I’ve bought Don Black’s The Sanest Guy in the Room, which is a great read—you know that it’s piqued your interest if you can do 110 pages in a single sitting. There’s more to go, and it’s entertaining learning a bit about the backgrounds to his songs, ‘Born Free’ arguably his best known. (I do know there are insurance commercials with the song, so I hope he, and the families of John Barry and Matt Monro are getting decent royalties from them—though it’s pretty bad I have no idea which company it’s for. I assume it’s a successor firm to AA Mutual.)
Don has been very humble in this book and in one part, excerpts his favourite lyrics that others have written. In my mind, however, Don is the top man in his business, and it seems right that I highlight a few of my favourites out of his extensive repertoire and honour him. These come to mind, in no particular order. Many show a good use of rhyme, and all evoke imagery. The repetition of a root word is also clever. And they’re “singable”. As someone who works with the English language professionally they appeal to me for their ingenuity and, in some cases, brevity. Surprisingly, by the time I chose 10, I realized I had not included any of his James Bond lyrics.
Any errors are mine as I recall the songs in my head.
But how do you thank someone
Who has taken you from crayons to perfume?
(‘To Sir with Love’, from To Sir with Love)
You’ve been dancing round my mind
Like a bright carousel.
(‘If There Ever Is a Next Time’, from Hoffman)
While your eyes played games with mine
(‘On Days Like These’, from The Italian Job)
This way Mary, come Mary,
While the sun is high,
Make this summer the summer that refused to die
(‘This Way Mary’, from Mary, Queen of Scots)
And as you wander on
Reflect and ponder on
The dreams today forgot to bring.
(‘Walkabout’, from Walkabout)
The me I never knew
Began to stir some time this morning.
The me I never knew
Arrived without a word of warning.
You smiled and you uncovered
What I had not discovered.
(‘The Me I Never Knew’, from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland)
Most people stay and battle on with their boredom
But what’s the sense in dreaming dreams if you hoard ’em?
(‘I Belong to the Stars’, from Billy)
Love has no season,
There are no rules.
Those who stop dreaming are fools.
(‘Our Time Is Now’, from the Shirley Bassey album The Performance)
Main attraction, couldn’t buy a seat
The celebrity celebrities would die to meet
(‘If I Never Sing Another Song’, as originally performed by Matt Monro)
There’s so much more for me to find,
I’m glad I’ve left behind behind.
(‘I’ve Never Been This Far Before’, from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland)