(Alan Klein / Geoff Stephens)
The New Vaudeville Band - 1967
Finchley Central is two and sixpence
From Golders Green on the Northern Line
And on the platform, by the kiosk
That's where you said you'd be mine
There we made a date
For hours I waited
But I'm blowed, you never showed
At Finchley Central, ten long stations
From Golders Green, change at Camden Town
I thought I'd made you, but I'm afraid you
And it let me down
The New Vaudeville Band could almost be described as the band that never was- or at least nearly never was. They were almost entirely the brainchild of Tin Pan Alley songwriter Geoff Stephens. He had written a good song, 'Winchester Cathedral' and thought it would sound best if played in the fashion of a 1930s dance band. So he hired a group of session musicians and recorded it. The idea of an old jazz band wasn't new; an established band- the Temperance Seven- had played similar old time music four years or so earlier, but Geoff's record was an enormous success. In fact it was so successful that it reached #1 in the USA, and #2 in Germany. Unfortunately, following this sudden high profile, Geoff was expected to take his band on concert tours!
Musicians were quickly gathered together largely through the efforts of Henri Harrison- including a vocalist, Alan Klein, who had not been on the original hit (sometimes alleged to be John Carter from the Ivy League/ Flowerpot Men, but I am assured that it was John Smith that did this session, a singer who called himself Bobby Dean at the time- nevertheless probably better known as 'John Smith and the New Sound' especially in France and Germany where they had some success on vinyl in their own right). To cloud the issue the new singer was cast as 'Tristram- Seventh Earl Of Cricklewood'. This was presumably designed to sound ultra-English for the American market. Alan Klein and the band went on the road, while Geoff stayed in his office in Denmark Street to keep writing the songs (he probably did so with an English travel book by his side!) and the band managed to squeeze out a few more hits before the novelty wore off. The band became a particular success in America and spent most of its later existence there, finally breaking up during the 1970s.