622. ‘Something’s Gotten Hold of My Heart’, by Marc Almond ft. Gene Pitney

Up next, a contender for the least-expected chart-topping duet of the decade…?

Something’s Gotten Hold of My Heart, by Marc Almond ft. Gene Pitney (their 1st and only solo #1s)

4 weeks, from 22nd January – 19th February 1989

Take one Marc Almond, last heard on Soft Cell’s electro-pop classic ‘Tainted Love’, and his cover of a sixties classic. With the original singer of said classic in tow. Was there a back-story? I can’t imagine Almond and Pitney running in the same social circles… Apparently it’s as simple as Pitney hearing Almond’s solo version, which featured on his album ‘The Stars We Are’, and offering to re-record it as a duet.

Back-story covered, then. What of the song? Well, for someone associated with synth-pop androgyny – Marc Almond, that is, not Gene Pitney – it’s a pretty faithful, respectful cover. Might we have expected something a little more ‘out there’ from him? Maybe… But when you’ve got such good source material you don’t need to go too crazy. You certainly don’t want to scare the oldies off, as I’m sure they made up a big percentage of the people who bought this one, having remembered it from its first time around as a hit.

Both singers ham it up on their verses (if I were being catty, I might suggest that Almond had had singing lessons since his first #1…) which is one of the best things about a duet with two lead singers: neither wants to be outdone. But this doesn’t ruin it, not at all. It’s beautifully performed, peaking in the I’ve got to know if this is the real thing… I’ve got to know what’s making my heart sing… middle-eight. You couldn’t really date the production either, apart from the eighties ™ drums in the background.

‘Something’s Gotten Hold of My Heart’ had been a #5 hit for Pitney in 1967. It had originally been recorded by David & Jonathon, though it wasn’t a hit for them. It gave Pitney the 10th Top 10 of his career (I covered his ‘I’m Gonna Be Strong’ as a Random Runner-Up a while back), and was his last visit to the uppermost reaches of the UK charts, until this record gave him his long-awaited #1. He was only forty-eight when this made the top – the same age as Cliff a few weeks earlier – reminding me that 1989 is much closer to the sixties than it is to the present day…

This was the #1 single on my 3rd birthday, meaning that I’ve so far had three pop birthday chart-toppers (this, Tiffany, and A-ha) and some hardcore house (‘Jack Your Body’). It’s only going to get more eclectic from here, which is one good thing about having a January birthday. (It’s otherwise quite rubbish having a birthday in the cold, dark weeks post-Christmas, when nobody’s got the money or the inclination to celebrate, but that’s very much a story for elsewhere…)

Marc Almond continues to write, record and tour, and recently received an OBE shortly after turning sixty. His 2nd biggest solo hit was a cover of another ‘60s classic: ‘The Days of Pearly Spencer’. For Gene Pitney, meanwhile, this was his last visit to the UK singles chart. But what a glorious swansong! He sadly died of a heart-attack while on tour in 2006, aged just sixty-six.


8 thoughts on “622. ‘Something’s Gotten Hold of My Heart’, by Marc Almond ft. Gene Pitney

  1. Have mercy… I grew up listening to Gene Pitney records because my dad loved him. This is piece is nowhere to be found on Billboard. I liked Tainted Love when it came out. Then, it was played to death. I liked this. It is very “AM Gold” in standard. UK tastes in music certainly bifurcate from US tastes quite frequently. It fascinates me.

  2. It was oddly out of step in the contemporary charts, yes – but refreshingly so for us 30-somethings at the time who were in our teens when there was rarely a Greenaway-Cook composition far away from the Top 20. I wasn’t over-keen on Marc’s other solo stuff, but this pairing was magic. And the sadly just deceased Roy Orbison was in the top three at the same time with ‘You Got It’. Mid-60s balladeer heaven, more or less…

  3. …and just remembered one reason why it caught the public’s imagination. After it moved up from its entry position of No. 19 to No. 10, Marc and Gene appeared on the Wogan show. Next week, the bullseye.

    • Ah, the good old days when an appearance on TV could send your song to #1… I remember the X Factor days, when whichever act was performing one weekend, for better or worse (usually worse), would be #1 the next.

  4. Love Gene Pitney to bits. Always have always will. Second only to Roy for heart-breaking big ballads. And maybe Scott Walker. I loved the original version when i was 9 but not that fussed about this version. All 3 of the above were bigger in the UK and all are influences, along with Dusty, on me and the 80s New Wave UK acts like Marc Almond. Especially Marc. And Morrissey. I love Soft Cell, and the influence on Say Hello Wave Goodbye is there and his solo career has been even more obvious with covers of many a dramatic 60s ballad. So, great they had a chart topper but i will stick with their classic stuff.

    Know what you mean about post xmas birthdays….!

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