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Help: Alan Klein, English comic songwriter

pismotality 22 Oct 10 - 04:08 AM
GUEST,josep 22 Oct 10 - 06:55 PM
Will Fly 23 Oct 10 - 05:18 AM
pismotality 23 Oct 10 - 06:39 AM
GUEST,josep 23 Oct 10 - 01:15 PM
GUEST,Woodsie 23 Oct 10 - 02:50 PM
GUEST,Cpt Colin. 23 Oct 10 - 03:52 PM
GUEST,pismotality 23 Oct 10 - 07:02 PM
GUEST,Cpt. Colin. 23 Oct 10 - 07:50 PM
pismotality 24 Oct 10 - 08:03 AM
GUEST,Cpt . Colin 24 Oct 10 - 09:10 AM
pismotality 24 Oct 10 - 09:49 AM
GUEST 07 Mar 13 - 07:08 AM
GUEST,Guest 29 May 15 - 07:08 PM
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Subject: Help: George Formby, Lonnie Donegan, Alan Klein
From: pismotality
Date: 22 Oct 10 - 04:08 AM

Hello,

I am trying to find out more about the musical context of the English comic songwriter Alan Klein who wrote What a Crazy World, recorded by Joe Brown in 1961 (later the title song of a London-set musical).

He has said that the song came about after he'd had enough of playing American rock'n'roll and country music professionally and wanted to write his own songs about what he was seeing around him. But the important point is he says he found the twelve bar blues sequence wouldn't fit what he wanted to say and he turned to "ukelele chords, George Formby-type chord sequences" for that song.

As far as I can work it out, the difference between the two forms is that rock/blues tends to be more repetitious lyrically whereas with Formby's style more words, and therefore a more detailed narrative, can be crammed in. And Formby's vocal style is self-effacing, delivering a story, not drawing attention to the manner of its delivery.

But my specific question is how much of an innovation did Klein's song represent - was there anyone else doing something similar in the interim? Are Lonnie Donegan's two big comedy songs, Does Your Chewing Gum ... and My Old Man's a Dustman comparable?

I have read the threads on Dustman and followed the links to the original but I'm still not sure. Any help by those who know of Klein's work greatly appreciated.


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Subject: RE: Help: Alan Klein
From: GUEST,josep
Date: 22 Oct 10 - 06:55 PM

Was he the guy that sang for The New Vaudeville Band and called himself the 7th Earl of Cricket?


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Subject: RE: Help: Alan Klein
From: Will Fly
Date: 23 Oct 10 - 05:18 AM

The comedic songs that were performed by Joe Brown and Lonnie Donegan, like George Formby's songs, were really (IMO) a throwback to the Victorian and Edwardian music hall. They didn't break new ground, musically, though they were indeed very different from the rock'n roll output of the time.

George Formby started in showbiz by copying his father's act. Formby Senior was a famous northern music hall star (without ukulele) and, if you listen to old recordings of the father and early recordings of the son, it's almost impossible to tell them apart! Then wife Beryl came along and changed Georg Junior's act to what we know today.

I'd take issue with you about Formby Jnr.'s vocal style. I think it was purposely droll and mannered to bring out the (mainly) innuendo in the words. In fact I think it was right up front and in your face - but that's just a personal opinion.


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Subject: RE: Help: Alan Klein
From: pismotality
Date: 23 Oct 10 - 06:39 AM

Josep,

Yes, he was lead singer with the New Vaudeville Band, passing himself off a Tristram, Seventh Earl of Cricklewood (the joke is this is a nondescript district in London).

Wiil Fly,

Yes, I've heard a few sides of Formby snr. Interesting that the material (eg Looking For Mugs In The Strand) is darker. Think I take your point re his son's style - perhaps what I should have said is his singing seems at the service of the songs: he's not, like a rock'n'roll, jazz or soul singer, producing vocal flourishes which might draw attention away from the narrative.

Alan Klein has been upfront about borrowing from Formby so it may be that the only innovation is in the lyrical content, describing the London of that time from the point of view of a working class youth.

But I'm not a musician so what I'm trying to determine is whether Alan Klein was the first person of that generation to see the potential in using Formby-type chord sequences for the rock'n'roll/pop audience. In other words, are Lonnie Donegan's two big comedy songs (which predate What a Crazy World) comparable, stylistically, to Formby, as they come from American roots?


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Subject: RE: Help: Alan Klein
From: GUEST,josep
Date: 23 Oct 10 - 01:15 PM

Cricklewood. Yes, I realized that after I had posted it and figured someone would correct me. He said In America, people really thought he was an earl and would introduce him that way.


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Subject: RE: Help: Alan Klein
From: GUEST,Woodsie
Date: 23 Oct 10 - 02:50 PM

He also wrote "Big City" recorded by The Pretty Things


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Subject: RE: Help: Alan Klein
From: GUEST,Cpt Colin.
Date: 23 Oct 10 - 03:52 PM

I see what you mean pismotality and I think the answer is no. That cliched chord sequence was very common in the thirties and offhand I can't think of examples of it being revived, with Formby-like narrative lyrics, in the rock and roll era until Crazy World- although of course I don't quite know everything. "Dustman" (although actually a very old song) is musically much more basic and not comparable in any way whatsoever. I suppose Crazy World had some very vague stylistic similarities to "Chewing Gum" but that was a 1930s song anyway, if not earlier, and I can't imagine that it was in Klein's mind when he wrote "Crazy World". So although Klein copied a genre I don't think he copied the idea of copying a genre. I don't know whether that helps but hope so.


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Subject: RE: Help: Alan Klein, English comic songwriter
From: GUEST,pismotality
Date: 23 Oct 10 - 07:02 PM

Yes, that does help, thank you, Cpt Colin - so the idea of borrowing that form at that time was new, and the directness of the lyrics certainly was.

Alan Klein is a neglected and, I believe, underrated songwriter. As well as the musical What a Crazy World (commissioned by Theatre Workshop's Gerry Raffles, who saw Joe Brown sing the original song on TV), he recorded a solo album, Well At Least Its British, in 1964.

This has a range of music styles, but what unites the album is what one might call its "British" sensibility: diffidence and uncertainty expressed in the lyrics, plus some wicked sendups of more hackneyed approaches. That too was a conscious reaction against what he saw as the Americanisation of popular music. There's not much info on wikipedia but I've written about him on my blog here and elsewhere.

Coincidentally, I have just come back from seeing Joe Brown play live tonight - a very interesting mix of styles and periods and quite a few of the hits but alas, no What a Crazy World. Not that I was really expecting it as he said in 1996: "I don't mind playing the old songs although it's hard to sing 'Dad's gone down the dogtrack' now. If my dad were alive, he'd be 103."


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Subject: RE: Help: Alan Klein, English comic songwriter
From: GUEST,Cpt. Colin.
Date: 23 Oct 10 - 07:50 PM

Ha!- well I don't know about that, it wouldn't surprise me to hear that Marty Wilde still does Teenager in Love with a straight face. Anyway I agree about Klein- he came up with an outstanding song there, and a rather unusual onstruction in having no middle eight (hence the key change at the end to compensate presumably)- it still sounds good today. He's always been a mini-hero to me- more so now that I know he reacted against Americanisation- and a rather mysterious figure. I'll look forward to delving into your blog tomorrow. Joe is always reliable, I'm sure you enjoyed his show tonight. Glad if I helped a little.


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Subject: RE: Help: Alan Klein, English comic songwriter
From: pismotality
Date: 24 Oct 10 - 08:03 AM

Yes, it was a very enjoyable show from a performer who sounded like he was still involved. He did in fact joke about Marty still singing Teenager live whereas he, Brown, now only plays numbers appropriate to his current (ahem) stature.

I have recently learnt that when the What a Crazy World musical was made into a film Wilde was brought to play Joe Brown's hoodlum friend at Brown's insistence. Interestingly, there had been a counter offer by Robert Stigwood to put it on in the West End with Mike "Come Outside" Sarne, reflecting a then current craze for Cockney songs (Hole in the Ground too).

Which prompts a secondary question: where did that craze come from? I'm presuming it would have been down to the success of Fings Ain't Wot They Used T'Be, an earlier Theatre Workshop musical (1959) which did transfer to the West End and ran for several years.


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Subject: RE: Help: Alan Klein, English comic songwriter
From: GUEST,Cpt . Colin
Date: 24 Oct 10 - 09:10 AM

Not sure it was classifiable as a craze really- comedy/novelty songs have always had a market and the fact that a small number of them (two or three?) happened to be sung with cockney accents around the same time isn't particularly significant I feel- in other words I think the comedy content was the primary appeal. I don't think "Fings" had anything to with it personally- we'd had Oliver after all which was all broad London. Actually I've never particularly thought of the Bernard Cribbins ones as cockney until you mentioned it (and I'm a Northerner)- I just thought they were good fun- I do think he's a great singer by the way who should have done much more. Been enjoying your blog incidentally.


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Subject: RE: Help: Alan Klein, English comic songwriter
From: pismotality
Date: 24 Oct 10 - 09:49 AM

Thank you. Yes, those Cribbins performances are remarkably surefooted. Re Lionel Bart, one tantalising bit of information I came across recently is that one of his Desert Island Discs was Any Old Iron - but in the 1957 version by Peter Sellers, sending up Lonnie Donegan. Wonder if that recording had an impact on Bart's later musicals?


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Subject: RE: Help: Alan Klein, English comic songwriter
From: GUEST
Date: 07 Mar 13 - 07:08 AM

Yes


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Subject: RE: Help: Alan Klein, English comic songwriter
From: GUEST,Guest
Date: 29 May 15 - 07:08 PM

Yes I knew Alan in another life lovely man good musician sorry to hear about him losing the love of his life.


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