Well at Least It's British

Well at Least It's British

by Alan Klein
     
 
Cult records are rarely as curious as Well at Least It's British, the 1964 oddity from Alan Klein, who should not be confused with Allen Klein, the music biz impresario and manager of the Rolling Stones. This Alan Klein wanted little to do with the Rolling Stones, who were his labelmates at Decca in 1964. Disgusted at how the Stones

Overview

Cult records are rarely as curious as Well at Least It's British, the 1964 oddity from Alan Klein, who should not be confused with Allen Klein, the music biz impresario and manager of the Rolling Stones. This Alan Klein wanted little to do with the Rolling Stones, who were his labelmates at Decca in 1964. Disgusted at how the Stones celebrated American culture at the expense of British conventions, Klein decided to embrace dear old Blighty, writing songs about modern England that built upon the country's grand musical traditions. If this story sounds familiar to modern ears, it's because it mirrors the tale of Damon Albarn, who rejected American grunge in 1993 and invented Brit-pop with Blur's Modern Life Is Rubbish. This is no coincidence. Albarn discovered Well at Least It's British after Blur fell out of fashion following their 1991 debut, Leisure, and Klein's defiant celebration of England was as inspirational to Damon as was his love of Ray Davies. While true, this story gives the impression that Well at Least It's British is some kind of lost British pop classic, perhaps even that it has something to do with early British rock & roll, when nothing could be further from the truth. Klein had nothing but contempt for rock & roll, particularly blues-based rock, which he sends up twice here ("Going to Bluesville," "First Taste of the Blues"), and that hostility is jarring next to the frivolous, frilly pop, derived partially from music hall traditions but mainly from the light mainstream pop that persisted in placing on the British charts long into the heyday of Beatlemania; think the twee-est moments that Joe Meek produced, the ones that had little of his sonic ingenuity, and you'll be in the ballpark (indeed, Meek produced two singles for Klein, the As and Bs of which are found as bonus tracks on RPM's 2008 reissue). So, the music feels like pre-Beatles rock & roll, but in its sensibility, Well at Least It's British is quite modernistic, from how Klein follows through on his concept to how he overloads his songs with mocking wit and how he sings in an exaggerated British accent. All of this is interesting -- it's easy to see how the theatricality and dogged eccentricity of the whole affair sparked something within Albarn -- but it's a conceptual album that's of note for its concept, not its execution, as for all of its dramatic flair it lacks enduring melodies. Ultimately, it's little more than a curio, a piece of pop archeology that's worth consideration, but only briefly. [In addition to those aforementioned Meek singles, the RPM reissue includes his two post-Well at Least It's British 1965 singles, including "Age of Corruption," his kinda funny banned parody of Barry McGuire's "Eve of Destruction."]

Product Details

Release Date:
03/25/2008
Label:
Rpm-Retro
UPC:
5013929598249
catalogNumber:
824

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