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In his regular 'Vinyl Stories' column Dave Goodwin investigates five Northern Soul compilation albums that have been reissued through Club Soul/Charly Records on vinyl.
Having missed the heyday that the Northern Soul phenomenon created I chose to delve into it a few years later and went on to DJ and create my own Soul night in the local town which had to close sadly due to noise pollution. Yep, it was so loud the neighbours complained and we had to stop. I still have all my vinyl but sold the sound system a while ago. The music is the winner all night long though.
Once you have heard certain Soul tracks and witnessed the unity and togetherness of a Soul night at a good venue there is no going back. Once you have Northern Soul in your blood you have it for life. It’s not a fad or a crush, it’s a way of life to many people.
Originally spawned from the early Mod clubs, Northern grew rapidly and the golden years from 1973 through to 1980 where the best days of its life but as new tracks from record company vaults are being discovered all the time and the original oldies get replayed the world of Northern Soul will never dwindle.
Young kids are getting into the sounds of 60s and 70s obscure soul to make up for the dross of modern day music. And while that continues, the likes of Wigan Casino, The Twisted Wheel and Blackpool’s Mecca will have the flag flying.
After gorging on mainstream Northern I then found the wonderful world of early R&B and Popcorn and delved into that with a passion. Not a big one for the Modern Soul stuff I bought and bought and ended up with quite a collection for myself. My wife has a moan now and again but she has no real cause to because at the end of the day it was her fault I got into the soul stuff in the first place! The hours we would spend up in Rob Smith’s upstairs room up Hurts Yard in Nottingham sifting through Case after case of £1 cheapies that today are worth £10, £20, £30 and much more in some cases.
Those nice, kind soulful folk at Charly Records who, for over 40 years have been one of the world’s leading independent record labels specialising in classic Soul, R&B and Funk recordings from the Sixties and Seventies and set up the Club Soul Label in 2013.
Club Soul’s releases are compilations of Classic and obscure soul and R&B tracks which featured on the playlists of the leading clubs on Britain’s original Northern Soul circuit predominantly centred around Manchester, Blackpool and Wigan, hence the term. The early clubs of that time featured legendary venues such as Manchester’s ‘Twisted Wheel’, Wolverhampton’s ‘Catacombs’, London’s ‘Scene Club’ and Wigan’s ‘Casino’, all of which feature here as individual albums in the rapidly-growing Club Soul catalogue.
The music was aimed squarely at the dance-floor and ranged from well-known hits by established names on major record labels to hardly-heard deep cuts released on tiny, forgotten US labels. Some of the better soul tracks were total obscurities cut in local record producers in towns we still don’t know today.
Club Soul is passionate about Northern Soul music, as is evident from its peerless releases aimed at its loyal fans both old and new.
In Vinyl Stories this month we are showcasing five of these great wellsprings of Soul: 'Club Classics', 'The Scene Club', 'The Twisted Wheel', 'Northern Soul Weekender' and 'Wigan Casino'.
The bonus is that all of these outings have come to me on vinyl and what a stonking set of records this makes. They are all LPs in their own right and some of them sport a track or two that appear on one of the others but some of these have been compiled by record spinners of the day such as Wigan Casino DJ Russ Winstanley.
This is the main staple of the five and a glorious example it is too. This is a real heavyweight gatefold offering of two lots of 180 gram discs celebrating 50 years of Northern Soul from the early days of the Twisted Wheel to the current Weekender phenomena. An album featuring over 70 minutes of floorfiller anthems, the set is packed full of all-nighter spins like ‘You Hit Me Like T.N.T’ by Linda Jones, ‘Fortune Teller’ by Benny Spellman and some more sedate sounds like one of my favourites like ‘Michael’ by The C.O.D.’S.
The sounds continue with ‘Every Beat Of My Heart’ by The Du-Ettes, ‘Do The 45!’ by The Sharpees, ‘Nothing’s Worse Than Being Alone’ by The Ad Libs and Ruby Andrews’ crossover beauty ‘Just Loving You’.
Moving on into the second part of the album the quality doesn’t flag, ‘I Hurt On The Other Side’ by Sidney Barnes, the brilliant ‘If You Ask Me (Because I Love You)’ by Jerry Williams and ‘What Does It Take (To Win Your Love)’ by The Electrifying Cashmeres all feature.
The Modern roomed ‘I Can See Him Loving You’ by The Anderson Brothers, the funk-inspired ‘The Bottle’ by Gil Scott-Heron & Brian Jackson and Skull Snaps’ ‘I’m Your Pimp’ which was a revelation back in the day conclude the set. Housed in a shiny gatefold sleeve, the artwork features singles artwork, the venues, various memorabilia and a booklet dedicated to the Club Soul Label.
'The Scene Club'
In the immortal words of Pete Townshend “The Scene was really where it was at. It was a focal point for the Mod movement. I don’t think anyone who was a Mod outside Soho realised the fashions and dances all began there.” This release effectively charts the beginning of the UKs discovery of Soul dance music and the rise of the small Mod clubs into major venues.
Beginning in 1963, the set covers up to and including in my opinion the golden year for Soul music, 1966. There is some blistering early cuts here including the fantastic ‘I’ve Got A Claim On You’ by Betty Everett, ‘Let The Good Times Roll’ by Alvin Robinson, ‘Shake A Tail Feather’ by The Five Du-Tones and a superior better rendition of ‘Land Of 1000 Dances’ by Chris Kenner. ‘Mister Bang Bang Man’ by Little Hank and Bessie Banks’ sublime ‘Go Now’ later covered by The Moody Blues all feature.
As the venue goes, The Scene Club was in Ham Yard, off Great Windmill Street, in Soho, central London and had previously been a Jazz club. In 1963 it had become a revered mod venue, playing all kinds of soul, R&B, Blues, Ska and Rock ‘n’ Roll. As per the previous collection, the set is presented on 180 gram heavyweight vinyl in a single LP packaging, with a great photo of a scooter on the cover and an even better one on the back of the happenings then.
“When I walked down those stairs for the first time, I thought I’d sold my soul to the devil!”- Pete Roberts. This one charts the sounds the DJs were playing in Manchester between 1963 and 1971, again the earlier part of the Northern movement. The ‘Wheel was originally launched in a coffee bar in 1963 and it quickly developed a reputation as one of one of the country’s finest venues for hearing obscure, imported soul, R&B and ska.
Bear in mind in the pre-internet age that when a DJ had something new sent to them from the States, or had gone to fetch it themselves, it might have been completely fresh to the ears over here. Some of the music of that time was totally new to us back here and we were going ballistic for it. Music fans would flock from all around the country to the weekly all-nighters to hear these records along with live sets from some of the finest soul artists of the time. As many folk nowadays know, the term ‘Northern Soul’ was in fact first coined by the journalist Dave Godin following a visit to the Twisted Wheel to describe the distinctive brand of music played there. The current set is presented on heavy duty vinyl and includes some classic sounds such as Cry To Me by Solomon Burke, A Certain Girl by Ernie K-Doe and Fats Domino’s evergreen It Keeps Rainin’.
I suppose the most well-known of the venues is Wigan Casino. Whenever you hear people talking about the underground sound their retort is always ‘Ah, but I bet you never went to Wigan’. Wigan Casino is a thing of folklore. Raided so many times by the police it is a wonder how it lasted as long as it did but it kept on going until shutting in 1981.
It was so popular and the place to be that by just its fourth year it had over 50,000 members on its list spiralling, unbelievably to twice that number by the time the Tony Palmer’s film for documentary strand This Is England hit the telly in 1977. Some incredible sounds were played and discovered here including Clarence Murray’s ‘Let’s Get On With It’, The Inspirations' ‘Your Wish Is My Command’, The Young Savages’ ‘(Shake Me) Can I Be Dreaming’ and Johnny Dynamite’s amazing ‘The Night The Angels Cried’.
'Northern Soul Weekender'
As I said at the start of this piece, you can’t go through life having never encountered the sounds and the vibe of the live venue. The Northern Soul All-Nighter and the next disc is designed to give you a taste if you have never had a nibble of that era on 'Northern Soul Weekender'. ‘I’m A Big Man’ by Big Daddy Rogers, the brilliant ‘Under Your Powerful Love’ by Joe Tex one of my all-time favourites ‘Love Slipped Through My Fingers’ by The Ohio Players feature. The wonderful sounds continue on the other side with another favourite from the Dore Record label ‘Gone With The Wind Is My Love’ by Rita & The Tiaras and one of the ultimate All-Nighter tracks, The Ringleaders’ ‘Baby, What Has Happened To Our Love’. A sterling collection and all in all another class outing from the good folk at Charly.