On this, the author’s website, you will find details of:
The Gus Elen Archive CD produced to accompany the book.
The live recording of many of Gus’s forgotten songs.
How to buy.
A Cockney at Work: The Story of Gus Elen and His Songs by Peter Norris, was published in May 2014, and is an illustrated hardback volume with 472 pages.
At its height, music hall was the most popular form of entertainment in Britain, creating great wealth for its most famous acts and for the owners and managers of the halls themselves. For over twenty years Gus Elen topped the bill as ‘The Famous Coster Comedian’ in a fiercely competitive business, singing at theatres throughout the country. Success was not easily achieved, and he spent time on the streets like the Cockney lads whose slang he had learnt as a child. Although undeniably a Cockney at work, Gus Elen was not an East Ender, but, because of his vivid characterisations of its inhabitants and his concern for the rights of those less fortunate than himself, London’s East End adopted him.
Gus Elen’s songs were witty and humorous, often reflecting social loyalties and the meagre pleasures of the real world, but many were rooted in the poverty, violence and inequality that existed alongside them.
There were many singers of Cockney and coster songs, and opinion was divided as to who was the pre-eminent exponent amongst the men; Albert Chevalier or Gus Elen. The two had very different styles, but Gus’s realism captures more clearly the conditions of his time, and as such his work is viewed today as of more historical interest.