From amongst the many many projects, digital and otherwise, my To M’Lou Music label was involved with at the turn of the last centuries, the one I look back on most fondly – especially this month of all months, as The Man Himself would have, should have turned 83 (!) on the 17th – was/is a project I cobbled together which remains very dear indeed to both my heart and both of my ears.
It was a Tribute on Compact Disc …remember Compact Discs?? …to that rarest of breeds in that pre-Beatle world: A writer, and arranger, a producer, promoter and a singer, all-in-one, who not only broke on through in the hit-and-miss Billboard era prior to “I Want To Hold Your Hand” but actually continued to thrive, not only on the Hot 100 Chart but on concert stages the world over as those Sixties swung ever onward and upward; a time a-changin’ which left behind, most unfortunately in most cases, most of his melodic contemporaries.
This was a man, in fact, who not only lived his life but sang his songs loudly and proudly clear to its final act; shuffling off from his mortal Cardiff, Wales hotel room after giving yet another concert on his 2006 Spring Tour. Concluding, most appropriately as it turns out, with “Town Without Pity.”
That classic, along with two dozen others by the widest/wildest possible range of performers both vintage and brand new, made up my cherished-today-especially Gene Pitney Story Retold. Gordon Waller and Billy Cowsill, themselves with only precious months remaining, alongside such Pure Pop pals-o-mine as Mark Johnson, Gail George, Rick Andrew, plus even Al Kooper and Mick Farren, I kid you not, contributed magnificent tracks by way of playing, and paying Thank You to The Man Who, among so many other things, Shot Liberty Valance.
Meanwhile, behind the scenes as it turns out, Gene Himself anonymously waded into, and proceeded to clear any and all legal red tape from my path to assure this project got onto the racks, and into the iPods …remember iPods?! …of all those innumerable fans who remembered; not to mention, most importantly, curious younger ones who needed to know.
Mission Accomplished two decades ago then, the Story continues to be Retold, as not at all surprisingly the utterly unique sounds plus stylings of Pitney persist. Why, even Dee Dee Ramone was a lifelong fan(atic), deliriously happy to finally meet his idol Backstage at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame when both Gene and the brothers Ramone were inducted in 2002.
Dee Dee passed too soon afterwards. Gene has been gone for far too long as well. And so, yes, we cry a little bit; die a little bit. But Gene lives on. Day and night. Night and day.