Thursday, 25 March 2010

Forgotten Music - The Fool KIiller


Helen Eustis wrote a stunning debut crime novel, The Horizontal Man, a fine work of psychological suspense, but she did not attempt to build on that success by carving out a career as a novelist. She did, however, in due course write a second novel, The Fool Killer, which was turned into a film in 1965 starring Anthony Perkins.

In the 60s it was common for movie-makers to commission songwriters to produce a song to promote a forthcoming film. Often, the song did not appear in the film. A famous example is Gene Pitney’s 'The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance', another is Jack Jones’ 'Wives and Lovers', and yet another (though Cher’s version did appear in the US version of the movie) was Cilla Black’s 'Alfie'. Those three songs were enormously successful, and each of them was written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David.

The duo were, it seems, hired to write a promotional song for The Fool Killer, and Gene Pitney (who recorded many of their songs, and was actually the intended performer of ‘What The World Needs Now is Love’, ultimately recorded by Jackie De Shannon) was asked to sing the song. But it was not a hit – it’s too unusual to have been a hit - and very few people are aware of it.

Yet it is an extraordinary piece of work. 'The Fool Killer' is to be found on Youtube and the observation is made in the comments that it’s a unique song. I agree – it’s a haunting melody, yet quite unlike any of Bacharach’s other tunes, just as the enigmatic lyric is far from typical of Hal David’s work. This is a song that should not be forgotten.

8 comments:

Margot Kinberg said...

Martin - Thank you so much for sharing The Fool Killer with us! I just listened to it and it is absolutely haunting! The lyrics, the violins and the flute are really exceptional, and the whole effect is really mesmerizing.

Ann Elle Altman said...

I went looking for the song, The Fool Killer and found the movie. The movies is there also. It's old but looks very interesting.

Deb said...

Gene Pitney also sang the theme song to the movie "Town Without Pity." He had a wonderful yearning quality to his voice. I was sorry to hear he passed away a few years ago.

Evan Lewis said...

Nice book tie-in and interesting tune. Thanks, Martin.

Martin Edwards said...

Thanks for these comments. I'm glad to have had the chance to spread the word about a marvellous song.

George said...

I've always been a fan of Gene Pitney and I've loved Hal David/Burt Bacharach songs since the Sixties. But I never really listened to "The Fool Killer." Thanks for enlightening us!

Scott Parker said...

Listening to the tune now. Wow. That's interesting. You have the light, airy Bacharach sound with an ominous underpinning of dread with the lyrics. This is a really good song. Oh! Flute's there, too. Love the use of the flute back in the 1960s.

Paul D. Brazill said...

Didn't know about this. I live Mr Backache and Pitney was one of the best. Thanks Martin, I'll chack it out.