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Fings Ain't Wot They Used T'Be: The Life of Lionel Bart Hardcover – 7 Nov 2011

4.4 out of 5 stars 17 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Omnibus Press; 01 edition (7 Nov. 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1849386617
  • ISBN-13: 978-1849386616
  • Product Dimensions: 15.6 x 3 x 23.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 188,055 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

He wrote some of the best, most popular, most enduring songs of the past 60 year. He had a breathtaking theatrical imagination. He was as complex, flawed and damaged as a proper human being should be. His story is extraordinary, and, from a narrative point of view, near perfect-with three acts, a journey, a climax, a crisis, a catharsis and a calming denouement.


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4.4 out of 5 stars
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I think this was once the Radio 4 Book of the Week. It is an interesting read, but somehow you wonder how much is not included. A well known homosexual, yet there is only a passing reference to one boyfriend who asked not to be named, as most probably he has a family who would be embarrassed, just as Dirk Bogarde at the end of his life refused to admit any relationship other than friendship and companionship with Tony Forwood, he said not to embarrass Forwood's family. For this reason the narrative seems a bit thin in places. There was speculation, he was engaged to Alma Cogan, clearly to obscure the truth. When she died it was disclosed she was engaged to her manager and she most definitely did not have any affairs,hence the fascination John Lennon held for her. I found the style a bit irritating at times,like managers in meetings who put on an effort to be crude to make a point which is obviously for show and does not impress. Words like 'legit' and 'arsed' do not fit well in a serious book. At the end of his life he is rather a sad figure, all his friends dead, he is yesterday's news, his financial affairs in a mess and due to drugs and drink unable to produce a serious work. I am sure I read 'Quasimodo' had been staged despite not being complete, and 'Strada' is tied in knots over the rights. It is a shame like his last hit there are no 'Happy Endings.' 'Oliver' is his masterpiece never to be equalled. I wonder if the rest of the shows are worth a revival, or are they too dated? There was a question in the Daily Mail trivia page, which I submitted, about 'Twang' and if it really was that bad. It seems as if it was. Among those who replied was Barbara Windsor whose very charming reply showed she still had some nostalgia for those days even if the show was a disaster. If you can watch the TV profile which crops up occasionally which features Dudley Sutton among others.
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Format: Hardcover
To paraphrase a lyric from his most famous musical. Apt, because the authors have to admit on practically every page that a story may or may not have happened, that many pieces of this troubled and splintered life are missing - presumed written only on cigarette packets - and that the only thing anybody really agrees on was that they loved this difficult `creative genius.'

Most readers will instantly know that Lionel Bart wrote "Oliver!" Those of a certain age will be able to hum the cleaned up version of "Fing's Ain't What They Used To Be" - and might even know that it came from one of the most revolutionary experimental theatre productions of its era. Some may also remember the old pianist with the toothless kiddie in an "Abbey National" commercial. A few musical theatre fans will also speak of "Blitz!" "Maggie May" and "Lock Up Your Daughters" with affection, simultaneously shuddering at "Twang!!"

The `pub quiz' bore will know all about Bart's connections to Tommy Steele and Cliff Richard among a host of other 1960s stars. It's really in the collation of these connections that this biography scores. Alma Cogan, Judy Garland, Kenneth Williams - just a few of the myriad names who drifted into and out of Lionel's circle, supported by him and lending him support in return.

The biography does a reasonable job of recording the occurrence of an interaction, noting where possible those for whom he wrote songs, gave advice or simply 'walked' into a glittering premiere. Of his non-celebrity friends, staff and family, there's clearly been some long conversations sifted to provide a few insights into how a man can be a millionaire one moment, at the height of his creative powers, then lose everything including health and home in a few short years.

`Fing is...
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Format: Hardcover
From the start this book immerses the reader in the world of Lionel Bart and it doesn't let him come up for air. It's a compulsive read.

Downsides? There are a few innacuracies, largely, I imagine, as a result of the book not being edited or proof-read properly. The authors adopt a saloon-bar style of narration that may not be to everyone's taste. But perhaps in the same way that Roger Lewis' biographies were written to reflect the personality of the subject (Olivier formal, Sellers all over the shop etc) this might be a deliberate reflection of the frenetic nature of Bart's life. Enjoyable. Recommended.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If you lived through the sixties then this will evoke many memories for you. It is not only a biography of one of Britain's greatest songwriters but it covers a lot of history of the time. Tales of Tommy Steele, Cliff Richard, Alma Cogan, Judy Garland etc are littered liberally throughout.
The only grouse I have is the Author's writing style. Some poor language and four letter words are used during the narrative; I'm not a prude but think the writers should have kept it simpler.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Exceptionally written book from cover to cover following the life of Lionel Bart, the unrecognised father of the British Pop Industry and the British Musical. The world knows "Oliver!" but "Oliver!" is but a small part of Lionel Bart's prolific output through the 1960's. Bart had the midas touch, was mocked by the establishment, adored by artists and exploited by "hangers on". Despite a fall from grace into the worlds of drugs and alcohol, his work remained revered the world over, and he rose again to be a grand master in his own right in his later years. Uplifting, inspiring and accurate biography of a character, more interesting than any literature has managed to create.
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