THE CONTOURS - JUST A LITTLE MISUNDERSTANDING (RARE VIDEO CLIP)
A DJ and an empty dance-floor. It’s just before the club opens. There are two mod girls in the cloak room to take the overcoats of the punters coming down the stairs. I put on a slow record onto one of the twin Garrard record decks: The Soul Children with “The Sweeter He Is”.It’s a long track and gives me time to sort things out. I turn to my open holdall. Inside are the records I have brought for tonight; lots of vinyl 45’s inside. The box is a long wooden one designed to protect the precious cargo. I get the next record out and put it ready on the other deck: “When Love Slips Away” by Dee Dee Warwick – the year is 1969 and I have been doing this since November 1967 and I would continue until part the way through 1970.
The Soul Children begin to fade out. My concentration moves to the second deck. I get the needle ready to descend right down onto the next spinning disc, it’s hovering right over the beginning of Dee Dee, it drops and a seamless interchange is made.
Sometimes I would hold the rubber mat with my fingers the metal platter spinning below, the record stationary on the rubber ready to go when I released it as the other track on the playing deck fades, and my released one steps up and takes over the audio thundering out of the clubs speakers. If you wanted to talk in here you had to shout into my ear.
Getting people dancing is the aim, one record often does it. When enough people are in the club I shift the tempo up. Motown always works; I put on The Isley Brothers “This Old Heart Of Mine” several girls get on the dance-floor. Its a safe bet to play what the girls like whenever there is an empty dance-floor, the girls lead, the blokes follow. Soon the place was rockin’ and a great atmosphere is emerging.
A DJ can make mistakes in a club that is focused upon dancing. Once you have people dancing it’s the DJ’s job to keep things moving, playing a wrong record and it can all disintegrate. Of course this happens from time to time, it’s inevitable when introducing new sounds. Once the floor is moving there can be no gaps in the music, no delays one song must merge into the next, gaps allow dancers to stop and choose to walk off . No point in introducing records or talking about them; a Soul DJ has to reduce his ego and be anonymous.
At the end of the night you need to feel the right time to introduce slower music, in this club with its real-dance floor – unlike the Twisted Wheel – people could get close and dance together smoothly. Looking back many relationships even marriages began this way right here.
And I like slow Soul ballads.
I started here because I had always wanted to be a DJ and I loved Soul music.
I had been a Blues and then a Soul fan from the early days of the very first Twisted Wheel in Manchester.
In 1967 returning from a two week holiday in Torquay, my girlfriend Denise got a job at the Blue Note in the cloakroom, and when there was a DJ vacancy she suggested me.
Roger Eagle was the first DJ at the Blue Note after his bust up with the owners of The Wheel. He took his record collection to the new club and set the scene there for a concentration on Stax records. After Roger there was for six months Lez Lee, who left leaving the club without a DJ, so the owner John Fogel stepped in. But he had few records and little appreciation of the Soul scene in the city. My girlfriend’s suggestion gave me the opportunity to continue the spread and range of Soul music there. I had a large collection of 45’s, EP’s and LPs I had been collecting for may years.
I worked there: Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Tuesdays and some Thursdays. I didn’t do the All nighters, instead I got my pal from my day job, AVRO in Chadderton North Manchester to do the graveyard shift: DL Dave Lomas.
Stax, Soul and Cool, Cool Music
We continued the Stax theme and we imported records from auctions for deleted USA singles (45’s) The Blue Note was responsible for emerging lots of records that then caught on at the Twisted Wheel and many where later taken up (discovered!) on the subsequent Northern Soul scene.
1964 saw the first ever FANZINE for Blues and Soul music and its artists. R & B Scene – Roger Eagle was started by Roger Eagle, with a little help from his friends. Roger was the eclectic DJ at Manchester’s Twisted Wheel club: the epicentre in the North of England for Mod culture, Blues, R&B and Soul music. The club and its music play list inspired by Roger became the birthing centre for what we know today as Northern Soul.
Guy Stephens London Scene club DJ and Sue records manager was a pal of Rogers. Roger Fairhurst and importantly Brian Smith (photographer) contributed to the magazine that Roger sold for a shilling at the ‘Wheel’ and the nearby coffee bar: The Cona.
Brian Smith with Screaming Jay & Henry the skull
R n’ B scene: Twisted Wheel advert
Some of Brian Smiths(c) Photos:
Brian Smith’s book- BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM: pictures of the artists at the Twisted Wheel and others: see Brian Smith Fan Photographer.
That title must have something to do with John Lee Hooker who appeared several times at the first, Brazennose Street ‘Wheel’.
FEATURING : Johnny Guitar Watson, Big Joe Turner, Chuck Berry, Screaming Jay Hawkins, Little Richard, Bo Diddley, Jimmy Reed, Hubert Sumlin, Howlin Wolf, Buddy Guy, John Lee Hooker, The Rolling Stones, Carl Perkins AND MANY MORE. However its been in the pipeline for years and no sign of it?
Brian’s pictures featured in Roger Eagles R&B Scene.
Millie Small (“My Boy Lollipop”) with Roger Eagle 1964. Photo (c) Brian Smith, Brian sent me lots of his photographs for use within my various Soul / Twisted Wheel websites.
The Golden Torch Collection - Northern Soul Classics #stayhome #savelives #withme
The Torch – Stoke on Trent was The Golden Torch ballroom – Northern Soul venue in the seventies, Stoke on Trent. Every Saturday there would be a convoy of mods making the trek from areas in the Midlands such as Stoke and Stafford up the M6 to the Twisted Wheel in the sixties which may have been influential in the re-emergence of a Soul venue in this neck of the woods.
The first All-nighter Soul venue to get going for the displaced Soulies after the closure of The Twisted Wheel in Manchester.
But it didn’t last long and closed in 1973 passing the Northern Soul All-nighter baton to Wigan Casino.
Some of the memorable 45’s played there are on this CD:
The place that brought back Soul music all-nighters after the closure of other locations (primarily The Twisted Wheel) was the Wigan Casino. It became the 1970’s epicentre for Northern Soul all-nighters.
After the closure of Manchester clubs like The Twisted Wheel (and The Blue Note), the soul all Nighter scene moved to Wigan after a few months at the Torch. Here the search for ever more obscure recordings became more of the fashion than the original wider known recordings.
Today Northern Soul is experiencing another revival. In the past the Northern Soul musical appeal has focused mainly upon up tempo sounds.
I suspect that as these aging fans slow down (like us older original Wheel survivors) they will ‘discover’ some of the slower richer soul in many an overlooked soul ballad. Slow soulful numbers were always popular in the 1960’s, many of which are listed in this database.
What an Amazon reviewer said about this CD: I love these northern soul compilations. Apart from the “beats per minute” requirement then pretty much any thing can end up on them. In the seventies these records certainly widened my taste in music and made me sweat in a wild blaze of euphoria on the dance floor. Let’s face it – some of the vocalists are bad You can hear them straining to get their 2 1/2 minutes of fame – bless’em and many of the tracks are derivitive . But then again all the effort can produce something uplifting. A lot of these sounds were produced by small labels on a shoestring budget.The instrumentation, playing and production is dire in some cases but on nearly every track there is something to love – a bassline, an organ sound, some groovy guitar lick, great horns etc… O.K. so you could buy a Motown compilation instead but you won’t have so much FUN. The sound quality doesn’t seem too bad either. Dance on….if you’re still able. Keep The Faith
The Twisted Wheel – Blackpool Yes, there was a Twisted Wheel club in Blackpool. I remember a group of mods on scooters parked outside who decided that the fashion of the day was to wear school caps. The sight of these guys in parkas and various coloured and striped caps was bizarre will stay with me for ever.
I always thought that Soul Clubs had to be cellar dives (best with condensation dripping down from the roof and walls as for instance the Wheel in Manchester) and this one was upstairs over a block of shops, on Coronation Street with an ordinary cafe on the ground floor. I remember being stood on the pavement outside the club when someone from somewhere across the street threw a bottle of beer at me which just narrowly missed my head.
Never one to miss a business opportunity, Ivor Abadi, owner of the Manchester Twisted Wheel, organised a coach trip there on at least one weekend (it could have been a bank holiday). If I remember correctly the club was run by his father. I can only remember Edwin Starr being played upstairs on the dance floor and The Impressions being played in the coffee bar downstairs. It did not stay open long but good fun while it lasted.
The first time I went to the Blackpool Twisted Wheel on Coronation Street: the DJ had so many requests for SWEET SOUL MUSIC by Arthur Conley (It had just been released in the UK on Red Atlantic) that I guess it was played on that mid afternoon session well over half a dozen times.
According to the Jethro Tull Tour Schedule (1965-1969) the group appeared at the Blackpool Twisted Wheel club on 12th June, 1966.
However, much later, the Blackpool Mecca became a venue for later Northern Soul fans in the 1970s and so Blackpool fans had a local soul club ..for a time.
Second only to the Twisted Wheel, the Blue Note carried the torch for Soul music in the city from 1967 to 1970 (it did continue to 1971 but at that time it became more varied and more Jamaican music influenced). It was a typical cellar soul club, not very big but with a very loyal clientele and a cool selection of music.
The Blue Note has never achieved the kind of notoriety of the Twisted Wheel but in many ways it was its equal in starting and developing what today is known as Northern Soul, certainly in its choice of music.
The DJ who opened the club was Roger Eagle who left the twisted Wheel as its premier music director to launch the nearby new club. He focused greatly on Stax.
Roger got a few parcels of free 45’s direct from Jim Stewart at Stax in Memphis after writing to him. This enabled Roger to be the first to introduce and play quite a lot of Stax material at The Blue Note.
After Roger left to start his own club STAXX on Fountain Street Manchester(1967).
Stax tracks played at the Blue Note at the time included:
Mable John: Your Good Thing / Able Mable.
Albert King Cold Feet / I Love Lucy
Johnnie Taylor: Toe Hold / Blues In The Night
Sam & Dave: Hold On I’m Comin’ / You Got Me Hummin
Derek Martin: Soul Power
The DJs that followed Roger were well versed in Soul Music and expanded the club’s repertoire, launching many of the classics and many also of what became known as Northern Soul collectibles. They also started to import ’45s from the States and formed a company to import and sell some of the rare singles they managed to acquire. One of the most successful sales was for The Dovells track You Can’t Sit Down which was played by Roger back to back with the Phil Upchurch version, a combination followed at the Blue Note.
What A Man/Bring Your Love Back To Me: Lynda Lyndel.
A note from the former Blue Note DJ’s:
Hi, Its Dave and Bob here, both of us were DJ’s at this club in the Sixties, along with our pal Dave Lomas: sad to say he passed on a few years back.
The first night at the very first Twisted Wheel had the Manchester pop group The Karl Denver Trio performing Wimohwey.
The club would become famous as the placethatstartedoff the movement that became NORTHERN SOUL. By early 1964’with its new DJ Roger Eagle, it was all about the music. One track that was repeated often and reverberated out into the street outside of ‘our’ secret home, (secret from our parents that is, most of us not even sixteen!), was Willie Mitchell’s Secret Home: but this club wouldn’t remain a secret for long as it became one of the most famous dance clubs EVER!
In a northern town in a county far, far away (from London, the acknowledged birth place of the Mod movement), where it was said to be grim and unwelcoming, something stirred that still reverberates today. Soul music was worshipped long before it was bequeathed its ‘Northern’ title.
The guy who was really responsible for it all was Roger Eagle, the Twisted wheel D J and fanatic supporter of all types of black American music. Although it was the Abadi brothers Ivor and Jack who owned the club, it was Roger who booked the acts through an agency and played the often imported 45s – many of which could now command a small ransom.
The Twisted Wheel’s first incarnation was as a ‘Beatnik’ joint – the Left Wing Coffee Bar. When it re-opened as the Twisted Wheel in September 1963 it still attracted lots of Beats or Dossers. They dressed in dark Duffle coats or ex-army combat jackets with an obligatory university scarf and frayed cut off bell bottom jeans and a rolled up sleeping bag for the All-Nighter.
Bell bottoms became a fad at the club for quite some time as early Mods also adopted them, without the frayed ends. The chat up line used by anyone in this non-conventional uniform was usually “I’m on the road”. Presumably these mainly middle class weekend dropouts knew their Jack Kerouac from their Alan Ginsburg.
Allnighters on Saturdays were rapidly introduced. This suited many of the ‘Dossers’ as they slept at the sides of the many rooms in the Wheel, heads resting on duffle bags, some in sleeping bags with no general use of amphetamines at this stage in its evolution. Sunday mornings the Club organised hiking trips by coach from the Wheel to local beauty spots such as Whaley Bridge – shades of the socialist element of the ramblers movement!
It shouldn’t be assumed that Allnighters were all-encompassing. Many Mods didn’t enjoy the effort of organising a ‘lost weekend’, preferring instead to go nightly – sometimes three or four times a week.
The Twisted Wheel membership was eventually quite considerable – you even had to wait 24 hours to join and it cost ten shillings. The club did not serve alcohol, just Fanta Orange, coke and coffee. The first time at the club I had to be signed in as a guest. To become a member you had to fill out a form and pay your ten shillings, then you got your ‘Red Card’ in the post.
By 1964 the card had become a round one with a twisted cartwheel printed on the front and your details on the back. Each year the colour on the card was changed. How I wish I still had the one I got Sonny Boy Williamson to sign, just a few months before he died! His obituary was in Roger Eagle’s RnB Scene under the strap line: He Died With His Boots On.
The music evolved, moving from its roots in folk and jazz and a smattering of pop, to blues and RnB and sixties groups playing cover versions of American blues and RnB tracks. Roger Eagle’s instincts for American RnB were allowed to flourish and guided the club’s playlist direction. It was Roger who introduced a whole generation to Jimmy Smith, Sonny Boy Williamson, Little Walter, Elmore James, John Lee Hooker, Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, Jimmy Reed, and many more – the first UK RnB boom.
Later Roger introduced Soul records as RnB and Blues gradually diminished in popularity in the US. Ska and Blue beat also began to make an appearance, with some Surf 45’s too.
Style in the shape of Modernism: The Mods evolved at the Wheel to morph into Soul Mods, distinct from the same movement begun by their London ‘cousins’.
The Club was still a coffee bar during the day and a ‘beat club’ at night. Many office staff used to spend their lunchtimes dining on mushrooms on toast and Welsh rarebit with hot chocolate drinks while listening to the best US music in the country.
One legend who was due to appear but never made it was Cyril Davis. His signature tune was a harmonica instrumental called `Country Line Special’ which was attempted to be copied by many of the young boys who had bought their Echo Vamper, Marine Band and Honer harmonicas in the futile hope that the tune would just sort of appear – it rarely did. He was due to appear in January 64′ . I already had his EP and we managed to get tickets but Cyril died before he got to the Wheel as a result his – Country Line Special – became even more popular.
In those early days a mixture of white UK live artists with recordings by the Rolling Stones, Beatles, Motown, Surf and Dragster, even pop chart and folk tiles formed much of the music played. The place itself was in a cellar, painted black, walls and ceilings usually dripping with condensation. Coke and cappuccinos were served upstairs in the coffee bar with its Cona machine, chrome steel basket chairs and coffee in thick glass cups, with the jukebox playing lots of great sounds. Cool, eclectic, and elitist!
Alexis Korner became the resident solo artist during the week and could be seen for 2/6 (12 1/2 pence).
By mid 1964 the influence of Soul became dominant with the rise of Motown and Stax and Atlantic records others prominent were the Sue label and of course the soul releases on EMI’s Stateside. The sounds of Booker T And The MG’s: GREEN ONIONS merged with: STONED by the Rolling Stones.
The Mod scene was here – The Twisted Wheel became its epicentre in Manchester. Fashion tended to change almost weekly – Desert Boots, see-through plastic macs, airline bags, cycling tops and hundreds of other fashion changes rapidly replacing each other. Manchester Mods were not far behind the London Mod scene, covered in the TV Show Ready Steady Go and occasionally Londoners would come to the club for a weekend. The pop music played was influenced by blues and early Motown and Stax. The originals even at that time were very rare records – the radio never played Soul and hardly any record shops had heard of the artists although now and again the local record shop might accidentally end up with a copy of a sought after track.
Once I nearly got into a fight over a copy of Every Little Bit Hurts by Brenda Holloway in a shop more accustomed to selling Bing Crosby and Matt Munro. “Green Onions” – you want the green grocers mate!” Getting excited by black musicians was seen as not quite the thing in those days. But that sort of attitude simply encouraged us to seek out 45’s by black American artists.
The mainstream soul standard classics of today were at their time of release often quite rare and difficult to find and soon deleted. This eventually led to the situation at the end of the 1960’s when collectors sought anything rare just for the sake of it, recordings with a rarity factor being hyped up beyond their merit and often would not have made the grade at the Wheel in its heyday (1964 to 1968).
Moved to another location – Whitworth Street Manchester
When the Brazennose St,. Club closed in 1965 with John Mayall as the last live band, everyone thought that was the end of a brilliant era. It was scheduled to reopen on the other side of town in Whitworth Street opposite the Fire Brigade headquarters but no one believed it could ever be the same.
In the event it was a different club – better if you were into soul and recreational amphetamine use – worse if you still craved RnB and Blues. It was ironic that the ‘New’ Wheel was so close to the fire brigade headquarters as the city council had used fire regulations in an attempt to close down the ‘Old’ Wheel’. They wanted it shut down because of drug user rumours – amphetamines had just begun to be used as a method of staying alert at All-nighters – rather in the manner of fighter pilots using Benzedrine during World War Two.
Today, close to the location of the Brazennose Street Wheel stands the statue of Abraham Lincoln standing almost in front of the Pub that most of the acts frequented – the freehouse: The Rising Sun. And, to the eternal shame of Manchester Council, there is no plaque to mark the spot – either here or on Whitworth Street. Future generations will no doubt wonder how this could possibly happen.
The evolution of soul culture that today has massive following (Northern Soul) began here starting at the ‘Old Wheel’ in Brazennose Street and moving more and more into total Soul sounds at the ‘New’ Wheel in Whitworth Street. I remember that at the end of the last session of 45’s in Brazennose Street Roger played Jimmy Smith’s Walk On The Wild Side.
The first live group at Whitworth Street was Spencer Davis and Gimme Some Loving was deeply associated with Twisted Wheel Allnighters.
Soul music predominated, but with a smattering of the old stuff: blues like Jimmy Reed’s Shame Shame Shame and Scratch My Back by Slim Harpo and a few others from the past scene made it through to the new era, but some like I’m A Lover Not a Fighter by Lazy Lester: even though – it was “built for speed”…
It is true to say that many dancers fuelled their all night sessions with amphetamines. You must remember that these were legally prescribed at the time for anything from depression or a pick me up (mother’s little Helper) to a slimming aid and were often available from the home medicine chest (I kid you not).
Everyone introduced themselves by their Christian name followed by the town they had come from. A sort of very friendly togetherness: these days this is seen as well known effect of amphetamine use.
It was the music and the atmosphere that was THE core reason for going to the Wheel All-nighters. For some it was the Mod based ‘In Crowd’ scene and their amphetamine based dance culture. The DJs hardly ever spoke but knew what to play. The owners of the club watched it all in a detached, raised eyebrows, ‘what the heck, let’s not interfere’ kind of attitude. There was no alcohol on sale and as a result it was not considered a true ‘night club’, just viewed as a place for a bunch of kids dancing. The underworld club owners never moved in on the Wheel as they did at other Manchester clubs such Mr Smiths.
Many soul reveller’s would cool off on the fire escape during All-nighters and this is recounted in the book: The Manchester Wheelers. At the end of the All – Nighter the rear doors would be opened to let everyone out and they oozed off like zombies to get a coffee at the train stations or even from the Salvation Army.
All the great soul releases were played at the club and its peak coincided with the peak of soul music releases from 1964 to 68′. By 1969 the original clubbers had moved on – exhausted after years of attending Allnighters.
Quite often parents of missing kids and police would be in the club, searching for drugs asking about missing persons. Now and again an ambulance would ferry collapsed revellers to Ancoats Hospital for a stomach pump and there was the infrequent fatality. Roger the DJ sort of looked down on us as “pillheads”. Newspaper articles about drug abuse continued and the council wanted the club closed. However, before actually closing for the last time in the early 70’s it had a renaissance, with major new imports being found in the USA and played by a new generation of DJ’s including Ian Levine. The birth of Northern Soul was often viewed with amusement by the original pioneers who knew the music simply as ‘Soul’.
Drugs were a blemish on the Soul scene’s ancestry, a fact not to be hidden although seemingly minor compared to the ‘Madchester’ revels that occurred later way down further on the same street – at the Hacienda. Manchester has had a history of excess or exuberance when it comes to alcohol and drugs, in the 19th century it was alcohol, in the sixties amphetamines and in the 80’s it was ecstasy. It will probably continue and there will always be casualties.
The music was the real core of the Manchester Soul Scene and drugs just a dead end which most participants were able to outgrow. Manchester should be proud of its Soul legacy as this story has become a larger worldwide phenomena.
The Soul baton was carried to places like The Torch, Wigan Casino and kept going, refusing to die: well how could it with such a great catalogue of music. The story comes full circle and the Twisted Wheel in Whitworth Street reopened in 2003. Long Live Soul. But no the council demolished the club in 2014 for a German Hotel, same as they did with the historic Free Trade Hall – you can’t trust politicians with the things that the people love!
God bless all those soul artists and especially Edwin Starr who helped make the Wheel what it is – the Northern Mecca of Soul Music. Whitworth Street: former Twisted Wheel entrance – now demolished.
The Manchester Wheelers is a book about The Wheel – by an authentic Wheel-goer from the beginning to the end of the clubs life. Although a novel, it is a genuine and successful attempt to re-create the atmosphere of the golden age of Soul in the North. If you were there, read it – you might even be in it. If you weren’t there, read it anyway and experience the buzz of those days. Most of the things remembered or listed, or memories from others related in the book were lived through by us.
Also for further background and with listings about the All-nighters at the’Wheel’ CENtral 1179 – which was the first Twisted Wheel’s telephone number.
Screaming Jay Hawkins appears on the cover. Unfortunately, there are many inaccuracies as well as lots of great stuff. It tends to pander to Dave Godin rather a lot, as some sort of GURU, when in fact he arrived about five years after the peak original scene.
A new LP released in November 2015:
This compilation has a great track fom Taj Mahal included as a ‘Wheel’ track; but this was only played in the end days of the club. The real version, loved by all the Wheelers was the original by Homer Banks – “A Lot Of Love”. It was “Statesboro Blues” from Taj Mahal that was fully accepted by the Wheel goers, who held almost religious beliefs regarding originality of first recordings. Also I never once heard “Where Have All The Flowers Gone – Walter Jackson, played at The ‘Wheel’ which also features on this vinyl LP; why not Uphill Climb To The Bottom? I can’t help thinking that such folks who do these compilations were never once at the club. Another thing I have to say is that The Impressions never did appear at the Wheel, as stated on this LP’s back cover notes.
Another introduction to the music played at The Twisted Wheel:
THE WHEEL TODAY
2015 – The site of the Whitworth Street Wheel is a new hotel: Hotel One
Here is an email we received from a ‘Wheeler’: Anna Guerrero.
The Twisted Wheel has sadly gone building wise and a Hotel is being erected. My passion for this club is endless, so i wrote to the Hotel One and explained how important this club was, they replied , and are considering putting some kind of memorial in the Hotel about the Wheel. The more attention this generates the more likely it will happen. If you would like to send an e mail to this company thanking them for not ignoring our wonderful quirky history, the more mails more likely it is to happen. email@example.com. Thanks
So lets do it and get 2 it!
Dear Mr. Phillips,
Thank you very much for your message and interest in Motel One.
We already heard about the Twisted Wheel club and its importance for the social history of Manchester.
However, the interior design of the hotel is already complete but we forwarded this information to our design department. Hopefully they will be able to integrate this theme into the lounge area of the hotel.
The design department will reach out to you in case they need any help.
Yes you will have guessed from many of our comments within Soulbot that we went to the Twisted Wheel from its earliest days to the final last night. But not each and every week otherwise we would have burned out long ago instead of still being here to tell the tale.
Our knowledge of that Club and others in Manchester especially the Blue Note club (where we were DJ’s; formed our earliest impressions of Blues, R&B and Soul music. We owe a debt to Roger Eagle the main influential DJ at The ‘Wheel’ – THE BIRTH PLACE OF NORTHERN SOUL.
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