Herman’s Hermits’ pop hit “Mrs. Brown, You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter” was originally sung by acclaimed actor Tom Courtenay in The Lads, a British TV play of 1963, and released as a single in the UK.
Most of us outside the UK are familiar only with Herman’s Hermits’ version, which rose to number one on the charts in May 1965.
Courtenay came to prominence as in actor in the early 1960s with a succession of films, including The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner (1962), Billy Liar (1963), and Doctor Zhivago (1965). He received an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor for the film adaptation of The Dresser (1983),
The song was written by another British actor, Trevor Peacock, who was also a song and screenwriter.
John Lennon’s voice dripped with bitter irony when he sang that a working-class hero is something to be. In the years immediately preceding The Beatles’ peak, though, British filmgoers were familiar with such figures in a way they would never be again. The starting-gun was fired in 1959, as Richard Burton’s bedsit-dwelling, jazz-playing misanthrope stalked through the Derby of Look Back In Anger, and Laurence Harvey destroyed himself and his lover Simone Signoret by trying to crash across the class divide in Room at the Top.
A new wave of kitchen-sink realism then introduced a generation of charismatic working-class stars: Albert Finney in Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (1960), Rita Tushingham in A Taste of Honey (1961), Tom Courtenay in The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner (1962), and Richard Harris in This Sporting Life (1963).
A working-class actor or writer was certainly something to be then, in a prelude to the working-class, Beatles-led British music which lit up the world. Michael Caine and Terence Stamp became the more glamorous acting equivalents of that later, liberated surge. [ . . . ]