In the 1960s, during what was arguably rock and pop’s most progressive, forward-thinking era, many artists took advantage of their musical freedom to hark back to earlier decades. Or, occasionally, centuries.
The Scaffold originated in Liverpool when the already-working duo of poet Roger McGough and musician Mike McGear were joined by comedian John Gorman. Given their skill sets, it’s no surprise that the group’s subsequent albums contained a mix of poetry, pop, and puns.
[McGear could have traded on his birth name, McCartney, and his older brother, Paul, but instead chose to succeed on his own merits under an assumed name taken from the Liverpool slang for “great.”]
In 1968, The Scaffold recorded their own lyrics to a (nearly) 100-year-old drinking song entitled “The Ballad of Lydia Pinkham.” The real Mrs. Pinkham (for she did indeed exist) concocted a very popular medicinal brew in New England, full of all sorts of herbs and roots and extracts, but most importantly, full of cockle-warming alcohol. This made her compound especially sought-after during the Prohibition, a decade which saw the US government in the business of keeping everyone’s cockles cold.
Over the decades, Lydia’s song became favored by soldiers and bar patrons as a fun sing-along/drink-along, and the verses were often quite suggestive, depending on the present company, of course. The Scaffold cleaned it up and roped in a few recognizable names for chorus vocals, including Graham Nash (of Crosby, Stills and … ), Reg Dwight (soon to rechristen himself Elton John), and Tim Rice (soon to co-write JC Superstar, Evita, and The Lion King, to name but a few).
Released in November of 1968, the music hall merriment of “Lily The Pink” topped the charts in the UK during the holiday season. So have a little swig of The Scaffold — it’s gear, it’s fab, it’s good for what ails ya.