This blog is for everyone who uses words.

The ordinary-sized words are for everyone, but the big ones are especially for children.

Saturday, 25 April 2015

Saturday Rave: Oliver! The Lionel Bart version.

You don't need that many words for a song. A couple of four line verses, hopefully featuring a rhyme or two, and a one-line-repeating chorus, and that's enough.

I've been thinking about pick-pockets lately (no, it's all right, thank you, I just heard one interviewed on the radio) and this led me inevitably to Lionel Bart's Oliver!

File:Dodger introduces Oliver to Fagin by Cruikshank (detail).jpg
Illustration by George Cruikshank

This is the beginning of the pick-pocketing song, which is sung by Fagin with a chorus of boy pick-pockets.

FAGIN: In this life, one thing counts:
In the bank, large amounts!
I'm afraid these don't grow on trees,
You've got to pick a pocket or two.
You've got to pick a pocket or two, boys,
You've got to pick a pocket or two.
BOYS: Large amounts don't grow on trees.
You've got to pick a pocket or two.
FAGIN: Why should we break our backs
Stupidly paying tax?
Better get some untaxed income:
You've got to pick a pocket or two.

You can find all the lyrics to Oliver! HERE. The ingenuity and variety and sheer quantity of these lyrics is astounding.The pick-pocketing song alone has six verses, all very funny, sharp, and gleefully horrifying. Oliver! is immensely generous stuff. I mean, look at the third line of those verses, above - at the rhyme half way along - I'm afraid these don't grow on trees; and Better get some untaxed income; rhymes joyously thrown in as if that sort of thing were easy.

When Lionel Bart wrote Oliver! he was twenty eight years old, and Oliver! was his third successful musical. He made a fortune - and spent it.

Ah well. I hope he had a thoroughly lovely time. He deserved it.

Word To Use Today: tax. This word comes from the Old French taxer, from the Latin tangere, to touch.

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