This song has a unique history – it was not the original choice of theme song for the TV show Prisoner; the singer Lynne Hamilton who had been a pop star in the UK with the group the Caravelles, had emigrated to Australia in 1971, and had actually drifted away from the entertainment industry, yet her rendition of the song surprisingly became a local hit in 1979.
But another ten years would pass before On the Inside would break out internationally as the theme song for Prisoner as the series began to get airplay around the world, and the show captured a huge TV audience in the UK.
Reg Grundy had established an impressive reputation for producing quiz and game shows for Australian television for over a decade- Blankety Blanks, Celebrity Squares, Family Feud, The Great Temptation, The Price Is Right, Sale of the Century, and many more. But he craved success with drama, so he recruited ex-pat Aussie Reg Watson who had cut his teeth on Lew Grade productions in the UK, particularly with the long-running soapie Crossroads. Below Reg Watson
Watson’s first dramatic success in Australia would be the raw, hard-edged, addictive series about life inside the Wentworth Detention Centre for Women – known simply as Prisoner, and in the UK and USA as Prisoner – Cell Block H, and in Canada as Caged Women.
Grundy Productions had all but finalized a decision to use the song Unchained Melody, a hit for the Righteous Brothers in 1965, as the Prisoner theme song, but Chris Gilbey, head of the Sydney office of ATV-Northern Songs, campaigned to use one of their songwriters, British emigrant Alan Caswell (above) to write a theme song. Caswell was given the script for the pilot episode of the show and told he had the weekend to provide a song, in a burst of inspiration on the Sunday, he wrote the song in under an hour and submitted it to ATV-Northern and Grundy the next Monday. Below – Publicity shots of Lyn with fellow Caravelle Andrea Simpson, record artwork for the song.
Lancashire-born Lynne Hamilton had performed with a backing group, the Desperadoes, in the UK and they had appeared on the same bill with such acts as The Rolling Stones, The Who, The Animals and Freddy and the Dreamers, they were also label mates with the Beatles and Lynne knew the Fab Four socially. Later Lynne became a member of the female pop duo The Caravelles, who had scored a huge hit in the US and the UK in 1963, with the single You Don’t Have to Be A Baby to Cry. Below the original Caravelles Andrea Simpson and Lois Wilkinson.
Lynne and her family emigrated to Sydney when Lynne was 18, she ultimately drifted away from the recording scene and owned and operated restaurants and a hire car company, but in 1979 her life was about to change, when she was invited to record the theme song for Prisoner by Grundy Productions. Below Images of the original Prisoner series.
Alan Caswell’s country sensibility permeated the song, the minimalist guitars and piano provided subtle support for Hamilton’s emotional vocals which captured the pain and fragility of a woman who felt imprisoned.
Lynne Hamilton has revealed that when she first demoed the song she broke down in tears, because she was feeling the grief of divorcing her husband and identifying with the lyrics which counterpoint the emotional fragility and anguish, of a failed relationship, with the alienation, deprivation, and loneliness of being incarcerated.
The song was a big hit locally, climbed to #4, and occupied the charts for 40 weeks, but a follow up single failed to succeed, the series Prisoner was however a smash hit, running for 692 episodes between 1979- 86. Once released in the UK, the show was a runaway hit, and burnished the reputations of its stars overseas, just as another Reg Watson/Grundy production Neighbours would do for Kylie Minogue, Jason Donovan, Delta Goodrem and Holly Vallance, and provided unprecedented promotion for Lynne Hamilton’s theme song recorded a decade earlier.
On the Inside climbed to #3 on the UK pop charts when released there in 1989, and the former Caravelle, Lynne Hamilton, would return to London, to perform her international hit, on Top of The Pops. Below – Lyn performing on Top of the Pops.
Alan Caswell took legal action against Sony Music in 2003 claiming that the 1982 song Christmas In Dixie, recorded by US country rock band Alabama, had plagiarized his song. The courts ultimately dismissed Caswell’s claim, stating that “the central element of both songs is one of the most basic and common harmonic patterns in all music.” Lynne Hamilton now works as an Evangelical Minister and still occasionally performs in support of her church, but On the Inside certainly made her one of Australia’s most celebrated one-hit wonders.
The current Wentworth theme song is Wentworth (You Don’t Know Me), performed by the band Pleasantville, from Southsea in the UK.
IMPORTANT MESSAGE- 4TR will be on vacation for several weeks from November 16 – 25, returning on Tuesday November 30th, in the meantime keep in touch, stay well, and listen to the music.