Monday, August 17, 2009

Fair Enough

An old song popped up over the weekend that always reminds me of the fairground.

I used to love going to the fair, and the added excitement was that they always played really loud chart tunes as you bumped those cars or rode that train. This tune was Gimme Some by Brendon, a one hit wonder from 1977, a song I now know to be a northern soul classic and which has its own dance routine that I once saw done in Huddersfield at a wedding. I thought this might be a one off but it seems it does have a dance attached, though it's not on YouTube. Does anyone know why this is?

Anyhoo, back to the fair. As much as I enjoyed it, I couldn't go on anything that went round. I remember one white-knuckle ride on a waltzer where the guy in charge spun us round so hard and so long, that the Isle of Wight holiday we had planned for the following day had to be postponed due my, er, illness. I can't even look at anything going round now, as the memories come flooding back, the sick comes rising up.

I don't think I've been a fair that's not a theme park for at least 20 years. The smell of the chips and fried onions, the That'll Be The Day-type staff, the cheap fluffy gonks, the claw thing that no one ever wins on skimming over the packets of cigarettes with a wraparound £1 note, the fuzzy instructions to hold on tight, the genuine terror on the ghost train, the sirens wailing as the rides start, and Have I The Right by Dead End Kids kicking in.

Ah, those were the days. The fairs I see on commons and parks in London always look really rough to me, and quite empty too. Is there no longer fun to be had at the fair?

So here's Brendon - who looks like he could work at the fair himself.


JM said...

See also: "Mama Told Me" by Fantastique, a record you only ever heard on the Watltzers.

Suzy Norman said...

As a child I found fairs inexplicably depressing. I didn't like the parental pressure to feel like you were enjoying yourself and Erasure's 'Sometimes' is stamped on those memories.

Ishouldbeworking said...

There used to be a fair at Battersea Park when I was tiny, that seemed to be on all year round.

When I was about three, my parents unwisely took me on a 'round and round' ride where we were each seated on a motorbike, with me on the inside, Mum in the middle and Dad on the outside. Things speeded up, and because I was so small the centrifugal force started pulling me off the bike towards the machinery in the centre of the ride.

My Mum was trying to pull me back with one hand, and hold on to her own bike with the other, and she was screaming to the greaser running the ride to turn it off, which he refused to do. She then started screaming at my Dad, who was inexplicably finding the whole thing hilarious. I then completed the moment by covering myself in candy-floss sick.

Magic times.

A Kitten in a Brandy Glass said...

The song that reminds me of fairgrounds, weirdly, is "Storm the Gates of Heaven" by Wayne County and the Electric Chairs, because one of my friends won the 12-inch of it on a can-throwing stall in the mid-eighties. Where or why they managed to get a stand's worth of crap records from, I do not know. Still, I suppose it saved some goldfish from an early death.

Speaking of records you never hear, Terry Wogan played Manhattan Transfer's "Walk In Love" this morning. And suddenly it was 1978!

office pest said...

Before CDs etc, the records would usually be played on a heavily weighted record deck suspended in the booth on bungee cords to isolate them from the machines' vibration.

And the best part was, as the machine started up the power drain would make the record slow down, and then gradually pick up again as the ride moved faster. You really felt you were going somewhere!

Clair said...

The last time I was on the dodgems, I got rear-ended by some bloody kid and ended up with a broken hand. So let that be a warning to you.

Five-Centres said...

So many memories! And of so many obscure songs. Did they only play obscure records at fairs?

That funfair in Battersea park was closed in the 70s after some people died on a ride. It could have been you, ISBW!

I can't believe you broke your hand, Clair. Those things are dangerous. I'm surprised in these days of health and safety mania they're still allowed.

Simon said...

We still get a travelling fair come to visit us in Felixstowe on some bank holidays. Parked up on the sea front and playing music so distorted you can't make it out at all. Various residents campaigns have been tried over the last few years to stop them, but so far the itinerant fun-meisters seem to have the upper hand with the Council.

Planet Mondo said...

We still have an old style travelling fair, that comes to Southend for one week every summer. It's here now in the local park, just a five minute walk from my house.

A tune that always reminds me of fairground rides is 'Hold On Tight' ELO. Whichever summer that single was out, every ride had it on perma-play.

Possibly the scariest ride I've ever been on was at the Southend fair. Basically a giant octagonal tomobola, with communal pew style swing seat for up to 20ish people inside. As the outer covering of the tombola (red and yellow alternating panels)was spun forwards, the seat was pulled back. Giving the optical illusion the pews were going so far back, so fast, you would surely spill out of your seat and over the edge.

I've only seen this contraption once in 1980 and the ride had tough-nut skinheads, laying flat on the floor gripping and screaming for their lives.

Five-Centres said...

Tough nut skinheads. Always a fairground fixture.