"Town Without Pity" was Gene Pitney's first hit. Its success was partly due to it being from the movie of the same name, with the star appeal of Kirk Douglas attracting a lot of attention. The song won the very first Golden Globe award for best original song, and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Song. This led to Pitney becoming the first pop singer to perform at the Oscars in 1962.
Ironically, this song also capped Gene Pitney's career and life - it was the final song he performed at his final show at Cardiff's St. David's Hall in April of 2006, before his death from heart disease.
Today's movie buffs might better remember this song from the memorable scene in the film Look Who's Talking, when Kirstie Alley performed a rather vampy dance to it (playing on the radio) while getting the kid his pudding. She even sings along briefly!
Al Kooper reminisces his first encounter with Pitney in his book, Backstage Passes and Backstabbing Bastards: "...this guy walks in wearing a salt and pepper jacket, heavily greased-down DA ("duck's ass") hairdo, and white bucks. Three dressing schools tied together; very strange. The creature was quickly ushered in, sat down at the piano, and proceeded to mesmerize us for two uninterrupted hours with his incredible songs and bizarre voice." Kooper heartily recommended signing him when producer Aaron Schroeder asked for his opinion.
Blood, Sweat & Tears front-man Al Kooper goes on to say of Pitney that he was strongly influenced by him, assimilating aspects of his style into his own work. Randy Newman's song "Just One Smile," included on the first Blood, Sweat & Tears album, was originally done by Pitney; Kooper cites this as an example of the longevity of Pitney's inspiration.