Although they made studio recordings, Flanders & Swann were essentially a live act, and this song, which was recorded at the Haymarket Theatre, London, in 1963, had them rolling in the aisles. As usual it was just Donald Swann on piano with Michael Flanders sharing the vocals, and the audience roaring with laughter. "The Gasman Cometh" satirizes the stereotypical British tradesman. The narrator calls in the gas man because his supply isn't working; the man tears out the skirting boards, so the householder has to call in a carpenter, who nails through a cable and puts out the lights. When the electrician comes to repair the damage caused by the carpenter, he puts his foot through the window while standing on a bin trying to reach the fuse box. When the glazier comes to repair the damage, his putty and blow torch necessitate a visit from a painter, who paints over the gas tap, and along comes the gas man again! "Oh, it all makes work for the working man to do."
The stereotype appears to have been well founded, because in July 1972, a letter appeared in the London Times
under the heading "Once again the gas man cometh." The writer, S.N.S. Reade (presumably Mr.) wrote that when the thermostat on his gas oven failed he phoned the local gas board asking for a new one, and received a visitor who asked what was the trouble. Then there was an engineer who came to test it, three men to fit another, another who arrived later to test that, and two men sometime later to fit a new one when the replacement didn't work!
Alexander Baron - London, England