A Programme coming up on Radio 4 this Thursday has shocked me into realising that Keith Waterhouse's Masterpiece Billy Liar is 50 years old this year.
I'd forgotten what an impact the book had on me when I read it and later saw the wonderful John Schlesinger film in 1963 with Tom Courtenay and Julie Christie. The book caught perfectly the poignant struggle between adolescent brash confidence and vulnerable insecurity and unlike any other fictional work of the period seemed to reach in and touch the inner rebel.
I couldn't get enough of the book, reading and re-reading until my head was full of pieces of the text. I remember Billy Fisher used to make up phrases to take the piss out of older Yorkshire folk such as "I'm reet thraiped lad" or "It's neither mickling nor muckling" and I can even remember the poster on the 'Wayside Pulpit' which read "It is better to cry over spilt milk than to try and put it back in the bottle". I'm certain there aren't any other books that I can quote so freely and verbatim.
Looking back with the benefit of Google I'd forgotten just how good the film was. I'd also forgotten the brilliant performances by Wilfred Pickles as Billy's Dad and Leonard Rossiter as Mr Shadrack the Undertaker (Billy's employer). Even Rodney Bewes as Billy's friend Arthur was a surprise.
Apparently Morrissey was also a fan of the book and Wikipedia assures me that "William, It was Really Nothing" was in there somewhere. I also found this great set of clips from the film edited to the Smiths which makes me want to get straight over to Ebay to find a DVD copy of the film. In fact I'm off there now.