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 Review of Merry-Go-Round @ Kennywood
0 Rating Posted by: hrrytraver on 8/8/2005 10:43:00 AM
this merry go round is beautiful to look at, but the show stealer is, without a doubt, the crazy band organ. i sat for about an hour and didnt hear the same song twice. there are of course some sousa tunes, which i like, but there are also "modern" hits from bacharach and the beatles, all rendered in kick drum pounding, glockenspiel clanging, pnuematic organ wheezing, and snare drum rippling fashion. i confess to being more a band organ aesthete than a historian so i cant comment too much on the history of it, but suffice to say its a wurlitzer, probably not as old as some, but nonetheless slightly out of tune in a raunchy and loud way. among my favorites were "do you know the way to san jose", in which the B section of the song used a a very sickly out of tune voicing, but the rest of the song seemed mostly consonant. my friend and i couldnt stop laughing. even better perhaps were the incredible tempo dives heard in "ob-la-di-ob-la-da", giving it a very seasick quality. at one point late in the day the hood over the merry go round provided a great shelter from a quick summer rain. we all passed the half hour of the downpour by whittling down icecream cones, watching the horses and listening to the wurly amble through its songlist. it was a sublime few moments had in one of my favorite places, p-burg.

Review Comments

adriahna on 8/10/2005 5:36:30 PM said:
"Wurly" - I like that. I had a similar experience this past weekend while at the Central Park carousel - first off, the Ruth & Sohn band organ played Disney tunes, then graduated to a weird mix of 1960s hits (who knows, it might have been the same roll you were listening to) - "Georgie Girl" stood out particularly...
hrrytraver on 8/11/2005 10:28:37 AM said:
the 60s and 70s wurlitzer electric pianos (i have one) are always refered to as "wurlys", such as on ebay...."sweet wurly, all reeds still in tune, sold as is...." i was dying to get peaks into the guts of the band organ at kennywood. its hard for me to visualize how such an obviously huge roll fits into the mechanism.
adriahna on 8/11/2005 1:24:36 PM said:
Way back in my halcyon days, I used to know the carousel ops at Kings Island - they all just sort of regarded me as that weird kid that loved the carousel, and brought a tape recorder at least once a week, to record the wonderful Wurlitzer 157 Military band organ. When no one was looking, theyd let me sneak into the carousel housing, and watch the band organs mechanism rolling away - the belts, gears, bellows, rolls and such just doing their thing. I took a photo of the workings once - I still have it around somewheres. The rolls are neat to watch - I always wanted to see how theyre mounted along the tracker bar, and how theyre connected so as to, well, get things rolling. Band organs are pretty incredible inventions, really... Edited to add that I just remembered that Kennywoods band organ is a Wurlitzer 153 - theyre the most common of the companys organs around today, but very cool, nonetheless. What youve said about Kennywoods makes a lot of sense, as 153s can have a slight tendency to "stick", and when theyre out of tune, it can get ugly...
hrrytraver on 8/11/2005 1:43:07 PM said:
yes, but an ugliness i savor. it sounds vaguely sinister and perverse, but no one at the park seemed to care. i am so familiar with 85% of the tunes it played that i found i couldnt wait to hear how the organ would go funny with its arrangements. and i must say, mechanical aberrations aside, that those arrangements are extremely clever. i wonder who did those rolls? genius! funny i got a "bad" for this review...i was amazed to see that you got as many "bad" ratings as you have. you seem right on point to me.
adriahna on 8/11/2005 3:36:32 PM said:
Yup - Ive got my naysayers. There are clearly some anti-history and anti-carousel folks that lurk on this site, but heck - I guess you cant please everyone (which youve surely learned here by now). I also wonder who came up with the idea of bringing the band organ into the modern age - or at least the 70s. Im a big lover of early American popular music (1900s - 1920s), which had a lot to do with my love of band organs. So it sort of simultaneously makes me laugh and freaks me out to hear such modern stuff being played on them - its funny, but it just aint right.
hrrytraver on 8/11/2005 6:56:23 PM said:
i know what you mean. when i heard a caliopist play "king cotton" on the river in new orleans i started crying it was so beautiful. at the same time there is a very big part of me that would be happy to hear chaka khan or cheap trick arranged for the band organ. in spite of my interest in history, i am not much of a purist. you have very good taste though, adriahna, it cant be denied.
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