At the world-famous Wurlitzer of the
TOWER BALLROOM, BLACKPOOL
And other famous British instruments
At the TOWER:
Introduction and Signature tune San Francisco; Zacatecas March; Selection from "Kiss Me Kate;" Breezing Along With The Breeze; Rosalie/I Double Dare You; Ebb Tide; Margie/Youre Just In Love/ When Youre Smiling; Moonlight Serenade, Orpheus in the Underworld, Selections from "Cavalcade" and, for an encore, The Woodchoppers Ball.
At the EMPRESS:
Russian Rag; When Your Lover Has Gone; Bill Bailey.
At the GRANADA:
Repasz Band March, Malaguena.
At the STATE:
(with audience) Phantom Brigade March, Putting On The Ritz, April In Paris; A Musical Tour of London.
At the REGAL:
While Were Young; My Old Flame.
Side one, recorded live at the Tower on May 13, 1998, is a conscious attempt to re-create the tremendous atmosphere of Reginald Dixons broadcasts, which went out over the BBC at least once a week for several years, usually with an enthusiastic audience in attendance. This was not subtle music, the ballroom was packed with holiday-makers out for a good time and so the music and style were very populist, for want of a better word. We leave the elegant, refined playing of the Tower Wurlitzer to others. This is the Blackpool sound as people remember it, the sound which became synonymous with Blackpool and fun throughout the world. At this particular event, which was more or less an impromptu performance, only a ten minute rehearsal was permitted and no piston changes were allowed! Also, despite requests for the amplification to be turned off, the piano and traps were highly amplified, this apparently being the rule for live performances. Equally amplified, of course, was any wind noise in the percussion chamber. This accounts for the slight hiss on the recording.
However, we think the authentic live Tower sound is very evident.
Side two features some other famous instruments. The original Tower organ was a 2 manual job which was enlarged and taken over to the Empress Ballroom, Blackpool when Reg took delivery of his new 3 manual Wurlitzer at the Tower in 1934. The Empress Wurlitzer as enlarged was almost identical to the Tower Wurlitzer yet had a completely different sound. The organ was removed some thirty odd years later and re-installed in the Playhouse Theatre, Manchester, and this recording is of excerpts from a broadcast made from there.
During the winter season, when the Tower was closed, Reg played the Granada Theatres in London and one instrument which he liked and recorded was the 3/8 Wurlitzer in the Granada Clapham. For such a small instrument, it had a huge sound. Bryan Rodwell also made a stunning LP there in the 50s. The recording on this tape is of excerpts from a BBC broadcast Don Thompson made from there in the mid-eighties.
On May 17, 1998 Don played a concert at the State Theatre, Kilburn, in London, on the fine 4/16 Wurlitzer, the only large Wurlitzer still remaining in its original theatre in central London. The theatre is reputed to be Europes largest.
Several tracks are taken from that concert.
Finally, in complete contrast and not at all the Blackpool sound, Don plays the sweet little 3c/7 Rutt organ formerly in the Regal, Highams Park, and now in the St. Albans Organ Museum.
Wherever possible, extraneous audience noise such as applause, coughs, sneezes, etc. has been edited out. However, it was not always possible to do that cleanly without affecting the integrity of the music and so in some circumstances it wasnt attempted. And, as Don says, "if the sound of the audience in the room was good enough for Reg Dixon then I guess its good enough for me."