|"Lily the Pink"|
|Single by The Scaffold|
|from the album L. The P.|
|Genre||Music hall, comedy rock|
|Label||Parlophone R 5734|
|Songwriter(s)||John Gorman, Mike McGear, Roger McGough|
Lily The Pink
"Lily the Pink" is a 1968 song released by the UK comedy group The Scaffold, which reached No. 1 in the UK Singles Chart. 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 humorously chronicle the "efficacious" cures it has brought about, such as inducing morbid obesity to cure a weak appetite, or bringing about a sex change as a remedy for freckles.
The Scaffold version
The lyrics include a number of in-jokes. For example, the line "Mr Frears had sticky out ears" refers to film director Stephen Frears, who had worked with The Scaffold early in their careers; while the line "Jennifer Eccles had terrible freckles" refers to the song "Jennifer Eccles" by The Hollies, the band Graham Nash was about to leave.
|Austria (Ö3 Austria Top 40)||5|
|Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)||5|
|Netherlands (Dutch Top 40)||2|
|South Africa (Springbok Radio)||2|
|UK Singles (OCC)||1|
|West Germany (Official German Charts)||5|
Covers, derivative versions, and similar songs
In North America The Irish Rovers released the song a few months after The Scaffold's version. It reached #38 in Canada and #113 in the U.S. in early 1969. It also rose to the Top 20 on the Easy Listening charts of both nations. The release from the Rovers' Tales to Warm Your Mind Decca LP became a second-favourite 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 (as "Le sirop typhon") by Richard Anthony in 1969. That version described humorously the devastating effects of a so-called panacée (universal medicine). In Quebec, it was adapted as "Monsieur Bong Bong", and mocked the Hong Kong flu pandemic of 1968–1969.
In 1968, an Italian version ("La sbornia", the bender) was made by the band I Gufi, describing the effects of drinking alcohol on several humorous, fictional characters.
In 1968, famous Finnish comedy actor Simo Salminen recorded a version in Finnish ("Tenkka-tenkka-poo", "a troubled situation"), which describe misfortunes of the storyteller from primary school to the last judgement.
In 1969, a Danish version ("Lille Fru Flink", "Little Mrs Friendly") was recorded by Grethe Sønck. It's a song about having a drink and feeling good amongst friends.
In February 1969, a Dutch version ("En we drinken tot we zinken", "We drink till we sink") Dutch artist Johnny Hoes entered the Dutch charts (Top 40).
Also in 1969, Swedish musician Lennart Grahn and the band The Shanes recorded a Swedish version entitled "Doktor E. Munk". Similarly to the original version, it chronicles a series of humorous situations arising from people using the titular Dr. Munk's miracle remedy to cure various ailments.
In 1952, Johnny Standley recorded "Grandma's Lye Soap", a song about soap with similarly bizarre ways of curing maladies.
Earlier folk song
The U.S. American folk (or drinking) song on which "Lily the Pink" is based is generally known as "Lydia Pinkham" or "The Ballad of Lydia Pinkham". It has the Roud number 8368. 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.
In his Autobiography William Carlos Williams remembers singing the song when at the University of Pennsylvania with Ezra Pound (1902-03). 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. 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.
At the 2019 Brecon and Radnorshire by-election, the Official Monster Raving Loony Party candidate, Berni Benton, stood under the name "Lady Lily the Pink". She polled 334 votes (1.05% of those cast), placing her in 5th place out of 6.
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- List of number-one singles from the 1960s (UK)
- List of number-one singles in Australia during the 1960s
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- William Carlos Williams, Autobiography, p.51, MacGibbon & Kee (UK), 1968
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- Forrest, Adam (2 August 2019). "Brecon and Radnorshire by-election result: Ukip beaten by Monster Raving Loony party". The Independent. Archived from the original on 14 June 2022. Retrieved 2 August 2019.
- "Lily the Pink lyrics". LyricsMania. Retrieved 9 July 2014.