When news happens, text LT and your photos and videos to 80360. Or contact us by email or phone.
Revised Nelson Imp book released
A SECOND, revised edition of Steve Chapples’ look back at the days of Nelson’s Imperial Ballroom, is now out.
‘Goin’ Down Th’Imp’ recollects the years when every top band and star of the day made Saturday night appearances and audiences would queue round the block for tickets.
The huge, hangar-like structure dated from 1911 and was originally a skating rink, but in 1925 it became a municipal hall.
An opening carnival staged exactly 85 years ago, advertised Limelight and Shadowgraph and Duckworth’s Imperial Orchestra.
There was dancing till 10.30 and admission was just 1s 6d.
It staged a variety of functions, such as wrestling matches, beauty contests and police balls.
When it was later turned into a ballroom the ceiling was underpinned, which gave The Imp the special acoustics that other venues could not match.
During the 30s, 40s and 50s it attracted some of the greatest dance bands, such as Ted Heath and Joe Loss, but when the 60s arrived, so did the rock stars of the time — stars such as The Rolling Stones, The Beatles and Tom Jones, who was booked by The Imp before the London Palladium!
Local bands also played, including The Hollies, who first appeared on the revolving stage in 1965, and the Four Pennies, named from Penny Street in Blackburn, where they bought their equipment from Reidy’s music shop.
Add to that such names as Otis Redding, Bo Diddley and Jimi Hendrix, who all appeared in 1967, as well as The Drifters, Cilla Black, The Who, Adam Faith and Billy J Kramer.
Said Steve, who was a student at Nelson Grammar School in the 60s: “Our Saturday nights to see the pop stars of the day was the highlight of the week.
“We took it for granted that whoever was top of the charts would soon be on ‘down th’imp’.
“It did not occur to us that, for just a week’s pocket money, 7s 6d, we could see some of the greatest acts in the world, who still, 40-odd years later, can be heard every day on Radio 2.”
Tickets were sold in many places, such as local butcher’s shops, record stores, shoe shops, garages and newsagents and, sometimes, for the really big gigs, 10,000 would be printed.
It all, however, came to a sad end on March 18, 1976, when The Imp was totally destroyed in a huge blaze, and the huge pall of smoke could be seen in Burnley.
l Goin’ Down Th’Imp is available from Electron, Burnley, Music Box, Nelson, or by sending a cheque for £12 to Steve, at 133, Woodgrove Road, Burnley, BB11 3EJ.