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a “chuggy sound.” He was paid seven pounds and ten shillings for the session. After mixing, “My Boy Lollipop” by Millie (no


Small) was released on 12 March, 1964, and by 4 April was twentieth in the UK pop chart. On 23 May it peaked at number two, remaining in the chart for eleven weeks. It had been released on the Fontana label, as Blackwell — wisely, as it turned out — realised the fledgling Island Records would struggle to cope with demand, and licensed the rights to the established label. The song reached number two in the United States, and in Ireland it was literally top of the pops. In total, the single sold six million copies. Its phenomenal success helped launch Island Records, and opened the door to reggae as an international force. Cover versions followed: in German and French that year, in Serbo-


“My Boy Lollipop” was unlike anything most British pop fans had ever heard before, with its combination of girly vocal intonation, galloping offbeat rhythm, sugary lyrics, and harmonica interlude


T


Croat in 1966. Bizarrely, the song was to resurface again in 1982 as “My Girl Lollipop”, performed by the 2-Tone band Bad Manners, whose front man, Buster Bloodvessel, was the anatomical antithesis of the diminutive Millie. There was a brief moment of Millie mania. “There hasn’t been a voice


like it since Shirley Temple,” enthused the Daily Express, and Millie appeared on TV, in magazines, and performed in a television special with the Beatles. She even learned to curtsy before meeting the Duke of Edinburgh. She toured the UK and Germany before a whistle stop tour of the United States, accompanied by Blackwell. A promotional tour of Africa and Latin America was sponsored by Pepsi-Cola.


I


hroughout, the “pretty, pixie-faced teenager” (as Teenville Magazine described her) exuded a charmingly naïve view of her success —


even if some of her remarks might have offended her Jamaican compatriots:


love making records. And I love it here in


England, much better than back home in Jamaica. Coming to Britain was the most thrilling thing I have ever done. I always dreamed of having enough money to buy a big house for my family. Now I can bring them all over here!


But behind the saccharine sentiments, there was a more poignant reality. In his book White Bicycles: Making Music in the 1960s, record producer Joe Boyd recalls the moment Small finally returned to Kingston:


The motorcade wound its way through cheering, flag-waving crowds: this was Jamaica’s first international success following independence. Finally, it reached Millie’s shack in Tivoli. She jumped out of the limo and ran towards her mother with open arms. The older woman


backed away fearfully from the most famous person in Jamaica and bowed low. “Welcome


home, Miss Millie,” she said, holding out her hand. Millie Small would never again enjoy such


celebrity. She recorded and performed throughout the 1960s, and then more or less disappeared from public


view. In 2011 she was awarded the Order of Distinction by the Jamaican government, which was accepted on her behalf by former Prime Minister Edward Seaga. She has since announced that she intends to return to Jamaica to


celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of her hit. And, fifty years later, few songs are as evocative and instantly recognisable as “My Boy Lollipop”. “Extraordinary how potent cheap music is,” mused Noel Coward, that lover of Jamaica, and in Millie’s case his words ring especially true. n


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