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Can Soul Singles be of historical value

A Great Allnighter

Northern Soul Is Dead

Northern Soul & Milk

Llandudno & Prestatyn Weekenders

The Dudley Chronicle

The Green At Darlaston


Northern Soul ? It’s a UK thing isn’t it ?

Well it certainly used to be, and if you listen to Pete Waterman, it was all big hairy miners who worked down t’pit, who went out at weekends to dance. Of course that was rubbish then, and is still rubbish now.

In addition, the claim that Northern Soul is a UK thing is also rubbish as well, or it certainly been has for the last twenty years or so. My own personal experience of Northern Soul outside of mainland UK only goes back sixteen of those years, so whilst I know there were events outside the UK prior to 1998, I didn’t attend them, so can’t really talk about them.

However, I thought though it would be nice to do a bit of a look back at all the places I’ve DJ’ed outside of the UK (And at this point I’ll explain that I’m referring to anywhere I had to fly or get a ferry to here, thus Belfast get’s counted as out of the UK) I’ve also included some of the venue reports I wrote at the time.

I reckon I’ve now done 49 DJ spots in 27 different events in six different countries. I feel honoured that the promoters of these events have booked me to DJ, and hope that I did the job expected of me when I got there. So, rather than do the events chronologically, I’m going to group them by country.

So, where did I get my first ‘foreign’ booking ? It was of course the ‘Turning My Heartbeat Up Weekender’ in Nurnberg, run by two people who have become firm friends, Michael and Silke. I first went out there in December 1998, and it was a bit of a culture shock for me. At this point the German Northern scene was still very much based around scooter clubs, and as I’ve never owned one, I’d also never attended a scooter club event. So it was a little surprising to find nearly everybody was wearing their scooter club colours, and that the dancefloor etiquette we are used to in the UK, didn’t apply.

Mind you, as very few German DJs used the microphone at this point I suppose it came as a bit of a culture shock to them finding me announcing records and things in my usual quiet intimate style ! John Mills, my sadly missed friend from Bolton, was the other guest DJ, and we had a great time, and were genuinely honoured to be asked back the next year. In addition Johnny Weston was added to the line up (And when John Mills stopped coming he was replaced by Chris Anderton, another good mate) the following year, so I had eleven years of riotous, drunken adventures in a beautiful Bavarian city, and one year of sightseeing and shopping when Margie came with me !.

Nuremburg Weekender - December 2009

Thursday saw Chris Anderton collecting me and meeting John Weston at home for the drive down to Stansted. It's the Nuremburg Weekender of course. This is the eleventh year I've done this weekender, and it's still getting better each year. We arrived on a snowy night at around 11.30 pm, to be met by the promoters, Osi and Dominic. Straight to the hotel where the hotel receptionist told us there were two rooms; a double and a single. Quick thinking by me led me to say straight away "I'm the single", and I grabbed the key, smirking. This left Chris and John with the double room. It got even funnier when they went to the room, because it was a double bed, rather than twin beds....Ohhh, did I laugh ? Yes I did. I've shared a caravan at Cleethorpes with John, and I'll tell you now, he snores ! Very loudly ! He also has problems with wind when he's been drinking !

Anyway, enough of that, we decided to attend to the more important things in life, and just dumped the bags in the room and set off to the pub. Finnegan's Irish pub was, again, to be our base for the weekend, and we managed a couple of beers before they closed at 1am. I have to admit, when we got back to the hotel, I slept like a log. Chris though, gave up trying to sleep around 3 am and packed his bag, went up to reception and booked a room for himself.

Now, I can't say I blame Chris for moving out, but the saga continued. The hotel was booked completely for the Friday and Saturday nights, so without Chris knowing, during the following morning they moved all of John's stuff into his new room, which at least had twin beds rather than a double. More of the hotel rooms later though.

By Midday, I'd had breakfast, wandered around the city for a while, bought a load of cheap tobacco, and was feeling thirsty. Finnegan's it was then. John and Chris came in within minutes of my arrival, and we settled down to have a few beers and await the arrival of some of our German friends. By 4.30pm, none of them had arrived, so I decided to go back to the hotel for a quick kip.

Chris and I met up back at Finnegan's around 9pm, no John though, he was still asleep. The venue was the same as it's always been, called K4, it's just across the road from the pub, so we wandered over just after 10pm to find it already quite busy. It's been a while now, so I can't remember what I played in any of my four spots, except the very first one was all R & B, which went down a storm. Suffice to say that the DJs had free beer all night, and you have no need to wonder why I can't remember what I played. John can't remember what he played either, mostly because he was still asleep and didn't turn up for his first spot ! He did arrive a little later though, and played a storming set in the Northern room.

By the time my second spot came around, at 3.30am, the place was heaving. Certainly as many as last year, and well in excess of 600 people, all willing to dance to almost everything that was played.

I stayed until just before the end, and then sneaked off to bed. Chris Anderton had already left, to try and get some sleep before John arrived back. So, somewhat to the annoyance of Chris (and the rest of the hotel) when John arrived back and couldn't get into the room he decided to bang and kick the door rather loudly.

I can now reveal that Chris feigned sleep in the hope that John would go away. It didn't happen though, John did go away, only to return with the Night Porter and a master key, so that was a plan that went wrong !

Saturday afternoon was fairly predictable I'm afraid. Finnegan's again ! But at least it was livened up by Chris recounting the tale of the night before. Then back to the hotel for a quick wash and change and then off to meet Osi and Dominic to go for a meal. All told about twenty of us went for the meal and we had to travel a couple of stops on the Metro to get to the restaurant owned by Stefan (Who also provided the excellent dark beer for all the DJs from his own brewery). Remember I said it had been snowing when we arrived in Nuremburg, well John decided that snowballs would be a good idea. We didn't quite think so.

The meal is always a bit of an adventure, because I don't speak German, and even though some of the Germans speak excellent English, the translation of a menu presents it's own unique problems. However, the recommendation was for the Pork and Dumplings, so that's what I had, and it was very nice too. On the way back to the Metro John again threw a few snowballs, so Chris just grabbed him and dumped him face down in the snow. Shame that the snow was melting and it was a piece of muddy ground underneath. He looked like a down and out ! When we arrived back, John went to get changed, fell asleep and promptly missed his first spot again. Chris and I were pleased to see that the venue was if anything busier than the night before, and yet again, the dancefloor was heaving.

John arrived late, mumbling something about not realising he was on early, and promptly disappeared again, just in time to miss his second spot of the night. You've got to give him credit for being consistent !

So, just before 4am I played my last record and thanked the crowd for dancing, and said what a great time I'd had, again, in Nuremburg. I must admit I was slightly taken aback by the cheer that went up (Or perhaps they were cheering because I'd finished my set !!!). Great people, great venue. Love it.

Chris had again left before John to try and get some sleep. John arrived back and went through the banging and kicking of the door routine, only for Chris to open the door and say "It wasn't locked".

A quiet Sunday, spent in Finnegan's and then a lift to the airport from Dominic. The flight was on time, and the drive home went smoothly, so I was in bed by just gone 1am on the Monday. Another weekender survived.

Of all the European countries, Germany has always had the strongest scene, and I was invited to DJ in Berlin at the Downtown Soulsville allnighter a few years after I DJ’ed in Nurnberg for the first time. Of course I accepted, and even though it was only one night the promoter, Mario, kindly paid for accommodation for both Margie and me for the whole weekend. So we had a great time sightseeing, in glorious sunshine in October, in one of the most fascinating cities in Germany.

I was then asked to DJ at the inaugural Baltic Soul Weekender by Dan Dombrowe in 2007. By far the most ‘corporate’ event I’d ever worked at because the whole thing was sponsored by Bacardi, and the emphasis was undoubtedly on the more Modern side, with a huge ‘Dance Music’ room, and a plethora of live acts. In fact the event has retained that Modern feel and I believe that the Northern Soul room has now been dropped. Full marks for the promoters though, the whole thing was expertly planned and organised and went without a hitch. The only downside was it was on a holiday camp site (although with smart apartments rather than chalets) which appeared to be miles from anywhere else, so in between being collected at the airport, and returned there, I never saw anything else of the countryside because I stayed on the site.

Onto Hamburg in 2007. Ralf and Jan invited me to DJ at the first weekender in Hamburg. At the time, it seemed a huge number of people had travelled over from the UK for the weekend. In reality I suppose it was only around 30, but that was a large contingent from the UK at any European event at the time.

We, Johnny Weston was the other UK guest DJ, had a great time at what is probably the highest attended Northern / Modern weekender in Germany. Of course when John and I get out on the town, alcohol is usually involved and this led to the usual escapades.

Lost In Hamburg With A Crocodile And A Snake
October 2007

Another adventure for the UK's Rare Soul warriors to sally forth onto the continent. And what a great adventure it was.

John Weston picked me up, on time, at 8 am on the Friday morning and we set off to drive to Manchester airport. Arriving a couple of hours later we set off to find the check in and everything went smoothly. A couple of pints in the bar, and then we bumped into the Greatstone crew. At the security checks they even let John and me though without having to open the records up. The guy asked what they were, and when we said "Records" he just waved us through. that's the difference between Manchester and Stansted though. In Manchester they understand what records are !

AirBerlin did us proud and we arrived at Hamburg International on time, a slight wait for the baggage and we were through to find Ralf and Jan (The co-promoters) waiting with Dave and Malayka Thorley, who had flown in an hour earlier from Birmingham, for us. Into the mini bus and off to the hotel.

We knew we were staying in the Kogge Rock and Roll hotel. John had the Tikki Room. Although he actually had black satin sheets with a dragon motif ! Oh yes, that's where the crocodile comes in, there was a stuffed one hanging from the ceiling !!

I had the Honneker Men's Room. Very strange because there wasn't even a wardrobe in the room.

As soon as we had dumped the bags it was downstairs to the bar to sample the local Astra beer, and then next door to a restaurant where we had a tasty meal, but more of the restaurant later. Claire, Pete and Karen turned up just as we were finishing our meal, and were duly taken on a tour of the Hotel rooms.

John and I left to go and have a wander up and down the Reeperbahn. I knew of it's reputation as a centre of bars and sex shows, but in all honesty it wasn't as outrageous as I expected. A few beers in a bar and then Toby texted us to say he'd found an Irish bar, so off we went to meet up with the Letchworth Mobsters. On the way back to the hotel to meet up with Ralf we bumped into Mike Bolderson so it was looking to be a good English turnout. Ralf had asked us to meet him so that he could show us the way to the venue. and when we got there I began to wonder if it was the right place ? Surrounded by scaffolding and barbed wire it looked more like a stalag than a weekender venue !

How wrong can you be. Inside the main room was probably as big as Bidds with the Modern room not much smaller. The only down side to the whole weekend was that the dancefloor was concrete rather than wood, but it was lavishly covered in talc, before the niter started.

As we walked in Jan gave us all ten tickets for free drinks, and then told us that when we had used them not to worry because there was a fridge behind the stage that was full of beer for us anyway. It's like telling a kiddie to take whatever sweets they want in a sweetshop isn't it !! We indulged ourselves of this charming facility for the DJs, to say the least.

Musically, the Friday night seeemd to be a little up and down to start with. There was nothing wrong with the records played, they just aren't what I would have expected, particulalrly in the first couple of hours of an allnighter. So fuelled by Astra, Jevers, Kilkenny, and Becks, I set about playing a stomping Oldies set for my first spot. It seemed to do the job nicely and the dancefloor was rammed.

In fact, Mr Weston over indulged, there's a novelty, and left before his second DJ spot. Overall I don't think I heard a bad spot all night, and I would guess that the 600 or so people in the venue agreed.

Saturday morning I was off into the city centre on the Ubahn to do some shopping and buy Margie a present. It seems a nice city but very Modern compared to other cities I've visited in Germany. then again I suppose most of that was our fault back in the war ! Lunch at the train station, because if there is one thing you can guarantee in Germany it's that the main train station will have lots of different food outlets and at least one specialist tobacconist where they sell Old Holborn.

Back to St Pauli, and I met up with Toby at the Irish bar. Which was closed ! Fortunately I'd spotted an English pub earlier just round the corner, so eventually Dave and Pete turned up as well and we settled down to watch the football. Dave is a Man U fan, so was well pleased when they beat Wigan. We of course pointed out that he was a typical Man U fan because he lived near London !

Johnny Weston eventually surfaced and asked where we were by text. I gave him some simple directions. Twenty minutes later he was lost

I eventually had to go out and find him. We discovered the Juke box had 'The Soul Survivors CD on it, which is where The Snake comes in because it was one of the records I picked. Don't know why they all complained, they all sang along to it. Following that it was the Rugby Union. Now it's fairly well known that I'm not keen on Union, but to see England beat Australia, when you are in an English pub in Germany creates a special atmosphere, and it was a terrific afternoon. Onto the alldayer for a couple of more beers and then John and I went back to the same restaurant for some food then, I ordered spaghetti bolognese, which arrived and tasted lovely. But I'm sure it was self reproducing itself on the plate as I ate it. I ate solidly for twenty minutes and there didn't seem to be any less on the plate than when I started !

Onto the Saturday niter. Three rooms tonight, with the introduction of an R & B / Crossover room. Good job there was a third room as well because the numbers were well up on Friday's attendance. The whole night went in a blur of Becks, but my last spot left Ralf and Jan with a fairly full floor as they were starting the last spot of the night.

Sunday morning we all met up at the English pub again before setting out on the boat trip. Great idea, and of course it was free beer for the DJs again. We'd been round a couple of times when I was asked to DJ, and that's when someone managed to fall into the decks and knock beer all over the place. Enough was enough and I ended my spot there and then. Dave Thorley played one of the best Sixties spots I've heard him play in a long time as well.

Stayed on board until 8pm and then decided to go for something to eat at the same restaurant. To our surprise we found Osi from Nuremburg already there with a group of friends, so we joined them.

Eventually we wandered off to the alldayer venue, only to find the three representatives of Scotland at the weekender holding court at the Irish pub next door. We joined them for a couple and then went into the Riverside Five bar. A couple of more drinks and it was gone 11pm. As I'm quite sensible the day before an early morning flight I left and went to bed. John stayed, and I'm told was later seen dancing with a partially dressed mannekin. But I wasn't there so have no photographic evidence.

Monday morning I was up at 7 am feeling fine. John looked like death. Oh happy days. Straight to the airport, and although there were long queues everywhere we made the flight in plenty of time and landed back in Manchester right on schedule.

A really great weekend, and it's only keft for me to thank Ralf and Jan for booking me, the sixty or so English (and Scottish) people who came over for the weekend, and all the other German DJs and punters who all contributed to making it such a fun time.

The most recent booking in Germany that I’ve had was at the 2013 Aachen weekender. Hosted by Lazy and Daniela the weekender is smaller in numbers than the others I’ve attended in Germany, but certainly made up for it in quality. A beautiful medieval town, with superb architecture, and delicious food, it was my new partner Jessica’s first trip out of the UK to a Soul event, and she absolutely loved it.

Aachen Weekender 2013

So, my weekender started on the Wednesday night when I left work, because I had to go down to Wales to collect Jessica because she was quite ill, and didn’t think she was capable of the four hour train journey to my house on the Thursday on her own. However, she had never been to Germany, or a European Soul Weekender, so was desperate to come, and I thought the excitement of the weekend would see her through. When I arrived, she was in bed, where she’d spent the whole day with a temperature of 101.4 degrees. Hmmm, was she going to make it?

I fed her, with food and medicine, made arrangements for someone to light her fire on the Monday, and packed her case for her. Now when someone says:

“Four bra’s, the black or beige ones.” To me that doesn’t mean two black ones and two beige ones, it means any combination of colours……..So I packed four black ones. Of course I was wrong and should have correctly interpreted it correctly as two of each !

On the Thursday morning she wasn’t much better, so I made her stand in the yard whilst I washed her down with a hosepipe and we caught the 10 am train successfully. As soon as we got on the train Jessica went to sleep, and stayed asleep until we arrived in Wolverhampton, which was quite an achievement as we changed trains in Shrewsbury !

Back at my house, she went to bed, and slept through until the alarm went off at 4.15 am on Friday morning. She took her temperature and it was back to 98.6 degrees, and she felt much better. Result !

We headed out for the airport, met Johnny Weston at the check in, and everything proceeded smoothly until we went through the departures barrier.

John and I both use the same type of record box to fly with, and we were in different queues. I was waved straight through, John was stopped and not only had to open his box, but also had to take every record out of it so the miserable sour faced customs woman could examine the box for a secret compartment that might have contained four illegal emigrants! It’s a box of records! What did she expect to find under the records? Ah well, we had to have a beer to commiserate with John.

So that’s when the weekend really started, at 7 am, with a pint of John Smiths!

The flight was fine and we arrived at Dusseldorf, and as we were waiting to collect the cases the exit door kept opening, and I could hear someone shouting abuse at us. I could have sworn it looked like Eddie Piller as well.

When we had collected our luggage we went through, and it was Eddie Piller! He was DJing that weekend in Dusseldorf with Henry Storch and had arrived at the airport half an hour before us, bumped into Lazy and The Jan, so decided to hang around to say hello. The Strange World Of Northern Soul!

Stefan, known to everyone by his DJ name of ‘Lazy’ introduced himself and performed the introductions to everyone else. The Jan was there, along with Andreas, and his wife Anne (better known as the DJ MS Dienel) Then we headed out to the van for the drive to Aachen.

The drive took an hour, and Jan Drews gently poked fun at Jessica all the way, explaining that in Germany they had autobahns, and bridges, and boats, and Jessica naively, said that they had them in the States as well.

We arrived at the hotel, booked in, and within minutes of getting to our room a guy delivered a goody bag from Lazy to our room. He also delivered a book. Now that in itself is quite a funny story.

Jessica’s next door neighbour in Wales wanted to buy a book connected with his work. It was called something like ‘The Architecture Of Welsh Cottages’, and is out of print and quite expensive now, like £200 expensive!. However, he found a copy of German Ebay, at the equivalent of £25, but the seller would only sell to a German address. So the network of Northern Soul fans came into play, and the book was delivered to Lazy a couple of weeks before we arrived. The thing that really puzzled us though is why, and how, did a copy of the book end up in Germany? Still, that was a plan that came together.

Once we’d settled in to the hotel we were met by Lazy and taken on a tour of the city.
Now the city is one of the oldest in Germany, and twelve hundred years ago was one of the most important, because the king at the time, Charlemagne, thought the Spa waters were beneficial to his health, so he ruled the kingdom from the city. He also built an amazing cathedral! It’s hard to describe how amazing it is, but when you consider it was built in 800 BC, the workmanship and craftsmanship astound you.

Then we went to sit in the sun and have a coffee, and in Jessica’s case, a Spaghetti Ice. She’s a bit of a foody really, and has a rule that if she see’s something on a menu that she’s never tried before, orders it. It really does look like spaghetti, but it’s really ice cream! (And was very nice too!)

Aachen is also famous as a Spa town, and Lazy took us to the point in the city centre where there are two outlets for ‘Stinkendes Wasser’ (I think that’s right!). Which were water pumped up from the ground, rich in sulphur, and as you can guess, it really is stinking water!

A quick beer, to try the local brew; Bitburger, and then it was back to the hotel for a rest for a couple of hours.

Around 6 pm I used my finely tuned navigation skills to find our way round to Lazy’s flat for a meal, and to meet up with all the other DJs. When we got there he wasn’t in, (He was driving back from Cologne station with some of the other DJs), so his girlfriend Daniela was host. She gave us all a beer, and explained what food was available, and left us to chat with the others that were already there. You couldn’t ask for more really. What a great start to the evening.

The Hamburg crew were the next to arrive, so it was great for me to meet up with Ralf, Lars, and Tolbert again after a couple of years. Then Henning from Switzerland arrived, and John Weston performed the introductions there because they knew each other.

The meal was a local speciality, and consisted of a stew with a special type of cabbage in it which is only available locally, and during the winter season. Jessica of course ripped me to pieces because I tend to have a preference for meals with meat in them, and she thinks I avoid healthy meals with vegetables in them! To my joy, I discovered there was a healthy quantity of good German sausage in the stew as well, so I wolfed my portion down with glee.

The beer was flowing nicely as more people arrived. I think Marc Forest was next, then MS Dienel, certainly at some point another old friend, Peter Werhand, had arrived.

As the time neared 9.15 pm, the mini bus arrived to ferry us all to the venue, and the weekender started promptly at 10.00 pm.

As usual, with all my reviews of weekenders, I couldn’t tell you who played what, when, but I do have to say the music was of a standard, and variety that would have only been reached at a few of the current UK weekenders !

Jessica was having a ball though. As I’ve already said, it was her first time in Germany, and she was absolutely fascinated by the difference between here and the UK. In particular how much younger the crowd was than in the UK. Because of this, we played a game of spot the English people, and Jessica said one guy in particular had to be English because he was older than most other people. I said he wasn’t English because of the way he danced.

She was also quite surprised by how many people spoke such good English. To my shame I’ve been DJing in Germany for over fifteen years now, and still speak almost no German (Although I can read a fair bit, and understand some conversations now), Jessica though, had made a valiant attempt to learn some useful phrases from her 1951 edition of the Collins ‘Useful German Phrases’ book. (More about that later though!)

I DJ’ed at 1.15 am, and am pleased to say managed to keep the dancefloor busy, and then we stayed for another hour or so, and then surrendered to the need for sleep. We’d been up for twenty two hours, and had to go back to the hotel.

Breakfast was served up until 11 am, so we made an appearance at about 10.30 am, and Jessica’s spirits were immediately lifted to discover that they served ‘Everything’ Bagels as part of the help yourself buffet breakfast. Now I’m not a big fan of bagels, so I contented myself with the fresh rolls and ham and cheese. Jessica though, loves bagels, and regaled me with stories of having bagels for breakfast in New York (I did tell you she was a foody!).

We did the sensible thing after breakfast and went back to bed for a couple of hours because the alldayer didn’t start until 3 pm.

Around 2 pm we met Johnny Weston in the foyer, and wandered off into the town to do a little exploring and shopping. Jessica bought a huge pile of Aachen Printen, which are a kind of gingerbread biscuit made in all sorts of different varieties, chocolate covered and so on (Do you see a theme developing here…Jessica and food!), I bought some tobacco, and Johnny boy bought a round of beers in the Irish pub! Good to see we took the healthy option.

Onto the alldayer, again at the Jacobshof, with Miss Twist from Utrecht DJing, record sales in the bar area, and a hot buffet provided for the DJs. I got the beers, whilst John started digging through the records, and then Jessica and I wandered through to the food area. It was a very tasty spicy pasta, with salad, or an extremely peppery mushroom soup. I was hungry, so I had both. Having eaten we wandered back into the bar area, only to find John had gone in search of food. He reappeared ten minutes later, with sweat on his brow, and his tongue hanging out. His face was also rather red:

“Have you tried that soup! They were all laughing at me in there, because it was burning my tongue.”

I did wonder why he carried on eating it if he found it that hot, but this is Johnny Weston, so thought better of it.

Jessica meanwhile was practicing her German. Now I’ve mentioned her 1951 phrase book, that was full of useful phrases. I particularly like the one in the aeroplane section which asked “Do you mind if I open a window?” However, it was more about trying out her pronunciation than actually saying anything meaningful. Anyway, all her new German friends got collared and had to try and decipher what she was saying. I think Lazy got the most confusing one. He was asked something along the lines of “Can you strip and degrease the engine in the motor car.”. The look on his face was classic!

Jan Drews had had to pay import duty on a record the day before, so Jessica tried him with “I will pay no tax”. Several other people got trapped by her though, and I was helpless on occasions just watching the expression of confusion crossing people’s faces.

Jessica actually spoke to the guy who she had said was English the night before. He was from Belgium! So that was one-nil to me!

Johnny Weston, having been in the venue for two hours by now, suddenly realised it was the same venue as the night before, but looked different because the lights were on! I ask you, what is he like?

Then there was the cake! Daniela apparently had spent the whole day previously baking. What a superb selection, not wishing to be greedy, Jessica and I only tried small portions of three different ones, and each one was delicious in it’s own way.

Back to the hotel around five for a few hours sleep and then back to the venue for the Saturday allnighter. As is typical with all my reviews, I again have no idea who played what, I know I did two spots, both of which went well. I know we drank more Bitburger on the Saturday than we had on the Sunday, and we stayed to the end of the allnighter. I made Jessica practice her German by sending her to the bar everytime we ran out of beer, so at least she now knows at least one useful German phrase! The rest is just a blur, of laughs, conversations, and fun.

We just made it for breakfast on the Sunday morning, and to Jessica’s disappointment there were just ordinary bagels, no ‘Everything’ bagels (It’s something to do with the topping on the bagel I’m informed.) and then despite my protestations that nowhere would be open, we went for a walk round the town again.

Having walked past all the closed shops, we were back at the hotel in time to pack and be ready to leave the hotel at 3 pm back to Dusseldorf airport. Andreas and Anne were with us, as they now live in Sweden, so were catching a flight after ours. We said our goodbyes to Lazy in the car park at the airport, and went to check our baggage.

We then had a last cigarette with Andreas and Anne, and went airside. This time it was my turn to be stopped by the border control and be asked to open my record box. I tried pointing out Johnny Weston, in the hope rthat they would grab him as well and make him empty his record box again, but no such luck. They just made me open the box though, and swabbed it for drugs, but didn’t ask me to take any of the records out, so that was ok. A quick beer and a sandwich, meant we were ready to fly, just as they announced boarding.

On the plane it was a female pilot, so Jessica was treated to all the jokes we used when travelling to Belfast last year….have trouble with the pedals because of her high heels, extra mirror for her makeup, and most upset that other people were wearing the same outfit etc, etc! I have to say though, it was obvious that a man was doing the actual flying and she was just there to make the announcements because we landed right on schedule in Birmingham.

UK Border control. The queues were horrendous, fortunately the queue for the automated chip reading control barrier was the shortest, so that’s where we headed.

Now you may have noticed that this review doesn’t contain any classic Johnny Weston moments.,…well here it comes: There are huge signs over all the kiosks, they say three things basically. 1. You have to have a chipped passport. 2. You have to be over 18 years of age, and 3. Your passport has to have the logo on the front of it to say it’s a chipped passport. So John’s behind me in the queue, and he’s grumbling about people who can’t use the self service passport scanner, and the number of people in the queue with children. Fair point I suppose!

I scan my passport, and the facial recognition software recognises me and lets me through. Jessica was in front of me, and waiting for me, so we wait for John.

And we wait, and we wait. Then we see the Border Control guard gesturing John towards the huge queue for people who can’t get through.

We left him to it and went to collect the bags. We had time to collect both bags and sit down and wait for him. Eventually he turns up. The conversation went:

“Show me your passport.”


“Show me your passport, I want to see if it’s got the logo on it.”

“I just followed you, I didn’t know my passport wasn’t chipped.”

When Jessica and I had stopped laughing we trundled out of the airport for a cigarette and said our goodbyes to John.

It had been a fabulous weekender. Everything was organised for the DJs, down to the last detail, the food was great, the beer was strong, and free! And it’s like a breath of fresh air to DJ to a crowd that have no hangups about Oldies or Newies, or Funk, or R & B. If it’s a good record, they will dance and enjoy it! It was also good to see so many of my German friends again, and people from Sweden, Italy, Switzerland, Holland, France, Belgium, and Luxembourg, and to make new friends, from all over Europe. And if you include Jessica from Wales, and John and myself from England, that means people travelled from ten different countries to be at the weekender.

Lazy and Daniela especially, what a great couple, the amount of work they both put in to make the weekender a success is phenomenal, and the whole weekend is a credit to them both.

I knew what to expect in Germany, and anticipated a good time, but Jessica was blown away by the whole weekend, and is now a sure convert to the European way of doing things. We’ll be back to Aachen again, and probably several other European destinations over the next few years. Hopefully we’ll see our friends again later this year in Manchester, when they come to visit the UK.

Onto Ireland, and I’m going to group Belfast and Dublin together, because I can’t, and wouldn’t want to separate the two in terms of the good times, and the great people.

I’ve DJ’ed three times in Belfast. Twice at the Belfast Soul Club weekenders that were run by Phil Shields and Liam Quinn. (Both of whom have now moved to England) On both occasions a whole crew from Rugby Soul Club travelled over, and we had a great laugh amongst good company. The second time we took over a complete hotel about 200 yards from the venue, and the hotel owner just let us carry on when the venue shut !

Belfast Soul Club 4th Anniversary
October 2007

Another weekender survived ! I've been through five different airports, done the equivalent of three allnighters and four alldayers in the last eleven days and it's all catching up with me now !

Belfast though was worth every minute though. Those Irish guys know how to party.

Margie and I set off Saturday morning and made it to Birmingham airport in good time to have a cooked breakfast, with the obligitory pint, for me not Margie, before the Rugby crew turned up and then we went through security no problems. The Rugby crew decided they needed to have something to eat and mobbed Burger King. Shame it was so close to boarding, Denise managed to get through the boarding gate still eating hash browns though ! The flight was on time and we landed at a sunny Belfast International airport. Chic and Dean Anderson had arrived before us, so we retired to the bar to wait for guy Hennigan. Denise and I decided we would have a quick cigarette outside. It was only when we got there that we discovered we weren't supposed to return to the arrivals hall. Well my records were still in there so we decided to walk back in though a very long corridor.

As we got about halfway down the PA system announced "STOP ! You cannot return to the arrivals hall once you have left". We ignored it. They repeated it, we ignored it. I had visions of ending up spreadeagled on the floor with a policeman aiming a machine gun at me. At this point someone else passed us. Denise decided it was him they were talking to, so we just carried on. I tell you, it was the longest corridor I have ever seen, especially as they repeated the warning again before we made it to the end !!!

After some protracted discussions with the biggest Policeman I have ever seen, he must have been nearly seven feet tall, Sian arranged a Taxi and a minibus (Why, and how, she arranged this with a Policeman I never actually worked out !). Tina, Fudge, Margie and me were in the Taxi, and Tina set the tone for the weekend by keeping the rest of us in stitches. Her first question was to ask the cabbie what his name was, because the last time she had been in Ireland the Taxi driver was called John, and she wanted a cabbie with a proper Irish name. Now I don't know whether it was his real name, or whether he was just humouring Tina, but this guy said his name was "Paddy", and Tina then quizzed him all the way to the hotel about various aspects of Belfast. I don't know how he kept a straight face because there were tears of laughter streaming down my face at one point when Tina asked him whether there were any prisons in Belfast. Why did she need to know that ?

We arrived at The Parador Hotel, and I'm sure that's the Gaelic way of spelling Fawlty Towers. No, to be fair, they couldn't have been more accommodating to us, mind you, we had booked every room in the hotel between us. We were on the top floor, which in a way was a blessing, but I'm not sure if the hot water ever reached that far up, or whether it was because the whole hotel was so hot that the boiler couldn't heat any more water up. I kid you not, the place was like a sauna all the time, yet the radiator in our room, and all the other rooms were turned off !

The Saturday alldayer started at 3pm, so once we'd all unpacked, we wandered up the road to the venue, The Errigle Inn. A nice bar downstairs which served fabulous meals, and the actual venue was upstairs. A low ceiling in a fairly large room with the decks opposite the bar and dancefloor in the middle, dark and atmospheric, all ready to go ! We retired back downstairs for a meal and I ordered the roast beef. I think I got half a cow with roast, and new potatoes. Delicious though.

Once we'd all eaten it was back upstairs to set up the base camp for the weekend, and the music started. As more and more people started to arrive it was great to renew friendships with the many people I've met from Ireland. If you include last year's Anniversary this was my fourth trip to Ireland (Dublin and Belfast) in the last twelve months. I know it's a cliche, but eveyone is so friendly you immediately feel welcome and at home. I struggle to associate any of the Irish people I've met with the troubles that beset Northern Ireland for so many years, but that's religion for you ! Fortunately we were here for a different religion though...Soul music.

There were so many good sets played throughout the day that the copious amounts of Smithwicks Irish Ales I consumed means they have all blurred into a mish mash of great music. I have no idea who played what, and have a very blurred recollection of what I played, but it seemed to go down ok because the dancefloor was full. I did the penultimate spot on the Friday and Guy Hennigan finshed the night off until 1am, then it was back to the hotel.

As I'd mentioned earlier, we had booked every room in the hotel between us (Chris and Carlos, as well as Budgie, Jo and Jeanette had the other rooms) so the decks were brought back to the hotel and set up in the bar. There were about thirty who came back in total, and along with about eight rather bemused locals, we set about having a party. Peter the hotel manager had arranged a late bar, opened the back door of the hotel for the smokers, and as it was a polished wooden floor anyway, we had a dancefloor. For the first time ever I saw Phil Shields with a drink in his hand, and apparently he carried on drinking through the night. I must admit to being a bit of a part timer here because I only lasted until about 3.30am before I had to go to bed. In my defense I did do two niters and two dayers the previous weekend !!! This is why being on the top floor was a blessing, the sound proofing in the hotel was superb and I couldn't hear the music from our bedroom.

I don't know what time they finished in the bar, but room 2 had been designated the party room, and it was still going on when I surfaced for breakfast about 7.30 am. Breakfast was termed 'Continental', which meant you made your own toast and coffee, but the real killer was the sign on the door. "Dinning Room". Now when you think about it, someone, 'designed' this sign, someone else made it, and someone from the hotel bought it, and probably someone else screwed it to the door, and not one of them noticed that it was spelt wrongly ! Did I mention Fawlty Towers, oh yes I did ! So, cereal, toast and coffee, with a healthy slug of Bushmills courtesy of Chris Morgan was breakfast. Margie came down slightly after me, so we just sat around chatting with everyone else who alternated between the Dinning Room and room 2.

As the alldayer on the Sunday didn't start until 4pm we decided to go into the City centre to look at the shops. Not knowing what Belfast was like on a Sunday I asked Phil whether the shops would be open. He said yes, but not until midday. Now I'll assume Phil doesn't do much shopping on a Sunday, rather than it was anything to do with the alcohol in his system, but the only shop open before 1pm was McDonalds ! So after a quick Strawberry shake (Which isn't really the best thing for you if you are diabetic, but it was my treat for the weekend) we hit the shops. I bought nothing, Margie bought four new tops (I don't know why she bothered packing any to bring with her to be honest !!!), but best of all, she paid for them herself !!

Across to the venue for something to eat, again superb, and then back to the hotel to discover the party was still going on in room 2 ! Margie decided on a couple of hours sleep, and I, because I didn't know what time I was DJing went back to the venue to discover I was on at 10pm. Hmm, only another six hours drinking then before my spot !!.

Guy and Dean were leaving around 8pm so they did a spot each early doors, and I actually paid attention this time. Great stuff from both of them. I spent a fair bit of time outside on the roof garden where you could smoke, and as people came and went it made it a really pleasant afternoon just chatting with different Irish Soulies.

By 8pm, all the UK crowd had turned up, and a fair few Irish as well, and although the numbers were down from Saturday, it was still quite a healthy crowd. Paul Grant played the standout spot of the day for me, great tunes, put together as a great set. Especially the one he dedicated to me (And I'm not saying what it was until I've got a copy). I suspect that Phil Shields had been indulging again because he was spotted Pole Dancing round one of the pillers in the room, I blame that Rugby crowd because he used to be such a shy and unassuming chap !! At this point I do really have to say thanks to Phil, he put the whole weekend together, and with assistance from Joe and Jo, organised everything on both days. It all ran like clockwork, even the non appearance of Liam (A flat tire meant he missed his plane) wasn't noticed.

A midnight finsh, with the last spot from Phil himself meant it was all back to the hotel again. A few less people this time, and we were in the Dinning Room as well. Joe and Jim appeared with crates of beer and bottles of wine as the decks were set up. No sound though, and Tina was directing operations. Fuses were changed, plugs were taken apart, cables were plugged in and taken out again. This went on for half an hour, so being nosey I decide to have a look. From where I was sitting I noticed a rather significant problem. "Try connecting the mixer to the amp". Lo and behold, twenty seconds later the music was on.

Again, I part timed it, and sloped off to bed around 2 am, only to be told I missed the funniest thing of the weekend. I bet you thought you'd got away with this one didn't you guys.

Apparently, as the alcohol flowed, Joe, Kev, and Jim decided to do their own version of the X Factor, and lined three chairs up in the middle of the room to stand on as a stage. I believe Marv Johnson was the record, with Kev doing lead vocals over the microphone, with Joe and Jim doing back up either side of him. Oh I wish I'd seen it !

I was again up early, mostly because our double bed only had two pillows and Margie had pinched both of them, again, so I didn't sleep very well and wandered down to the Dinning Room, to find Phil and Jo Brock just finishing tidying the room up. Jo was actually wearing the ice bucket on her head ! Not wanting to intrude on this bizarre spectacle I went out to find a coffee at Subway. Coming back a bit later I roused Margie (That means woke her up for those of you with a limited vocabulary and dirty minds) and we went back down to the Dinning room to find there was no milk left. Sian texted me and suggested that I go and knock on all the doors taking breakfast orders, I texted her back suggesting I didn't, or words to that effect.

The flight out was at 2.35pm, so with nothing else to do we decided to go out to City airport early. Checking out was the last dealings we had with the hotel, and what should have been a simple task turned into Fawlty Towers again. In the end, i paid using my card, for my room, Denise's room, and Sian and Dean's room (Because Sian had neglected to bring her cards with her). The young girl who dealt with it had no idea what she was doing and in the end we just said take £160 off this card. She said Ok, and put it through as £1.60. I was tempted, but then thought it would all come back on Phil in the end, which wasn't fair, so I told the truth and paid the full amount.

The flight back was fine, even watching the Rugby crowd using the self service check in was funny, and we landed on time in Birmingham. Our last sight of the Rugby crowd was of Denise licking the window of the bus stop as we waved goodbye. It says it all really.

Another fantastic weekend, with so many laughs, and such good company. If you have never been across to Ireland, you must go. You're made to feel so welcome, and everyone just wants to party. Brilliant time. I just need to recover now !


My third booking was earlier this year at the Cregagh Soul patrol night. Again, we had a wonderful, if brief stay (We flew in first thing Saturday and back out Sunday) although the Irish weather did it’s best to dampen proceedings (It was torrential rain almost all the time we were there) the company, the craic, and the music was top notch.

Dublin, and Danny Dugan, Danny has recently retired the Soul night he used to run in Dublin for over a decade, but I was fortunate enough to DJ at Sleepless Nights on two occasions, and attend as a punter on a couple of others. What a great weekend each time though, hilarious times with great people, and of course some great music as well.

Sleepless Nights, Dublin
December 2009

The Friday following my return from Nuremburg I was off to the airport again, on the second leg of my European Tour 2008. This time, Margie and I met Woody and Lou at Birmingham airport for a flight to Dublin. It set the tone for the weekend when we discovered Scooby Doo was on the same flight..........

If you remember last year when we went to Dublin Lou was scared of flying and virtually assumed the crash position as soon as she got on the plane. She's got over it now, but still sat directly in front of me, so I went through the usual routine of shaking her seat quite violently as we took off. A few choice words later and we were off.

We were booked into The Belvedere Hotel, which is right above the venue used for Sleepless Nights, so pretty much just unpacked, had a quick wash and change, and then went down stairs to the bar. Now I remembered last time I was in Dublin I thought it was expensive, but this year, because of the exchange rate I discovered that it was horrendously expensive....4.60 Euros a pint ! That works out at almost £4.60 a pint. Ah what the hell, it's Christmas, hang the expense. Margie and I decided to have a meal called a 'Turkey Packet', and it was delicious, roast vegetables, covered in mashed potatoes, with a huge slice of ham, and one of turkey on the top, covered in gravy. Woody and Lou joined us, and a few of the Irish crowd had started arriving, so naturally a few more beers were consumed. Well, it would be rude not to, wouldn't it.

Downstairs for the advertised opening time (Because Lou was DJing first) and Danny Duggan was still setting the decks up. This is where the fun started because the decks are on quite a high stand, and Lou is, well, not to put too fine a point on it, short. We could just about see her head behind the decks. It didn't alter the fact that she did a great spot though, as did Woody a few hours later.

Pretty much the same as Nuremburg, I can't remember what I played, I've slept since then, and if I don't write the playlist down the next day I have no hope of remembering it. I do know that the floor seemed full enough of Irish Soulies to keep me happy, and that it was overall, another great night. We sneaked off to our room just before the end, and discovered that there was some after event entertainment arranged. Our room was on the front of the hotel, and we discovered we could lean out of the window and watch the drunks fighting in the street below. Great stuff !

As usual I was awake early, and bored, so I woke Margie up and told her it was time to get up. To her credit, she didn't tell me to bugger off, and actually got up, mind you, she knows I have the attention span of a small child if I'm bored, and would only have kept her awake fidgeting and moving around in the bedroom. So, we packed the case, left it at reception, and went round the corner to the nearest pub, where we knew from previous occasions we would get a really good breakfast.

I'd booked the flights for the four of us, and Lou had booked the hotel, so I was quite surprised to receive a call from Woody about an hour later asking if I could remember how much Lou had paid for the rooms. As it happens I could, so I said that she'd only paid an 8 Euro deposit. Which explained to Woody why the Hotel were insisting that both rooms still had to be paid for ! Profuse apologies from Lou, and we agreed to meet them in the pub for Lunch later.

A pleasant, liquid, lunch, then a flight back and then home to sleep. Another great weekend spent in Dublin, I can only say exactly the same as I did about Nuremburg; Great people, great venue. Love it.

Italy next. Rimini has now established itself as the premier weekender in Italy, but before it really got going the top allnighters were held in a little town about thirty miles from Venice called Vicenza ! I DJ’ed there twice, the first time I went out on my own in 2003, and then returned in 2007 with Margie. I realise that my write up is beginning to sound very ‘samey’ for each country, i.e. beer, music, people, so I’ll just let the venue report from 2007 say the rest.

A Tale Of Three Margarets
February 2007

Well, got back last night from DJing at the Wildcats Soul Club allnighter in Vicenza, Italy.

We travelled out on the Friday afternoon, and I tell you, I was a bit worried on the Thursady night before we left. There was a slight matter of some snow during the Thursday morning, which meant that when I went to bed on Thursday, Stansted Airport was closed, and Central trains were cancelling everything to Stansted !

Still, intrepid adventurers that we are, we set off Friday morning, and amazingly the train was running, the airport was open, and the flight was almost on time !

Arrived at Venice Treviso around 11.30 pm and Andrea & Renato were waiting to collect us. We went straight off to the local bar they all use in Vicenza where they had some decks set up. Arriving there about midnight I had to laugh. I'd expected a venue type of bar, but it wasn't, if you could get ten people in the bar it was rammed, but there were about sixty people standing outside as well ! I was asked if I'd do an hour's DJing, and of course I said yes, especially as I had heard the magic words 'Your money is no good in this bar'

Several beers later, we eventually arrived at our apartment, sixteen hours after having left home !

Saturday morning was spent exploring Vicenza with Margie, because although I'd been five years ago, she didn't come with me that time. Saturday afternoon was back at the bar. Vicenza were playing the mnighty Juventos that afternoon, so it ended up with me and Roccia having a few beers and discussing life in general (as you do) Margie had gone back to bed !

Saturday night it was back to the Nuovo Astra Bar to meet up and get a lift to the venue. As the niter was advertised to start at 11 pm I was a little surprised that we didn't set off for the venue until about 9.30 pm because there was a meal booked first. It was so Italian though, not only did 22 of us sit down for a four course meal an hour before the nighter started, it meant that the music didn't start until 12.15 am because all the DJs were still eating !

The venue itself was rather special as well, a restaurant, hotel, and night club, up the side of a mountain somewhere near Vicenza. Like a small version of Mr M's with the balconey, and it was still unchanged from the Seventies when it was turned into a club, well maintained, but not updated if you know what I mean.

A real mixture of music followed, from Fifties R & B, a little Ska, Latin Boogaloo, Oldies, Rarities, Uptempo, Midtempo, you name it, if it was Black American, one of the DJs probably played it. There were even two Seventies records played !

Back down the mountain, at twenty five miles an hour round the hairpin bends, in thick fog ! I was tempted by the idea of going for breakfast with Andrea and Renato, but Margie needed sleep again, so we declined and went to bed. The offer of meeting up for Sunday lunch was also there but we also politely declined that as well and decided to do the tourist bit and go to Venice on the train. A fabulous day out, enhanced by the fact it was 'Carnivale' in Venice, meant we arrived back at the apartment after 9pm, packed the case, and went to bed. An early start the next day saw us arriving back home, on time as well.

The tale of three Margarets ? Well there were three English women in the venue Saturday night: Margie from Dudley. Maggie from Sunderland, and Margaret from Liverpool, how about that for a coincidence !

I’ve also DJ’ed in Amsterdan twice, at, funnily enough, The Amsterdam Soul Club. The first time I was looking to attend a few nights in Europe, not even DJ, and Jos contacted me about Amsterdam, and promptly offered me a spot. Of course I accepted, went and had a great time. That was in 2007. We’d been talking about a return vist for a couple of years and eventually got it sorted out for earlier this year when I returned, with Jessica this time, and had a superb weekend doing the tourist thing, in glorious weather. The Saturday night was spent at the club, which is well worth a visit.

No Tulips from Amsterdam, but a whole lot of soul.
November 2007

When I asked on Soul Source for the dates of European Soul nights, Jos from the Amsterdam Soul Club was the only person who replied. As I'd never been to Amsterdam before I soon arranged a date with Jos, and that date was the 19th November. So here's the lookback:

In the intervening weeks I had offered my services as a DJ for the night and Jos had offered to provide me with overnight accommodation, so I was all set for a weekend in Amsterdam.

Of course things never work out quite as planned, and without thinking of the date I accepted a booking at Sonic Soul at Lutterworth for the Friday night. I really enjoy Sonic Soul, and wanted to do the booking, but this meant I couldn't fly out to Amsterdam until the Saturday morning (and it meant very little sleep on the Friday night as well !)

Nevertheless, I caught the flight on time, landed early in Amsterdam (And a quick tip for anyone considering going to Amsterdam, all the Budget airlines that fly there are cheaper initially, but once you start to add on booking fees, card fees, baggage fees, it turned out that the scheduled KLM flight was about £20 cheaper), and contacted Jos by phone. He came out to the airport and collected me, and via a combination of train and tram we arrived back at his apartment, where I was introduced to his wife. Jos then took me upstairs to the other apartment where he showed me what his hobby in connection with Soul music was, but more of that later.

Jos then took me into Amsterdam for a quick tour of the tourist sites. I was amazed that there were loads of 'Coffee Shops', that you couldn't get a coffee in ! And there were some rather strange odours wafting out of the doors. We also did a tour of the red light district (Without stopping before you ask). It was strange to see what were often beautiful girls standing in windows wearing very little, and whilst I appreciate it's an accepted part of Amsterdam (and some of the girls were really fit) it did come across as a bit of a meat market.

The other thing that astounded me was the sheer number of people riding bicycles at breakneck speed on the Cycle roads. Each road had what we would call a cycle path on each side of it, and you literally do have to dodge the cyclists (It probably didn't help that I automatically looked the wrong way first though). So, all I needed for the full tourist set was to see some clogs, and yes there were tourist shops selling souvenir clogs.

To be honest Jos is a proud Amsterdamer though, and provided a running commentary all the way, on architecture, history, and events that had happened, so it really was an interesting tour Back to the apartment, and a lovely meal prepared by his wife for a group of people all of whom would be attending the Soul night later. I was introduced to Paul and Mandy, and as they were originally from Shrewsbury, we found we had lots of mutual friends.

By now it was approaching 9.00pm, so we set off for the venue in Jos's van.

De Badcuyp is a fairly small and intimate bar, which when the tables were moved was all dancefloor. There is an upstairs balcony, but very few people used it. A fairly good range of draft and bottled beer, and I was advised to try a Belgian beer called La Choofe as it was the closest beer to English bitter. Very nice as well, except it was almost twice as strong as the typical English beer !

Very quickly it seemed the room filled up, most of the early arrivals were all ex-pats, quickly followed by the core of the Dutch Soul fans who support the venue. I was introduced to almost everyone who arrived in the first half hour, and promptly forgot almost everyone's name (I'm blaming the strong beer !).

The first spot came from Jos himself, and this is where his hobby came in. For a living, Jos works for the Dutch Television News company, thus is well versed in video editing. For his hobby, he appears to have scoured the world for video clips of Soul artists. He then edits the clips, improves the picture quality, and in many cases removes poor quality sound tracks and replaces them with the original recording. This is where the editing skill comes to the fore, because not all live recordings are word perfect reproductions of the records, as we all know. Jos though has done a fabulous job, and I found it fascinating. Several venues in the UK have made use of screens to show clips of artists, but none have actually shown the clips of the artists performing the song that was being played at the time. Not only that, but Jos has some really, and I mean really, rare clips, that I had never seen before. I think my favourite was the one of Edwin Starr performing 'Agent OO Soul', but there were so many that I hadn't seen before that it was an absolute delight.

Next to the decks was Pete45, an ex-pat from Manchester, (also a Man U fan, but we won't go there !). A great set of Club Classics, Oldies and R & B, all on original labels as well. Then it was time for the first of my two sets.

Jos had explained that the club attracted people of all ages, with a huge range of knowledge of Soul music, from those who only knew the Motown hits, to out and out anoraks, so the first set was a bit of a jump into the unknown.

It must have gone ok because the dancefloor remained full (As it did all night actually), and nobody threw anything. The beer kept coming, and every time I tried to buy a round I was told I couldn't. In fact Jos gave me some drinks tokens to buy beer with, but I gave them back to him towards the end of the night because I hadn't had chance to spend them.

Jos and Pete both did a second set each, and then at 2.00am it was down to me to finish the night off. A few of the younger crowd had started to leave by this time, but the room still had healthy numbers, and the requests from the ex-pats were coming in thick and fast, so the second set was a bit more on the rare side than the first.

When my set finished I sort of helped load the van up (I actually stood around chatting making sure nothing was stolen). To my amazement, a considerable number of people got on their bicycles and rode off into the foggy night, including at least one ex pat.

By this time I was seriously the worse for wear. I'd had little sleep the night before, it had been a long day, and the beer was strong, and arrived with startling regularity, so I was pleased to get back to Jos's spare apartment and get some sleep.

I woke early the next morning of course, and spent a couple of hours reading before going upstairs to get Jos out of bed. After a breakfast of bacon and eggs (Which they had bought specially for me which I thought was a wonderful touch), we all set out for the city centre again. Jos's wife is a lawyer, and despite it being a Sunday, had to work, so Jos and I went on a tour of the Heineken Brewery. Great fun, and a lot better than the Guinness tour in Dublin I might add, which meant we got back to the apartment in good time for Jos to give me a lift to the airport.

The fog from the night before was still around, and although my flight was delayed for an hour I still managed to fly out at 5.30pm. which was a lot better then the people who were on the morning scheduled flight because it was cancelled.

I eventually arrived home around 7.15pm, tired but happy having spent a marvellous night in Amsterdam. I have only two regrets, firstly it appears that you cannot buy Old Holborn tobacco in Holland anymore, and I didn't see a single Tulip !

Seriously though, if you are looking for a great night out, in a wonderful city with lots of history, I would thoroughly recommend Amsterdam Soul Club. I had a great time, and I'm sure you would as well.

France: Loren and Tanguy invited me to DJ at their weekender in Brittany in 2009. I never really worked out where the holiday camp site was, but the nearest city was Concarneau. Again, I’ll let the venue report do the talking for me.

Ken And His Plastic Sack Suitcase On Tour In France
October 2009

Margie and I set off for Rugby just after lunch on the Thursday to meet up with Sian and Dean, Phil, and Matt. We arrived in good time to find Sian issuing orders to all and sundry, I'm sure a complete stranger who just happened to walk past was instructed to put a case in the car ! Amazingly, we were ready to leave on schedule, so set off for London to collect Back Door Kenny in Tottenham. Ken being Ken, pops out of the door carrying his clothes in a plastic sack as his suitcase.

No problems getting into London, but of course the M25 was a virtual carpark on the way back out to get down to Portsmouth. A little bit of rally driving from Sian for the last hour got us to the Ferry just in time to board almost straight away (Because everyone else was already on board !

Find the cabin, dump the stuff, and do what all sensible people do, go and have a meal. (Ha, you thought I was going to say go to the bar didn't you !), then we went to the bar. It was about 8.30pm and the 'live entertainment' in the bar had already started. Dear God, a poor vocal duo, a very bad magician followed by a pub singer. It meant Margie went to bed almost immediately, and I of course went back to the bar. Despite the cabin having bunk beds, and you needed to be a dwarf to not bang your head if you are in the top bunk, I slept quite well. The Ferry docked on time and we left with no problem (In fact I didn't even notice where the Customs people were, we just appeared to drive straight out into France.).

I was going to try and write this part of the blog in French, but have had to admit defeat, so I'll just carry on in English. We drove for an hour or so with Sian leading the way because her satnav spoke French so it knew where we were going and eventually stopped for coffee in a charming little town called Pontivy. Having first visited a Patisserie so that Ken could indulge his passion for French bread, and Margie and Sian could get cakes, we wandered round the town looking for a café to have a coffee. As the ladies of the group were making all the decisions we ended up an hour later at the first café we saw, and discovered that the waitress was English !

Another hour's drive saw us arrive at the site. It was a very clean, modern campsite with chalets that have got Prestatyn, and even the new caravans at Cleethorpes, beaten hands down. Really good accommodation that we couldn't find any fault with at all. We even found our Weekender programs, the weekender CD, and a free bottle of the local cider waiting for us. (By the way, we had four CDs, so if anyone wants a copy just PM me)

By now it was almost 10 pm, when the first allnighter started, so off we set, to discover we are the first ones there, we were quickly followed through the door by Suzanne, her sister and brother in law, and Paddy and Liz. So the first people to arrive in the venue, and at the bar were the twelve English (I'm including Phil Shields as English to save having to write one Northern Irish every time) people on the site ! Mind you, it was free beer for the DJs, and the locally brewed beer was called Britt !

Tanguy and Loren, who were the promoters DJ'ed for the first two hours and to my immense delight showed that the R & B side of things was popular in France. Then Phil Shields did his first spot, followed by Lionel Girard from Paris. It was now midnight and the place had started to fill up. Matt Smart followed Lionel, to be followed by me. Then came Christophe Bidaud, a guy I'd never met or heard of before. But he played a fantastic set that was really unexpected. Phil, Lionel, me, then Loren and Tanguy finished the night off.

Overall the music was top quality throughout the night. All of the French DJs played some big records, and could all DJ as well (But none of them used the mike). Sixties almost exclusively with a decent mixture of R & B to Oldies, rarities, and even quite a few unknowns. It did make me wonder whether most of the dancers actually knew any of the records they were dancing to, but hey, what the hell does that matter as long as they are dancing.

Talking of which, there was some highly imaginative dancing by the French. Certainly not what you would see over here. Talking to one of the French dancers on the Saturday, she explained that Northern Soul wasn't really part of their culture, it's part of English culture, so dancing to Northern Soul in an English way wasn't part of their culture either.

Guess who the last dozen people to leave the venue were when it finished at 6am !

Saturday morning arrived late, so we decided to all go out for the afternoon. In France, a country with a long history of culture, fashion, and food, guess where we went ? Wherever you thought of, you were wrong. We went to a record fair ! Kenny had been given his pink bucket and spade (He wanted to go to the beach as well), so wandered round the record fair with the spade, said he was crate diggin'. On the way back he came up with a really surreal comment...

Ken "It's weird where the wheels are on this van"

Margie "What one at each corner"

A quick stop at a patisserie so that Ken could stock up on fresh bread and we were back in time for the afternoon session.

DJs for the afternoon were Ken and Andrew 'Paddy' Hadfield, originally from Wigan. Ken played his usual eclectic mixture of things ranging from R & B to the odd bit of Seventies and Crossover, Paddy played a really well put together set of Crossover

Sian decided to do some display dancing, and show them how it was done, well actually she was just dancing until we encouraged her a little bit. Little did she know Margie was also filming. The results can be seen below. She couldn't understand why we were laughing hysterically until she sat down and was shown the video. I'm sure I'll pay for this at some stage in the future, but it was worth it.

We wandered off around 7pm to get something to eat, wash and change, and were back in the venue by 10.15pm. And yes, the first dozen people in the place were all English again.

It was the same DJ line up as Friday, but with the addition of Philippe Lezineaud for one spot, and again the music was top quality all night. I've been to allnighters in the UK that haven't come anywhere near the quality of things played both Friday and Saturday, and all off original vinyl as well, so all credit to Loren, Tanguy, Lionel, Christophe, and Philippe.

It was on the Saturday night that the only down note of the whole weekend crept in, and it was down to a half dozen French who were to say the least, pissed. It wasn't that they were deliberately causing trouble, but they were on the dancefloor all through the early part of the night, bumping into people, deliberately on occasion, and to the point where a couple of people were actually knocked over. OK, it wasn't an English dancefloor, so English dancefloor etiquette didn't apply, but it became a little annoying, both to us, and to the French who did want to dance properly. Fortunately by 2am, most of them had burnt out and left the floor to the proper dancers.

Margie wanted to leave at 5am, but I gather the last ones to leave the venue all had UK accents !

We weren't leaving the site until the Monday, so had the whole of the Sunday free to do some sight seeing. Off we went to the nearest city, Concarneau, and the 'Closed City'. It was a walled fort that stretched out into the sea from the rest of the city, full of quaint little tourist trap shops. One of these in particular sold every type of sweet and chocolate you could imagine, they even had sculptures made of chocolate in the most exacting detail. We were really shocked though when Sian suggested licking part of the anatomy of one to see if it tasted of sugar.......I thought she was a good Catholic girl who didn't do things like that !

Back to the site, via a patisserie for Ken, and then onto a local bar where we stocked up on beer for the evening. As we had to leave at 4.30am for the ferry it was quite a restrained evening with virtually everyone in bed by 10.30pm. The torrential rain started at about 2am and woke every one of us up. Now you wouldn't have thought that would be much of a problem, except the campsite had a barrier with a code to get on and off, and the power was turned off between 11pm and 7am, so the car and van were parked outside the barrier, which was about a quarter mile from the chalets !

Margie came up with the solution, we 'borrowed' the sun shade umbrellas from the chalets to get to the cars whilst we loaded the records and the last of our stuff up. So if the campsite owners are wondering where the sunshade left leaning against the venue door is from, it's out of G11 !

What must have been a quite stressful drive for Sian and Phil, pitch black, pouring rain, and the wrong side of the road, was successfully undertaken and we arrived at St Malo in plenty time for the ferry. We had Sian and Dean, and Margie and me in our van, which meant Phil, Kenny, and Matt were in the car. Now we sailed through the French customs no problem, but didn't see Phil come through and had visions of them being stopped and searched. Phil's car in bits on the side of the road, Kenny arrested for kicking off when they put the rubber gloves on for the body search, and Matt claiming that Phil and Kenny were gay and his parents ! As it turned out they had been stopped and asked a few questions, but they asked at Kenny's side of the car and his dulcet Barnsley tones just confused them. Apparently they asked where they had been, and the only answer Kenny could come up with was "campsite", so they let them through anyway.

Onto the Ferry, and it actually sailed ten minutes early, a quick breakfast and then do what all good non-driving people do, we retired to the bar. We were sitting outside in the smoking area when Kenny decided to brag that he would be home before everyone else. It was as he leaned back with a smug expression on his face that the plastic chair he was sitting in decided to just collapse under him with a load bang. Cue helpless laughter from me and Matt made even worse when we realised that Kenny couldn't get back up again. It really was one of those moments where you laugh so much your face hurts, even the other people on the deck were howling with laughter.

The live entertainment on the way back was even worse. There were so few people in the bar that the first group only did one song and cleared off, they didn't do the quiz, which just left the pub singer. He slaughtered a few songs then wandered over to us to "have a chat with the lads in the corner" . I'm sure our mixture of accents confused him, after all there was Kenny with a strong Yorkshire accent, me from Lancashire, Phil from Belfast, and Matt from Rugby. He tried to get a laugh from the rest of the 'crowd' at our expense, and then said "If anyone wants to take the mike feel free". So I did. I took the mike and walked straight out of the bar (It was a good thirty yards) and left it on a window cill and walked back in without it. He wasn't quite sure what to do, but eventually realised I wasn't going to go back for it, so had to admit defeat and slunk off to fetch the mike. He didn't bother us again after that !

Straight through Customs again, and then an easy run back to Rugby where Margie and I swapped cars and drove home.

We had a brilliant weekend, with loads of laughs. The company was great, and although I had a distinct feeling that I had swapped John Weston for Kenny, it wouldn't have been half as much fun without him. My thanks to 'Mummy' Sian for doing all the organising, it made a really nice change for me to be able to just sit back and enjoy the trip, and of course my thanks to Loren and Tanguy for inviting me. I hope I was what you were expecting !

Finally, the one I, as a Northern Soul DJ, am most proud of doing. Last year I achieved a lifetime ambition to take the music home, and DJ in the States.

Over 40 years of listening to, collecting, buying, and DJing black American Soul music, and thanks to Matt Weingarden (And Jessica) I DJ’ed in New York last September at Botanica.

The reason I decided to write this article now, is because of a booking I have later this month in Paris, at the Magic City Soul Club. It got me thinking that I’d been really fortunate to have received invitations to DJ all over Europe, and how much I’ve enjoyed each and every one of those bookings, and I’m looking forward to my first booking in Spain in the near future as well !

I started DJing at my local youth club, and eventually worked my way up the hierarchy, getting better spots each year. Then an allnighter followed, then a weekender, then The 100 Club, then my first booking in Europe, so the only thing left for me to achieve was to DJ in the States. It took a few years to get from the youth club to New York, but what a journey to have undertaken. Great friends, great music, great times !