Monday, February 03, 2014


"Georgy Girl" / The Seekers

Anyone remember this movie?  1966, British, in arty black and white -- it was part of that brief new wave of British filmmaking that began with the gritty realism of The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner and ended with the absurdism of If . . . . My favorite era of filmmaking, hands down.

But this one in particular had a story that really spoke to me. Georgy/Georgina, played by Vanessa Redgrave's kid sister Lynn, is an impulsive, cheerful, slightly overweight girl, harboring a mad crush on the gorgeous boyfriend (Alan Bates) of her icy, elegantly beautiful roommate (Charlotte Rampling). Just guess which character I identified with.

With its perky whistling motif, "Georgy Girl" sounds more like cabaret, or at least folk music, than backbeat rock & roll. The Seekers (note: NOT the Searchers) weren't British but Australian -- the first Aussies, in fact, to score Top 5 hits in the US, UK, and Australia -- and they clearly identified as folkies. The songwriter was Dusty Springfield's brother Tom, her old partner from the folk trio the Springfields, who had also written the Seekers' earlier acoustic hits, "I'll Never Find Another You" and "A World Of Our Own." (The Seekers' lead singer, Judith Durham, even sounded like a Dusty Springfield, minus the Motown influence.)  Yet the times they were a-changing, and this song mixes things up with a brisker, boppier, tempo, and lyrics by musical comedy actor Jim Dale. 
Despite its plucky melody, we all knew this was a desperately sad song. Addressed to Georgy by an omniscient narrator, the song goes to the heart of her paradoxical nature: "Hey there, Georgy Girl / Swingin' down the street so fancy free / Nobody you meet could ever see the loneliness there / Inside you." It's almost as if this is her shrink singing, the close folk harmonies adding a sort of clinical detachment. Men pass her by, unattracted by her frumpy appearance; we're still in pre-Swinging London when the bohemian look was not In. Yet in that wistful bridge, Durham's voice rings out solo, noting Georgy's secret hunger for love: "You're always window shopping / But never stopping to buy / So shed those dowdy feathers and fly! / A little bit." As a clumsy pre-teen, I took that directive very much to heart.

Teetering on the cusp of the Be Yourself groovy 1960s, in the chorus the singers become cheerleaders urging Georgy to self-actualization -- "Hey there, Georgy girl / There's another Georgy deep inside / Bring out all the love you hide / And, oh, what a change there'd be / The world would see / A new Georgy girl." In verse two Durham exhorts her: "Don't be so scared of changing / And rearranging yourself / It's time for jumping down from the shelf / A little bit." I love how they tack on those last short phrases -- "inside you," "a little bit" -- knowing that Georgy is only ready for baby steps toward Finding Herself.

This song was so inspiring, so heartening to me, that I pretty much refused to acknowledge that there was another set of lyrics for the end credits:

Wait -- how did Georgy get from lovable eccentric to a selfish gold-digger? Sorry, you'll just have to see the movie. . . .  

27 DOWN, 25 TO GO

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