AUK’s Chain Gang: The Kursaal Flyers “Speedway”

Dan Hicks and vehicular endangerment (is that a capital offence in the States?) can only lead in one direction; Southend, the Kursaal Flyers and the promise of never again riding the Speedway. Speedway. It still exists – long gone heroes like Ivan Mauger, bikes with no brakes called Jawa’s, mouthfuls of gravel if you stand in the wrong place, races that are won by the first bend (sounds like Formula 1?). What’s not to like? Quite a lot actually and having been forced as a child to watch Workington Comets I speak from experience. Dan and his Cannabis induced paranoia – chicken feed.

Who could forget seeing the Kursaal’s in the mid-seventies in various student unions bringing the house down with this set closer? Paul Shuttleworth, surely separated at birth from either Arthur Daley, Private Walker or Leslie Phillips, donning a helmet remaindered from a 1960s Lambretta advert and leading a rousing chorus. ‘Little does she know‘, was clearly an aberration. This is the heart of their oeuvre.

In a later incarnation, Shuttleworth formed a band with among others Bob Clouter on drums. You couldn’t make it up. Don’t be fooled – this music, these musicians lead inexorably all the way back to – Southend. Or more likely to Ian Dury and the Blockheads and Madness.

Check out the video – a gem although I have to tell you that Sally didn’t last the course after she had a fling with Barry Sheene. He shouldn’t ever have let her near his helmet – better to have died with it on? Have a look below too to a BBC documentary that is great fun, although Melvyn Bragg clearly wants to reach for the mouthwash having been forced to utter the words ‘rock’ and ‘music’. Enjoy.

Sarfends finest?

About Gordon Sharpe 86 Articles
Retired music fan longing to get back to the Lakes and hoping to visit Scotland before much longer - somehow South Cheshire just doesn't cut it. Still seeking the grail in terms of a convincing description of what Americana really is but really enjoying the search. And still wondering when Kenny Rogers will get his just deserts

6 Comments

  1. The Kursaal’s deserved more success than they actually got. I saw them a few times on the Pub Rock Circuit and it was always a great show. Will Birch was a good song writer and an even better author documenting the era and its artists. His latest book Cruel To Be Kind – The Life & Music Of Nick Lowe’ is a great read

  2. One of the highlights of my student years Martin, They seemed – in a short space of time – to be regulars in Birmingham and always great fun.

  3. The whole Kursaals’ U.S. country feel is at odds with the fact that Speedway was not a thing in America!

    Watched the “So You Wanna Be a Rock’n’Roll Star” documentary on BBC, saw them live at the obligatory Students Union, I own ‘The Great Artiste’ – this song and ‘Ugly Guys’ are their best.

  4. You are spot on Michael – as I remember speedway was a thing in Scandinavia and some Baltic countries – I suppose the nearest thing in America was dirt track racing and the Wikipedia entry for Kenny Roberts shows him in speedway style pose on what we would then probably have called a scrambler. Roberts and some others revolutionised road racing with their ability to sliide big bikes on tarmac – so although it wasn’t called Speedway I think there were some common threads.

    And then there was speedway on ice – really bizarre

    I’ve generrally preferred to hear songs about this country and what happens here rather than route 66 / Ventura highway / wind in your hair – which is one big reason why I love this song.

    Glad it brought back some memories for you.

  5. Now I’m bugged by the question where and when did I see the Kursaals? Most probably in the autumn of 1976. Birmingham a possibility (I was at Warwick University, maybe there, or in Coventry). Or maybe London…

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