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There has been some controversy as to the actual provenance of this song, which has now been resolved. In his 2002 autobiography Stars In My Eyes, the eighty year old Max Bygraves relates the genesis of one of his biggest hits. Max was born in 1922 and went into showbusiness more or less by accident as a comedy impressionist, but later picked up the basics of songwriting. Describing "You Need Hands" as one of his early attempts, he relates how "...I had penned the rough guide to a song" while appearing in Swinging In The Lane.
"I was seated at the piano, trying to piece the chorus together, when Steve and Jimmy [The Clarke Brothers] sidled up. I sang them the lyric, which they immediately began to harmonise with. To cut a long story shory, I asked the director if we could include the song in the show. it wasn't easy to get permisson as the show was already running and had been approved by the Lord Chancellor's Office..."
Even in the late 1950s, the British theatre was subject to rigorous censorship, he continues "...the problems were overcome and we three performed the song...all of us wearing white gloves."
The lyrics to "You Need Hands" are published on pages 122-3 along with an extra verse written for the stage version, but the Decca recording and the British Library catalogue credited it as written by Roy Irwin; a mistake they amended when we presented them with evidence to the contrary. It was published by Lake View Publishing and performed by Max Bygraves with The Clarke Brothers and Eric Rogers and his Orchestra.
Later, it was recorded by Eydie Gormé and became a big hit; the original version was the alternative A Side to "Tulips From Amsterdam". This is probably the last song any musicologist would expect The Sex Pistols to record but a thematic - and very tasteful - recording can actually be laid at their door.
Regarding the actual authorship of the song, in August 2010, Barney Hooper of the Performing Rights Society confirmed that Roy Irwin and Max Bygraves were one and the same person. It remains to be seen why he should have used a pseudonym but the song was owned by his own company, Lake View Publishing, through which he bought the Lionel Bart musical Oliver.
The claim has also been made that "You Need Hands" won him the Songwriter of the Year Award in 1958, but according to Kate MacCormick of the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors:
'From our records, it seems that Max Bygraves was the runner up in the Best Selling and Most Performed Item of the Year category for "You Need Hands" in 1958.
As such, he could be described as an Ivor Novello Nominee but he didn't receive an Ivor.' (thanks, Alexander Baron - London, England, for above 2)
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