Soul Survivors and the new wave


Norther Soul DJ 'Farmer' Carl Dene

DJ ‘Farmer’ Carl Dene back in the day

DJ ‘Farmer’ Carl Dene has got back behind the decks back where he became a legend – rejoining the  wave of enthusiasm for Northern Soul sounds which first hit the North and Midlands in the 1960s.

He was guest DJ at the booming  Newhampton Soul Club (a sampler of what has been offer at the club can be found here) at the Newhampton Arts Centre, Dunkley Street, Whitmore Reans, Wolverhampton, on Friday May 11, 2012. 

'Farmer ' Carl now

‘Farmer’ Carl now

Carl (aka Carl Woodroffe – here being interviewed in 1999 by Bill Brewster – http://www.djhistory.com/interviews/farmer-carl-dene) – DJ’d at the The Catacombs, Temple Street, Wolverhampton, (represented here in a computer-generated walk through by the fHe had collected rare  records since 1964 and helped to promote music charts success for Tami Lynn’s I’m Gonna Run Away From You that reached No4 in the charts.

His championing of  The Tams Hey Girl Don’t Bother Me helped see it to No.1.

His appearance was eagerly awaited at the club where regular DJs Colin Tolley and Len Cook have built a great atmosphere and a good following with the help and promotional skills of Carl Auzins – aka DJsoulshakedown.

He did not disappoint as he took over with a set running from 1960s Catacombs Classics through to the present day with images from the groups of the sixties and seventies playing on the big screen alongside.

It was all upbeat and uptempo with The Trips There’s That Mountain by The Trips  and Walking Up A One Way Street by Willie Tee and Carl putting a price tag on the classics being played – including £10,000 for The Inspirations’ No One Else Can Take My Place.

Carl confessed that he had never made it to Wigan in between getting the dancing going again with more classics including, appropriately, Out On The Floor.

He ended with Frances Nero’s Keep On Loving Me  – which may be quite appropriate as he could be back at the Newhampton Soul Club, in the city where he built a lot of his reputation, next year.

Farmer Carl down the pub (The Shakespeare, Lower Temple Street, Birmingham) with fellow veteran DJ Neil Rushton) February 2012.

Its always good to talk to people with a real passion for what they do and these veteran DJs are the business – and the best of mates despite Carl being an Aston Villa fan and Neil totally Birmingham City.

Carl, non-DJ name Carl Woodroffe,  who now lives in Aldridge, Walsall, started out at Le Metro Club in his native Birmingham from early 1965 to 1968.

His route to soul was via clubbing at the  The Twisted Wheel, then in Brazenose Street, Manchester, before its move to Whitworth Street, at the Whiskey-A-Go-Go in Birmingham, then the Mojo in Sheffield.

He also spun sounds at Chateau Impney, Droitwich, Worcestershire, from mid 1968 until closure of the 4-7 club (Sunday afternoons) at the end of 1969; Dudley Jazz Club (at The Gladstone Liberal Club) 1969-1970; The Queen Mary Ballroom, Dudley Zoo, from October 1970 to mid 1971 and 1973; The Catacombs, December 1968 to  April 1969 and January-June 1973; The George Hotel, Walsall, 1969-1971; The 76 Club, Burton upon Trent 1972-1974.

He wasn’t wearing the hat which earned him the first part of his DJ ‘tag’ – the Dene bit he thought was more pop star – but was still “Looking forward to looking back.”

Neil, also originally from Birmingham but now living in Burntwood, Staffordshire, move to Walsall with his family when he was 10 and it was in Walsall, Dudley and Wolverhampton that he got his exposure to soul music.

Carl also introduced The Sharpees’ Tired of Being Lonely, Gene Chandler and Barbara Acklin’s From The Teacher to The Preacher and Doris Troy’s I’ll Do Anything.

In the book Last Night a DJ Saved My Life by Bill Brewster and Frank Broughton, DJ Ian Levine is quoted as saying”Farmer Carl was the one they all thought of as a God.”

Talking records Carl said: “From 1967 people would pay £5 – a lot of money then – for a record but then it went to £100.

“That was Baby Reconsider by Leon Haywood and that was ‘broken’ by me.”

Other records ‘broken’ – it means introduced, not smashed up – by Carl included Darkest Days by Jackie Lee, Hey Girl Don’t Bother Me by The Tams (a UK No1 in 1971) and I’m Gonna Run Away From You by Tami Lynn (UK No 4 in 1971).

Was it all reverence for records? Carl said: “Actually when you were working as a DJ you were getting through all these rare and wonderful records then simply flinging them in the record box, not in their sleeves, as you moved on to the next one, and they would rub together causing damage.

“As well as not putting them in their sleeves other damage was caused as they would be marked by the stylus. They got rough treatment. They were just your property and you didn’t think that in 30 or 40 years time they would be worth 500 or 2,500 times more than you paid for them.

Neil, who also specialised in searching for and importing records from the US, said: “You can’t find records just lying around out there any more.”

Carl: “They are certainly selling for big money on specialist websites but the real collectors can also look after them and keep them properly.”

Neil: “We came after you and records were real objects of desire then.”

Although the soul scene was welcoming competition between DJs could be fierce.

Carl: “If you had a rare record or had found a new one no-one else was playing you would cover-up. You would cut out the centre of an unused record and stick it over the label of the record you were actually playing. That was if anyone looked at the record it would have a different title and different artist on its label to what you were playing.

“There was also bootlegging and other kinds of rip-offs going on.”

Carl, talking of the Northern Soul revival, said: “People are getting back to their roots. They are getting towards retirement and they are keeping the sound alive. There are also a fair number of younger people who see it as something different to what is on the radio or TV.”

Neil: “There are a few young DJs and people doing R and B, rarities – a broad church really.”

Carl: “It keeping traditions going. Colin Tolley (resident DJ at the Newhampton Soul Club, at the Newhampton Arts Centre, Dunkley Street, Whitmore Reans, Wolverhampton) says lots of Mods are also getting involved in the scene.

“There always was a mod scene that tended to keep seperate but perhaps they are coming back together.”

Looking back Neil says: “I don’t understand why it was so attractive to white kids here. I was astonished that tens of thousands would be besotted.

“A lot this music in America was being blanked by the radio stations and mainstream. However, small groups of people could get together, make a record and release it there – sometimes in only 500 units. That wasn’t happening over here.”

Carl: “In the 60s rhythm and soul music appealed – and they weren’t big stars. I like them for not being big names. It was also very different.

“I put it down to being something special and something to really enjoy. However, I got married in 1971. You get to an age where you settle down but in this case it lasted three months.

“I got back at the Lafayette Club in Wolverhampton but didn’t view all that much of a future in the clubs and got back to the scene in 72-76 but then started doing discos and lost close touch with what was going on. I was also getting into a career (as an insurance broker).

“At Chateau Impney you got paid £3 but spent £10 on records.”

Neil: “Back then I would have 8,000 records stacked in my bedroom in this Walsall council house and I would DJ in Walsall and stand in for Carl.”

Carl: “Northern Soul was never tribal. It was very welcoming and still is.

“After the 70s it was weddings and parties until I became aware of the revival in the late 90s.” He pinpointed Blackburn, Lancashire, in 1999 as the moment when the boxed BHS set The Strange World of Northern Soul was launched there and he also met DJs Brian Phillips and Rob Bellars from the Twisted Wheel, and Ian Levine and Neil Rushton for the first time in decades.

That was after 24 years of doing bookings which included some soul and pop soul sessions at The Strathallen Hotel on the Hagley Road in Birmingham.

Now he will be back in Wolverhampton – home of The Catacombs –  and back behind the decks on Friday May 11.

Information below is taken from the excellent Hinckley Soul Club website

Cats Membership Card.

The Catacombs Club

Location: Temple Street, Wolverhampton

Date: 1967 – 1974

The Catacombs was an upstairs venue, based in an old lead smelting works. It was a long, narrow venue, based around a long, bare-brick walled corridor, with arched alcoves where the furnaces used to be and a bar on the right, and the dance floor at the far end. It had a capacity of 500-600 and ran initially from 8-12, allnighters being introduced in the early seventies.

The significance of the Catacombs in the history of Northern Soul cannot be understated. It was the policy of the Catacombs to discover and popularise unknown soul rarities, and if it were not for the hours that it opened, it could have easily have surpassed the Twisted Wheel as the premier venue of the early 70s. As it was, the Catacombs discovered the sounds and the Wheel and the Torch exposed them to the masses. And as if to have the final say, the Catacombs outlasted both the Wheel and the Torch, finally closing in July 1974.Catacombs Advert.

How the Catacombs looks today. The venue started playing rare soul in 1967, and the DJ at the time was Alan S (Smith) who was relatively new to the scene. He was joined by “Farmer” Carl Dene (Carl Woodroffe). Farmer Carl had been a collector of rare soul since 1964, regularly visiting the soul haven of the time, The Diskery, on a regular basis; he was also credited as one of the first people to cover-up records. Farmer Carl was responsible for breaking many famous classics, one of note being “That Beating Rhythm” by Richard Temple. Nobody believed the record existed, assuming it to be a cover-up, due to the “Temple” link with the Temple Street venue. As well as “I’ll Do Anything” by Doris Troy, perhaps Farmer Carl’s biggest claim to fame is his ability to promote chart sucess. His exposure of “I’m Gonna Run Away From You” by Tami Lynn caused the record to be re-released, and it reached No.4 in the UK in May, 1971. And it didn’t stop there… “Hey Girl Don’t Bother Me”, by the Tams was another record championed by Farmer Carl, which was picked up on by Peter Powell, the Radio One DJ, who brought it onto the radio. It eventually reached Number 1.

When Farmer Carl left the Catacombs, Alan S was joined by “Major” Robert Crocker, and together they formulated a very sucessful partnership, travelling far and wide to locate new sounds. Together they opened a record shop, and one day, on the way to Leicester to purchase new stock, the pair were involved in a car accident, and Bob Crocker was sadly killed. Alan S was confined to hospital for 3 months.

Catacombs Advert.
While Alan recuperated, Mick “Froggy” Taylor took over, as was soon joined by “Blue” Max Millward and Graham Warr. The club prospered, closing briefly in 1972 for refurbishment, but continuing on it’s mission to discover bigger and better sounds. Consider the following list of records that are credited by various sources as having been launched at the Catacombs: Cats Last Allnighter Advert.
  • Swoop Down On You – Lorenzo Manley
  • Darkest Days – Jackie Lee
  • Blowing My Mind To Pieces – Bob Relf
  • Unsatisfied – Lou Johnson
  • Picture Me Gone – Evie Sands
  • Temptation Walk – Jackie Lee
  • Ski-ing In The Snow – The Invitations
  • Walk Like A Man – Johnny Moore
  • Gonna Be A Big Thing – The Yum Yums
  • It Ain’t Necessary – Mamie Galore
  • I Got Something Good – Sam and Kitty
  • I’m Comun’ Home In The Mornun’ – Lou Pride
  • Panic – Reparata and the Delrons
It’s always best to have a venue described by someone who was there. Here are some great memories from Graham “Mif” Smith from Wolverhampton:

I still have my last Pink membership card 1973-1974. It’s dated July 1973 and I was member number 89. What a place this was, the bare walls of the corridors would become wet with the condensation as everyone packed in to enjoy Blue Max and Pep’s latest ‘finds’. I remember placing my new cassette tape recorder in the dance floor area to tape all the sounds. Still got those tapes too, you can hear the atmosphere. I would visit the Torch too, a much bigger venue, so for me it never held the same ‘feelings’ as the Cats. What I remember most was the rush for the floor when one of the ‘tunes’ of the day were played; “Ski-ing In The Snow”. “Blowing My Mind To Pieces”. Such brilliant tunes. Well, I have just had birthday number 50, but get that Northern Soul on the decks and I will dance yer pants off (much to the embarrassment of my kids). Wifey and I still visit NS clubs in our area but nothing, nothing can come anywhere near those Cats days.

In 1973, Alan S left the Catacombs, to be replaced by Ian “Pep” Pereira, and Alan Day joined the team briefly. Once the Torch closed, the Catacombs reigned supreme, until the impact of Wigan Casino was felt. In 1974, the Catacombs closed due to the redevelopment of the premises, going out with a bang with the hottest allnighter on record, with an attendance of over twice the legal fire limit!

The Catacombs was an upstairs venue, based in an old lead smelting works. It was a long, narrow venue, based around a long, bare-brick walled corridor, with arched alcoves where the furnaces used to be and a bar on the right, and the dance floor at the far end. It had a capacity of 500-600 and ran initially from 8-12, allnighters being introduced in the early seventies.

The significance of the Catacombs in the history of Northern Soul cannot be understated. It was the policy of the Catacombs to discover and popularise unknown soul rarities, and if it were not for the hours that it opened, it could have easily have surpassed the Twisted Wheel as the premier venue of the early 70s. As it was, the Catacombs discovered the sounds and the Wheel and the Torch exposed them to the masses. And as if to have the final say, the Catacombs outlasted both the Wheel and the Torch, finally closing in July 1974.Catacombs Advert.

How the Catacombs looks today. The venue started playing rare soul in 1967, and the DJ at the time was Alan S (Smith) who was relatively new to the scene. He was joined by “Farmer” Carl Dene (Carl Woodroffe). Farmer Carl had been a collector of rare soul since 1964, regularly visiting the soul haven of the time, The Diskery, on a regular basis; he was also credited as one of the first people to cover-up records. Farmer Carl was responsible for breaking many famous classics, one of note being “That Beating Rhythm” by Richard Temple. Nobody believed the record existed, assuming it to be a cover-up, due to the “Temple” link with the Temple Street venue. As well as “I’ll Do Anything” by Doris Troy, perhaps Farmer Carl’s biggest claim to fame is his ability to promote chart sucess. His exposure of “I’m Gonna Run Away From You” by Tami Lynn caused the record to be re-released, and it reached No.4 in the UK in May, 1971. And it didn’t stop there… “Hey Girl Don’t Bother Me”, by the Tams was another record championed by Farmer Carl, which was picked up on by Peter Powell, the Radio One DJ, who brought it onto the radio. It eventually reached Number 1.

When Farmer Carl left the Catacombs, Alan S was joined by “Major” Robert Crocker, and together they formulated a very sucessful partnership, travelling far and wide to locate new sounds. Together they opened a record shop, and one day, on the way to Leicester to purchase new stock, the pair were involved in a car accident, and Bob Crocker was sadly killed. Alan S was confined to hospital for 3 months.

Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia’s take on Northern Soul says: –

Northern soul
Stylistic origins Soul
Rhythm and blues
Gospel
Cultural origins Northern England
Typical instruments Strings
Horns
Guitar
Vocals
Mainstream popularity From late 1960s onwards
Derivative forms Modern soulMadchesterMod revivalrave culture

Northern soul is a music and dance movement that emerged from the British mod scene, initially in northern England in the late 1960s. Northern soul mainly consists of a particular style of black American soul music based on the heavy beat and fast tempo of the mid-1960s Tamla Motown sound. The northern soul movement, however, generally eschews Motown or Motown-influenced music that has met with significant mainstream success. The recordings most prized by enthusiasts of the genre are usually by lesser-known artists, and were initially released only in limited numbers, often by small regional United States labels such as Ric-Tic and Golden World (Detroit), Mirwood (Los Angeles) and Shout and Okeh (New York/Chicago).

Northern soul is also associated with particular dance styles and fashions that grew out of the underground rhythm & soul scene of the late 1960s, at venues such as the Twisted Wheel in Manchester. This scene (and the associated dances and fashions) quickly spread to other UK dancehalls and nightclubs like the Catacombs (Wolverhampton), the Highland Rooms at Blackpool MeccaGolden Torch (Stoke-on-Trent), and Wigan Casino. As the favoured beat became more uptempo and frantic, by the early 1970s, northern soul dancing became more athletic, somewhat resembling the later dance styles of disco andbreak dancing. Featuring spins, flips, karate kicks and backdrops, club dancing styles were often inspired by the stage performances of touring American soul acts such as Little Anthony & The Imperials andJackie Wilson.

During the Northern soul scene’s initial years in the late 1960s and early 1970s, popular Northern Soul records were usually not recent releases, and generally dated from the mid-1960s. This meant that the movement was sustained (and “new” recordings added to playlists) by prominent DJs discovering rare and previously overlooked records. Later on, certain clubs and DJs began to move away from the 1960s Motown sound and began to play newer releases with a more contemporary sound.

History

Photograph of a sew-on patch featuring the clenched fist symbol adopted by the northern soul movement

The phrase northern soul emanated from the record shop Soul City in Covent Garden, London, which was run by journalist Dave Godin.[1] It was first publicly used in Godin’s weekly column in Blues and Soulmagazine in June 1970.[2] In a 2002 interview with Chris Hunt of Mojo magazine, Godin said he had first come up with the term in 1968, to help employees at Soul City differentiate the more modern funkier sounds from the smoother, Motown-influenced soul of a few years earlier. With contemporary black music evolving into what would eventually become known as funk, to differentiate the tastes of the die-hard soul-lovers of the north, whose musical preferences seemed to have stalled somewhere in that classic mid-’60s era of Motown-sounding black American dance, Godin referred to their requests as ‘Northern Soul’:

I had started to notice that northern football fans who were in London to follow their team were coming into the store to buy records, but they weren’t interested in the latest developments in the black American chart. I devised the name as a shorthand sales term. It was just to say ‘if you’ve got customers from the north, don’t waste time playing them records currently in the U.S. black chart, just play them what they like – ‘Northern Soul’.[3]

The venue most commonly associated with the early development of the northern soul scene was the Twisted Wheel in Manchester and the Room at The Top in Wigan. The club began in the early 1950s as abeatnik coffee bar called The Left Wing, but in early 1963, the run-down premises were leased by two Manchester businessmen (Ivor and Phil Abadi) and turned into a music venue.[4] Initially the Twisted Wheel mainly hosted live music on the weekends and Disc Only nights during the week. Starting in September 1963, the Abadi brothers promoted all-night parties at the venue on Saturday nights, with a mixture of live and recorded music. DJ Roger Eagle, a collector of imported American soul, jazz and rhythm and blues, was booked around this time, and the club’s reputation as a place to hear and dance to the latest American R&B music began to grow.

Throughout the mid-1960s, the Twisted Wheel became the focus of Manchester’s emerging mod scene, with a music policy that reflected Eagle’s eclectic tastes in soul and jazz, and featuring live performances by British beat musicians and American R&B stars. Gradually, the music policy became less eclectic and shifted heavily towards fast-paced soul, in response to the demands of the growing crowds of amphetamine-fuelled dancers who flocked to the all-nighters. Dismayed at the change in music policy and the frequent drug raids by the police, Eagle quit the club in 1966

Commemorative sew-on patch similar to those worn by Twisted Wheel members.

By 1968 the reputation of the Twisted Wheel and the type of music being played there had grown nationwide.Soul fans were traveling from all over the United Kingdom to attend the Saturday all-nighters, with resident ‘All Niter’ DJ Bob Dee compiling & supervising [5] the playlist and utilising the newly developed slip-cueing technique to spin the vinyl between 1968 and the club’s eventual closure in 1971 .[6] [7] After attending one of the venue’s all-nighters in November 1970, Godin wrote: “…it is without doubt the highest and finest I have seen outside of the USA… never thought I’d live to see the day where people could so relate the rhythmic content of Soul music to bodily movement to such a skilled degree!”[8] The venue’s owners had successfully been able to fill the vacancy left by Eagle with a growing roster of specialist soul DJs.

The Twisted Wheel gained a reputation as a drug haven, and under pressure from the police and other authorities, the club closed in January 1971. However, by the late 1960s, the popularity of the music and lifestyle associated with the club had spread further across the north and midlands of England, and a number of new venues had begun to host soul all-nighters. These included the King Mojo in Sheffield, The Catacombs in Wolverhampton, Room at the Top in Wigan and Va Va’s in Bolton.

1970s

Commemorative sew-on patch similar to those worn by Golden Torch members.

Northern soul reached the peak of its popularity in the mid to late 1970s.[9] At this time, there were soul clubs in virtually every major town in the midlands and the north of England.[10] The three venues regarded as the most important in this decade were the Golden Torch in Tunstall, Stoke (1971 to 1972), Blackpool Mecca (1971 to 1979) and Wigan Casino (1973 to 1981).

Although Wigan Casino is now the most well known, the best attended northern soul all-night venue at the beginning of the decade was the Golden Torch, where regular Friday night soul “all-nighters” began in late 1970. Chris Burton, the owner, stated that in 1972, the club had a membership of 12,500, and 62,000 separate customer visits.[11] Despite its popularity, the club closed down due to licensing problems in March, 1972 and attention switched to soul nights at Blackpool Mecca’s Highland Room, which had started hosting rare soul nights in late 1971.

Commemorative sew-on patch similar to those designed by Russ Winstanley and sold at the Wigan Casino.

Wigan Casino began its weekly soul all-nighters in September 1973.[12] Wigan Casino had a much larger capacity than many competing venues and ran its events from 2am until 8am. There was a regular roster of DJs, including the promoter Russ Winstanley. By 1976, the club boasted a membership of 100,000 people, and in 1978, was voted the world’s number one discotheque by the American magazine Billboard.[13] This was during the heyday of the Studio 54 nightclub in New York City. By the late 1970s, the club had its own spin-off record label, Casino Classics.[14]

By this time, Wigan Casino was coming under criticism from many soul fans. Contemporary black American soul was changing with the advent of funkdisco and jazz-funk, and the supply of recordings with the fast-paced northern soul sound began to dwindle rapidly. Wigan Casino DJs resorted to playing any kind of record that matched the correct tempo.[15] Also, the club was subjected to heavy media coverage and began to attract many otherwise uninterested people whom the soul purists did not approve of.[16]

Blackpool Mecca was popular throughout the 1970s, although the venue never hosted all-nighters. The regular Saturday night events began at 8pm and finished at 2am, and initially, some dancers would begin their evenings at Blackpool Mecca and then transfer to Wigan Casino. In 1974, the music policy at Blackpool Mecca sharply diverged from Wigan Casino’s, with the regular DJs Ian Levine and Colin Curtis including newly released US soul in their sets. Whilst the tempo was similar to the earlier Motown Records-style recordings, this shift in emphasis heralded a slightly different style of northern soul dancing and dress styles at Blackpool Mecca and created a schism in the northern soul movement between Wigan Casino’s traditionalists and Blackpool Mecca’s wider approach, which accepted the more contemporary sounds of Philly soul, early disco and funk.

Other major northern soul venues in the 1970s include The Catacombs in Wolverhampton, Va Va’s in Bolton, the ‘Talk of The North’ all-nighters at The Pier and Winter Gardens in Cleethorpes, Tiffany’s in Coalville, Samantha’s in Sheffield, Neil Rushton‘s ‘Heart of England’ soul club all-dayers at The Ritz in Manchester and the Nottingham Palais.[17] As the 1970s progressed, the northern soul scene expanded even further nationally. There was a notable scene in the east of England with all-nighters at the St. Ivo Centre in St. Ives, the Phoenix Soul club at the Wirrina Stadium in Peterborough and the Howard Mallett in Cambridge.[18] Other towns with notable northern soul venues at this time included Kettering, Coventry, Bournemouth, Southampton and Bristol.[19]

1980s and later

When Wigan Casino closed in 1981, many believed that the northern soul scene was on the verge of disintegrating. However, the 1970s mod revival, the thriving scooterboy subculture and the acid jazz movement produced a new wave of fans. The popularity of the music was further bolstered in the 1980s by a wave of reissues and compilation albums from small British independent record labels. Many of these labels were set up by DJs and collectors who had been part of the original northern soul scene. The 1980s — often dismissed as a low period for northern soul by those who had left the scene in the 1970s — featured almost 100 new venues in places as diverse as Bradford, London, Peterborough, Leighton Buzzard, Whitchurch, Coventry and Leicester. Pre-eminent among the 1980s venues were Stafford‘s Top of the World and London‘s 100 Club.

Today there are regular northern soul events in various parts of the United Kingdom, such as The Nightshift Club all-nighters at the Bisley Pavilion in Surrey and the Prestatyn Weekender in North Wales.[20] In an August 2008 article in The Times, broadcaster Terry Christian argued that northern soul was undergoing a distinct revival in the late 2000s.[21] Christian cited the popularity of regular revivals of Twisted Wheel soul all-nighters at the original venue (in Whitworth Street, Manchester) plus the Beat Boutique northern soul all-nighters at the Ruby Lounge and MMUnion in Manchester. Many of those who ceased their involvement in the late 1970s have now returned to the scene and regularly participate in such events.[22][23] As of 2009, Paul O’Grady has included a Northern Soul Triple in his weekly BBC Radio 2 show. He plays three northern soul hits, often at the request of his listeners.[24]

The northern soul soul movement has inspired the movie Soulboy (2010), directed by Shimmy Marcus, and at least one novel: Do I Love You? (2008) by Paul McDonald[25][26] [27] In June 2010, theatre director Fiona Laird wrote and directed Keeping the Faith, a musical based on the Wigan Casino scene and featuring northern soul music. It was staged at the Central School of Speech and Drama’s Webber Douglas Studio, with a revival at the same venue in September 2010.

Music, artists and records

Photograph of the original release (left) and a re-issue copy (right) of Gloria Jones‘ Tainted Love

In the book Last Night A DJ Saved My Life: the history of the DJ, the authors describe northern soul as “a genre built from failures”, stating: “…Northern Soul was the music made by hundreds of singers and bands who were copying the Detroit sound of Motown pop. Most of the records were complete failures in their own time and place… but in northern England from the end of the 1960s through to its heyday in the middle 1970s, were exhumed and exalted.”[28]

Music style

The music style most associated with northern soul is the heavy, syncopated beat and fast tempo of mid-1960s Motown Records, which was usually combined with soulful vocals. These types of records, which suited the athletic dancing that was prevalent, became known on the scene as stompers.[29] Notable examples include Tony Clarke’s “Landslide” (popularised by Ian Levine at Blackpool Mecca)[30] and Gloria Jones’ “Tainted Love” (purchased by Richard Searling on a trip to the United States in 1973 and popularised at Va Va’s in Bolton, and later, Wigan Casino).[31]According to northern soul DJ Ady Croadsell, viewed retrospectively, the earliest recording to possess this style was the 1965 single “I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch)” by The Four Tops, although that record was never popular in the northern soul scene because it was too mainstream.[32]

Other related music styles also gained acceptance in the northern soul scene. Slower, less-danceable soul records were often played, such as Barbara Mills’ “Queen Of Fools” (popular in 1972 at the Golden Torch)[33] and The Mob’s “I Dig Everything About You”.[34] Every all-nighter at Wigan Casino ended with the playing of three well-known northern soul songs with a particular going hometheme. These came to be known as the “3 before 8” and were: “Time Will Pass You By” by Tobi Legend, “Long After Tonight Is Over” by Jimmy Radcliffe, and “I’m On My Way” by Dean Parrish.[35] Commercial pop songs that matched the up-tempo beat of the stompers were also played at some venues, including The Ron Grainer Orchestra’s instrumental “Theme From Joe 90” at Wigan Casino[36] and The Just Brothers’ surf-guitar song “Sliced Tomatoes” at Blackpool Mecca.[37]

As the scene developed in the mid and late 1970s, the more contemporary and rhythmically sophisticated sounds of disco and Philly Soul became accepted at certain venues following its adoption at Blackpool Mecca. This style is typified musically by theO’Jays‘ “I Love Music” (UK #13, January 1976), which gained popularity prior to its commercial release at Blackpool Mecca in late 1975. The record that initially popularised this change is usually cited as The Carstair’s “It Really Hurts Me Girl” (Red Coach), a record initially released late in 1973 on promotional copies – but quickly withdrawn due to lack of interest from American Radio stations.[38] The hostility towards any contemporary music style from northern soul traditionalists at Wigan Casino led to the creation of the spin-off modern soul movement in the early 1980s.

Rarity

As venues such as the Twisted Wheel evolved into northern soul clubs in the late 1960s and the dancers increasingly demanded newly discovered sounds, DJs began to acquire and play rare and often deleted US releases that had not gained even a release in the UK.”[39] These records were sometimes obtained through specialist importers or, in some cases, by DJs visiting the US and purchasing old warehouse stock.[40] Some records were so rare that only a handful of copies were known to exist, so northern soul DJs and clubs became associated with particular records that were almost exclusively on their own playlists. Many of the original artists and musicians remained unaware of their new-found popularity for many years.[41]

As the scene increased in popularity, a network of UK record dealers emerged who were able to acquire further copies of the original vinyl and supply them to fans at prices commensurate with their rarity and desirability.[42] Later on, a number of UK record labels were able to capitalise on the booming popularity of northern soul and negotiate licenses for certain popular records from the copyright holders and reissue them as new 45s or compilation LPs. Amongst these labels were Casino Classics, PYE Disco Demand, Inferno, Kent Modern and Goldmine.[43][44]

The notoriety of DJs on the northern soul scene was enhanced by the possession of rare records, but exclusivity was not enough on its own, and the records had to conform to a certain musical style and gain acceptance on the dance floor.[45] Frank Wilson‘s “Do I Love You (Indeed I Do)” has been rated the rarest and most valuable northern soul single.[46]

Hits and other favourites

Many songs from the 1960s that were revived on the northern soul scene were reissued by their original labels and became UK top 40 hits in the 1970s. These include The Tams‘ 1964 recording “Hey Girl Don’t Bother Me” (UK #1, July 1971) – which was popularized by Midlands DJ Carl Dene –The Fascinations‘ 1966 single “Girls Are Out To Get You” (UK #32, 1971), The Newbeats‘ 1965 American hit “Run Baby Run” (UK #10, Oct 1971), Bobby Hebb‘s “Love Love Love” which was originally the B-side of his 1966 U.S. #1 “Sunny” (UK #32 August 1972), Robert Knight‘s “Love On A Mountain Top” of 1968 (UK #10, November 1973), and R. Dean Taylor’s “There’s A Ghost In My House” from 1967 (UK #3, May 1974).

The northern soul scene also spawned many lesser chart hits, including Al Wilson‘s 1967 cut “The Snake” (UK #41 in 1975), Dobie Gray‘s “Out On The Floor” (UK #42, September 1975) and Little Anthony & The Imperials‘ “Better Use Your Head” (UK #42 July 1976).

A variety of recordings were made later in the 1970s that were specifically aimed at the northern soul scene, which also went on to become UK top 40 hits. These included: The Exciters’ “Reaching For The Best” (UK #31, October 1975), L.J Johnson’s “Your Magic Put A Spell On Me” (UK #27, February 1976),[47] Tommy Hunt’s “Loving On The Losing Side” (UK #28, August 1976) and “Footsee” by Wigan’s Chosen Few (UK #9, January 1975).[48]

“Goodbye Nothing To Say”, by the white British group The Javells, was identified by Dave McAleer of Pye’s Disco Demand label as having an authentic northern soul feel. McAleer gave a white label promotional copy to Russ Winstanley (a Wigan Casino DJ and promoter), and the tune became popular amongst the dancers at the venue. Disco Demand then released the song as a 45 RPM single, reaching UK #26 in November 1974. To promote the single on BBC’s Top Of The Pops, the performer was accompanied by two Wigan Casino dancers.[49]

In 2000, Wigan Casino DJ Kev Roberts compiled The Northern Soul Top 500, which was based on a survey of northern soul fans.[50] The top ten songs were: “Do I Love You (Indeed I Do)” by Frank Wilson, “Out on the Floor” by Dobie Gray, “You Didn’t Say a Word” by Yvonne Baker, “The Snake” by Al Wilson, “Long After Tonight is Over” by Jimmy Radcliffe, “Seven Day Lover” by James Fountain, “You Don’t Love Me” by Epitome of Sound, “Looking for You” by Garnet Mimms, “If That’s What You Wanted” by Frankie Beverly & the Butlers, and “Seven Days Too Long” by Chuck Wood.

Fashion and imagery

African American athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos performed their Black Power salute at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City

A large proportion of northern soul’s original audience came from within the 1960s mod subculture. In the late 1960s, when some mods started to embrace freakbeat and psychedelic rock, other mods – especially those in northern England – stuck to the original mod soundtrack of soul and Blue Beat. From the latter category, two strands emerged: skinheads and the northern soul scene.

Early northern soul fashion included strong elements of the classic mod style, such as button-down Ben Sherman shirts, blazers with centre vents and unusual numbers of buttons, Trickers and brogue shoes and shrink-to-fitLevi’s jeans.[51] Some non-mod items, such as bowling shirts, were also popular. Later, northern soul dancers started to wear light and loose-fitting clothing for reasons of practicality. This included high-waisted, baggy Oxford trousers and sports vests. These were often covered with sew-on badges representing soul club memberships.

The clenched fist symbol that has become associated with the northern soul movement (frequently depicted on sew-on patches) emanates from the Black Power civil rights movement of the 1960s in the United States. The symbol is related to the salute given by African-American athletes at the 1968 Olympic games in Mexico City.[52] On his visit to the Twisted Wheel in 1971, Dave Godin recalled that “…very many young fellows wore black “right on now” racing gloves … between records one would hear the occasional cry of “Right on now!” or see a clenched gloved fist rise over the tops of the heads of the dancers!”[53]

Drugs

In 2007, Andrew Wilson (lecturer in criminology at the University of Sheffield) published the extensively researched sociological study Northern Soul: Music, drugs and subcultural identity. This work details in some depth the lifestyles associated with the Northern soul scene and the extensive use of Amphetamines (otherwise known as speed) by many involved. Wilson argues that, whilst a significant proportion did not use drugs, drug usage was heavily ingrained in the fast-paced culture of the northern soul scene and contributed to participants’ ability to stay up all-night dancing. Many clubs and events were closed down or refused licences due to concerns of local authorities that soul nights attracted drug dealers and users.[54] Roger Eagle, DJ at the Twisted Wheel club in Manchester, cited Amphetamine usage amongst participants as his reason for quitting the club in 1967. Of the regular attendees he said, “All they wanted was fast-tempo black dance music… [but they were] too blocked on amphetamines to articulate exactly which Jackie Wilson record they wanted me to play.”[55]

Influence on DJ culture

The northern soul movement is cited by many as being a significant step towards the creation of contemporary club culture and of the superstar DJ culture of the 2000s.[56] Two of the most notable DJs from the original northern soul era are Russ Winstanley and Ian Levine. As in contemporary club culture, northern soul DJs built up a following based on satisfying the crowd’s desires for music that they could not hear anywhere else. The competitiveness between DJs to unearth ‘in-demand’ sounds led them to cover up the labels on their records, giving rise to the modern white label pressing. Many argue that northern soul was instrumental in creating a network of clubs, DJs, record collectors and dealers in the UK, and was the first music scene to provide the British charts with records that sold entirely on the strength of club play.[57]

A technique employed by northern soul DJs in common with their later counterparts was the sequencing of records to create euphoric highs and lows for the crowd. Many of the DJ personalities and their followers involved in the original northern soul movement went on to become important figures in the house and dance music scenes.[58] Notable among these are Mike Pickering, who introduced house music to The Haçienda in Manchester in the 1980s, the influential DJ Colin CurtisNeil Rushton the A&R manager of the House music record label Kool Kat Music and the dance record producers Pete Waterman, Johnathan Woodliffe, Ian Dewhirst and Ian Levine.

Influence on musicians

Northern soul has influenced several notable musicians. Terry Christian — in his 2008 article about northern soul for The Times — wrote, “There’s an instant credibility for any artist or brand associated with a scene that has always been wild, free and grassroots.”[59] Soft Cell had chart success with covers of two popular northern soul songs, “Tainted Love” (originally recorded by Gloria Jones) and “What?” (originally recorded by Judy Street). Soft Cell member Dave Ball used to occasionally attend soul nights at Blackpool Mecca and Wigan Casino.[60] Moloko‘s video for “Familiar Feeling” is set against a northern soul backdrop and was directed by Elaine Constantine, a longstanding northern soul enthusiast. The video was choreographed by DJ Keb Darge, who rose to prominence at the Stafford Top Of The World all-nighters in the 1980s.[61]

London based rapper turned soul crooner, Plan B’s second album The Defamation Of Strickland Banks displayed a very significant Northern Soul influence. [62][63] [64]The single Stay Too Long featured Northern Soul style dance moves such as spins, flips and backdrops. The Album sleeve also featured “Plan B sew-on patches”.

Notes

  1. ^ Neil RushtonNorthern Soul Stories, Chapter 1, page 15
  2. ^ Dave Godin. “The Up-North Soul Groove”, Blues & Soul magazine, June 1970
  3. ^ For Dancers Only: The Wigan Casino Story article by Chris Hunt published in Mojo. 2002
  4. ^ Haslam, Dave, Manchester, England. 4th Estate. 1999
  5. ^ David Nowell, ‘Too Darn Soulful: The Story of Northern Soul’ page 35
  6. ^ Bolton Evening News ‘Marvellous Days and Memories’ Saturday March 15 2003 page 10
  7. ^ Manchester Evening News ‘Where is Bobby Now?’ Saturday 3rd January 2004 page 20
  8. ^ Land of a Thousand Dances Dave Godin’s article about the Twisted Wheel published in Blues & Soul magazine, issue 50, January 1971
  9. ^ by Bill Brewster and Frank Broughton. Last Night A DJ Saved My Life, Chapter four, Northern Soul. Section: Soul Wars: Wigan Casino vs Blackpool Mecca”, page 98
  10. ^ Stickings, Reg. Searching For Soul
  11. ^ Haslam, Dave. Adventures On The Wheels of Steel: The Rise of the Superstar DJs, Chapter six, “Leaving The Go-Go Girls At Home”, page 170
  12. ^ Russ Winstanley and David Nowell. Soul Survivors: The Wigan Casino Story. Chapter one, page 14
  13. ^ Bill Brewster and Frank Broughton. Last Night A DJ Saved My Life. Chapter four, page 99, “Soul Wars: Wigan Casino versus Blackpool Mecca”
  14. ^ Russ Winstanley and David Nowell. Soul Survivors: The Wigan Casino Story. Chapter seven, page 101
  15. ^ Ritson, Mike & Russell, Stuart. The In Crowd: The Story of the Northern & Rare Soul Scene, Chapter twenty, page 273
  16. ^ Haslam, Dave. Adventures On The Wheels of Steel: The Rise of the Superstar DJs, Chapter six, “Leaving The Go-Go Girls At Home”, page 180
  17. ^ Hinckley Soul Club National venues history pages
  18. ^ Ritson, Mike & Russell, Stuart. The In Crowd: The Story of the Northern & Rare Soul Scene, Chapter 19, page 263
  19. ^ Stickings, Reg. Searching For Soul
  20. ^ Ritson, Mike. “Northern Exposure” column in Echoes magazine. March 2009
  21. ^ “The Return Of Northern Soul” Article by Terry Christian in The Times, August 27, 2008
  22. ^ Stickings, Reg, Searching For Soul
  23. ^ David Nowell, Too Darn Soulful: The Story of Northern Soul. Chapter 12, page 319.
  24. ^ Paul O’Grady on the Wireless at BBC Radio 2
  25. ^ Hewitt, Paolo (August 21, 2010). “SoulBoy might be set in 1974 but northern soul fans are still out on the floor”The Guardian (London).
  26. ^ Clements, Tony, “Saving the hapless male” http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/fictionreviews/3560966/Saving-the-hapless-male.html
  27. ^ O’Doherty, Cahir, “Do I Love You: Paul McDonald”, Irish Central http://www.irishcentral.com/saint_patricks_day/An-essential-reading-guide-for-St-Patricks-season-41096537.html
  28. ^ Bill Brewster and Frank Broughton. Last Night A DJ Saved My Life. Chapter four, page 86, “A Genre Built From Failures”
  29. ^ Haslam, Dave, Manchester, England, chapter six, p147
  30. ^ Sleeve notes written by Ian Levine accompanying the CD “Reachin’ For The Best: The Northern Soul of the Blackpool Mecca” on Sanctuary records
  31. ^ Haslam, Dave, Manchester, England, chapter six, p172
  32. ^ Paolo HewittThe Soul Stylists. p. 111, quote from Ady Croadsell
  33. ^ Sleeve notes written by Neil Rushton accompanying the LP Out On The Floor Tonight on Inferno Records
  34. ^ Sleeve notes written by Ian Levine accompanying the CD “Reachin’ For The Best: The Northern Soul of the Blackpool Mecca”
  35. ^ Sleeve notes accompanying the LP Casino Classics Chapter One on Casino Classics Records
  36. ^ Russ Winstanley and David Nowell Soul Survivors: The Wigan Casino Story. Chapter seven, page 109
  37. ^ Sleeve notes written by Ian Levine accompanying the CD Reachin’ For The Best: The Northern Soul of the Blackpool Mecca
  38. ^ Bill Brewster and Frank Broughton. Last Night A DJ Saved My Life Chapter four, page 106, “Fighting for the soul of soul”
  39. ^ Keith Rylatt and Phil Scott, Central 1179: The Story of Manchester’s Twisted Wheel Club, chapter 8 “Bye Bye Blues”
  40. ^ Keith Rylatt and Phil Scott, Central 1179: The Story of Manchester’s Twisted Wheel Club, chapter 10 “The Records”
  41. ^ Blackford, Andy, Disco Dancing Tonight, chapter 5 “In the beginning”
  42. ^ Keith Rylatt and Phil Scott, Central 1179: The Story of Manchester’s Twisted Wheel Club, chapter 10 “The Records”
  43. ^ Ritson, Mike & Russell, Stuart. The In Crowd: The Story of the Northern & Rare Soul Scene, Chapter 15, page 215
  44. ^ Bill Brewster and Frank Broughton. Last Night A DJ Saved My Life. Chapter 4, page 102, “Reissues and Commercialisation”
  45. ^ Bill Brewster and Frank Broughton. Last Night A DJ Saved My Life. Chapter 4, page 86, “A Genre Built From Failures”
  46. ^ Bill Brewster and Frank Broughton. Last Night A DJ Saved My Life. Chapter 4, page 109, “The world’s rarest record”
  47. ^ Russ Winstanley and David Nowell. Soul Survivors: The Wigan Casino Story. Chapter five, page 65
  48. ^ Russ Winstanley and David Nowell. Soul Survivors: The Wigan Casino Story. Chapter 7, page 95
  49. ^ Russ Winstanley and David Nowell. Soul Survivors: The Wigan Casino Story. Chapter 2, page 37
  50. ^ Roberts, Kev, The Northern Soul Top 500http://www.rocklistmusic.co.uk/steveparker/northern_soul_top_500.htm
  51. ^ Keith Rylatt and Phil Scott. Central 1179: The Story of Manchester’s Twisted Wheel Club. BeeCool Publishing. 2001
  52. ^ Andy Wilson. Northern Soul: Music, Drugs and Subcultural Identity. Chapter 2, Page 78
  53. ^ Land of a Thousand DancesBlues & Soul magazine, issue 50, January 1971
  54. ^ Andy Wilson. Northern Soul: Music, Drugs and Subcultural Identity. Chapter 3, Page 82
  55. ^ Keith Rylatt and Phil Scott, Central 1179: The Story of Manchester’s Twisted Wheel Club, BeeCool Publishing. 2001
  56. ^ by Bill Brewster and Frank Broughton. Last Night A DJ Saved My Life, Chapter 4, “Northern Soul: The First Rave Culture”, page 85
  57. ^ Mallet, Simon.“The In Crowd” to the “Happy People”
  58. ^ by Bill Brewster and Frank Broughton. Last Night A DJ Saved My Life, Chapter 4, “From Northern Soul to Nu-NRG”, page 113
  59. ^ The Return Of Northern Soul Article by Terry Christian in The Times, August 27, 2008
  60. ^ Russ Winstanley and David Nowell. Soul Survivors: The Wigan Casino Story. Part V, page 207
  61. ^ YouTube – Moloko “Familiar Feeling”
  62. ^ http://myirontongue.com/wordpress/?p=156
  63. ^ http://monkeyboxing.com/content/plan-b-defamation-strickland-banks-%E2%80%93-2010-%E2%80%93-album-review/
  64. ^ http://www.bluesandsoul.com/feature/522/plan_b_from_a_to_b

Bibliography

  • Neil Rushton (2009). Northern Soul Stories: Angst and Acetates. Soulvation. ISBN 978-0-9564569-1-5.
  • Mike Ritson and Stuart Russell (1999). The In Crowd: The Story of the Northern & Rare Soul Scene, Volume 1. Bee Cool. ISBN 0-9536626-1-6.
  • David Nowell (2001). Too Darn Soulful: The Story of Northern Soul. Robson Books. ISBN 1-86105-431-9.
  • Andy Wilson (2007). Northern Soul: Music, Drugs and Subcultural Identity. Willan Publishing. ISBN 1-843922-08-8.
  • Keith Rylatt and Phil Scott (2001). CENtral 1179: The Story of Manchester’s Twisted Wheel Club. Bee Cool. ISBN 0-9536626-3-2.
  • Russ Winstanley and David Nowell (1996). Soul Survivors: The Wigan Casino Story. Robson Books. ISBN 1-86105-126-3.
  • Kev Roberts (2000). The Northern Soul Top 500ISBN 0-9539291-0-8.
  • Reg Stickings (2008). Searching For Soul. SAF Publishing. ISBN 978-0-946719-87-7.
  • Bill Brewster and Frank Broughton (2000) [1999]. Last Night a DJ Saved My Life: The History of the Disc Jockey. New York: Grove Press. ISBN 0-8021-3688-5.
  • Dave Haslam (2002) [2001]. Adventures on the Wheels of Steel: the rise of the superstar DJs. London: 4th Estate. ISBN 1-84115-433-4.
  • Paolo Hewitt (2000). The Soul Stylists: Forty Years of Modernism. Mainstream Publishing. ISBN 1-84018-228-8.
  • Andy Blackford (1979). Disco Dancing Tonight. Octupus Books Ltd. ISBN 7064-1019X.
  • Pete Kreisler (2006). A Bottle of Lucozade, A Marathon and all Nite Dancing. Bygone Novels. ISBN 1-88016-223-1.
  • Chris Peacock (2001). Hardman Eddie: Dancing Tough. Echo Ltd Publishing. ISBN 1-89416-443-6.

External links

2 thoughts on “Soul Survivors and the new wave

  1. There was also an all nighter in Portsmouth called The Marina which mirrored the twisted wheel Which is on facebook under The Marina Fratton Portsmouth when this venue closed the soul boys went to the torch stoke

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