|Soulful Kinda Music
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From a little village hidden deep within the Penines, comes a new contributor……….
By Arnold ‘Bo-Jangles’ Winterbottom III
If you look back at some old copies of Blues and soul you will find that some of the adverts in the back pages list the records being played at the club, and right at the end of the list it usually said “Secret Sounds”.
They were of course the infamous cover ups that the DJs were playing at that time.
A little history first though: Jamaican Sound Systems back in the Sixties used to build their reputation on the records they played. In order to protect the records they were playing they used to hide the labels and play them as secret sounds. (Is it beginning to sound familiar ?)
Around the same time, a little club in Manchester was beginning to build itself a reputation for playing the best Soul and Rhythm & Blues around. It wasn’t the only club by any means, but was eventually the one which most came to be associated with Northern Soul. It was here that the first cover up on the Soul scene occurred. Much in the same way that Sound Systems wanted to build their reputations on the records they played so did the DJs on the early Northern Soul scene. As a DJ if you found a record that nobody else had, you covered the artist and title up, and then that kept it secret so other DJs couldn’t find copies.
(It turns out that American DJs were also following the same practice, for exactly the same reasons)
This practice continued through the Torch years, and by the time the Casino came around in was quite common for DJs to have all their exclusives ‘covered up’.
It became quite a game, trying to uncover the top DJs secret sounds, and quite a surprise sometimes when you did ! For during the Casino years, anything with the right beat tended to get plays, and it didn’t matter if it was a pop singer, or even a Radio 1 DJ who was singing. To keep their own credibility the DJs would pick the name of a known Soul singer and use that. There were of course other reasons for allegedly covering up records, the main one being to stop the bootleggers getting hold of copies. With very few exceptions this was a load of absolute rubbish, some of the main DJs at the Casino were in league with the bootleggers in the first place ! And if the bootleggers couldn’t get hold of an original, they just booted it under the cover up name. This raises the argument about the role of a bootlegger though doesn’t it. Especially on the Northern scene where the artists never received a penny for the records that were bought and sold at nighters anyway.
By the time Stafford came around almost every other ‘newie’ was covered up. Guy and Keb played the game at it’s best. Their cover up titles and artists were some of the best (and funniest) around, and Guy’s especially almost always contained some sort of clue to the real identity of the artist. It even reached the point where some DJs used ‘reverse cover ups’, ie. Used the artists’ real name, but said it was a cover up. It really was a game for them at this point, and the whole point of the game was to be the first to find out who the real artist was. I know of someone who suspected one of Guy’s cover ups was by The Precisions, and they went and bought every Precisions record they knew about, only to find it wasn’t the Precisions after all !
Then the scene entered it’s bleak years with the closure of Stafford, and cover ups seemed to disappear as a general rule.
By the Nineties though they were back. New Sixties sounds were getting harder to find, so some of the top DJs were using cover ups again. Butch in particular, having been regarded as the scene’s top DJ for many years has always covered records up. Saus was another who loved the cover up.
Cover ups are also a way for a DJ to make a name for himself. Of course it’s more difficult now to find a record that you can cover up, simply because the knowledge of some people is absolutely astounding. How do you decide if a record is obscure enough to merit being covered up ? Do you take a chance, play your new found discovery as a cover up and risk one of your mates saying “Why have you covered that up ? It’s so and so, and only worth about a fiver !” Or do you take a chance and discover that nobody knows the record anyway, so it would have proved difficult to find another copy no matter what name you had chosen.
I must admit though, these days, the number of top quality new finds are getting fewer and fewer, and rarer and rarer, so I did begin to question why DJs were covering up ‘one offs’. After all, nobody was likely to find another copy. But over the last five years certainly the bootleggers have raised their head again, and there is a distinct possibility of top sounds being bootlegged, so we’ve come full circle again, where DJs are protecting their exclusives by covering them up.
There are two candidates for the longest a record has remained covered up. The first is from the Casino days and was Richard Searling’s Rose Valentine cover up. Slightly different from normal, in that it was an unknown artist played off an original studio acetate that had no name on it, so Richard didn’t know who it was anyway. Eventually Gilly from Burton discovered it was Little Ann by hearing it on a master tape owned by Dave Hamilton in Detroit. The other is Butch’s ‘Del Larks’ cover up, which must have lasted a good ten years before Shifty found a second copy, and revealed that it was by The Mello Souls. I think Butch wins it by a whisker, simply because he knew who the record really was .
You’ll notice throughout this article so far I’ve only named the two cover ups in the last paragraph. The reason for that is that I didn’t want the article just to be a list of record titles and their cover up names. So I’ve added a few of the better know records, with the cover up names and the real names as a separate section. See how many you remember, and under which name you remember them as.
By the way, just for the fun of it, you’ve probably guessed I’m not really Arnold ‘Bo-Jangles’ Winterbottom III, and I’m not from the Pennines either. Unless our Editor has opened her mouth (And let’s face it, Alison is not the best in the world at being quiet and demure), only she and I know my real identity. So, I’m sure the burgeoning NSoul empire can come up with a suitable prize if you can guess my real identity. Answers to the Editorial address before the next issue comes out. Be warned though, if nobody guesses right, I’ll be back with another column in that issue as well, and might be anyway under my own name if someone does guess who I really am.
‘til next time.
Ten Cover ups, and who they really were:
The Performers – This He Said To Me was really The Delcos –
Arabia - Showcase