Kevin and Enid
Memories from residents at Clare Court
Caleb Brown – ‘I used to go to the Tower Ballroom to dance, I would ask loads of girls to dance. It was around 1961-1962 that I used to go.’
Dorothy Bell – ‘I would dress myself up nice; me and my friend used to gat a taxi. I remember there was something like a bridge and there was water by it. I would do the Twist and Bepop where the man would spin the woman around.’
Kenneth Preston – ‘I used to catch the bus on Saturdays with my mates to the Tower Ballroom. I would do a lot of old town dancing like the Waltz.’
Margaret Barrett – ‘I remember the Tower Ballroom and I used to go on weekends with my workmates. I would dance the Tango and Calypso. I also knew a lot of people who got married there.
I was part of a band called ‘Braindrain’, a collection of sixth-form pals, and in the summer of 1986, several of us returned from our respective Colleges, for a chance to regroup for a gig at the legendary Tower Ballroom. There was a rehearsal at Rich Bitch in Selly Oak (see pic) two days before, and then the gig itself was on Friday 12th Sept at the Ballroom.
The Tower and it felt cavernous, especially with the modest fan-base of the three booked bands. Décor was Club Tropicana-style; plastic palm trees & iridescent pineapples ...or were they coconuts? Anyway, I’d heard of places like this but didn’t believe they really existed. It was comically incongruous for our raucous set-list. The first band on were called ‘Beyond Elysium’ I have a vague memory of the fanciful, Goth-inspired flyers they were handing out and they were influenced by the Sisters of Mercy. The second band were a Proggy-Rock outfit from B'ham Uni called 'Izzy the Push', whose set went miles over time, thanks to their penchant for 19-min guitar solos. I’m not sure whether we were officially headlining, or whether we’d drawn the short-straw, because the evening felt interminable. By the time we made it onstage, sometime around 1am, there was scarcely half an hour before kicking-out time, the audience had missed their buses and were already starting to drift…
We set up our kit backstage on the Tower’s revolving stage, but because we were running out of time we had to start playing immediately the stage started to revolve. When the stage finally juddered to a halt, both us and the gear nearly toppled over, and we found ourselves stood with our backs to the audience.
We were supposed to be a 9 piece band that night, but one of the vocalists, Pete, had been dumped by his girlfriend earlier in the evening, and we think he was too wrecked to make it on stage?
The band’s wordsmith, Mr. Soul, recorded the event for posterity on his portable cassette player - hence the limited quality of the recording. He did his best to turn it into ‘mock-stereo’ in post-production, but for maximum listening pleasure, he recommends “Just pretend you are listening to Phil Spector's Wall of Sound. “ https://soundcloud.com/dave-dinsdale/sets
There would have been another Braindrain gig a fortnight later at The Mermaid, but we turned up to find out it double booked, so all went home again.
With thanks to the erstwhile members Braindrain for their memories of that night. In memoriam drummer John Bryant, who sadly left us in 2017.