It Hurts To Be In Love

Prior to ’64 my transistor was for the Yankee games.  And occasionally the Mets.  I didn’t listen to music on the radio.  That was for the living room, where my mother played show tunes.  And in my bedroom occasionally, with 45s like the "Purple People Eater".  But the Beatles changed everything.  Suddenly, Tuesday night was for the Countdown, which I listened to on my leather-encased radio set down right next to my blotter as I did my homework.

I was addicted to the radio.  I’d put it on my dresser, tuned into 77 WABC, while I fell asleep.  Sometimes under the pillow itself.  And if my father didn’t come into my room and turn it off when I awoke there’d be this faint sound in the morning, or the radio would be dead completely.  I’d perform a test by removing the 9-volt battery from the unit and running its contact points across my tongue.  If I got no jolt, it was time for a new one.  And I had an endless stash in my drawer, ready for insertion, I couldn’t be without my tunes.

I had to hear the British Invasion acts.  And the Beach Boys.  And the Four Seasons.  But listening to my radio other tracks would enrapture me.  Sometimes the acts were new, other times they’d been around for years and were just new to me, like Gene Pitney.

The summer of ’64 was a hot one.  I spent the month of July up at Fairfield Woods, the school at the end of our street.  They had this summer program.  You’d play baseball.  And when it got too hot, checkers under the trees.  I bonded with the college student who was the leader, we were buddies.  But come lunch time, he’d get in his car and go off somewhere for a bite.  I’d get on my candy apple Raleigh and ride home, into our newly-acquired air conditioning, for a little sustenance.  And during the ride, I’d listen to my transistor, dangling from the handlebars, I was addicted.

And I was eager to hear the songs from "Hard Day’s Night".  But another number I eagerly anticipated was Gene Pitney’s "It Hurts To Be In Love".

Some records only have one section that gets to you, that makes you play them again and again.  "It Hurts To Be In Love" is an AMUSEMENT PARK of hooks.  From the beginning drum roll to the organ solo in the break.  But what I STILL can’t get past is the rushed words.  Uttered so fast that some I didn’t even catch till I heard them on my iPod YESTERDAY!  You know, when Gene sings "who’s not in love with you" so fast it sounds like one big word.  NOBODY sang like this.  And the rest of the words were sung with such emotion.  God, the story was ECLIPSED by Pitney’s expression.  It became about what HE was feeling, the words were irrelevant.  This guy had the power IN HIM!

Still, as great as the rushes were, the chorus cements the number, brings it all together, makes the track a classic.

Day and night, night and day
It hurts to be in love this way

The funny thing is ANYBODY hearing Gene sing these above words would immediately fall in love with him, he’s IRRESISTIBLE!

Very few records still have the power they possessed when you first heard them, first got hooked.  "It Hurts To Be In Love" is one.  When it came up randomly on my iPod 1964 flashed before my eyes.  I could FEEL IT!

3 Responses to It Hurts To Be In Love »»


  1. Comment by Al Kooper | 2006/06/02 at 19:42:37

    Robert dahling,

    You’re leaving a VERY important person out of your piece.

    Pitney’s voice was simply placed over the top of NEIL SEDAKA’S
    demo. Everything else on the track including the background vocals are very Sedaka and Gene imitated Neil’s original vocal track, so while Gene was a dear pal of mine (recorded 5 of my songs) he would have emailed you and made you give credit where credit is due.

    And now, don’t cry a little bit………

    Your pal,
    Al (Kooper)

  2. Comment by David Munk | 2006/06/02 at 19:45:42

    Re: Al On Gene

    It’s funny — as I was listening to the song again while I read your piece i was thinking "shit, this sounds like a Neil Sedaka song and it practically sounds like Neil, but less gay". Then I thought ha ha, well he’s my friend I can think that. Neil Sedaka is a great unappreciated true pop craftsman. When I was running Denise Rich’s publishing company I had him write some Christmas songs which she then wrote lyrics to. I promise you, his gift of melody writing is as sharp as ever. It’s a damn shame melody has become so marginalized in popular music. I think it is the single biggest problem with the music itself. I wish you would write a little bit about the concept of melody and how it has been completely subsumed by rhythm — watered down. Songs (or "tracks" as they’re now called because they’re not even songs) are written from the beat up and the melodies suck. Forget about harmonics. There just aren’t any.

    I have a major record coming out in September — Natalie Cole’s new CD which i EP’d and A&R’d but I swear, I think I’m just gonna get out of the business. I can’t pretend I care about beats! Is there anything phonier than a middle aged Jewish A&R guy talking about beats?? Guess I was born at the wrong time. Over and out at 37?

  3. Comment by Allan Rinde | 2006/06/12 at 21:51:23

    It’s been a long standing urban legend that Gene Pitney sang his lead over Neil’s demo track, and since three of the four principals are dead, it’s hard to know one way or the other. The living one, Neil himself, who in concert seems to have forgotten that he ever had a co-writer, might not be the best source for clarity on this. The song was co-written, and, at least on paper, co-produced by Neil’s most frequent collaborator, Howard Greenfield, which certainly explains why it might have a Sedaka feel. (And, conversely, could explain why there might have been a Neil Sedaka demo version. In those days, it wasn’t unusual for a demo track to wind up as a single, sometimes for more than one artist, so it’s possible that this urban legend is true.)

    One thing I do know is that the backgrounds were tracked by my wife, the lovely and talented Toni Wine, under the direction of the other co-writer/producer Helen Miller, for Gene’s record, and would not have been on the original (if there was one) Sedaka demo. Also, the double speed phrasing on the "no matter what you do" and "not in love with you" couplet, to my ears, bears little resemblance to Sedaka’s. Not to mention that the tracks just rocks too much…..

    However, as was said in Liberty Vallance, "When the legend becomes fact, print the legend."

    (Aside to Mr. Kooper – Toni is on the road with Tony Orlando and will be in your neck of the woods at Mohegan Sun Jun. 14-18 and I’m sure both would love for you to stop by.)

    Bob – Last night, when I wrote the original note, it was too late to talk to Toni, who’s currently in a Northern time zone. Speaking to her today, she told me that in addition to what I wrote, she was also there (it was all the same sessiony) when Gene put his lead vocals on, and Neil’s voice was nowhere to be heard. Neil might have done his own version, or his voice might have been erased from the track before Gene got it, but Gene was not copying Neil. And why should he…..

    And, contrary to what I might have implied, Howie Greenfield was also at the session.

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