Georgy Girl (T Springfield/J Dale) – The Seekers 1967
The Seekers toured Australia in February 1966 and in the following year were named Australians of the Year in 1967, the first popular musicians to receive this accolade. The group were dominating international charts and were well on their way to selling over 50 million records, an amazing achievement given the competition from the British Invasion groups of the period, and the rather unique pop-folk musical niche that The Seekers occupied.
Georgy Girl would be the most iconic of their songs, an instantly recognizable classic with its jaunty flute-like whistling refrain at the intro which was enhanced electronically by a Farfisa organ, typically the keyboard of choice for garage rock bands in the 1960’s,
Tom Springfield wrote the music and actor-composer-singer Jim Dale the lyrics, Dale had several minor pop hits in the UK in the 1950’s, he had appeared in several Carry On films in the 1960’s and compered Thank Your Lucky Stars in 1965 on which The Seekers appeared several times. More recently he has been the voice of Harry Potter, having recorded all seven books in the series, and as a narrator, has won two Grammys, and ten Augie Awards.
Georgy Girl was cut from the same folk-pop template as previous Seekers hits, accessible, non-threatening, and clean-sounding, but the universality of its appeal was unprecedented; as it was the theme song for Silvio Narizzano’s popular film of the same name, starring James Mason, Lynn Redgrave, and Charlotte Rampling, it connected across international markets and sold over a million copies in the US alone.
The song is bright, bouncy, up tempo, engaging and effervescent, the four- part harmonies of the group are impeccable, Keith joins Judith on vocals in the lower register, and musically the tambourine, double bass and guitars, including a reprise of the chorus on solo guitar by “Big Jim” Sullivan, so completing a pop perfect production.
At this time in her musical career Judith Durham appeared as assured and confident as any successful international artist on the world stage, but there were issues distracting her, she wanted to spread her wings musically and was feeling restricted within the framework of the quartet. Her outer confidence also masked feelings of insecurity and negative body image, that were shared by both Georgy Girl, the dowdy kindergarten teacher as played by Lynne Redgrave, and Judith Durham, who was feeling overweight and frumpy and identified with the film’s central character.
The song is also unique in that it has two sets of lyrics, one for the film score and another for the record release. Georgy Girl took the Seekers back to the top of the charts after the great success of the Carnival is Over, it became their highest ranked US hit at #2 and the last time they occupied the #1 position on the UK charts as the group would disband in 1968 as Durham pursued a solo career.
The promo clip is archival gold, The Seekers performing in front of over 200,000 hometown fans at the Sydney Myer Music Bowl in Melbourne, during their triumphant national tour of Australia in 1967, this audience still holds the record for a concert performance in the southern hemisphere over 50 years later.
Lynn Redgrave and Judith Durham became good friends and Redgrave wrote a foreword for Durham’s autobiography, Colors of Life, published in 2004, both Georgy Girls had learned to “fly… a little bit”.
Sales of 3.5 million worldwide made Georgy Girl a megahit in this decade, it was unquestionably the biggest hit for the Seekers who were one of Australia’s most influential musical exports and revered performers. It was the 7th biggest-selling record in Australia in 1967 and again the Seekers beat out such groups as the Rolling Stones, the Monkees, the Animals and the Mamas and Papas in the process; the Seekers were inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame in 1995.
Georgy Girl was nominated for an Academy award but was narrowly pipped by Born Free, in a field that also included Alfie, the Seekers believed that a major factor here was their inability to perform the song in the US due to contractual commitments in the UK at the time. Promotion of the song prior to the votes being cast would have been critical to its chances of winning; particularly in the lead-up to the Academy award ceremony, where the song was sung by Mitzi Gaynor, who was primarily a dancer with a limited vocal range, who did a “show tune “ version of the song, high kicking and sashaying around the stage, ultimately stripping down to a Vegas showgirl outfit, in a performance that was so far removed from the Seekers original as to be farcical.