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Northern Renaissance

The Northern Soul movement has marked 2 significant anniversaries this year – the launch of the weekly All-Nighters at the scene’s most famous venue, Wigan Casino, in 1973, as well as the opening of its foundation club, Manchester’s Twisted Wheel, 10 years earlier. A new book, ‘Northern Soul – An Illustrated History’ was recently published by Virgin Books, its co-author, Bury-born Elaine Constantine, also the director of the upcoming film ‘Northern Soul’. The book has been well received by Northern aficionados, Constantine (and Gareth Sweeney) congratulated for their insightful overview of the movement, which is enhanced by the anecdotal offerings of some of the DJ’s, dancers and collectors who epitomized Northern Soul. Alongside the music and the clubs in which it featured, the book also highlights the drug culture that played such a major role, amphetamines fuelling its development.

http://www.eburypublishing.co.uk/editions/northern-soul/9780753541913

The movie is due next year, although it’s still to receive a release date. I was invited to a recent screening in London, but was unable to make it along. From all accounts it’s the real deal, capturing the essence of Northern Soul in a way that the 2010 film ‘Soulboy’ failed to do. If, as is hoped, 'Northern Soul' connects with a younger cinema-going audience, we’re likely to see a renaissance of this underground phenomenon that has refused to lay down and die. Even now, almost 32 years since the final record was played at Wigan Casino, the movement boasts a healthy network of venues and DJ’s, not only in this country, but internationally. With its original clientele reaching their old age, a new wave of enthusiasts would be timely, injecting fresh energy and momentum, so I’m intrigued to see how this film will resonate with a generation to whom the Wheel and the Casino is ancient history.

Just a few months ago, BBC 2’s ‘Culture Show’ focused on the Northern Soul movement in a poignant half hour feature, where journalist and broadcaster Paul Mason, a former Casino regular, re-visited his roots, re-connecting with the scene today after more than 30 years detachment. You can view the programme, ‘Northern Soul: Keeping The Faith’ in full here:

YouTube Preview Image http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JMtaEASd2LI

But what exactly is Northern Soul, and what sets it apart from Soul in the traditional sense?

It all stems from the British love of Detroit’s Motown label, and its subsidiaries, including Tamla, Gordy, Soul and VIP, which eventually served to instigate this subculture of dancers and vinyl diggers. These records were released under the umbrella of Tamla Motown in the UK, the label becoming hugely successful in the process, something of a British institution, spawning hit after hit after hit. The Motown sound was originally, along with Ska, and other R&B / Soul releases on labels like Stax and Atlanic, the music of the Mods. Whilst Mod originated in London’s Soho during the late 50’s / early 60’s, by 1967 the club scene in the capital had moved more towards the psychedelic direction popular music had veered off into, with venues like UFO and Middle Earth usurping The Scene and The Marquees, which were original Mod haunts (although many former Mods embraced it, others rejected the Hippie culture, symbolised by long hair, taking a defiant approach by becoming part of the emerging skinhead movement). Mod, however, continued to hold sway up North, with the weekly All-Nighters at Manchester’s Twisted Wheel, a magnet for the scooter-riding hordes (including my older brother, Phil, who made the pilgrimage from Merseyside on a few occasions). Motown, as I’ve previously stated elsewhere, might be described as the original Disco music, or, to be more precise, provided a large percentage of the first wave of music played in the discotheques of the 60’s, and at The Twisted Wheel and other Soul music strongholds DJ’s began to dig ever deeper in their quest to unearth rarer records, especially those released by smaller labels from Detroit (some of which featured the Motown house band, The Funk Brothers, illicitly moonlighting elsewhere). Often these were limited promo-only pressings that had never gained official release. Once one of these rarities took off with the dancers, the scramble was on for other DJ’s to find copies, leading to a lucrative market for record dealing on the scene as certain singles would cost the DJ’s more than they could earn in a week, or even a month. DJ’s traded on the exclusivity of the music they played, and Northern enthusiasts would travel great distances in order to hear records that only the DJ in that venue possessed. As Bill Brewster and Frank Broughton’s book ‘Last Night A DJ Saved My Life’ (1999) so succinctly put it, Northern Soul might be described as "a genre built from failures".

As Funk came to the fore in the early 70’s, there were a significant amount of people who didn’t move with the times, but clung onto that 60’s Soul vibe. This trend had been spotted a couple of years previously by Dave Godin, a champion of black American music since the 50’s who was largely responsible for the formation of the Tamla Motown label in the UK. It was Godin who coined the term Northern Soul in reference to the type of music Northern football fans who stopped off at his London shop, Soul City, might buy on the trips to the capital in the late 60’s. After visiting the Twisted Wheel, where Godin, also a writer for Blues & Soul magazine, eagerly enthused about the energy of the scene up North, becoming one of its biggest advocates, the movement began to gain greater profile. For more about Dave Godin, check out my blog post ‘The Original Soulboy’:
http://www.gregwilson.co.uk/2011/03/original-soulboy/

The Twisted Wheel had opened in 1963 at its original location in Brazennose St, with DJ Roger Eagle, a black music evangelist who’d moved to Manchester from his home city of Oxford in 1962. Eagle is regarded as the forefather of Northern Soul, even though he’d moved on in a different musical direction before the scene took root at the club’s subsequent Whitworth Street premises towards the end of the decade. He felt that the music suffered when pilled up dancers demanded ever-faster tracks, ‘stompers’, as they’d later be called, which jarred with Eagle’s more eclectic taste. One of the main DJ’s pioneering the shift towards ever-rarer singles was the wonderfully named ‘Farmer’ Carl Dene (Carl Woodroffe), a Wheel regular since the Brazennose days and avid R&B / Soul accumulator since the early 60’s. He dug back into his collection whilst resident at The Catacombs, a smaller but important Wolverhampton venue, building a reputation for unearthing previously hidden gems. These he’d loan to the DJ’s at the Wheel where they’d receive greater exposure, kick-starting a vinyl gold-rush unsurpassed in terms of the sheer, insane passion and commitment it would engender. One of the tracks revived by Dene was an obscure 1964 single by The Tams called ‘Hey Girl Don’t Bother Me’, which quickly became a Northern favourite and, following it’s re-release in 1971, would go all the way to the top of the UK chart, illustrating the influence this growing movement was beginning to generate within wider popular culture. It’s thanks to individuals like Godin, Eagle and Dene, who, via their obsessive love of black American music, laid the foundations for this remarkable subculture. A highly recommended book about Roger Eagle, ‘Sit Down, Listen To This!’ was published last year – I blogged about it at the time:
http://www.gregwilson.co.uk/2012/08/sit-down-listen-to-this/

With the Wheel and other Soul clubs providing the focal point, re-issues of old records, including ‘Hey Girl Don’t Bother Me’ and another Farmer Carl re-discovery, Tami Lynn's ‘I’m Gonna Run Away From You’, began to make the UK chart. This built upon the groundwork of Tamla Motown, which had seen a number of tracks become British hits a few years on from their original release, due to their popularity in the Soul clubs. Examples of this phenomenon resulting directly from exposure on the Northern scene are The Contours ‘Just A Little Misunderstanding’, The Elgins ‘Heaven Must Have Sent You’ and San Remo Strings ‘Festival Time’. There were also revival tracks by pop artists that found favour in the Soul clubs, most notably mid-60’s releases by The Newbeats (‘Run Baby Run (Back Into My Arms)’) and Frankie Valli (‘You’re Ready Now’), which crossed over to the UK chart, reaching #10 and #11 respectively during the early 70’s. These records by white artists were referred to as ‘blue eyed soul’, and provided unlikely Northern floorfillers for artists such as Petula Clark, Gene Pitney, Bobby Goldsboro, Helen Shapiro and Paul Anka.

As I hope this piece will illustrate, Northern Soul back in the 70’s was a much broader church than many might imagine. Whilst the stompers were central to the scene, especially when Wigan Casino was at its peak, not everything ran at breakneck pace as is often suggested, the movement instead encompassing a whole spectrum of styles and tempos. The scene was notoriously snobbish about its music, dropping a previously loved record like a hot potato because it had subsequently achieved commercial success. This fervent elitism played a major part in the success and longevity of the movement, and is also the reason why a track many might consider as Northern as they come, like Jackie Wilson’s ‘(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher And Higher’ isn’t Northern Soul according to those at the cutting-edge, despite the fact it was a big favourite in the Soul clubs following its original release in 1967. Its sin was that it became a UK hit in 1969, just before the Northern scene got into its stride, so, along with a whole heap of Tamla Motown tunes that are Northern in every respect but their failure to connect with the masses, it was banished to the realm of pop. This is why another famous Jackie Wilson track, ‘I Get The Sweetest Feeling’, this time a 1968 recording, which, on the surface, given its much mellower vibe, is far less stereotypically Northern than ‘Higher And Higher’, is considered a bone fide Northern classic. ‘I Get The Sweetest Feeling’ didn’t become a hit until 1972, having broken out of the Northern scene, then in full swing.

So, with the various aspects considered, I’ve put together an epic 3 hour 20 minute podcast selection of records that I hope will reflect Northern Soul in its wider context, from the nailed on classics to those with more nominal status. What can’t be disputed is that each and every track included has been spun, at least somewhere at one point or another, under the Northern Soul banner. There are 70 tracks in all, with just 3 artists having more than 1 inclusion, the aforementioned Jackie Wilson, the great but tragic songstress Linda Jones, and Frankie Valli, who appears here both solo and with the Four Seasons. The idea to put this podcast together grew out of a CD compilation I made for myself back in the 00’s to listen to whilst driving. I called the collection ‘Soul Food’, and the intention in sharing it now is for it to act as a solid introduction for those wanting to hear what Northern Soul was all about, in all its diverse glory. I’d also like to think that it will evoke fond memories for those who were there at the time. The fact I wasn’t a part of the scene has hopefully allowed me to approach this selection in a more objective way than someone embroiled within it, who may not be able to resist the inclination to pack it with tracks nobody else, apart from other ultra-obsessives may know, or who might want to brush a few of the inclusions under the ‘you had to be there at the time’, carpet. Consider this, if you will, a beginner's guide, of which I love all of the selections, each in its own way - just wonderful wonderful uplifting music. You can stream / download via SoundCloud:

SOUL FOOD - THE BROAD CHURCH OF NORTHERN SOUL (greg wilson selection) by gregwilson

Although I was never personally involved in the Northern scene, I came to know some of its main players as a result of my Jazz-Funk associations, including DJ’s Colin Curtis, Richard Searling (whose partnership with Russ Winstanley provided the classic Casino pairing), Ian Dewhirst (aka Frank) and Les Cokell (via Spin Inn, the Manchester record shop), plus record dealer / promoter Bernie Golding and Blues & Soul columnist Frank Elson (as well as numerous people who used to go out on the Northern scene). One of the anomalies of the scene is that it never took off in my home city of Liverpool, where the leading DJ’s of the era, Les Spaine and Terry Lennaine, took things very much in a Funk direction (in a similar way to how things evolved in the South). That said, having grown up on a healthy diet of 60’s Soul, the Northern scene was a source of fascination and I’ve always appreciated much of the music connected with this remarkable subculture. By way of contrast, the ‘Music Played In Discotheques’ mix I did (with accompanying text) for the Silent Disco event at Liverpool’s Tate Gallery in 2009 reflects the more Funk-based groove coming out of the speakers at Merseyside clubs during the period 1972-1975:
http://soundcloud.com/gregwilson/music-played-in-discotheques-full-length-by-greg-wilson-for-the-tate-gallery

When I moved to Wigan, the very heartland of the Northern Soul movement, to take over the residency at the club Wigan Pier in 1980, the scene was on its knees, Wigan Casino struggling in its forlorn efforts to re-create the halcyon days of the 70’s. The following year it was (seemingly) all over, the Casino closing down and, as if to rub salt in the wounds, the hallowed building destroyed by a fire just a few months after the club’s demise. As the Casino declined, the Pier was in its ascent and would be named the North’s Top Club by readers of Blues & Soul, the magazine that had done so much to promote Northern Soul in previous years. It was a case of ring out the old and bring in the new as Jazz-Funk, and subsequently Electro-Funk, became the musical choice of a new generation of black music fanatics. The Pier, which opened in 1979, certainly played its part in the Casino’s downfall, but the Northern scene was already in a negative spiral, the Pier only hastening its decline.

One of the most common mistakes journalists write about me these days is that I was a Casino DJ, therefore leading to the false impression that I started out playing Northern Soul. The Wigan connection is what throws them, but the Pier was a very different venue to the Casino. It was a then state of the art New York-style club featuring the latest dance music, mainly from 12” and albums, and with the emphasis very much on sound and lighting. This was in contrast to a rundown old ballroom where 60’s 45’s were played over a tinny system. It was chalk and cheese, and by the end of 1981, Wigan Casino and the once vibrant scene that had centred around it was already a relic of a bygone age. During the late 70’s, US influenced venues in previously Northern-dominated areas like Angels in Burnley, The Warehouse in Leeds and, of course, the Pier, had caught the imagination of a younger audience and rendered the Northern Soul clubs well and truly out of date. A number of its most admired DJ’s had also begun to specialise in Jazz-Funk.

This process had started half a decade earlier when the Casino was at the height of its powers (in 1978 it was named best club in the world by US trade magazine Billboard, an honour previously bestowed upon New York’s Studio 54). Key to the rise and fall of Northern Soul is the Blackpool Mecca, and its Saturday night sessions, which began in 1971. The Mecca, along with the Casino, The Golden Torch in Stoke-On-Trent, The Catacombs in Wolverhampton and the club that kicked the whole thing off, The Twisted Wheel in Manchester, are widely regarded as the most important venues in the scene's evolution. The main thing that set the Mecca apart from the rest was that, whilst the other venues held All-Nighters, with their speed charged audiences dancing until the following morning, the Mecca closed, as was the norm for clubs back then, at 2am. It came to prominence after the police had targeted the early Northern scene, shutting down many venues due to their drug associations. Launched with DJ’s Tony Jebb (formerly of The Torch) and Les Cokell (who played the final record at the Twisted Wheel), the Mecca kept the Northern flag flying whilst there was no viable All-Nighter option on offer. (The Catacombs continued to hold All-Nighters, but, due to its limited capacity, wasn’t a realistic alternative to the much lamented Twisted Wheel and Golden Torch.) The Casino would eventually fill this All-Nighter void in 1973. The Mecca however, continued to play a pivotal role, even as the Casino built its legend. People would go there first before heading over to Wigan, less than 25 miles away, where the Casino’s doors opened at 2am, just as the Mecca’s closed. As the crowd at the Mecca thinned from 1am, with people leaving to get to the Casino in time for opening, the music policy became more experimental during this concluding hour, enhancing the Mecca’s reputation for innovation. There are compilation albums dedicated to the tracks first played during the final hour at Blackpool Mecca.

Having taken up the baton from Cokell and Jebb (also Keith Minshull), it was the legendary DJ partnership of Ian Levine and Colin Curtis that made sure the Mecca remained an essential port of call on the Northern circuit. Levine is credited with more Northern ‘discoveries’ than anyone else, with so many of the movement’s classic records uncovered by him on regular trips across to the US. His family had Stateside business interests that enabled this obsessive of obsessives to sit in warehouses stacked with dusty 45’s all day long, selecting anything that had the right labels, the right names on the labels, or just looked interesting. Even though he wasn’t able to listen to them there and then, these records were so cheap that it was worth a punt on a whole stack of singles in the hope of finding a few hidden nuggets amongst them. Levine would bring these singles back to Blackpool, sometimes shipping thousands of items at a time, and him and Curtis would systematically sift through them, sorting out the wheat from the chaff before unleashing their exclusives at the Mecca. This process instigated a number of UK chart hits, as this underground music continued to find its way into mainstream consciousness.

It was Levine and Curtis who brought about Northern Soul’s infamous schism by playing contemporary 70’s releases alongside 60’s rarities. Many ‘soulies’, as the scene’s followers referred to themselves, would have happily seen them burned at the stake for such heresy, but others embraced this progressive direction, in effect splitting the scene down the middle. A key record in this transition was 1973’s ‘It Really Hurts Me Girl’ by an obscure Detroit group about to disband, The Carstairs. Interestingly, this turned out to be the first track remixed by the great Disco Mix maestro, Tom Moulton. Levine had heard the record on the radio in Miami and, following some detective work, found that it had only been pressed for radio promotion, the official release subsequently shelved. He eventually unearthed a copy back in the UK via one of the scene’s best-known record dealers, John Anderson, who’d been buying unwanted US radio promos in bulk from numerous stations. The record, having blown up big time at the Mecca, would mark the beginning of ‘Modern Soul’, as it was termed. Levine and Curtis began to play more contemporary releases, and as the decade unfolded, with Disco coming to the fore, would feature an increasing amount of new records during the mid-70’s, including tracks like Tavares ‘Heaven Must Be Missing An Angel’, Crown Heights Affair ‘Dreaming A Dream’, Vicki Sue Robinson ‘Turn The Beat Around’, Esther Phillips ‘What A Difference A Day Makes’, Betty Wright ‘Where Is The Love’ and The O’Jays ‘I Love Music’. Another Mecca favourite, Gil-Scott Heron’s ‘The Bottle’, would provide a taste of things to come for Colin Curtis, who was destined to move away from the Northern scene to become one of the great Jazz-Funk DJ’s. Curtis was also right in the thick of things when House music was first played in this county, although this is rarely cited. Levine began to produce his own records, Disco-influenced tracks with a Northern sensibility like ’Twenty Four Hours A Day’ by Barbara Pennington (a huge New York club tune), 'Baby I'm Still The Same Man' by James Wells, ‘Reaching For The Best’ by The Exciters, and ‘You’re Magic Put A Spell On Me’ by L.J. Johnson. After a stint as DJ at Angels in Burnley, he would become resident at the country’s premier gay venue, Heaven in London, on its opening in 1979. Levine would be largely responsible for the rise of the Hi-NRG genre in the early–mid 80’s, writing and producing million-sellers ‘So Many Men, So Little Time’ by Miquel Brown and ‘High Energy’ by Evelyn Thomas. He would later work with a number of boy bands including Take That, who, at Levine’s instigation, had hits with a couple of 70’s Disco tracks – ‘It Only Takes A Minute’, originally by Tavares, and ‘Could It Be Magic’, a Barry Manilow composition inspired by the Donna Summer recording. (File under strange but true – Levine is also one of the world’s foremost authorities on all things Dr Who!)

Whilst the Mecca was innovating a new approach, the Casino believed it was keeping the faith by continuing to mine for 60’s obscurities. This wasn’t a bottomless pit however, and it was becoming more difficult to find tracks of a similar quality to those that had been discovered in the preceding half decade, certainly not in the quantity of previous years. In an effort fill the vacuum, the Casino would become associated with some controversial selections of its own, including the theme from the 60’s children’s TV show, ‘Joe 90’ by Barry Gray & His Orchestra, along with another TV theme, ‘Hawaii Five-0’ by The Ventures. Things hit an all time low with the inauspicious launch of the Casino Classics label, when one of the tracks on the first release, a remake of Doris Troy’s 1965 single ‘I’ll Do Anything (Anything She Wants Me To Do)' turned out not to be by Lenny Gamble, the name on the label, but British radio presenter Tony Blackburn. This was a twist on the 'cover up', a technique where DJ’s made up a fictitious name / title for a record they wanted to remain exclusive to them, with other DJ’s unable to track it down because no such record existed. This notorious episode added to the growing opinion that the Casino was crassly cashing in on its success by issuing 2nd rate material including a tepid, contemporary cover of ‘Joe 90’ by the Ron Grainer Orchestra. The Casino’s cool had taken a blow a few years earlier, in 1975, when 2 chart hits, both bearing the town's name, had taken Northern Soul overground: Wigan’s Chosen Few with ‘Footsee’ and Wigan’s Ovation ‘Skiing In The Snow’. ‘Footsee’, which took a 1968 recording from little-known Canadian band, The Chosen Few, and sped it up, adding air horns and crowd noises for atmosphere - many people assumed it was the Wigan Casino crowd they were hearing but it was actually a recording from the 1966 FA Cup Final between Everton and Sheffield Wednesday. When the track appeared on TV's Top Of The Pops, without a band to promote the record, it was accompanied by dancers from the Casino. This was the first time Northern Soul dancing had made it onto the small screen. ‘Skiing In The Snow’ was a cover of a Northern favourite by The Invitations, performed by a band adorned in Casino clobber. Many Casino regulars regarded these as embarrassing novelty singles, unreflective of the scene they loved. Lurking in the shadows was the notorious figure of Simon Soussan.

I wrote about Soussan in the May ’77 edition of my Time Capsule series, and his association with 2 tracks, one that subsequently became the most expensive Northern Soul single of all, Frank Wilson’s ‘Do I Love You (Indeed I Do)’. A copy of this, at the time of writing, had sold for a cool £15,000, but has since changed hands once again, this time for over £25,000! The other track, Shalamar’s ‘Uptown Festival’, was not a Northern release but drew its inspiration from the movement. I’ve reproduced the Time Capsule section below:

Shalamar's 'Uptown Festival' is a record with a fascinating story on a number of different levels. It starts with Simon Soussan, a legendary if somewhat infamous figure on the Northern Soul scene - a French Moroccan who was based in Leeds. With an eye for business, Soussan was allegedly the biggest bootlegger of rare singles during Northern Soul's golden era in the 70's. He became a notorious figure as a result of the various 'scams' he came up with, and Ian Levine, in an interview with Bill Brewster some years ago, summed him up in the following way; 'He damaged the scene and people have still not forgotten him after 25 years. He's still a figure of contempt. But he did discover a lot of great records. He went on to become a successful disco producer'.

Re-locating to Los Angeles in the mid-70's, Soussan had set up a record-exporting business in collaboration with Selectadisc in Nottingham. It was here that Ian Dewhirst (DJ Frank on the Northern scene) hooked up with him. Dewhirst, just out of his teens, had come to the US in order to search for Soul rarities, which he'd send back to his partner in the UK, another important player on the scene, Neil Rushton, who would later play a major role in promoting the Techno movement. Inspired by the success of 'The Best Disco In Town' by the Ritchie Family (see Aug '76 Time Capsule), Dewhirst suggested that a similar styled Motown medley would work well. Soussan thought a medley of Northern Soul favourites would be better still, but Dewhirst, realising the limitations of this, especially with the US audience in mind, argued that a Motown medley would appeal to a much wider market. Soussan was persuaded that this was the way to go and lost no time in taking the bull by the horns and pulled the project together. This is how 'Uptown Festival' was born. Financed by Soussan, his wife, Dewhirst and Rushton, a team of anonymous session musicians were recruited and Ike & Tina Turner's LA studio was hired for the recording. Musicians used in the sessions included El Coco's W. Michael Lewis and Laurin Rinder and the Los Angeles Philharmonic String Section amongst many others. One of the vocalists featured was former Ikette, Pat Powdrill, who remembered her dealings with Soussan being less than satisfactory; 'He told us this was a demo for his home use. Simon Soussan took the track to Soul Train Records and made a bank. Patty Powdrill got nothing. Ha ha, isn't that horrible?'

However, before the track was signed by Soul Train, the label set up in 1975 by the famous host of the TV show, Don Cornelius, Soussan had had a meeting with Tom DePierro at Motown's LA offices. It was here that he came across an extremely rare single called 'Do I Love You (Indeed I Do)' by Frank Wilson, which had been pressed, but never issued, on Motown's Soul label in 1965. Ian Levine takes up the story; 'Tom DePierro was quite high up at Motown. He was a very nice gay guy. He had got one of the only two copies that were in existence of this single. According to Frank Wilson, they pressed up some copies and, because he was producing Brenda Holloway, Berry Gordy collared him backstage somewhere and said, 'Hey man do you really wanna be an artist with all the hassles?' So Frank says, 'You're right Berry I'm not going to be an artist.' Berry destroyed the records, but somehow two survived. Soussan borrowed the copy off DePierro. Every month he would ask for his record back and Soussan would say (mimicking Soussan's French accent) 'Oh, baby, I bring it tomorrow', not knowing that he'd sold it to Les McCutcheon, future manager of the band Shakatak. Tom DePierro got AIDS and went to his death bed without ever getting the record back off Simon. Soussan bootlegged the Frank Wilson as Eddie Foster. He sped it up slightly'. The Frank Wilson (aka Eddie Foster) single would become a Wigan Casino classic and, in 1999, the 2nd copy, which had turned up in Canada in 1990, would change hands for a world record £15,000. The Northern Soul connection also extended directly to Shalamar, who got their name via The Shalimars, whose 1966 Verve single, 'Stop And Take A Look At Yourself', had been a Northern favourite. 'Uptown Festival' would go on to become a massive US Disco hit, just missing the top spot, whilst reaching number 30 on the UK chart. As a consequence, a permanent line-up of Jody Watley, Howard Hewett and Jeffrey Daniel was brought together, and the hits came thick and fast all the way through to the mid-80's. Daniel, previously a Soul Train dancer, is also acknowledged as being the person who brought body-popping to this country, following a British TV appearance by Shalamar in the early 80's.

Ian Dewhirst would return to the UK soon after the recording of 'Uptown Festival', where he'd go on to DJ at one of Britain's pioneering New York style discotheques, The Warehouse in Leeds. Later down the line he'd head up Fourth & Broadway in the UK before going on to devise the brilliant and hugely influential Mastercuts compilation series, amongst many other ongoing contributions to the documentation of dance culture. He's also a member of the Six Million Steps crew and does a weekly radio programme, The Original Mastercuts Show, on Starpoint Radio, with 6MS partner Alan Champ. Simon Soussan went on to produce Disco projects including Arpeggio, Pattie Brooks and French Kiss, often re-writing tracks from the Northern Soul scene to bring them into a Disco context. 'Love And Desire' by Arpeggio, for example, was 'Stronger Than Her Love' by The Flirtations. Little has been heard about him since the demise of Disco and his whereabouts are currently unknown.
http://www.sixmillionsteps.com/drupal/node/287

It’s these kind of stories, and stories within stories, that make the Northern Soul scene so intriguing to me – truly a music with its own mythology. Another Time Capsule selection, ‘Exodus’ by the Biddu Orchestra, evoked memories of a local lad, Alfie Mutch, who’d turn up from time to time at the Penny Farthing, a club I worked at back in 1977, when the record was released:

The only person I knew who went to Wigan Casino, the best-known of all the Northern Soul venues, was a local hard knock called Alfie Mutch, who was a number of years older than me and definitely someone you wanted to be on the right side of! Alfie would turn up at the Penny every now and again on a mid-week night, when the club was pretty quiet, and I’d play a couple of Northern tunes for him to dance to. The track I most associate with him is the Biddu Orchestra’s ‘Exodus’, not the most cutting-edge of records if Northern was your thing, but given that there was no demand for it where I was playing, I only generally bought the ones that managed to find their way into the charts. I liked quite a lot of the Northern stuff, but even if circumstances had been different, I don’t think I could ever have become a Northern Soul specialist when there was so much brilliant Funk about. Some of the greatest black music of all time was made during the 70’s, but this wasn’t what was being played at places like the Wigan Casino, where 60’s rarities remained the general rule.

Apart from when ‘Footsee’ by Wigan’s Chosen Few was on Top Of The Pops in early ‘75, I hadn’t actually seen anyone dance in a Northern Soul style. That was until the following summer, when I pitched up a tent in the woods and camped outside Butlin's in North Wales with my friend Derek Kelsey (aka Derek Kaye), sneaking in through a broken fence during the daytime and returning in the early hours. Some of the people holidaying there were into the Northern scene and would get up and dance when the DJ played their type of tunes. The two records that will always remind me of that holiday were ‘Cochise’ by Paul Humphreys and Al Wilson’s ‘The Snake’, both of which I immediately purchased on my return home, and would later be amongst the stuff I’d play when Alfie Mutch turned up.

Although the music didn’t really catch on in my neck of the woods, Northern Soul made its mark via the ‘fashion’ of the time. I thought I was ultra cool in my ‘bags’ with their 30” bottoms and 4” wastebands, which I wore as part of my school uniform, as well as when I was out, this time with ridiculously high platform shoes and, usually, a skin tight cap sleeve t-shirt. This look was finished off with a thatch of ever so carefully blow-dried shoulder length hair and what must have smelt like a cup full of Aramis. I’m sure most people have experienced fashion disasters in their youth, but some of the stuff (or should I say combinations of stuff) that we were misguided enough to wear in the 70’s takes some beating - no wonder it’s often referred to as the decade that style forgot!
http://www.sixmillionsteps.com/drupal/node/61

Alfie got to see the Time Capsule article and contacted me as a result. Still very much a part of the ongoing scene after all these years, it was great to catch up with him. I got to know a few things I hadn’t realised, including the fact that he was part of the local scooter crew, Axis, that I’d seen razzing around New Brighton during the early 70’s. However, the greatest revelation came after I’d asked him if he’d seen ‘This Is England’, the 2006 Shane Meadows film that comments on the skinhead movement. His answer came as a massive surprise - ‘seen it? I was in it’, he told me. When I questioned him further it became apparent that he didn’t mean ‘This Is England’, but ‘This England’, the landmark Wigan Casino Granada TV documentary from 1977. Alfie, it turns out, was the dancer in the red vest. This blew me away as I’d seen these clips so many times, but never realised who it was. This is, famously, the only footage of Wigan Casino, so it turns up in pretty much every documentary about Northern Soul. The programme was regarded by many Casino regulars as something of an intrusion given the main lights were turned on to film the dance shots, interfering with the normal run of the night and spoiling the atmosphere. Others felt that the exposure the Casino was going to get as a result would ruin things, sparking an unwanted influx of people who didn’t understand the nuances of the movement. ‘This England’ is available to view via YouTube:

YouTube Preview Image http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TbEuq54FcBg

The distinctive style of dancing grew out of the moves that some of the R&B acts displayed when they toured the UK in the 60’s. In the recent BBC Culture Show piece, mentioned above, former Casino regular Fran Franklin stated that the dancing was a consequence of the Bruce Lee Kung-Fu films of the 70’s, which is somewhat misleading - the style may have been embellished by moves adapted from Bruce Lee movies, as was the case with the Bronx B Boys, some of the best Northern dancers also seriously into martial arts, but you only need to watch the clip below of Little Anthony & The Imperials performing ‘I’m Alright’ on Canadian TV in 1965 to trace its true origins. This group have a strong Northern pedigree, with classic tracks ‘Better Use Your Head’ and ‘Gonna Fix You Good’. Back in the Twisted Wheel days, before Bruce Lee had ever hit the cinema screen, some dancers were already employing an array of backdrops, spins, flips and floor moves.

YouTube Preview Image http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_EMPDi0oLLI

The Northern Soul scene would also have, by default, provided something of a safe a haven for gay males, especially still-closeted gay males, who couldn’t express themselves in the mainstream clubs for fear of being found out and the ridicule that would ensue. In the pre-Saturday Night Fever 70’s, the very idea of a man dancing on his own provoked scorn, and would unleash a volley of taunts labelling him a ‘puff’ or ‘queer’. It was only in 1967 that homosexuality was legalised in this country but there was still great hostility to the very idea, especially within the working class. However, at clubs like Wigan Casino you could lose yourself in both the crowd and the moment, and dance to your heart's content with nobody batting an eyelid. In the mainstream clubs it was the girls who took the lead, the boys only venturing on the dancefloor either with a girlfriend or in order to make a move on a girl who’d taken their eye. It was all a mating ritual, especially when the DJ’s played slowies so people could get close up, whereas on the Northern Soul scene sex was way down the list of priorities. People didn’t go to a club like Wigan Casino to tap up, as we used to say, it was a completely different kind of ritual taking place, more spiritual than carnal. You could be gay in the Casino and no one would be any the wiser, your sexuality just wasn’t an issue, people were only interested in the important things – the music, the dancing, the drugs, the camaraderie. Even alcohol wasn’t necessary – in fact it would more likely have spoilt the vibe had they been able to serve it, with All-Nighters falling outside of the normal licensing hours. It’s interesting to note that in the early 80’s the leading DJ's on the gay scene in both the North and South just so happened to be Northern Soul legends, Les Cokell at Heroes in Manchester and Ian Levine at Heaven in London. The uptempo side of the Northern scene undoubtedly influenced the style of music they played in their venues and the emergence of Hi-NRG, especially via Levine’s productions, as previously mentioned, but also thanks to Cokell and Leo Stanley’s ‘Castro Connection’ column for the early Mixmag, then called Disco Mix Mag.

Although it was black music they were infatuated with, the Northern Soul audience was made up predominantly from the white working class. There were some black people on the scene, but they were very much in a small minority. The black kids in the 70’s, generally speaking, were always forward looking when it came to their musical tastes, so old Soul 45’s weren’t going to cut it. Instead they were into the latest Funk and Dub Reggae, and later Jazz-Funk. The black crowd were also largely anti-chemical in those days, the majority strictly herbal when it came to their highs. Although some old soulies play down the scene’s reliance on speed, in the form of an array of pills referred to by the street names of black bombers, dexy’s and prellies amongst others, the fact of the matter was that it was a crucial element, just as ecstasy would later be during the Rave era. One book that left a strong impression on me was ‘Nightshift’ (1996) by Pete McKenna, which goes right to the underbelly of the Northern scene and its seedier aspects, giving a real eye-witness insight into those times, a taste of how it actually was, pulling no punches in its description of the drug use and its casualties. ‘Northern Soul – An Illustrated History’ exposes, warts and all, the drug culture attached to the movement, which didn’t stop at taking pills - some began to inject speed for a swifter rush, whilst other enthusiasts ended up heroin addicts or, worse still, dead from overdose. Ant Wilson illuminated the darker side of the Casino in the following quote from the book; “There used to be a lot of stealing, ripping off. There were areas of the Casino you’d rather not have to walk through. There’s always been this pseudo-criminal fringe on the scene, attracted by the underground nature of everything else around it. I was shocked by the first time I went to the loo at the Casino. It was just full of needles.”

The legendary Liverpool Funk DJ, Les Spaine, made an interesting analogy regarding the way some of the record dealers operated; “I just thought ‘these people just aren’t real Soul fans.’ I think a lot of real Soul fans who were into the Northern scene were used. I could see very little difference between the way the people who ran the Northern Soul scene carried on, and drug dealers with junkies. Now that might sound extreme but you analyse it. They had their market, they got it hooked and they kept it hungry.” He had a point when you consider that DJ’s who were beginning to make a name for themselves started the find they were being priced out of the market, not able to make enough money from their club appearances to keep up with the records they felt they needed to have. The reason Ian Dewhirst went to the US, as touched upon above, was to search out records to bring back home to play. He had begun to make a name for himself via appearances at Cleethorpes Pier and Samantha’s in Sheffield, not to mention the Casino, and increasingly found that if he showed interest in a record, the dealer was likely to phone other DJ’s, letting them know it was something Dewhirst was after, in order to up the price by getting a bidding war going. The final straw was when he ended up being forced to pay over £100 for a record he was originally quoted £50 for a few days earlier. This was at a time when £100 amounted to more than a month's wages for a lot of people.

Once the scene started losing some of its best established and upcoming DJ’s to Jazz-Funk in the late 70’s, the writing was on the wall. After a series of ‘final nights’, which some saw as a cynical ploy to prise a bit more money out of its dying embers, the final record was played at Wigan Casino on December 6th 1981. This wasn’t, as many would imagine, ‘I’m On My Way’ by Dean Parrish, the concluding track of the hallowed ‘3 Before 8’: the 3 tracks traditionally played before the Casino closed at 8am - the other 2 being ‘Long After Tonight Is Over’ by Jimmy Radcliffe and ‘Time Will Pass You By’ by Tobi Legend, which were played 3 times at the end of the final night by DJ Russ Winstanley. Instead, Frank Wilson’s ‘Do I Love You (Indeed I Do)’ was deployed on the spur of the moment as a ‘one more tune’, demanded by the last soulies standing, who were determined to nostalgically milk every final ounce out of this sacred space that had enriched their being with life affirming good times.

In a previous blog piece from last December about Brian Cannon’s current ‘Northern Soul – A Photographic Journey’ project, I wrote about that oddball esoteric joyous melancholy record that is ‘Time Will Pass You By’: “I remember thinking about another famous Northern Soul track, in fact one of the most famous of all, Tobi Legend’s ‘Time Will Pass You By’, and the emotion Wigan Casino veterans must experience when listening to it all these years on, given the song’s subject matter and the associations this must evoke. Once young and vibrant men and women who lived for Saturday night, now, in many cases, are grandparents who in previous generations would be tucked up warm with a mug of Horlicks, not out on the floor in some civic hall. ‘Time Will Pass You By’ was, of course, one of the fabled ‘3 Before 8’ that always closed the Casino All-Nighters. It’s a song that, as the title states, is about the passage of time, and how important it is to embrace the moment – a poignant message summed up in its chorus; ‘Life is just a precious minute baby, open up your eyes and see it baby, give yourself a better chance, because time will pass you right on by’.”
http://www.gregwilson.co.uk/2012/12/northern-soul-a-photographic-journey/

After the Casino, the already dwindling Northern Soul crowd dwindled some more. I remember a couple of Jazz-Funk All-Dayers I played at during the early 80’s where the 2nd room hosted Northern Soul. There was hardy anyone there, just a few dozen friends of the DJ’s. It was all pretty bleak to see how far the mighty had fallen. These Northern Rooms soon vanished, with the Jazz Rooms taking over, so that by 1983 you could have been forgiven for thinking that Northern Soul had completely vanished off the face of the earth, the new electronic dance music a world apart from those now antiquated 45’s.

With a twist of irony, it was down South, at London’s 100 Club, where Northern Soul found a new lease of life, recuperating during the 80’s and connecting with the next generation via their 6T’s All-Nighters, held to this day. (Stafford’s Top Of The World continued to valiantly fly the flag up North during the darker days of 1982-86). These 6T’s events, launched in September 1981, just a few months before Casino’s closure, are now the longest running in Northern Soul’s ongoing history. In another development, having moved to London from his Scottish homeland, Northern dancer turned DJ, Keb Darge, began to re-assess the more Funk based releases that came into his possession via bulk purchases when he was searching out rare Soul. Cast aside as ‘junk music’ at the time, Darge would apply his Northern Soul ethos to these equally rare Funk 45’s and, along with London DJ Snowboy, subsequently pioneer a new direction, dubbed Deep Funk, proving, once again, that you actually can make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.

The Northern Soul scene had been forced to scale itself right down, but then began a process of regeneration, the movement gaining a fresh foothold in the shadows, which is where it’s remained ever since – known to those who know about it, but otherwise hidden from view. That said, in more recent times, the music and symbolism of the overall movement, has been co-opted in numerous ways, most notably via a series of Kentucky Fried Chicken TV ads in the mid-00’s featuring tracks like ‘I Can’t Get Away’ by Bobby Garrett, The Flirtations ‘Nothing But A Heartache’ and Frank Wilson’s ‘Do I Love You (Indeed I Do)’. This has placed once obscure US soul relics into every living room up and down the country and illustrates how Northern Soul’s cool and kudos remains intact after all this time. The video to Duffy's 2008 chart topper 'Mercy' featured Northern dancers, the movie 'Soulboy' was released in 2010, and earlier this year, Fred Perry, the classic Mod brand, launched the Northern Soul-inspired Twisted Wheel range of clothing.

So now, with the primer of ‘Northern Soul – An Illustrated History’, Elaine Constantine’s upcoming movie is all the more eagerly anticipated. Especially at a time when youth culture could do with a shot in the arm to shake people out of the X Factor induced sedation subjected upon a generation of kids who are now reaching an age where they should be the ones who instigate the subcultures to come. I’m really hoping Constantine’s film, and Northern Soul's incredible example, helps serve this purpose. The fact that she had the foresight to set up ‘Dance Clubs’ in London and Bolton (where Casino DJ Richard Searling first made his name at Va-Va’s in the early 70’s), preparing 500 under 25 year olds for the dancefloor scenes in the film, making sure their moves are authentic, suggests a film where attention to detail is primary. The clips on the website are testimony to this. This process on its own has already served to inspire a flock of new young converts to the Northern Soul cause, so it’s not a case of whether a renaissance will happen once the film hits the big screen, but to what degree - it’s quietly underway already.

Northern Soul – The Film
http://www.northernsoulthefilm.com/
Northern Soul Wikipedia:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Northern_soul

15

Remix, Cut ‘n’ Paste, Mash-Up and Edit

As I navigated the winding country lanes on my way to the M5 from Minehead, where I'd been playing the Sunday night 1.00am-3.00am closing slot / graveyard shift at the inaugural ‘House Of Fun’ weekender, I was pleased to discover that there was a programme on the radio about the JFK assassination 48 years ago in 1963. Always a subject of fascination, this would help me whittle away half an hour of journey time as I weaved onwards towards the motorway.

The programme included Sam Pate and Ron McAlister’s famous on the scene radio broadcast from KBOX in Dallas, reporting live on the Kennedy shooting (although its authenticity as a live ‘breaking news’ story is disputed by conspiracy theorists), This was the same recording that had been employed so effectively on Steinski & The Mass Media's cut ‘n’ paste masterpiece 'The Motorcade Sped On', presumably sourced from the LP ‘Four Days Than Shocked The World: November 22-25’, with additional sound bites from Walter Cronkite, Ike Pappas, Ed McMahon and JFK himself. Some of the samples can be heard here:
http://youtu.be/Aw11CwZZnWo

I'd picked this up as a 7" single given away free with the NME in 1987 (due to copyright issues it never received an official release, although Tommy Boy in the US did a promo run in ’86 and, more recently, in 2008, it appeared on the Illegal Art compilation ‘What Does It All Mean?, a CD retrospective covering Steinski’s career from 1983-2006). Apart from holding the track itself in the highest regard, I’d also lift the phrase 'here is a bulletin... apparantly official, stand by please' (misspelling apparently in the process) direct from ‘Motorcade’, combining these words as the header for my Murdertone press releases; Murdertone being the production / management company I set up to look after the Ruthless Rap Assassins during the late 80's / early 90's.

'The Motorcade Sped On' provides a perfect example of how history can be presented in a totally new context, helping it remain relevant to a subsequent generation. It remains, for me, one of the most creative sample based recordings ever committed to vinyl. Check it out here at YouTube:

YouTube Preview Image

http://youtu.be/6v2di4aC6z8

The reason I was on the road at such an ungodly hour on a Sunday night (or, if you’re that way inclined, Monday morning), rather than being tucked up all cozy in a Minehead hotel, was because my original intention had been to drive to London overnight for my visa interview at the US Embassy on the Monday morning, at the even more ungodly hour, for me, of 8.00am (they like to get you processed nice and early, so there’s no other option but to catch the worm). However, the necessary paperwork hadn't arrived on the Friday, as we’d hoped, which meant the embassy appointment couldn't go ahead. So Plan B was now in operation - to drive back to Merseyside overnight, drop off my equipment and, providing the elusive paperwork arrived that day, try to book an embassy appointment for the Tuesday morning, heading to London by train that evening. The paperwork, once again, wasn't forthcoming, which resulted in my US tour having to be postponed. Thankfully the visa situation has now been resolved, so it’s just a case of awaiting delivery, at which point we can set about re-scheduling the dates for the next possible window, which is going to be April, just a few weeks before I snake my way back to Minehead for the (re-located) Southport Weekender.

So, as I write this, I should have been in New York, having played Chicago and Detroit for the first time over the weekend, and made my debut appearance at François Kevorkian's legendary Deep Space party on Monday night. Kevorkian is, of course, one of NYC's early 80's remix alchemists, along with other luminaries like Tee Scott, Shep Pettibone, Larry Levan and Jellybean Benitez. It was these names I kept seeing on the 12" imports I was playing at Legend and Wigan Pier at the height of the Electro-Funk era (82/83), and whose work had such a major influence on me back then.

Just as I stopped deejaying, at the end of '83, 2 more names made a big impact - Double Dee & Steinski, whose winning mix for a competition run by the DJ only Disconet label set the standard for cut ‘n’ paste. They'd taken a Tommy Boy release, 'Play That Beat Mr DJ' by G.L.O.B.E & Whiz Kid (2 of the members of Afrika Bambaataa’s Soul Sonic Force), which had been a massive Pier / Legend tune, and they’d worked in a whole menagerie of samples from a diversity of sources, including Little Richard, The Supremes, Culture Club, Humphrey Bogart (from the film 'Casablanca') and former New York Mayor, Fiorello La Guardia. From the countdown intro to the enigmatic 'say children, what does it all mean?' conclusion, it was nothing short of a revelation.

Later to be known as 'Lesson 1' (aka ‘The Payoff Mix’), a cut ‘n’ paste opus that would be a major inspiration for many, not least Coldcut, who'd base their whole approach on this, plus subsequent Double Dee & Steinski cut-ups, 'Lesson 2’ (aka ‘The James Brown Mix’), from ’84, and ‘85’s 'Lesson 3' (aka ‘The History Of Hip-Hop Mix’). Listen and learn:

Lesson 1: http://youtu.be/eWV5t1SgVj0

Lesson 2: http://youtu.be/FQVXS9Hv9J4

Lesson 3: http://youtu.be/o7ELB8IG4NI

As far as mixing and editing was concerned, I was already well up and running by the time Double Dee & Stienski won the Disconet competition. It all began to really take shape for me in 1982, when I began putting together my radio mixes, and 2 particular releases, one official, one unofficial, jump out as sources of inspiration for me – the first ‘KISS FM Mastermixes’ compilation on Prelude, where Shep Pettibone cut things up a treat, and the bootleg 'mixer', 'Big Apple Production Vol 1', which I selected as one of my 12x12 for the US magazine Wax Poetics in 2005 – here’s what I wrote about it:

“Spin Inn in Manchester was the premier record shop in the North of England when it came to dance music. If you had any aspirations of being taken seriously as a black music specialist, you had no option but to shop there. There was nowhere outside of London that could compare when it came to stocking the latest imports. Although Spin Inn was best-known for black music, all the main DJs from the gay scene also bought their records there, with a guy called Harry Taylor (sadly no longer with us) looking after that side of the shops business.

When I was the resident DJ at Wigan Pier, covering a variety of musical bases at the weekend, this would include some of the more European type Disco releases that I wouldn’t have played on the Tuesday, tracks which would be described as ‘Gay Disco’ back then. So, whilst most of the records I bought from Spin Inn during this time were for the Jazz-Funk night, I’d also generally pick up a few tunes from Harry, with the other nights in mind. It was as a result of this that I came across bootleg mix twelves, like “Bits & Pieces III”, later copied by Dutch producer Jaap Eggermont for his worldwide hit “Stars On 45”, and the record I’ve included here, “Big Apple Production Vol 1”, which would be a definite inspiration with regards to the subsequent direction I’d take with my radio mixes.

The first half of “Big Apple” included a lot of the type of stuff I was playing at the Pier on Tuesdays (also Legend, in Manchester, on Wednesday, which I’d started in Aug '81) - things like Rockers Revenge, Jonzun Crew, Soul Sonic Force, Pressure Drop, Howard Johnson and Aretha Franklin etc - but about half way through it begins to move in a more commercial direction (Yazoo, Michael Jackson, Steve Miller Band etc), before arriving at an out and out Gay Disco vibe (Bobby O, Divine, Patrick Cowley etc, even a snatch of “YMCA” by the Village People!). The mix is credited to Ser & Duff, although I still don’t know who was behind it ( I subsequently learned that it was Brooklyn DJ, Mikey D’Merola, from WKYU Radio in New York). Two years later a second “Big Apple” came out, but, although the names Ser & Duff appeared once more, this mix was done by the now legendary NYC duo, the Latin Rascals (*some argue that they, not D’Merola, were also responsible for the first ‘Big Apple’).

Harry had also introduced me to the extremely expensive, but sometimes essential, Disconet DJ only releases from New York, which would later provide me with some great Electro alternatives, not available on the official releases - exclusive versions of “Hip Hop Be Bop (Don’t Stop)” by Man Parrish, “In The Bottle” by C.O.D and, most notable of all, The Jonzun Crew with “We Are The Jonzun Crew”.”

From Wax Poetics - Greg Wilson 12X12:
http://www.electrofunkroots.co.uk/lists/12x12.html

You can hear ‘Big Apple Production Vol 1’ here:

YouTube Preview Image

http://youtu.be/WP_sEPOx8nU

In July 1984 the Street Sounds 'UK Electro' album was issued. No longer a DJ, I'd co-written / produced all but one of the tracks included under a variety of fictitious names selected by the label head, Morgan Khan, who wanted to give the illusion of a thriving Electro scene developing in Britain. We chose the individual ‘group’ names ourselves – Forevereaction, Syncbeat and Zer-o, whilst Broken Glass was the name of the legendary Manchester breakdance crew I then managed. This was the first UK dance project to rely heavily on sampling, pre-dating Coldcut, Bomb The Bass, M/A/R/R/S and the other British acts that would bring this approach to the mainstream a few years down the line. The key influences with regards to sampling on this album were Eno & Byrne’s 'My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts', the Was (Not Was) tracks 'Tell Me That I'm Dreaming' and 'Wheel Me Out', and Time Zone's 'Wild Style', which utilized old movie sound bites. More about ‘UK Electro’ here:
http://www.electrofunkroots.co.uk/misc/uk_electro.html

Syncbeat’s ‘Music’ received particularly high praise, with Record Mirror naming it as record of the week, whilst later giving it end of year props. Once again, it was included as one of my 12x12 selections:

“This is one of three 12” singles taken from the Street Sounds “UK Electro” album, which were released simultaneously in the summer of '84, the other two being “Style Of The Street” by Broken Glass and “U People” / “B.E.D 34” by Forevereaction. Despite the different artist names, all these tracks (plus another on the album - “Real Time” by Zer-o) were recorded by the same people, Martin Jackson (formerly the drummer with Magazine), Andy Connell (of A Certain Ratio) and myself (with Kermit, along with fellow Broken Glass dancer, Fiddz, making his rap debut on “Style Of The Street”).

Apart from a promo only edit of a track called “Heaven Sent” by Paul Haig, which had been mailed out to DJs the previous year, these were the first 12” singles I’d worked on. Craig Bevan, the engineer from Vintertainment Records in New York, home of The B Boys (whose tracks, “Two, Three, Break”, “Cuttin’ Herbie” and “Rock The House” had all been big in '83 at Legend and the Pier), came over to assist me on the remixes, which appeared alongside the album versions on the twelves. Craig went on to work with Steinski on “The Motorcade Sped On” – a true cut ‘n’ paste masterpiece, which, as far as I’m aware, was only ever pressed as a 7” freebie, given away with the NME in 1987 (*I’ve since learnt it was pressed as a DJ Only 12” on Tommy Boy the previous year).

The “UK Electro” album, which was basically a make it up as we went along type recording, did pretty well, reaching number 60 on the charts, whilst generating lots of interest from music press. “Music” was especially well received, and was named as one of the singles of the year in Record Mirror. However, due mainly to a clash of egos between Martin and myself, the project was short lived. Moving away from the Electro experiment, Martin and Andy went on to form Swing Out Sister, whose easy-listening approach brought them chart success a few years on, whereas I’d experience a period of personal struggle and upheaval, before hooking-up up with Kermit once more, a few years down the line, to work with the Rap Assassins.”

From Wax Poetics - Greg Wilson 12X12:
http://www.electrofunkroots.co.uk/lists/12x12.html

You can hear ‘Music’ by Syncbeat here:

YouTube Preview Image

http://youtu.be/y2uz1WYhqLg

It was around the time I wrote the 12x12 piece that I was surprised to discover that Craig Bevan had actually engineered 'The Motorcade Sped On'. I had an email contact for Steinski, although I’d never previously corresponded with him, so I dropped him a line, ahead of my first trip to New York, to see if he had a contact for Craig, but I never heard anything back. I must have added his email to my promo list as, the following year, he got in touch to say that he’d enjoyed a piece I’d written about Danny Krivit, and his Roller Disco legacy, as well as the interview I did with Norman Cook for the electrofunkroots website.

I haven’t heard from him since, but then, last week, I was sat at home with Dan Smith, who helps me with my online stuff. We were winding down from the day’s work, about to watch the DVD ‘RiP!: A Remix Manifesto’. I'd just sent out an email to everyone on my US list, informing them that the tour had had to be cancelled, and a few replies were trickling back. One of them was from Steve Stein, saying that he hoped my visa issue would be resolved and that he’d try to catch me play when I re-schedule. It was only at the end of the mail, when I saw the link to his site that I realized who it was actually from. I said to Dan, 'I've just received a really nice mail from Steinski, but he looked at me with a puzzled expression. Despite having been a child at the time, Dan has quite a good grasp on early-mid 80's dance culture, but it was clear he'd never come across this name before. So, without further ado, I set about tuning him into this cut ‘n’ paste visionary, playing him 'Lesson's 1 & 2' and, of course, 'The Motorcade Sped On'.

I felt this was especially relevant given the DVD we were about to watch, which explores the current creative and copyright issues faced by cut ‘n’ paste, or, as it’s currently referred to, ’remix culture’, the same culture that Steinski helped to build, even though many of it's ever-increasing number of devotees may never have heard of him. Today it might be Girl Talk who’s the name on everyone’s lips Stateside, but the new breed of mash-up maestro owes much to Steinski, and Double Dee, and all those who subsequently evolved the form.

‘RiP!: A Remix Manifesto’, a documentary film made in 2008 by Canadian Brett Gaylor, was illuminating and thought provoking, touching on the same issues highlighted by the previous year’s ‘Good Copy Bad Copy’, and the current online 4 part video series ‘Everything Is A Remix’, which I blogged about back in September:
http://www.gregwilson.co.uk/2011/09/everything-is-a-remix/

Emphasizing how, in the Western world, innovation is being continually stifled by commerce, which controls culture for its own financial gain under the banner of ‘intellectual property’, ‘RiP!: A Remix Manifesto’ outlines a quartet of central tenets:

1. Culture always builds on the past.

2. The past always tries to control the future.

3. Our future is becoming less free.

4. To build free societies you must limit the control of the past.

These are, of course, related to a maxim I often quote myself; ‘to know the future first you must know the past’. Given how the internet has brought the wealth of history to our fingertips, it’s all about how we filter and process this information on a personal level in order to make sense of its vastness. My own conclusion is that the past is more than a relic, and shouldn’t be presented in a cold purely factual manner. To be of true value it must connect subjectively, for this isn’t just head stuff, it needs to somehow touch the emotions for it to properly register. If you want to enthuse a younger generation of people to explore further, this information should be packaged and presented in a way that has context in the times in which we live, so it helps join the dots between then and now, as Steinski did so ingeniously by using the Hip Hop medium to relay one of the key moments of recent history – the assassination of John F. Kennedy.

This is why Remix, Cut ‘n’ Paste, Mash-Up and Edit are tools for invention and advancement, helping create that past / present fusion that is key to moving things forward. This isn’t a new idea, but something that’s always been known, since the very dawn of discovery – we just need to re-connect with this elemental wisdom, harnessing the current technology to take us to the next phase, wherever that might be.

RiP!: A Remix Manifesto Wikipedia:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RiP!:_A_Remix_Manifesto

Double Dee & Steinski Wikipedia:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Double_Dee_and_Steinski

11

Legend – Manchester’s Other Club

For my 100th blog post thought I’d flag up another personal anniversary this month.

Everyone has heard of The Haçienda, but not many people know about Legend, which could well be described as Manchester’s other club of the 80’s – I was fortunate enough to be associated with both.

No matter where I am in the world, people will ask me about The Haçienda - it’s a magical name for so many. They’ll say ‘wow! The Haçienda must have been really something’, and always seem surprised when I tell them that it wasn’t so great, for a variety of reasons, back in ’83 when I was there. The best Manchester club by a long shot at that point in time was Legend, and what a club!

It’s thirty years this month since I took over the Wednesday night there – this would prove to be the defining moment in my DJ career.

My debut night was August 12th 1981, and I’d play every Wednesday up until the end of 1983, when I retired as a DJ. This was with the exception of one night in May ’83 when I was in London for the Blues & Soul awards, where I was named North’s Top DJ, and, to complete a clean sweep, Wigan Pier & Legend, my weekly residencies, placed 1st and 2nd in the club category – I brought in a young DJ called Chad Jackson to cover for me that night. Chad would later go on to be crowned DMC World Mixing Champion in 1987, and score a big hit single with ‘Hear The Drummer Get Wicked’ in 1990.

There were only about 80 people there that first night, almost all of whom were black kids seriously into their music and dancing. The night, originally launched when the club opened almost a year earlier, had previously been successful with Nicky Flavell and then John Grant at the helm. John Grant was one of the big names on the Jazz-Funk scene up North back then, right up there with Colin Curtis and Mike Shaft, who hosted the Piccadilly Radio Soul Show, ‘TCOB’ (Taking Care Of Business). When John Grant defected to a joint Blues & Soul / Piccadilly Radio promotion called The Main Event, that was also held midweek in Manchester, at Placemate 7 (previously seminal Soul venue The Twisted Wheel), the bulk of the audience, which had averaged around the 300 mark, left with him. So, given the success of my Tuesday sessions at Wigan Pier (owned by the same company), I was given a crack at halting the slide before it was too late and all was lost – it was very much last chance saloon for the Wednesday at Legend.

During those first few weeks I would have played a selection of mainly US imports, with some choice UK Jazz-Funk releases thrown in for good measure – for the spotters out there, these would have included: Al Jarreau ‘Roof Garden’ / ‘Easy’ (US LP), Archie Bell ‘Any Time Is Right’ (US 12”), Bob James ‘Sign Of The Times’ (US LP), Central Line ‘Walking Into Sunshine’ (UK 12”), Denroy Morgan ‘I’ll Do Anything For You’ (US 12”), Donald Byrd ‘Love Has Come Around’ (US 12”), Inversions ‘Loco-Moto’ (UK 12”), Keith Diamond Band ‘The Dip’ (US 12”), Level 42 ‘Turn It On’ (UK 12”), Morrissey Mullen ‘Slipstream (UK LP), Rahmlee ‘Think’ (US LP), Richie Cole ‘New York Afternoon’ (US LP), Roy Ayers ‘Land Of Milk And Honey’ (US LP), Shock ‘Let’s Get Crackin’’ (US 12”), Unlimited Touch ‘Searching To Find The One’ (US 12” remix), Vaughan Mason ‘Rockin’ Big Guitar’ (US 12”), War ‘Cinco De Mayo’ (US LP) and Wish ‘Nice And Soft’ (US 12”).

As the above list illustrates, a wide selection of black music was played on the Jazz-Funk scene back then – Soul, Funk, Disco (or what would later be termed Boogie), Jazz-Funk and Jazz Fusion. It was basically the best of the various black music genres (with the exception of Reggae), covering a wide tempo spectrum. These specialist Jazz-Funk nights were as upfront as you could get; meaning that this was where you’d hear stuff that other DJ’s wouldn’t pick up on for weeks, sometimes months, often never – many of these tracks weren’t ever played outside of these nights (and the All-Dayers that were such an important element of the scene), some were never released in the UK. If you had serious aspirations of being a black music specialist in the North there was only one shop to buy your records from – the legendary Spin Inn on Cross Street in Manchester, who imported direct from the US.

Legend (or ‘Legends’ as the black crowd always called it) was a phenomenal club – there’s nothing comparable nowadays, they just don’t make them like that anymore. A quite spectacular environment with its space age metallic décor (15,000 steel cans were spot welded together at different levels to form its unique silver ceiling), especially when the laser was bouncing about off all the reflective surfaces. The sound system was the best I’d ever heard in a club anywhere at that time, the sub-bass (another unique feature back then) would practically punch you in the chest! The lighting was even more impressive than Wigan Pier, which was an achievement in itself. Legend’s own brochure boasted; “A circular dance area raised above the general floor level peppered with 2000 Tivoli lights forms the focal point of this new futuristic disco club, enhanced by the most up-to-date light show tailor-made to the overall design, it includes numerous par 36 lamps, scanner spots, jumbo and scatter strobes, mirror balls, half a mile of neon and a five colour computer controlled laser…The catalogue of lighting effects and laser technology with a full array of 12 channel American control boards gives the light jock plenty of scope to practice his art, The various effects include ‘tumbling’ neon rings on the shiny steel pillars which dominate the standing area, a pin spot light curtain, diversity arms spreading from the centre of the dance area ceiling and principally the 4 watt argon iron laser with an additional dye laser”. Talk about blinded with science!

Like the Pier, it was one of the precious few clubs in the UK to place the emphasis firmly on its sound and lighting, and as such the DJ and light jock were regarded as the companies most valued employees. This was at a time when most clubs’ idea of a lightshow was a few coloured bulbs hooked up to a single sound-to-light unit, so they flashed along in time with the beats. If you were lucky there’d maybe be a handful of pin-spots, some ropelights, a splash of neon, a solitary strobe or a UV strip. It was then an accepted part of the DJ’s job to also control the lighting, and the Pier was the first club I’d worked at which employed a separate light jock. Don’t even get me started on how poor the sound systems generally were back then.

It’s highly likely that Legend would have turned to Mike Shaft in an attempt to revitalize the Wednesday night, but he was also tied into The Main Event so that was a non-starter. Instead they asked me, and I knew I had my work cut out if this wasn’t to be a short lived experience. Although there were so few people in the club, I was instantly aware that those who had turned out were serious music heads. They weren’t really interested in the microphone patter, which was the DJ norm back then in the UK, it was all about the music, and with this in mind I made what would turn out to be a pivotal decision. I resolved to change my approach more towards mixing the records that I played, taking advantage of the fact that Legend had three Technics SL1200’s (the first I’d ever seen in this country). This was a bold move, but one I felt would completely suit the type of audience I hoped to attract. A state-of-the-art venue like Legend demanded a radical new approach to musical presentation and, if we were to turn the tide, it was vital that we not only promoted the club as the superior venue that it undoubtedly was, but that I also set myself apart from all the other DJ’s on the Jazz-Funk scene. It was following this that I became known as ‘a mixing DJ’ – this was at a time when no other DJ’s on the scene in the North were placing the emphasis on mixing, and only Froggy, who’d invested in a pair of 1200’s for his Roadshow, was doing so down South

The first few months at Legend were mainly about damage limitation, and we managed to stabilize the numbers around the 100 mark. I worked alongside resident DJ’s Paul Rae and Ralph Randell during this period, taking the night over completely when they moved across to the Pier on a Wednesday to launch a new Alternative / Futurist night (their Thursday Futurist session at Legend was a major success, and a whole story within itself – many of the original Haçienda crowd would have regularly attended this night). With Paul and Ralph gone I now worked alongside Pier light controller, Paul Vallance, playing every week from 9pm – 2am, and loving every single minute of every week.

The night would eventually take off in a major way, and by May ’82 right up to the time I stopped at the end of ’83 it remained packed to its 500 capacity. There were queue’s right up Princess Street every week, with people travelling in from all over the North and Midlands, and even as far as London – if you didn’t get there early you might not get in at all.

My status as a DJ was elevated from up-and-coming to central, and my controversial championing of the evolving Electro-Funk movement would turn the black music scene on its head, helping create a crossroads from which the old (Soul, Funk, Jazz-Funk) would branch off into the new (Hip Hop, House, Techno). My mixes for Mike Shaft’s Piccadilly Radio show would spread my name, and the music I played, to a much wider audience – things quickly snowballed for me. It was undoubtedly a hybrid era, and Legend was its key venue – Gerald Simpson (aka A Guy Called Gerald) would state that having now played around the globe he’d not experienced a club to rival it, adding that “the atmosphere was something I’ve never ever seen repeated”.

The Haçienda, as we all know, would put Manchester on the map with a worldwide dance audience, but its success owes much to Legend, and other city centre venues associated with the black scene during the 80’s, including The Gallery, The Playpen and Berlin. Haçienda director and New Order bassist, Peter Hook, would say “Wednesday nights (at Legend) were presided over by DJ Greg Wilson, who later would also play a major part in shaping the Haçienda’s musical direction, educating audiences in a new streetwise sound”, whilst Mike Pickering, the club’s booker during the early 80’s, and later half of the Pickering & Park DJ partnership from the clubs golden era, remembered   “At the time Legend was the closest thing to New York”. It was Mike and New Order manager, Rob Gretton, who would approach me to DJ at The Haçienda’s first regular weekly specialist dance sessions, starting on Friday August 19th 1983, almost exactly two years since my Legend debut.

The tradition of black / dance music at Legend would continue throughout the 80’s, with DJ’s like Stu Allan, Colin Curtis, Mike Shaft and Chad Jackson having residencies at one point or another. The famous London Acid-House party Spectrum also held their Manchester events at Legend at the height of the Rave era, whilst the Happy Mondays recorded their videos to both ‘Wrote For Luck’ (1988) and ‘WFL’ (1989) in the club (and not The Haçienda, as many people assume).

‘Wrote For Luck’ & ‘WFL’:

YouTube Preview Image

The video for 'Wrote For Luck' had the theme of a children’s party, with a multi-racial audience, which seemed to sum up the cultural melting pot that had been stirring in the city for a number of years, whilst I’ll never forget the first time I saw the video to 'WFL' - this time the children had been replaced by a club full of what were now termed ‘ravers’. A brilliant visual representation of those early ‘E’ days, perfectly capturing the time and the vibe, this video obviously made a deep impression on me. Seeing the same dancefloor that had been packed with black kids on my nights earlier in the decade, now full of white kids, was hugely symbolic of the way youth culture in this country was changing.

Legend became 5th Avenue in the 90’s, and is still there on Princess Street, although the interior is very different these days:
http://5thavenuemanchester.com/theclub/explore

Undoubtedly the greatest club I’ve ever worked in, Legend, as I’ve previously said, was the place where I experienced my ultimate DJ highs. It doesn’t get any better for someone like myself who started out with aspirations of being a black music specialist, and went on to live the dream.

For further info on Legend and the Electro-Funk era:
http://www.electrofunkroots.co.uk

 

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Seven Summers

Recently found this piece I did in June 2007 for the now defunct magazine One Week To Live, where I listed a track per year from the summers of ’74 through to ’80. It’d be good to hear your own memories of summers gone by if you’d like to post a comment.

Wishing you fun in the sun in the months to come.

George McCrae: ‘Rock Your Baby’ (RCA Spain) 1974

I was 14 and went on holiday to Majorca with my Mum, to a resort called Cala Millor. I made her swear that she wouldn’t let anyone know how old I really was – I was pretty big for my age and, apart from still having a bit of a baby face, could just about fool people into believing I was 18. My father had died the previous year and, as a result, I had a lot of freedom that I wouldn’t have had if he’d still been alive. I had a pretty cool Mum who let me do my own thing and, when she’d retired to her room, I’d head out to a discotheque at the nearby Hotel Said. The track that evokes the strongest memories of that holiday was George McCrae’s ‘Rock Your Baby’, which would enjoy phenomenal success, going to number 1 in countries all over the world, including the US and the UK. Written by Harry Wayne Casey and Richard Finch of KC & The Sunshine Band, ‘Rock Your Baby’ would be hailed as a seminal Disco record, and was voted song of the year in Rolling Stone magazine. Whilst records like Hues Corporation ‘Rock The Boat’, ‘When Will I See You Again’ by the Three Degrees’, and Johnny Bristol’s ‘Hang On In There Baby’ will be forever associated with my Majorca adventure, ‘Rock Your Baby’ was THE record. I even bought a copy of the 7” whilst I was there, on the Spanish RCA label, which I still have somewhere, complete with a sticker I added, which has ‘Cala Millor 1974’ handwritten across it.

Listen here: http://youtu.be/P08cLiLOmto

Van McCoy & The Soul City Symphony: ‘The Hustle’ (Avco UK) 1975

This brings back memories of New Brighton baths in my Merseyside hometown, once the largest outdoor swimming pool in Europe, where I could be found on most summer days throughout my teens. A US number 1 and Grammy winner, ‘The Hustle’ peaked at number 3 in Britain, but was the key element of the summer soundtrack for ’75. The hustle was a dance craze in the US that never really caught on here. A New York DJ, David Todd, had invited McCoy to his club, the Adam’s Apple, to see the dance, but he never had chance to go and sent one of his friends instead. On his return his friend demonstrated the dance he’d seen and, as a result, ‘The Hustle’ would be quickly knocked together as the final track recorded for McCoy’s album, which was entitled ‘Disco Baby’. Although the majority of people over here never did the hustle, they certainly danced to ‘The Hustle’. Talking about dance, I saw people Northern Soul dancing for the first time when I went to Butlins in Pwellheli with my school friend Derek Kaye, who ran a Mobile Disco, which I made some of my early DJ appearances with. Derek and I camped out in the woods to save money, sneaking in and out through a hole in the fence we’d found. Liverpool never really went for Northern Soul, being more of a Funk-based city during the 70’s, but there were some people from Lancashire who used to get up and do their thing to Northern favourites like Al Wilson’s ‘The Snake’ and ‘Cochise’ by Paul Humphrey, which the Butlins DJ played for them.

Listen here: http://youtu.be/qeUfDTn5huM

Candi Staton: ‘Young Hearts Run Free’ (Warner Brothers UK) 1976

Capturing the spirit of ’76 more than any other track, Candi Staton’s ‘Young Hearts Run Free’ made you feel glad to be alive throughout that long hot glorious summer. Having slowly edged up the chart it eventually reached number 2 as Britain began to experience a heatwave with record temperatures, accompanied by a bizaar explosion in the ladybird population that literally turned entire walls and bushes red and black! My schooldays now behind me, I was now a fully fledged club DJ, having started at the Chelsea Reach in December 1975, whilst I was still 15. I’d added nights at another local nightspot, the Penny Farthing, a couple of months later, and was now out almost every night, either working or socialising. As a consequence, I was falling asleep in class and I totally messed up my exams, coming out of school with next to no academic qualifications. Not that I cared though, I was having a great time deejaying and hardly went into school at all during the last few months anyhow. The title, ‘Young Hearts Run Free’, perfectly captured the way that I felt at the time, as I’m sure it did for many other people of my generation. ’76 was an extra special summer for sure.

Listen here: http://youtu.be/SBcJR3jJ_zo

The Emotions: ‘The Best Of My Love’ (Columbia US) 1977

This will always remind me of Terry Lennaine, the DJ who did the weekly Monday night Soul show on BBC Radio Merseyside, which was absolutely essential listening back then. I became friendly with Terry around this time and would frequently accompany him on drives to Manchester, where he’d buy records from the North’s top import specialists, Spin Inn. I picked up a US 7” of ‘Best Of My Love’ on one of these trips, and apart from Terry and the legendary Liverpool DJ, Les Spaine, from The Timepiece, I would have been one of the first DJ’s in the region to have a copy. Despite only being available on import until September, when it was finally released here (having topped the US chart), it would be one of the biggest tracks of the summer, right up there with the seminal Donna Summer single, ‘I Feel Love’, in terms of dancefloor popularity. It was so big that even the most mainstream of DJ’s, who’d never previously bought an import in their life, would have to somehow get hold of a copy, having been constantly badgered to play it (it would climb to number 4 on the chart after it was finally issued here). Having left the Penny Farthing I was now at the Golden Guinea, the club where I’d really make my mark locally, whilst continuing my nights at the Chelsea Reach.

Listen here: http://youtu.be/9GXhLfvAky0

Rick James: ‘You And I’ (Motown US)

Having received an import 12”  from Motown’s club promotion department, ahead of its UK release, this would become my biggest tune at the Golden Guinea during the summer of ’77, despite only reaching number 46 on the chart. Described at the time as Punk Funk, ‘You And I’ would be the breakthrough release for the, then, new artist, Rick James. By this point the Guinea had gained a reputation for being one of the best clubs on Merseyside for Funk, Soul and Disco, whilst my status as an up-and-coming DJ was now firmly established. Since early ’77 I’d received pretty much all the UK dance releases on promo from the British record companies, who would often send me import copies as well, further enhancing my reputation as a black music specialist. I had a core group of people who came to the club early to listen to all the new stuff I’d received / bought, and they would influence the other dancers, helping me bring a more upfront edge to my nights, which other local DJ’s couldn’t get away with. It was a joy to work at the Golden Guinea, but, despite this, I felt a need to move on to the next challenge. I was very ambitious and not content to be a big fish in such a small pond. I’d become aware of international agencies that hired DJ’s on monthly contacts for clubs throughout Europe and, in some cases, the world - so, after the summer, I headed out to Denmark (Frederikshavn) and then Norway (Skien). I hadn’t bargained on being so homesick though, being only 18 I wasn’t quite ready for this change of direction, so I returned home and was welcomed back to my beloved Guinea with open arms, much to the annoyance of the DJ who’d taken my place. I stayed there until the summer of 1980, when I’d give the international option another try, this time leaving the Guinea for good.

Listen here: http://youtu.be/dWZkxYamLUs

Chic: ‘Good Times’ (Atlantic US)

Not only a massive record on a mainstream level, reaching number 1 in the States and number 5 here, this was also a track that, unbeknown to us at the time, had gained anthemic status with a new breed of DJ’s in New York’s Bronx, who were doing weird and wonderful things with records that UK DJ’s couldn’t have imagined at the time. Over here the majority of DJ’s still regarded the microphone as absolutely essential to their work and, although mixing had been something most DJ’s had given a go, hardly anyone believed this to be more than a passing fad. With most UK clubs having very basic sound equipment, we never had the tools at our disposal to do what the New York guys were doing and, besides, we prided ourselves on our own tradition of deejaying, which we had no intention of giving up at the time – mixing being regarded as no more than a supplement at best. It’d take a few more years before mixing, and its mutant offspring, scratching and cutting, would begin to make a real impact over here, but Hip Hop (although we didn’t refer to it by this name until much later) would first make its presence felt via a record by NYC’s Sugarhill Gang that took rap music into the UK chart the following December, having become a huge favourite on import, not least because the words were spoken over the top of the ‘Good Times’ groove, allowing DJ’s to switch seamlessly from the Chic original to this new rap version, which was very much regarded as a novelty by most people. If you’d have told anyone then that Rap music would go on to become the most dominant style of music of the late 20th Century they’d have laughed in your face!

Listen here: http://youtu.be/rTusMLs9SJE

George Duke: ‘Brazilian Love Affair’ (Epic US)

You don’t get much more summer than this! ‘Brazilian Love Affair’ is a classic sun-drenched groove that never fails to lift my spirits. Only recently, Luke Unabomber played it whilst we were appearing together at the Electric Chair event, which closed the wonderful Garden Party Festival weekend in Croatia, where I found myself joyfully singing every word! Back to 1978 - I’d left the Golden Guinea by this point and had returned to Europe, working in Denmark for a month at a club in Vordingborg, called Prinsen, before heading to Germany, where I spent 2 moths at Club Eastside in Mülheim an der Ruhr, near the city of Essen. This significance of this excursion is explained elsewhere, but suffice to say that it served as inspiration for what came later. Whilst in Mülheim I received the news that I’d landed my dream job, at the state-of-the-art Wigan Pier (not to be confused with Wigan’s Casino, the famous Northern Soul venue), one of the first New York style discotheques in the UK, with truly amazing sound and lighting, which no other club could match at the time (except the new nightspot that had just been opened by the same company - Legend in Manchester). Everything was about to change for me, Legend and Wigan Pier being the venues I’ll forever be linked with (along with The Hacienda, which simply wasn’t in the same league back then). I was embarking on a new era, having now upped sticks and moved out of my hometown. Exciting times awaited, but that formative period, from 1979 over in Majorca, when I went into a club for the first time, through to 1980, when I took over at Wigan Pier, will eternally be remembered with the special affection of younger days, via their association with a specific place in time, be it the Chelsea Reach, the Penny Farthing or the Golden Guinea, not to mention all the other clubs I worked in along the way, both here and overseas. It’s always difficult to pick a small number tracks out of so many that have touched my life, but these 7 certainly capture the essence of those summers and, as such, will always remain precious to me.

Listen here: http://youtu.be/TK5Bhb6KGq8

Greg Wilson – July 2007

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