Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Song #115 of 9999 - Town Without Pity by Gene Pitney

Song #115 of 9999

Title: Town Without Pity
Artist: Gene Pitney
Year: 1961
Album: N/A - single release

Remember a couple of nights ago when I was talking about teen angst and drama beginning to show itself in popular music in the early 1960s? Well, it was happening in books and film as well because teenagers represented a brand new market in the USA and every entertainment industry wanted to get their hands on some of that disposable cash kids suddenly had.  
Town Without Pity is a film starring Kirk Douglass and based on the 1960 novel Das Urteil (The Verdict). Listen to this plot synopsis: The film follows the trial of four drunk American soldiers who are arrested for gang-raping a sixteen-year-old girl in occupied Germany following World War II. Holy crap! That's an intense story in any decade and it's a little shocking to think it comes from a 50-year-old film.

The film spawned an Oscar-nominated song with music written by composer Dimitri Tiomkin. I love the overly dramatic orchestration and harmony in this tune. The dissonances are so much fun right out of the gate: stressed 9ths over the tonic B minor, then E Minor, then a borrow G Minor(!) before settling on the dominant F#. And when Pitney enters, he starts on a D, a minor 6th above the root suggesting an augmented dominant. Take all this musical drama and add these lyrics from Ned Washington...

When you're young and so in love as we
And bewildered by the world we see
Why do people hurt us so
Only those in love would know
What a town without pity can do 

...and you've got yourself some pretty serious melodrama. Pitney is game, delivering a crooning over-the-top lament with swooping glissandos and raspy pouting. Opera for the masses.

1 comment:

  1. That's a well-written piece, Frankie. Very accurate in terms of describing the music. It certainly is an unusual orchestration on that one, it's still very intriguing to listen to.