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Can Soul Singles be of historical value

Northern Soul Is Dead

A Great Allnighter

Llandudno & Prestatyn Weekenders

The Dudley Chronicle

The Green At Darlaston

Cover Ups


Milk and Northern Soul.

Do you remember when you were a kid, and the only milk you could get was pasteurised or sterilised ? Now you can get all sorts, pasteurised, sterilised, low fat, semi skimmed, skimmed, UHT long life, goat's milk, and I even bet you could get elephant milk if you looked in the right places ! Well that's what the Northern Soul scene is like these days. Back in the '70s there was Wigan and Blackpool Mecca, now.....A quote that is always attributed to Ian Levine (although I'm not sure he ever said it) is "Northern Soul is dead", well perhaps that is now the case. Twenty five years ago you knew where you were with Northern Soul, it has always been hard to define, but when you heard a track you just knew if it was, or wasn't, Northern Soul. So why, and how have things changed so much that 'Love Stormy Weather' can, and does get played at venues on a regular basis. Or how about 'I'm A Big Man' , out and out R & B, hardly Soul music, but still a very in demand record. Neither of them fall within the expected definition of Northern Soul.

The rare Soul scene is so splintered now it really is just like the milk scenario. A combination of customer demand, and manufacturer (read promoter for the scene) desire for new custom, has introduced new varieties through the years. So let's have a look at what is around:

I suppose the closest we come to the old style description of Northern Soul are the big Oldies allnighters like Togetherness. Still playing the same records, still attracting (these days) huge numbers of people, and no pretence to be anything else other than good time Soul music. Highly criticised by a certain hardcore, for not being progressive, this is really unfair. They don't claim to be progressive, they don't claim to be an allnighter for the regular week in week out niter goer. They are playing Soul music for the thousands of people who used to attend regularly back in the Seventies but now only want to go out four times a year for a massive blast of nostalgia. There is nothing wrong with that ! There can't be, or 1500 people wouldn't regularly turn out. So Togetherness have a great reputation amongst the people on the periphery of the regular scene, an awful reputation amongst the hardcore, and just to confuse matters there is the Modern room at Togetherness.

Now I'm not into the type of music being played in the Modern Rooms at Allnighters, so can't honestly pass an opinion because I don't venture in there. But I'm told by people who do that the Togetherness Modern room is superb with some of the best DJs in the country playing some of the best music in the country. How progressive do you want people to be ? And you think you're confused !

Another example might be The Ritz at Bank Holidays. But is it ? In the last year The Ritz have had an Oldies special, a rarest of the Rare, a Detroit & Chicago special, and I've attended them all, and I can't honestly claim to notice any difference in the people who attended them all either. Yet The Ritz seems to be another venue which attracts criticism for no apparent reason. Another example might have been Keele, but there again the last Keele allnighter included three 100 Club resident DJs, and three others who have been guest DJs there as well. Hardly an Oldies line up !

Let's go to the other extreme, in the majority perception anyway. The 100 Club. To me it is the leading Northern Soul Allnighter in the country. The best DJs playing the best music. A wicked combination of rare oldies, semi knowns, mega rarities, and new discoveries, and nearly all Sixties (I'll come onto the Sixties verses Seventies debate later !). This is a distinctly different crowd to those who attend Oldies venues. Around half are Northerners who travel down to London, but the other half tend to be people from the South, under thirty five, and very enthusiastic for all types of Soul music. The 100 Club's reputation though was built on playing Sixties Newies.

A strange term really, Sixties Newies, especially as it's now been in use since the Stafford Top Of The World days, and so many of those classic records that were played at Stafford are now referred to as Stafford Oldies, just like records played at Wigan are now referred to as Wigan Oldies. Still confused ? I haven't even mentioned 'Crossover' and 'Across The Board' yet !!!!

The main point about the 100 Club though is that the records move on. Playlists change, regulars don't hear the same records month in month out. This is partly due to the choice of guest DJs by Ady Croasdell, and due to the music policy he has stuck with over the years. Don't forget when the 100 Club started, it was a Rhythm & Soul club, not a Northern Soul club and had distinctly different playlists twenty years ago from the other big allnighters back in 1979. Did you notice how I just slipped another descriptive term in there, 'Rhythm & Soul\' ! The plot gets deeper.

To include the other allnighters which have Sixties Newies tags, you would have to include The Wilton Ballroom, and the Pigeon Club in Bolton.

I haven't touched on the R & B side of the scene either yet. Rhythm & Blues has always been there, right back to the Twisted Wheel days, and long may it stay. But the emphasis of the R & B has changed over the few years. I can remember when tunes like Big Daddy Rogers, 'I'm A Big Man' or ' Can't Live Without You' by Dusty Wilson would have been dismissed out of hand as too raw, too early to be played. Both records have been regular plays now for a couple of years, and fill dance floors at all sorts of venues. There have even been a few all R & B allnighters recently, particularly at the Princess Suite in Stoke, so where do they fit into the Northern SOUL scene ?

I must admit, from what I hear, because I don't attend these days, Blackburn combines a mixture of R & B to good effect with Oldies, which produces a fairly unique music policy which attracts a regular clientele up in the North West.

'Crossover'. Now what on earth does that mean, and where does it fit in amongst the Northern Soul scene ? Well it means records that were recorded during the late Sixties and early Seventies, records that don't fit the old style stomper beat, but don't fit comfortably into the Modern scene. The difficulty with Crossover is just that though, because it doesn't fit into either scene entirely it gets played on both, so just blurs the descriptions even more. I would hazard a guess that there are no allnighters that play just Crossover, but I'm sure someone will prove me wrong !

The Lea Manor at Albrighton, another of my favourite venues comes probably closest to being a venue that plays Crossover, but in reality this isn't true. Lea Manor play 'Across The Board' . Simple isn't it ! What it means is that you are likely to hear anything from the Sixties through to the Nineties at any allnighter at Albrighton. Certainly Sixties Newies get their fair share of plays there, as do Modern things, (bearing in mind that 'Modern' can mean anything from the '70s, '80s, or even '90s). Almost my home turf, Albrighton, and I know I've been associated with the club since the beginning, but I'm not actually involved in running it. That job goes to Martyn, Tate & Lin, and they more than anyone else have done more to promote an Across The Board music policy. The difficulty is that in attempting to attract supporters of everything from Newies, to Crossover, to Modern, to R & B, to Midtempo, to Beat Ballads, and all rare as well, whilst excluding played out Oldies is that it is such a difficult balancing act. Sometimes Albrighton is far too Seventies biased for me, as a Sixties fan and DJ, yet friends who attend love it.

Aha ! I mentioned Midtempo and Beat Ballads there for the first time. Originally introduced in a big way during the Stafford era, there is no denying that they are here to stay, and not just as enders.

Taking it one step further are the Colony Club allnighters at Newbury, where the emphasis changed from being Sixties based to being Seventies and Eighties based, with Sixties playing a subsidiary role. Oh dear, I'm even more confused now !

Wait a minute, I've missed out the Winsford allnighters here, but then again they don't really fit any of the descriptions I've already discussed. Winsford come closest to satisfying everyone. The Oldies fans are catered for by the inclusion of guest DJs who play oldies, the Newies fans are catered for in the regular spots by people like Butch and other guest DJs. Roger Banks covers the R & B side usually, and regular guests like Bob Hinsley cover the Crossover sounds, and there's a Modern room as well.

The final debate is one which has gone on for over twenty years, Sixties or Seventies ? My own views are quite clear on this, around a year ago I decided that I would drop all the Seventies items from my DJ playlist because I felt that the balance was swinging away from Sixties Soul. I made the announcement that I was only playing Sixties Soul from then on, and wondered whether my bookings as a DJ would drop off considerably. In fact they went up, which to mind mind shows that the average paying punter still prefers Sixties to Seventies. And that's all I'm going to say on that subject !

Do you see though, why I used the original analogy of milk. Currently running we have allnighters which play: Oldies, Newies, Crossover, Rhythm & Blues, Midtempo, Beat Ballads, Modern, Across The Board, Sixties, Seventies, and Uncle Tom Cobbly and all ! All of which have their place within the Northern Soul Scene, and the funny thing is, with the exception of Togetherness, The Ritz, and the Colony Club (Although I was asked to do the last one but was already booked elsewhere that night) I have DJ'd at all these venues. So maybe the Northern Soul scene is alive and well, just more varied than it used to be, and that has to be a good thing.