We have a new single out on streaming sites from 30th March: “May A Man Be Merry” and “Dolly Rocker”. Unlike the live single we released in February, these are new studio recordings. This single is Volume 1 in a series we’ve called “Blackbird”.
“May A Man Be Merry” was written and recorded by Lionel Bart in 1968 for his failed psychedelic album “Isn’t this where we came in?” Unfortunately it didn’t quite fit in anywhere. Bart wrote huge hits for Cliff Richard (Living Doll), Tommy Steele and others in the 50’s and particularly the musical “Oliver” in 1960. “Oliver” was a massive hit both on the stage in London and Broadway, but also on film. Lionel’s flamboyant lifestyle, drugs and alcoholism caused a career nosedive. He put large sums of money into various musical projects for the London stage, but nothing took off. He managed to squander the millions he earned and sadly ended his life through liver cancer in 1999 at the age of 68. He was then living in a small apartment above a betting office in London.
Lionel was homosexual and by 1955 the expression “gay” had found a foothold in the language. But homosexuality was also illegal at that time, so had to be hidden. “Merry” would appear to be a euphemism for “gay” and the answer to the question “May a man be merry?” back then would have been no! You could definitely not be openly gay anyway. Lionel was a party animal, generous and by all accounts great fun to be around during the 60’s. Noel Coward once said he would ‘rather spend five minutes in a four-ale bar with Lionel Bart than a year’s yachting cruise with the Oxford Debating Society’.
“Dolly Rocker” is from a sketchy Syd Barrett demo, wildly unfinished, which we’ve reworked to a very large extent.
The great cover art has once again been created by Ian Barrett. It’s the first version of a linocut and will be used again as the next volumes in the “Blackbird” series are released.