Lily the Pink (song)

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"Lily the Pink"
Single by The Scaffold
from the album L. The P.
Released November 1968
Format 7" 45rpm
Length 4:23
Label Parlophone R 5734[1]
Writer(s) John Gorman, Mike McGear, Roger McGough[1]
Producer(s) Norrie Paramor[1]
Music sample

"Lily the Pink" is a 1968 song released by the UK comedy group The Scaffold. It is a modernisation of an older folk song titled "The Ballad of Lydia Pinkham". The lyrics celebrate the "medicinal compound" invented by Lily the Pink, and, in each verse, chronicle some extraordinary cure which it has effected.

The Scaffold version[edit]

The Scaffold's record, released in November 1968, became No. 1 in the UK Singles Chart for the four weeks encompassing the Christmas holidays that year.[1][2]

Backing vocalists on the recording included Graham Nash (of The Hollies), Elton John (then Reg Dwight), and Tim Rice;[1] while Jack Bruce (of Cream) played the bass guitar.[3]

The lyrics include a number of in-jokes which may have been missed by many listeners. For example, the line Mr Frears has sticky out ears refers to film director Stephen Frears who had worked with The Scaffold early in their career; while the line Jennifer Eccles had terrible freckles refers to the song "Jennifer Eccles" by The Hollies, Graham Nash's former band.[3]

Covers and derivative versions[edit]

Another version of the song, released a few months after The Scaffold's by The Irish Rovers, became a minor hit for North American audiences in early 1969. At a time when covers were released almost as soon as the originals, the release from the Rovers' Tales to Warm Your Mind Decca LP became a second favorite behind The Unicorn.

The song has since been adopted by the folk community. It has been performed live by The Brobdingnagian Bards and other Celtic-style folk and folk artists.

The song was successfully adapted into French by Richard Anthony in 1969: this version described humorously the devastating effects of a so-called panacée (universal medicine).

Earlier folk song[edit]

Label from a box of Lydia Pinkham's medicine.

The U.S. American folk (or drinking) song on which Lily the Pink was based is generally known as "Lydia Pinkham" or "The Ballad of Lydia Pinkham". It has the Roud number 8368.[4] The song was inspired by Lydia E. Pinkham's Vegetable Compound, a well-known herbal-alcoholic patent medicine for women. Supposed to relieve menstrual and menopausal pains, the compound was mass-marketed in the United States from 1876 onwards.

The song was certainly in existence by the time of the First World War. F. W. Harvey records it being sung in officers' prisoner-of-war camps in Germany, and ascribes it to Canadian prisoners.[5] According to Harvey, the words of the first verse ran:

Have you heard of Lydia Pinkum,
And her love for the human race?
How she sells (she sells, she sells) her wonderful compound,
And the papers publish her face?

In many versions, the complaints which the compound had cured were highly ribald in nature. During the Prohibition era (1920–33) in the United States, the medicine (like other similar patent medicines) had a particular appeal as a readily available 40-proof alcoholic drink, and it is likely that this aided the popularity of the song. A version of the song was the unofficial regimental song of the Royal Tank Corps during World War II.[3]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e Rice, Jo (1982). The Guinness Book of 500 Number One Hits (1st ed.). Enfield, Middlesex: Guinness Superlatives Ltd. pp. 121–2. ISBN 0-85112-250-7. 
  2. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. pp. 226–7. ISBN 1-904994-10-5. 
  3. ^ a b c "Lily The Pink by The Scaffold". Songfacts.com. Retrieved 2008-01-17. 
  4. ^ "VWML Online :: Search the Roud Folksong Index". Library.efdss.org. Retrieved 2014-04-07. 
  5. ^ Harvey, F.W. (1920). Comrades in Captivity. London: Sidgwick & Jackson. p. 203. 

External links[edit]

Preceded by
"The Good, the Bad and the Ugly" by Hugo Montenegro & His Orchestra
"Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da" by Marmalade
UK number one single by The Scaffold
11 December 1968 (4 weeks)
8 January 1969 (1 week)
Succeeded by
"Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da" by Marmalade