The Wild One

From acting and film royalty (grandfather was the great actor-manager Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree; his uncle was the film director Sir Carol Reed), Robert Oliver Reed (13 February 1938 – 2 May 1999) was an English actor known for his upper-middle class, macho image, hellraiser lifestyle (he was close friends with, among others, Keith Moon), and tough guy roles.

Although in his home country he’s best remembered for his many embarrassing drunken appearances on British chat shows, Reed was a talented actor whose appearances in several swinging 60s classics (including The System (1964), The Trap (1966), and the career-defining role of Bill Sikes in Oliver!) helped define the era. Closely associated with the films of Ken Russell - Women in Love (1969), The Devils (1971), and Tommy (1975) – he also starred as Athos in The Three Musketeers (1973), and as pervy author Gerald Kingsland in the dreadful Nic Roeg film Castaway (1986).

Reed made his film debut in 1955, as an extra in the Diana Dors vehicle Value For Money. As well as making many minor (and often uncredited) television appearances over the next five years he appeared in a dozen movies, such as the Norman Wisdom comedy The Square Peg (1958), as an over-the-top camp chorus boy in The League of Gentlemen (1960) and as a nondescript teen in the cult musical Beat Girl (1960). By now he was beginning to make waves, and over the next two years would appear in bigger and bigger roles in a succession of bigger and bigger hits: he played a bouncer in The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll for Hammer, the leader of a gang of Teddy Boys in another Wisdom film, The Bulldog Breed, an artist in the Tony Hancock comedy The Rebel and as Lord Melton in Hammer Films’ Sword of Sherwood Forest.

Good looking in a brutish sort of way, naturally the record companies soon came a-calling.

Ollie first stepped in to a recording studio in 1961, laying down two tracks for a Decca single: the Jim Dale-penned The Wild One (a song he would perform, drunk, on TV in the 80s), and Lonely For a Girl. Both are excruciatingly awful: the production and arrangement of The Wild One owes a great deal to Joe Meek (and, in turn, owes a lot to Buddy Holly), but that’s about the only thing the plug side has going for it. The B-side is worse: Ollie can’t hit the notes, and the little spoken interlude is diabolical. Wonderful! Was written by Mitch Murray who would go on to write How Do You Do It, recorded by two groups from Brian Epstein’s stable. On both tracks Reed sounds uncannily like another of Decca’s singing stars, Jess Conrad.

The Decca single sank without a trace. Unperturbed, Reed’s management hustled him over to Pye, where he cut a couple of sides for their Piccadilly imprint: Sometimes was written by Dave Clark and Ron Ryan (the Dave Clark Five were signed to Piccadilly around the same time), while the B-side – Ecstasy – was a cover of the song written by Phil Spector and Doc Pomus, and first released by Ben E. King. If anything, its worse than the Decca 45.

Next was a dreadful ‘comedy’ cover of Baby It’s Cold Outside, sung as a duet with Joyce Blair… who, of course, would go on to release Christine – a novelty single inspired by the Profumo affair - under the pseudonym Miss X. Ollie only appeared on the A-side.

That was it. He would appear on the soundtrack to the movie Oliver!, and as the narrator on a version of The Ancient Mariner, but no more pop singles would be issued under his name until the 1990s, when he released a horrible version of the Troggs’ classic Wild Thing, a recording that even featured a guest appearance from snooker legend Alex ‘Hurricane’ Higgins. But by that time he had become better known for falling over drunk and insulting women on chat shows than for his acting ability. Starring roles in shockingly bad movies such as A Touch of the Sun(later re-released as No Secrets!) did nothing to improve his lot, although his reputation was somewhat salvaged with his final on-screen appearance, as Antonius Proximo, the gruff gladiator trainer in Ridley Scott's Gladiator. Released posthumously, Reed would be nominated for the BAFTA for Best Actor in a Supporting Role.

Here, for your delectation, are all five of Ollie’s stabs at 60s pop stardom.


Download Wild HERE

Download Lonely HERE

Download Sometimes HERE

Download Ecstasy HERE

Donload Baby HERE

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