14. 44
    punctum on 6 Aug 2010 #

    Lena and I are in firm agreement that “Honey” is a wretched piece of excrement, the uncalled-for missing link between Presley’s “Old Shep” and Lou Reed’s “Caroline Says.” “Raving I’m Raving” is great, grandad.

  15. 45
    MikeMCSG on 6 Aug 2010 #

    #44 I was born later in the same year as you, Mr C. Leaving out any dance-y contenders are you seriously saying “Birdie Song”, “More Than In Love” and “Teddy Bear” (to cite 3 from just one year) are better records ?

  16. 46
    Billy Smart on 6 Aug 2010 #

    Punctum unwittingly articulating the tensions that make Honey such a compelling listen there.

    Off the top of my head, I’d nominate the Fat Boys brace of number 2s as the absolute nadir.

  17. 47
    Jimmy the Swede on 6 Aug 2010 #


  18. 48
    Billy Smart on 6 Aug 2010 #

    Back to favourite Gene Pitney singles, I think I’d chose Backstage. This is why;

    I can never understand why Gene Pitney doesn’t have the same kudos as Roy Orbison. Both men worked within the same form, the highly melodramatic ballad, and both used highly distinctive voices to extract the maximum possible emotion out of their material. Both singers also always came across as being genuinely humble and modest in interviews.

    In Pitney’s case, the voice is a quavering adenoidal tenor, purpose built for the expression of anguish. The amazing thing about this voice is that it will build and build throughout a song, and then – just when the listener thinks that things couldn’t possibly get any more exciting or compelling – build *some more*, reaching a kind of delirious catharsis.

    The songs that he interpreted were generally short and unhappy. They are usually tales of lost love, or the fear of being about to lose love. When, less often, Pitney sings about finding love, the effect is equally uncomfortable, because he tends to be consumed by guilt at stealing someone’s girl or cheating on someone, most famously in ’24 Hours From Tulsa’. ‘Backstage’ is a definitive lost love tale, given a metatheatrical spin through being the story of a successful pop star.

    A brief drumroll and fanfare sets the scene. “Ladies and gentlemen, tonight’s star attraction”;

    A thousand hands –
    applaud tonight…
    I sing my songs…
    My star shines bright…
    I stop and smile…
    I take my bow…
    I leave the stage…
    and then some-how –

    Hubris is swiftly followed by nemesis;

    Backstage I’m lonelee
    Backstage I cry
    You’ve gone away


    and each night
    I seem
    to die
    a little…

    On the second verse, Pitney becomes notably louder and more desperate-sounding;

    Out on that stage
    I’ll play the star
    I’m famous now!
    I’ve come so far..
    A famous FOOL!
    I let love GO!
    I didn’t KNOW!
    I’d miss you SO!

    It’s taken a while to get there, but the second chorus brings the first extended anguished phrase;

    Backstage I’m lonelee!
    Backstage I cry
    Hating myself
    since I let you say –

    A middle eight cranks up the tempo, the strings echoing the singer’s manic excitement;

    Every night a different girl!


    Every night a different club!


    And yet I’m lonely all the time…


    When I sign my auto-graph!


    When I hold an in-ter-view!


    Can’t get you out of my MIIIIND!

    The point of self-revelation;

    Come back my love!
    Come back to me!
    I need you now!
    So desperatelee!
    What good is fame?
    It’s just a game!
    I’d give it awll to be the same

    Backstage I wait now –
    ho-ping I’ll see
    Your smiling face waiting there backstage for meeee-eeee!

    (A trumpet backs that “meeee-eeee!”)

    Your SMI!LING! face waiting backstage for meeeeee-eeeeee!

    She won’t be there. Surely that’s it?

    No. Pitney reminds us of the scene;


    And them, that astonishing Roy Orbison trick of taking things one stage further than anyone could realistically expect them to go;


    I’ve found a new layer of poignancy in this song since the 2006 death of Gene Pitney, alone in a Cardiff hotel room, after a show on a comeback tour. When he was found dead on his hotel bed he was fully dressed and looked, according to his tour manager, “as though he had gone for a lie down”.

  19. 49
    Steve Mannion on 6 Aug 2010 #

    Actually the number of dreadful ballads that stopped just short of the top spot in 1989 seems quite hefty. Half of the year’s runners-up qualify and they are ALL untickable/5-or-lower imo, unless you’re feeling very charitable towards Hull’s “finest”…

  20. 50
    MikeMCSG on 6 Aug 2010 #

    #48 Best way to go though. In good health to the last minute, just finished a great show then out without a struggle. I’d take that.

  21. 51
    punctum on 6 Aug 2010 #

    #45: If you mean “Teddy Bear” by Red Sovine, that peaked at #4 (OK, it made #2 on the NME list) and is a much better record, sweet and touching.

    “More Than In Love” was harmless Crossroads fluff but the “Birdie Song,” well, you may have a point there.

  22. 52
    StellaVista on 6 Aug 2010 #

    “The Stars We Are”, the album from which this was taken (although, the original release featured the “Pitney”-less version) has some other memorable duets: Nico sang her last recorded words on “Your kisses burn”, which is a rather somber and gothic torch-song. Victoria Wilson-James is on two songs and one of the bonus tracks on the cd-version is a very campy duet with the late Agnes Bernelle.
    Of course there is also another duet with the mysterious Suraya Ahmed on “She took my soul in Istanbul”, but this is just another alias of Almond himself.

  23. 53
    MikeMCSG on 6 Aug 2010 #

    #51 Sackcloth and ashes for me getting that one wrong- one of my best years too, oh dear.

  24. 54
    Billy Smart on 6 Aug 2010 #

    All of the other three minor hit singles off ‘The Stars We Are’ were great, too. ‘Tears Run Rings’ obliquely critiques Clause 28, the self-presentation ‘Bitter Sweet’ has an excitable invitation to go to paradise as its chorus, and ‘Only The Moment’ is quintessence of Almond poignant heedless hedonism.

  25. 55
    sükråt tanned rested unlogged and awesome on 6 Aug 2010 #

    Nico rather somber and gothic? Whatever next!!

  26. 56
    Jimmy the Swede on 6 Aug 2010 #

    # 48 – I’ve found a new layer of poignancy in this song since the 2006 death of Gene Pitney, alone in a Cardiff hotel room, after a show on a comeback tour. When he was found dead on his hotel bed he was fully dressed and looked, according to his tour manager, “as though he had gone for a lie down”.

    This is true and puts me in mind of a discussion I instigated on a pub crawl around Waterloo with a couple of thirsty pals well over twenty years ago now. The question I put to the floor was: “Why do people fall over when they die?”

    It was, as you would gather, a very inciteful evening as we pondered this vexed question. Well, it certainly became increasingly more vexed as the evening progressed.

    Happy Days!

  27. 57
    abaffledrepublic on 7 Aug 2010 #

    Worst number 2 ever? There have been some stinkers but surely the Macarena must be in with a shout.

  28. 58
    Tom on 7 Aug 2010 #

    I have plenty of time for the Macarena – only holiday novelty hit with a genuinely really compulsive rhythm. Envious that it’s in Lena’s remit to be honest.

    In fact looking at the 90s Lena comes off a LOT better! About the only thing I can really feel relieved about is that I don’t have any encounters with Kula Shaker in my future.

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

  29. 59
    lonepilgrim on 7 Aug 2010 #

    Another vote for the Macarena here – I was at a French wedding a few years back with a band that played Macarena and New York, New York over and over into the early hours of the morning and I never got tired of either of them

  30. 60
    Elsa on 8 Aug 2010 #

    I’ll take the Macarena over the vast majority of 1988’s number ones. By the way, has anyone noticed that Liza Minnelli’s version of New York, New York is much better than Frank Sinatra’s?

  31. 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.

  32. 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.

  33. 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.

  34. 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. :)

  35. 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.

  36. 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.

  37. 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)

  38. 68
    lonepilgrim on 8 Aug 2010 #

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

  39. 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.

  40. 70
    MikeMCSG on 9 Aug 2010 #

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

  41. 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.

  42. 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…

  43. 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.

  44. 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).

  45. 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.

  46. 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.

  47. 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”

  48. 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…

  49. 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.

  50. 80
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  51. 81
    Mark G on 3 Jan 2014 #


  52. 82
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  53. 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).

  54. 84
    Patrick Mexico on 8 Feb 2014 #

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


  55. 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.

  56. 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.

  57. 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.

  58. 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.

  59. 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.

  60. 90
    Gareth Parker on 19 May 2021 #

    I think Marc and Gene do an excellent job here. 8/10 for me.

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