Saturday, April 04, 2009

THE FAIRGROUND ORGAN

Hurray, hurray! Step right up, folks, and witness the most annoying musical instrument ever invented!

The fairground organ is actually a wonderous, though now rarely-used
machine that automatically played back music. It was used primarily for traveling carnivals, circuses, parades, etc. and has that fun/scary vibe that suggests wistful cotton-candy childhood while also being a bit creepy.

After putting in a punched piece of paper for a particular
song (like a player-piano) or a rotating wheel (like a music-box) an organ would play, robotic arms holding drumsticks would bang drums, air forced through tubes would blow horns and toot whistles. It was quite a racket. After all, it was designed to cut through the crowd noises, so it wasn't too subtle.

It's a wonder of 1800s technology, and, though organ
rolls seem to have ceased production by the 1960s, enthusiasts still collect and restore these often beautiful, highly decorated machines.There's a great wealth of mp3s of the Wurlitzer style 165 band organ rolls courtesy of the hard-working folks at the Wurlitzer-rolls.com site. Fascinating listening, though you'll probably start to go mental after 3 or 4 songs. For some absolutely inexplicable reason, I'm hooked on this version of Sandie Shaw's '60s hit "Puppet On A String," even though I don't remember being a big fan of the song in the first place. Maybe some tunes just sound better played on a fairground organ.

Hammond Fairground Organ Roll: "
Puppet On A String"

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

More Fairground Organ stuff.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6EaHdSwrGmE&feature=PlayList&p=278202FF00717376&index=0&playnext=1

In Dutch: Draaiorgel.
Terrible indeed.

Anonymous said...

P.S. Choose your own 'favorites' on youtube...

http://www.youtube.com/results?search_type=&search_query=draaiorgel

Terrible...

Mr Fab said...

Wow, thanks, that first link was to a version of the Sesame Street/Carpenters' hit "Sing"! Which pushes the timeline back to the late '60s/'70s. Maybe the Netherlands continued production of band organ rolls later then America/UK did.

Hok said...

This reminds me of Dr Phibes "Clockwork Wizards". I always wanted to start a band named the Clockwork Wizards. Maybe one day.

Miss Sunalee said...

There was an exposition in Brussels with all these old machines. It was great ! I was planning to write an article about it but haven't had the time yet.
Here are some images: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pyD4InaBNkA

DJ Useo said...

I really enjoyed the extreme response I had when I played this track.I only lasted about a minute,but it sure was a fun time.

Bob said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bob said...

Thanks for the organ roll link.

Anonymous said...

mp3 dead

Anonymous said...

wurlitzer, where midi's came from