6 March 2014

Bob Miller & The Millermen - The "Oliver" Twist/ That's It



Label: Parlophone
Year of Release: 1961

It's a well-known fact that back in 1960, a young tunesmith called Lionel Bart penned a musical based on Charles Dickens' novel "Oliver Twist". "Oliver!" was subsequently staged in London, then went to Broadway, became a film, and translated into millions of soundtrack LPs sold.  There's a much longer story to be told here about the success of the show, but excuse me if I don't waste the bulk of this entry on what is essentially just a subplot.  

Bart had a very strong hand in the "regular" music business too, penning hits such as "Living Doll", and it seems likely that in this case he was simply using the name of the production to feed some of the show's success back into his usual career.  Equally, it's possible that this single acted as a promotional device for the show in itself, and the punning nature of the title may have been too much for him to resist. Whatever his reasons, I feel quite confident in stating that what this isn't is a missing piece of interlude music from the production - all that rock and rolling would have had the 'squares' and Mums and Dads racing for the fire exits.

And it is a rock and roller, too. Filled with shouts, squeaky keyboards, and enough brass to keep Brasso in business for the rest of the year, it's similar enough in tempo and style to "Beatnik Fly" by Johnny and The Hurricanes to bring dancing priests on Craggy Island to mind far more than Dickensian characters. Like "Beatnik Fly", though, it's filled with gusto and warmth, energy, and - as is Bart's speciality - a melody the postman could whistle.  What it wasn't, however, was a hit. At this stage in Bart's career such a minor setback was probably brushed off.

As for Bob Miller and The Millermen, they released many singles and were frequently on youth orientated shows on television and radio at the time, sometimes in their own right, sometimes backing the stars of the day.  Despite the media exposure - leading to their live shows frequently being billed as "TV's Bob Miller and The Millermen"- a hit was never really forthcoming, and Lionel Bart's involvement obviously failed to change their fortunes.  


1 comment:

VanceMan said...

Totally new to me and better than I would have expected. Thanks!