On the Inside is the main title theme from the 1979-1986 Australian soap opera Prisoner. It was released as a 7" single in 1979, backed by the B-side 'Love Theme from Prisoner' performed by the William Motzing Orchestra.
Songwriter Allan Caswell’s country sensibility can be heard in this ballad, with minimalist guitar and piano arrangements. Lynne Hamilton delivers an emotional performance that captures the pain and fragility of a woman who feels imprisoned.
The lyrics describe ‘the outside’ and ‘the inside’, in reference to both the prison setting of the show, and a failed romantic relationship. Full of longing, the verses recall how different life was ‘on the outside’. Roses are used as a symbol of love and freedom. She then laments the end of that happiness with a sense of guilt, of having done something wrong. The chorus then describes ‘the inside’, where life goes on but as a ‘prisoner’, both literally (in the context of the program) and figuratively, as a prisoner of the memories of a broken relationship.
It’s hard to imagine that the original plan was to use the 1955 hit American song Unchained Melody as the theme for Prisoner’s closing titles. Chris Gilbey, head of the Sydney office of music publisher ATV-Northern Songs, convinced Grundy Productions that they should use a song from one of their new talents: British born singer and songwriter Allan Caswell.
Caswell was given the script for the pilot episode, and found inspiration in the scene where Mum (played by Mary Ward) clips off a rose in the garden. He wrote the song in 45 minutes, and recorded a demo tape. On the Inside was approved by Grundy, and the record company (RCA) decided they needed an unknown female singer. Another UK born talent, Lynne Hamilton, was chosen to sing the track.
Lynne Hamilton started her career as a backup singer for The Desperadoes and, as a member of The Caravelles, she toured with mythical bands such as The Who and The Beatles. She moved to Australia in 1971.
In Behind the Bars (Scott Anderson, Barry Campbell, Rob Cope), Hamilton recalled that she cried when she first heard the demo, “not because I’d ever been in a literal prison, but I was going through a divorce and all the grief that goes with that […] there are many kinds of prison, emotional and psychological, that people can find themselves serving time in, either by their own design or someone else’s cruelty”.
The song was released as a single and reached number 1, staying in Australia’s National Top 100 for 52 weeks. Hamilton was recognised as the highest selling artist of 1979 by ARIA. She later also recorded the track In Your Arms for another Australian soap opera, Neighbours.
On the Inside was released in the UK and other European territories a decade later, and Hamilton promoted the track in shows such as Top of the Pops.
The song has been covered by many artists, including Ella Hooper in 2011, to coincide with Prisoner’s broadcast on Foxtel’s 111 Hits channel.
He used to give me roses
I wish he could again
But that was on the outside
And things were different then
We'd built our world together
With a love so clear and strong
But that was on the outside
Where did i go wrong?
On the inside the sun still shines,
And the rain falls down;
But the sun and rain are prisoners too,
When morning comes around.