Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Three Coins in the Sewer (Alan Klein)

Delighted to see that at long last Alan Klein's Three Coins in the Sewer can be found on youtube. Recorded in 1962 when there was a craze for Cockney songs. (perhaps prompted by the longrunning success of Fings Ain't Wot They Used T'Be), it is a kind of masterpiece, given what Stan Laurel would have called "a half-assed digntiy" by Ivor Raymonde's string arrangement. But it's Klein's deadpan vocal which is the heart of the song, a parody of Three Coins in the Fountain which sounds like it borrows musically from the traditional On Top of Old Smokey.. And the sound effects (it's a Joe Meek production) are pitched just right: not so many that they swamp - if that's the word I'm looking for - the song.

In a  2008 interview with Spencer Leigh, Klein talks about his early recording career, inspired by Joe Brown's success with Klein's song What a Crazy World: 

I never saw myself as a singer. The publishers said there's this guy called Joe Meek who's got this recording studio up in Holloway Road, I had an audition and he said fine, we'll record these songs, and we did - ended up in Oriole, which was hardly the fashionable label of the time.
[Publicist Ken Pitt] told me that with Three Coins in the Sewer you had a lot of fun with the sound effects on that.

Joe Meek did, yeah. He didn't talk to me for ages after that, cause he said it gave him a cold - he was in the bathroom, dropping pennies in the bath to get the sound effects on it.

And I saw Ivor Raymonde, who was an arranger [above], one day in the pub, and he said "Funnily enough I've just been putting strings on the backing of one of your songs from Joe Meek," and the joke was Joe Meek's studio was so small you couldn't get more than about three people in there you know (cracking up) you'd get strings and backing singers down the stairs with mikes!
It was well worth it on this occasion: Three Coins in the Sewer is a perfectly realised comedy record, the really rather beautiful strings in counterpoint to the unfolding of the poor unfortunate's tale:
Now me friends won't come near me,
Oh, ain't it a shame
Since that day in the sewer
I ain't been the same
There is also a great spoken outro by Klein but the record's masterstroke has to be a violin solo which can only be described as - well, airy: The Sparrer Ascending.

Related Posts: 

Full text of Spencer Leigh's interview with Alan Klein here
Blog post about Well At Least Its British here
These are the main two posts about Alan Klein; put his name into search to find more.

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