Saturday, 2 October 2010

Gnome Thoughts ... 12 (Damon Albarn on Alan Klein)

Have just come across the original context for Damon Albarn's remark about Alan Klein's influence - a 1995 article in Q magazine about Well At Least Its British, reproduced on a Blur forum:
This is the most colloquial record that I own. I discovered it quite by accident about five years ago in a charity shop, and it was instrumental in me making Modern Life Is Rubbish, and changing, and getting an idea of my own self.

It came out in about 1962. It pre-dated everything - if you want something that was in at the beginning of British culture, with links to music hall ... The cover is a picture of him standing in a very smart suit on a pile of rubbish. He was a sort of Lionel Bart figure in the late 50's and early 60's - he wrote all the music and lyrics to What A Crazy World (1963 film starring Joe Brown), which was one of the first films to take the British condition and make something of it in a pop way. It's sort of pop music but it's very strange; his lyrics are very innocent in one way, but at the same time they had that sort of embryo of cynicism which has been taken on board by everyone since.

I can't believe that David Bowie didn't know him inside out, and the same with Ray Davies. My favourite track goes 'He's a twentieth century Englishman' (see Blur's For Tomorrow). It's a fantastic record. I've never seen it anywhere else, and no one's ever mentioned it, but it was an important link for me. 
Even if he's slightly out with the date of the album proper, the idea of Klein's lyrics as being innocent with an "embryo of cynicism" puts it very well. I was trying to force more direct comparisons at the end of the previous post but that phrase clarifies what he meant about Klein's influence on Bowie and Ray Davies writing: an attitude more than anything.

More information about Alan Klein (above, in New Vaudevillian pomp) shortly.

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