As I understand it Kursaal in German means an entertainment hall or public room located at a spa and literally means “Cure-All”.
In days gone by one went to the spa, to take the waters as a cure for all sorts of ailments, mental and physical. Towns like Bath were built on the popularity of their spa and became very fashionable due to the patronage of royalty and the great and the good.
How appropriate then that we should be heading to Southend, home of the famous Kursaal Amusement Park and Ballroom (the Amusement Park is now sadly gone, but the building remains), because if anyone needs a Cure-All by God it’s us.
So let us pause awhile by the Kursaal and refresh our weary souls.
Despite living in North London I can only remember one visit to Southend as a boy and the train ride down the very long pier is the only long standing memory I have of the place. I did ride there during my cycle racing days but as it was the mid point in an 80 to 100 mile training run, I was generally too bollixed to notice one of the great pieces of seaside architecture, redolent with so much history.
Built just after the turn of the century, the Kursaal was home to the world’s first great amusement park, pre-dating Colney Island, New York. They had the first Wall of Death in Europe, the kind of thing now featured on one of the BBC idents.
It was this Wall of Death that I believe gave rise to the original Kursaal Flyers, as the practitioners of this dangerous stunt were known.
Now I know that deep within the last brain cell of a few old heads that name only means one thing and it’s not a load of mad blokes on bikes.
Yes those denizens of 70’s pub rock, part of the wave (or was it more of a ripple?) of musical talent that washed in from the wilds of Essex. Eddie and the Hot Rods, Doctor Feelgood, a member of Kilburn & The High Roads (Mr. Ian Dury pre Blockheads) and yes the Kursaal Flyers themselves.
Here is their only hit but it’s a good one. “Little Does She Know”.
To quote a few lines:
She was sharing her spin dryer with a guy in a tie-dye
When she saw my reflection in the chrome
I knew that she’d seen me ’cause she dropped her bikini
The one that I got her in Rome
Poetry of the people in its purest form.
Now those of you who find 70’s fashion and haircuts unacceptable and prefer your lead singers orthodontically sound I would advise you to look away now.
If this leaves you wanting more than listen to the B side “Drinking Socially” about 4:20 in on this clip.
If it doesn’t then I can do no more for you.
So in case you thought Southend was just a commuter dormitory or just another forgettable faded piece of Britain’s seaside heritage then think again.
On the other hand, if you think this is just an old git wallowing in meaningless nostalgia, which has sod all to do with football, you’re probably right.
But I think we should put our away trips in some sort of context and Southend is more than just somewhere at the end of a railway line. It has history, of which we should be aware, particularly as we are in danger of being part of the next significant episode in that history.
No, we will get our Cure-All and return refreshed and ready for an assault on the title.