#15: A Young Girl by Noel Harrison

City: Halifax, NS
Radio Station: CHNS
Peak Month: January  1966
Peak Position in Halifax ~ #3
Peak position in Vancouver ~ #16
Peak Position on Billboard Hot 100 ~ #51
YouTube: “A Young Girl
Lyrics: “A Young Girl

Noel Harrison was born in 1934, and was the son of Rex Harrison and his first of six wives, Ethel Collette-Thomas. When he was 15, his mother took Noel out of school to live in the Swiss Alps. Harrison never returned to school and began ski-racing. He joined the Ipswich theatre repertory group and taught himself guitar, but his main interest and most of his spare time was spent skiing. At an early age, he was a member of the British ski team, becoming its first giant-slalom champion in 1953. In 1952, Harrison represented Great Britain at the Winter Olympics in Oslo, Norway. Four years later he was part of Great Britain’s olympic tea at the 1956 Winter Olympics in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy.

When Harrison was 20 in 1954, he started playing professionally, around the tables in a Greek restaurant in London. He also made a living playing in bars and nightclubs all over Europe, including appearances at the Blue Angel nightclub in Mayfair, London, where one show was recorded for a live album. In February 1957, Harrison got a regular spot in the BBC TV show Tonight, as part of a team who sang the day’s news in a calypso style. In 1961 he appeared opposite David Nivin in the WWII film The Best of Enemies. 

A Young Girl by Noel Harrison

He appeared in two spy films in the mid-60s, including Where the Spies Are (1965) also starring David Niven.

A Young Girl by Noel Harrison
In 1965, Noel Harrison moved to the United States. He performed at the Hungry I in San Francisco and the Persian Room in Manhattan. Based on audience response to his night club performances, Harrison soon got a record deal. He released a cover of the folk standard “Barbara Allan”.

His next single release was “A Young Girl”.

A Young Girl by Noel Harrison

“A Young Girl” was written by Franco-Armenian singer-songwriter Charles Aznavour, French bandleader Robert Chauvigny, and American singer-songwriter and playwright Oscar Brown Jr.

Charles Aznavour was born in Paris in 1924. His father was the son of a cook of Tsar Nicholas II. His father sang in restaurants in France before establishing a restaurant specializing in food from the Caucasus called Le Caucase. Charles’s parents introduced him to performing at an early age, and he dropped out of school at age nine, and took the stage name “Aznavour”. Over his career he recorded over ninety studio albums. He had a #1 hit in 1973 in the UK and Ireland titled “She”. Also in 1973, Charles Aznavour’s “The Old Fashioned Way” became a #5 hit in the Netherlands. Between 1936 and 2009, Charles Aznavour appeared in over 60 films. In 1959, Aznavour won the Best Actor Award from the French Cinema Academy for his role in La Tête contre les murs. 

Elton John, Sting, Carole King and Bryan Ferry all appeared on Aznavour’s 2008 album Duos. In 2012 Aznavour was awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal. And in 2017, Aznavour was given the Raoul Wallenberg Medal in recognition for what his family did in harbouring Jews in France and keeping them safe from Nazi soldiers. In 2018, Charles Aznavour died at the age of 94.

Oscar Brown Jr. was born in 1926 and worked in radio and was a commentator on the Negro Newsfront radio show. Brown ran unsuccessfully for political office for both the Progressive Party in 1948, and the Republican Party in 1952. Concurrently, he was also a member of the Communist Party USA into the mid-50s. In 1963, he wrote “The Snake” which became a Top 40 hit for Al Wilson in 1968. Between 1960 and 1998, Oscar Brown Jr. recorded eleven albums. He also wrote ten musicals. He appeared in 1960 on Tonight Starring Steve Allen, The Today Show with Dave Garroway, and in 1962 hosted Jazz Scene USA. In 1970, Oscar Brown Jr. was a guest on The Dick Cavett Show. And in the early 1980s, Brown Jr. was the host of a 13-episode series titled From Jump Street: The Story of Black Music. He died at the age of 78 in 2005.

“A Young Girl” is a tragic song about a rich young sixteen-year-old girl. She leaves her home and roams with an untrustworthy vagabond who “drags her down.” Blinded by her love for him, she gives away all her power as she lets him rule her heart, soul and mind. Harrison sings:

She left her neighbourhood in which everyone was filthy rich. 
She left her parents’ home and strayed with a vagabond who made
vows of love she never heard, and she believed his every word.
She left no forwarding address, just took her youth and happiness,
as with the boy she vanished in, the secret sweetness of their sin.

In this transient state, despite being from a filthy rich home, she’s left her position and her wealth behind. The pair can’t live on love alone. The vagabond grows restless for a new conquest, while the young girl becomes increasingly desolate. The day comes when the vagabond “quits her just for crumbs.” He leaves her to starve: emotionally, physically and mentally. It seems it is starvation that literally finishes her off. The final line grimly portrays “a young girl lying here by the road, dead.”

“A Young Girl” peaked at #1 in Phoenix, #2 in Erie (PA), #3 in Halifax (NS), Corpus Christi (TX), and Bakersfield (CA), #4 in San Antonio (TX), and Brattleboro (VT), #5 in Boston, San Bernardino (CA), Battle Creek (MI), and Tucson (AZ), #6 in Sacramento (CA), Orlando, and Fresno (CA), #7 in Los Angeles, and Austin (TX), #9 in Oxnard (CA), Hartford (CT), Honolulu, and Cincinnati (OH), #10 in Providence (RI), #11 in Hamilton (ON), and #16 in Vancouver.

In the following years, Harrison released a cover of Bob Dylan’s “It’s All Over Now Baby Blue”. He also covered the french Michael Legrand song “Les Moulins de mon cœur” with a debut of its English lyrics “The Windmills Of Your Mind”. Harrison’s version appeared in the soundtrack for the 1968 film The Thomas Crown Affair. Harrison’s version became a #8 Top Ten hit in the UK. However, it got little traction in North America. Yet, it climbed to #5 in Johannesburg, South Africa, and #2 in Adelaide, Australia.

He also toured with the Beach Boys, and Sonny and Cher, appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show, featured on a music program, Hullabaloo and appeared on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. 

In 1970, Noel Harrison appeared in a film with Oliver Reed and Hayley Mills titled Take a Girl Like You. In 1972, Harrison left the United States for Nova Scotia. He bought a farmhouse with 320 acres of farmland, and from there he commuted to Halifax where he hosted a CBC show called Take Time. 

In 2004, Harrison returned to the United Kingdom, relocating to Devon. He continued to sing, appearing in occasional concerts to finance the recording and release of his self-produced albums, such as Hold Back Time. A compilation album of his work titled Life Is a Dream was released by the American ‘Reprise’ record label in 2003, and his debut album, Noel Harrison, was re-released in 2008. In 2010, he recorded a new album, From the Sublime to the Ridiculous!

In 2013, Noel Harrison died at the age of 79 of a heart attack.

March 11, 2024
Ray McGinnis

Oscar Brown Jr., 78, Singer-Songwriter Dies,” Jet, June 20, 2005.
Alex Petrifies, “From drag queens to dead marriages, Charles Aznavour was far from easy listening,” Guardian, October 1, 2018.
Adam Sweeting, “Noel Harrison obituary: Actor and singer of The Windmills of Your Mind, a huge 1960s hit that won an Oscar,” Guardian, October 22, 2013.

A Young Girl by Noel Harrison
CHNS 960-AM Halifax (NS) Top Ten | January 2, 1966

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