Georgie Fame (sometimes also billed with his backing band The Blue Flames) is a British R&B/jazz singer and pianist whose biggest US Billboard hit was "The Ballad of Bonnie and Clyde." It is a disarmingly ragtime-themed song, contrasting to the subject matter. Georgie Fame also had several #1 hits on the UK Singles charts in the '60s.
The song is about the real-life Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, a famous bank-robbing couple in the Great Depression era of the United States. Despite the boy-meets-girl cuteness of a crime-spree couple, their outlaw exploits are not to be dismissed lightly; they led a gang, robbed about a dozen banks, knocked off many small stores, killed nine police officers, and also shot a few civilians. They went down in a hail of bullets in an ambush by Texas and Louisiana police in 1934. The story still captures the imagination of audiences today.
In 1967, the film Bonnie and Clyde was released. Starring Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway, it was highly controversial for the time, pushing the standards of what was acceptable to show on the silver screen. This film is what prompted the song.
To this day, the film Bonnie and Clyde is cited as influences for many crime drama epics, amongst them The Godfather, The Wild Bunch, and Natural Born Killers.
The song upset some movie fans when it was played on the radio as it gave away the ending of the film.
Mitch Murray, who penned the song with Pete Callender, explained in 1000 UK #1 Hits by Jon Kutner and Spencer Leigh how they were inspired to write the song after seeing the movie: "We both decided that they had blown the music. They should have had a hit song and so we thought we'd write one. At first we considered giving it to Joe Brown or Lonnie Donegan, but they didn't seem quite right for the song. Then the managing director of CBS told Peter that they had signed Georgie Fame and were looking for a big hit. We added a special jazzy bit for Georgie - 'Bonnie and Clyde got to be Public Enemy Number One' as we thought that would sell it to him, but he wasn't very keen on the song. We did a demo with machine guns and skidding cars and we were asked to go to the session with our sound effects."
The producer of this song, Mike Smith, had his problems and drummer Clem Cattini had to re-record his part. Smith explained in 1000 UK #1 Hits : "The sound effects were wonderful, but we discovered an electrical fault and we had clicks all through the rhythm track. I had to go back into the studio and using George's vocal track and the front line from the brass, the musicians had to put down a new rhythm track, which is not easy. To this day, Georgie doesn't quite believe they did it, but we ended up with an outstanding record."