"Lily the Pink" is a 1968 song released by the UK comedy group the Scaffold who were a comedy, poetry and music trio from Liverpool, England, consisting of Mike McGear (real name Peter Michael McCartney, the brother of Paul McCartney), Roger McGough and John Gorman. It is a modernisation of an older folk song titled "The Ballad of Lydia Pinkham". The lyrics celebrate the "medicinal compound" invented by Lily the Pink, and, in each verse, chronicle some extraordinary cure which it has effected.
The Scaffold's record, released in November 1968, became No. 1 in the UK Singles Chart for the four weeks encompassing the Christmas holidays that year. Backing vocalists on the recording included Graham Nash (of the Hollies), Elton John (then Reg Dwight), and Tim Rice; while Jack Bruce (of Cream) played the bass guitar.
The lyrics include a number of in-jokes which may have been missed by many listeners. For example, the line Mr Frears has sticky out ears refers to film director Stephen Frears who had worked with the Scaffold early in their career; while the line Jennifer Eccles had terrible freckles refers to the song "Jennifer Eccles" by the Hollies, Graham Nash's former band.
Another version of the song, released a few months after the Scaffold's by the Irish Rovers, became a minor hit for North American audiences in early 1969.
The U.S. American folk (or drinking) song on which Lily the Pink was based is generally known as "Lydia Pinkham" or "The Ballad of Lydia Pinkham". It has the Roud number 8368. The song was inspired by Lydia E. Pinkham's Vegetable Compound, a well-known herbal-alcoholic patent medicine for women. Supposed to relieve menstrual and menopausal pains, the compound was mass-marketed in the United States from 1876 onwards.
This proved to be a difficult single to find for some reason. I managed to finally buy it in 1997 for £3.