Kursaal Flyers

TrackAlbum
BrakemanChocs Away
Silver WingsChocs Away
Ugly GuysThe Great Artiste
Cruisin'’ For LoveThe Great Artiste
Little Does She KnowGolden Mile
One Arm BanditGolden Mile
Third Finger, Left HandGolden Mile
Yellow SoxFive Live Kursaals
If Only You Would Talk ... …A Former Tour de Force Is Forced To Tour
A Former Tour de Force …...A Former Tour de Force Is Forced To Tour

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Contributor: Ian Ashleigh

For the uninitiated, the Kursaal is a Grade II listed building in Southend-On-Sea, Essex, which opened in 1901 as one of the world’s first purpose-built amusement parks. The venue is noted for the main building with its distinctive dome, and has featured on a Royal Mail special edition stamp.

For the pedantic, Southend stands on the mouth of the River Thames, which is why the pier is a mile long, and began as the south end of the town of Prittlewell just to the north.

The Kursaal Flyers, needless to say, hailed from Southend-On-Sea and took their name from the amusement park. Part of the London pub rock scene, it is said they bridged the gap between pub rock and power pop. The band released four albums between 1975 and 1977 and a reunion album in 1988 that belies the eleven year gap in between.

The band were Paul Shuttleworth (vocals), Graeme Douglas (guitar), Vic Collins (pedal steel and guitar), Richie Bull (bass and banjo), Will Birch (drums). Douglas left in 1976 to form Eddie and The Hot Rods to be replaced by Barry Martin. Shuttleworth’s on stage persona was a combination of World War II spiv and Teddy Boy.

The first album was Chocs Away in 1975 and the sleeve continued the pun with its painting of a chocolate aeroplane. The pedal steel gave the band’s music a country feel, not that evident in Brakeman but more so in Silver Wings with its banjo-led fade out. Very unkindly, Ugly Guys from The Great Artiste (also released in 1975) could have been autobiographical except the Kursaal Flyers were, sadly, only too short-lived. Cruisin’ For Love, all banjo, bass and keyboards is a fine piece of pop music.

Mike Batt produced their third album, Golden Mile, in 1976 which gave the Kursaal Flyers their only hit single. Little Does She Know reached the top 20 in the UK and has a production that includes everything Batt could throw at it, including the washing machine and the Hallelujah Chorus. The lyric and rhyme scheme are eccentric but the package simply works (for me anyway). I think this is one of those songs you either love or hate. An appearance on Top Of The Pops surrounded by oversized washing powder boxes has Diddy David Hamilton looking very unimpressed at the end (see main clip above). I originally had four other songs from the album in the ten but reduced this to two: One Arm Bandit from a time when slot machines were a lot more simple and less varied than today; Third Finger, Left Hand tells of our hero being rebuffed by a lady who is already ‘spoken for’ as the old fashioned term would put it.

The final album of part one of the story was recorded on tour. Five Live Kursaals captured the set that band was performing and Yellow Sox is a shuffle from Chocs Away.

Following the Kursaals’ demise, Shuttleworth released several solo records, Douglas enjoyed success with Eddie and The Hot Rods, and Birch formed The Records. The group reunited for tours in 1985 and 1988, and in 2001 they reformed on a more permanent basis. They recorded the magnificently titled A Former Tour de Force Is Forced To Tour in 1988. The opening track, If Only You Would Talk To Me (Like You Talk To The Dog) feels like it is the natural successor to the albums eleven years before and that could be why the album failed to sell. The title track, A Former Tour de Force Is Forced To Tour, is perhaps a familiar story but not one that could ever have applied to the Kursaal Flyers – more’s the pity in this author’s humble opinion. They weren’t around for long enough.

Kursaal Flyers facebook

Kursaal Flyers biography (iTunes)

No Sleep Till Canvey Island: The Great Pub Rock Revolution by Kursaal Flyers drummer, Will Birch, the definitive account of a crucial seven-year period in British rock history – more info here.

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