Explaining how this song came together, Sylvan Mason writes:
"In 1968, as was normally the practice, my then husband Barry Mason, and musician Les Reed would get together, usually at Les's house in Woking round the beautiful polished wood, grand piano, or sometimes in a music room at Frances Day and Hunter, just round the corner from Denmark Street. FD&H were the overall publishers of Donna Music, Les' first publishing company. They would thrash out a few concepts for a song. Les would bring, or work on, a melody, and a title would usually be agreed on. Sometimes, Barry would take my titles to Les. One of them 'Don't Linger With Your Finger on the Trigger,' Les recorded himself, and appeared on Beat Club
in Bremen to sing it.
Their initial efforts would be put down on our portable tape recorder and Barry would bring this, either home to me, or to an office where we could work on it together. We would both have a clipboard to write down our ideas, and I would type the completed lyrics on my typewriter at home. Sometimes, we would be still completing lyrics and would take our clipboards to an upstairs room at Les' Wessex studios as the arrangement for the demo was being put down and recorded.
In the case of 'Delilah,' which arrived, on a sunny morning, via the usual tape recorder, the rough tape was played to me in an office in Chappell Music, 19 St. George Street, where Barry's publishing company (Patricia Music) was based. On the first floor, there was a small room with a piano and a desk on the left hand side of the building (as you looked from the street). Access was via Managing Director Stuart Reid's Reception area.
The melody had already been put down in entirety by Les Reed, who had also had the idea for the theme of the song, and a chorus that had two lines of 'Iy Yi Yi, Delilah.' Les had suggested that the song be based on the story of a modern Samson and Delilah, and Barry and I set to work.
Finding a way to put 'Lulling Samson to sleep in her lap, Delilah alerted the Philistine rulers who waited in the shadows to capture him. They sheared Samson's hair and, in his newly weakened state, bound him, gouged out his eyes, and forced him to grind grain in the prison at Gaza' into a modern context, was not easy, though I must admit, later on Leonard Cohen did manage to do an amazing job with 'Hallelujah
' in 1984. It was not an easy task for him either. He apparently 'wrote around 80 draft verses for 'Hallelujah,' with one writing session at the Royalton Hotel in New York where he was reduced to sitting on the floor in his underwear, banging his head on the floor.'
As the song progressed, after struggling a bit, we decided to switch over to making it about the storyline in the 1954 film of Carmen Jones
which I had seen as a young girl and which was based on the 1943 stage production of the same name by Oscar Hammerstein II, which was inspired by an adaptation of the 1845 Prosper Mérimée novella Carmen
, and in which Harry Belafonte, engulfed and inflamed with passion, jealousy and rage, strangles the adulteress Carmen (Dorothy Dandridge) as she mocks him. Cradling her dead body, he sings, 'String Me High on a Tree, so that soon I will be, with my darling, my baby, my Carmen' as he shuts her eyes, and the Military Police enter the room through the door, and take him away.
The only line that remained from the original attempt at the Bible story was 'But I was lost like a Slave that no man can free' which still seemed to fit the new story angle.
It was one of those lyrics that just flowed after the original idea or theme has taken hold. The same thing happened with 'Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes)
' for which I wrote most of the lyrics with Tony Macaulay in late 1969. Both were completed with no re-writes in under two hours."