Billy Liar (1959)
by Keith Waterhouse
Here's something I've learned about the music business: The American music industry is filled with Americans who love love English culture and also with the actual English who are often employed by music industry companies that either from England or have offices there. This fascination typically starts around the time of The Who and runs right through to the present day. Much of the money in the music industry has to do with making money internationally or taking an artist who makes money in one place and making money with them in another market or multiple markets.
Thus, if you are a local musician looking to interact with a representative of the music industry itself, you can do worse then leading with something you like about English popular culture. You get cool points for knowing about English things that these industry types (or actual English people) haven't heard of, which brings us to Billy Liar, which basically a forgotten early salvo in the Teen Age of popular youth culture.
|Steve Guttenberg in the short lived sitcom Billy, a version of Billy Liar, the 1959 novel by Keith Waterhouse.|
"Forgotten," is a relative term. Billy Liar was an immediate hit upon its initial publication in England, leading to a play, a tv show, , a musical AND a short lived American television version starring Steve Guttenberg! Billy is a young guy living in Yorkshire, dreaming of writing comedy in for a television comedian. He is prone to flights of magical thinking and misrepresentations, and much of the plot has to do with his actions as he plans to leave town for a vague promise of work in London. Billy is one of the first characters in an English novel to be recognizable as a member of a youth sub culture. He actually goes to a fully described record shop, The X-L disc bar that one would describe as "hip"- and this in 1958/59.