“West ‘Am, Wanstead, Woolwich, Walthamstow. We reached the spot they call St Mary’s Cray, and then I says to ma, now you musn’t go too far ...” Gus Elen was one of the great Cockney characters or coster singers of the Music Hall era. In Sweet Saturday Night Colin MacInnes writes: “I hope the reader will not yet be minding all the praises I lavish on Gus Elen, and would excuse myself for this infatuation by admitting he is my favourite Music Hall artist – in part, of course, because I was able to see him, but even more because his temperament, sturdy, laconic, tolerant and robust – so perfectly reflected in his harsh, friendly, sardonic, forthright voice – have exactly the qualities I most admire in Londoners, and miss most when I am not among them. He had also a sure taste in his choice of songs – even the greatest artists often come up with some dreadful numbers, but Elen never.” This song, The Postman’s Holiday, chosen and provided by Andy Hitchcock, sees Elen’s character getting a rare day off and taking the family for a day out and a bit of country air, but of course nothing is straight forward. “We got weary on our pins, lost the bloomin’ twins ...” The recording dates from the early ‘30s when Elen returned to the stage, as does this remarkable piece of rare footage ...
Thursday, 30 July 2009
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