Cilla Black: Dirty as a Dustbin Lid

Legendary singer Cilla Black enjoyed a successful career in the entertainment industry spanning more than half a century. The Liverpool-born singer, who was also an actress, author and TV presenter, began her career back in 1963, when she was famously discovered while working as a cloakroom attendant.

She went on to become one of the most celebrated icons of the entertainment industry, working in music and television, hosting memorable shows such as Blind Date and Surprise Surprise.

Early career

Born on 27th May 1943, Cilla worked at Liverpool’s famous Cavern Club in her youth, where she met and became friends with The Beatles. She was known for her impromptu singing appearances, which led to her debut gig at the Casanova Club in the early 1960s.

The teenager became a guest singer with several local bands including the Dominoes, Rory Storm and the Hurricanes and Kingsize Taylor. While playing a gig at the Blue Angel Club in September 1963, Cilla was spotted by talent scout Brian Epstein, who was also the Beatles’ manager.

His faith in her abilities led to the young starlet being signed by Parlophone Records and this was the start of her very long and successful career. Her debut single Anyone Who Had a Heart and follow-up You’re My World both reached number one in the UK singles chart. She was only the second British female singer to have two successive chart-topping hits.


Despite rocketing to superstardom almost overnight, the young Cilla kept her feet firmly on the ground, never forgetting her Liverpool roots. She had grown up in one of the toughest districts of the city, in the Scotland Road area. Her family made their own entertainment – her father played the mouth organ and her mother and aunts loved to sing.

In 1969, Cilla recorded one of her more poignant hits – the ballad, Liverpool Lullaby, was sung in her own inimitable style and local accent.

Written by songwriter Stan Kelly-Bootle, it was his most famous and enduring hit. Released on Parlophone, it is said to be about the life of a repressed housewife in the north of England.


Melancholy lyrics

With its full string arrangement and arpeggio introduction, the opening line, “Oh, you are a mucky kid, dirty as a dustbin lid,” contains some of the most familiar and melancholy lyrics of the past 50 years. They are being sung by a mother to her child, while her husband is out drinking.

She describes the child as looking “scruffy lying there” with “strawberry jam tarts in your hair”, but not having a care in the world. She goes on to dream about winning the Littlewoods football pools and buying a house in Knotty Ash, despite the fact her husband drinks away his wages. She says in a wry manner that they will buy him a whole brewery if ever they come into money.

The theme of the child being “dirty as a dustbin lid” is a recurring one throughout the song, as the mother says, “You have no silver spoon,” but insists, “Better days are coming soon.”

Talking of dustbin lids…

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