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.
Madchester Ultimate Mix / 2Hrs Of Madchester Music #vevo#compilation#music#madchester#indie#hacienda
MANCHESTER and MUSIC – Manchester’s youth, the Soul Mods started the appreciation of Black American music in the city in the 1960s, mainly emerging from The twisted Wheel Club and its influential DJ Roger Eagle.
Elton John in Bluesology appeared backing many Stateside artists and later said you had to make it in Manchester at the Twisted Wheel – as it was the premier location for Blues and Soul artists to play in the city. The location that was the genesis of Northern Soul. Manchester SOUL.
Even Eric Clapton appeared on several occasions; first with John Mayall’s Blues Breakers, then with The Yardbirds and finally with Cream at their very first gig. John Mayall was from Macclesfield (near Manchester) and years later Ian Curtis formed Joy Division in Macclesfield.
But without any doubt it was Soul music that dominated in the city in the 1960′s; at The Wheel. Other clubs too followed the trend of soul in the city: The Jigsaw, then the Blue Note which was instrumental in pioneering all things STAX as well as featuring many Soul 45’s that were later ‘Discovered’ by the 1970s Wigan and subsequent Northern Soul crowd!
Mick Hucknall Manchester United FC fan called his group Simply Red after the team and his first manager was Roger Eagle.
Bob Dylan was called ‘Judas’ when he went electric at the cities Free Trade Hall.
Also at the Free Trade Hall the Sex Pistols did their first major Gig: hardly anyone came, but Tony Wilson was there, later he started Factory Records and opened the Hacienda Club.
Rod The Mod: did his first gig here
Rod Stewart did his first ever gig at the Twisted Wheel in 1964
Alexis Korner had a residency at The twisted Wheel
Manchester Music Keeps On Keeping On
The 70′ had “I’m Mandy, Fly Me” by 10cc in the pop charts in 76, and in the punk era who could forget the fantastic Alberto y Los Trios Paraguayos, The Buzzcocks, Slaughter & The Dogs , John Cooper Clarke, Ed Banger & The Nosebleeds. Great memories of the Electric Circus – some bugger pulled it down and demolished it! That means that only Foo Foo’s remains as the only remaining original Punk Location in the city.
The Smiths got going in the city in 1982 with their sad songs, even inspiring local comic Bernard Manning to do a version of their: ‘Girlfriend in a coma’.
The scene went wild: MADCHESTER….The Haçienda club (Factory Records), the Happy Mondays, Inspiral Carpets, Northside, The Stone Roses made up the scene and the story was told in the 2002 film 24 Hour Party People.
Oasis: those mad Manc Gallagher brothers formed the group in 1991after first being in Rain, which was a good name for a Manchester band! They never did do their promised: single: its Pissing Down Again!
End of the Joyous Period
Joy Division: became New Order after the death of Ian Curtis in May 1980. A three piece band, Sumner (guitar, synth, vocals), Hook (bass and vocals) and Morris (drums). Its said that sumner couldn’t play guitar and sing at the same time! But they managed somehow.
M People celebrated the Soul in Manchester: Their first album, ‘Northern Soul’; contained several singles, including “Colour My Life”, “Someday” and “Excited”
There are tours of the city stopping at places where it all was happening: but most locations are if not already vanishing. The City council has no regard for the cities music heritage selling off the Free trade Hall to become a Hotel, and repeated this disgrace with the location of the Whitworth Street Twisted Wheel. The Hacienda is now a block of up market apartments. Hmmm must have been some bent reward in it for councillors, there’s brass were there’s mucky business.
You’d a thought that the city council might want to keep some locations of the cities music heritage for tourism promotion? like Liverpool with its Cavern and all things Beatle; but maybe because the Wheel and the Hacienda were associated with drugs they want to kick over the traces?
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.
Scene At Six Thirty was a local news and entertainment show in the 1960’s. It had many tv presenters in what was the start of their careers on TV – Michael Parkinson, Anne Robinson’s (Weakest Link) Tony Wilson, Austin Mitchell (Grimsby MP).
The programme had lots of great artists appearing; the Blues’ and Folk festival artists that were appearing in the city (Free Trade Hall), The Motown Review,(Filmed at a closed railway Station, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis live in the Studio, and it was the first TV appearance of the Beatles.
Recently the lost archives of the footage from some the shows in the 60’s were found, and Robert Palmer made a programme about a few of them. Sadly he died just weeks after doing it.
Pubs – Manchester – The Nags Head and The Rising Sun were both close to the Brazennose Street Twisted Wheel and many people would get a pass out (an ink stamp on your wrist) to go out for a pint during early Saturday night and weekly sessions. In these days of wine bars and brasseries it is amazing that they are both still standing.
Famous people we saw in The Rising Sun (The Nag’s Head was more popular with the Oasis Club crowd) included:
The show was begun by Booker T and The MGs, then joined by The Mar-Keys (Last Night, Grab This Thing, Philly Dog). Then Steve Cropper introduced Sharon Tandy (replacing Carla Thomas who was originally booked on the tour but was ill). Sharon did a good version of Johnnie Taylor‘s Toe Hold.
Steve Cropper got a standing ovation, and looked genuinely amazed that we knew of him! Over thirty years later I went to the tenth anniversary Blues Festival at Colne in Lancashire, here Steve Cropper announced how he remembered playing on that occasion in the North of England. He went on to say how he remembered the rapturous applause for him when he was announced by the compare Johnny Walker (who I think had replaced Al Bell?). ‘Colonel’ Cropper said the audiences in England were the best. Amazingly he then went on to sing On The Dock Of The Bay which he wrote in 1967 with Otis Redding when touring in Europe. It was a one of those magic moments.
And it never did happen again!
The first poster above (kindly donated by Mel Smith of Manchester) is from 1967 when Otis and the Stax Show came to Manchester. What a night! The Palace Theatre on the corner of Whitworth Street and Oxford Road had the foyer filled with Manchester Soul Mods and black Stax faces. Otis towered above them all, literally; he was a big bloke!
He was the last act that night Thursday 23rd of March 1967 following Sam and Dave. How could he follow that staggeringly good performance? After such a magnificent show from the Dynamic duo, swinging their arms around like a double mad dose of Pete Townsend. But Otis did surpass them. Dressed in a bright red suit, he made us cry, as he dropped to his knees telling us how he had been loving too long to stop now.he made us sing.. when he gave us respect… he made us clap… when he told us how weary she was in that same old dress… he made us dance when he told us he was Mr Pitiful.. he made everyone join in when he did that sad song Fa Fa Fa Fa Fa. He showed us his soul and soon he was gone..
Unlike the Manchester soul clubs Mr Smiths was licensed and a genuine nightclub with the usual assortment of dodgy looking characters in keeping with the club scene of the time. Part of the excitement was mingling with people with a less than savoury background.
It was rumoured that the Kray Twins came up from London to see the club – (see below) although there has been some confusion about this – there was a Mr Smiths Club in Rushley Green, Catford which was supposed to have been bought by Manchester business men – possibly Dougie Flood and Bill Benny. In 1966 there took place ‘The Battle Of Mr Smiths’ which resulted in deaths and led to the revenge attack at The Blind Beggar pub in Whitechapel.
A rather old fashioned service that was run in Mr Smiths was a photographer running round taking pictures of couples as a keepsake. These days, of course, this would probably be outlawed on the grounds of invasion of privacy, particularly if the meeting was illicit.
Our own experience of Mr Smiths included an unforgettable night with an appearance of Clyde McPhatter who started his gig with a wonderful rendition of Such A Night made popular by Elvis Presley.
At one time, the resident compere at Mr Smiths was the redoubtable John Cooper Clarke, the ‘punk poet’ who first started his career courtesy of Bernard Manning at the ‘World Famous Embassy Club’ on Rochdale Road, Harpurhey. More details can be found in his wickedly funny autobiography, ‘I Wanna Be Yours’. John Clarke as we and our fellow mods knew him, was an apprentice compositor (printer) and attended U.M.S.T. at the same time as we did, although not in the same class. He was always known for his very smart appearance (I think he even sported a pocket watch and chain) and was a dead ringer for Pete Townsend of the Who when we saw him in The Twisted Wheel. I might have had nodding acquaintance with him but we didn’t move in the same mod circles (he was from Salford).
Mr Lowry was once my grandmother’s rent collector.
My granddad drove the number 17 bus from Manchester to Rochdale in the 1950’s as well as the 110 Trolley Bus that went to the Gardner’s Arms.
When I left school in 1962 the coffee bar scene was in full swing in Manchester. The best place to go was the Cona coffee bar in Tib Street.
Lunch time dancing was started at the Manchester Plaza (by Jimmy Savile).
(Ugly) Ray Terret was the DJ at the Oasis. The club that first had the Beatles in Manchester (22 February 1963). In fact they had been on almost a year previously but nobody knew who they were.
Dave Lee Travis became the DJ at the Manchester Cavern (He would drive around in an old USA army Jeep – a poor imitation of Jimmy Savile who had a ‘home made (modified) white, Rolls Royce.
But best of all Roger Eagle the DJ at the Twisted Wheel in Brazennose Street was introducing a generation of Mods into the the Blues and the Soul.
Rowntrees owned four clubs, Top of the Town, Sound, Stakis and Spring Gardens.
Dingwall the Chief constable said the city’s clubs were patronised by ‘Individuals of exaggerated dress and deportment, commonly known as mods, rockers and beatniks’
– what all in the same club?
Later Chief Constable James Anderton set about closing the clubs but he never investigated the Twisted Wheel being more interested in drinking dens. Eventually he became a figure of fun – an old testament prophet complete with enormous beard. Other policemen have stated that this was a misguided policy – they knew where all the villains hung out and could visit them at any time.
Northern Soul Grilled Cheese in Manchester - Rate My Takeaway Episode 14
Manchester – home to Soul Music – Northern Soul as it is termed now began here in Manchester in the mid nineteen sixties at clubs such as the Twisted Wheel and Blue Note. The Jigsaw, Rowntrees and Bolton’s Boneyard etc in fact most ‘Beat’ Clubs favoured soul music at that time.
Today artists such as M People and Simply Red have grown up and out of the cities cultural links with a strong soul scene.
Without doubt the instigator and originator was Roger Eagle the legendary Twisted Wheel DJ. It was Roger’s enthusiasm and knowledge of Black American music that made the place the epicentre of the cities love affair with Blues, RnB and Soul and all focused at the Twisted Wheel. The club was located just of Albert Square (location of the Town Hall) in Brazennose Street.
Paul/Dave Outside The wheel ’65
Today very close to it’s now demolished location ironically stands a statue of Abraham Lincoln; the great American president who freed the black slaves, which eventually lead in the 1920’s to a massive migration to the North, to cities like Chicago and Detroit to find jobs in the emerging mass production centers. Taking their spiritual and gospel roots to these places looking for work in the automobile factories and giving birth to the eventual sounds that would be recognised and played and sort after, thousands of miles away by white kids in a drab northern town in England.
The Brazennose Street Twisted Wheel started in 1963 until 1965. It started playing pop. Predominantly beat music. In late or early 1964 Roger Eagle became the DJ and started out in his mission to bring American black music to the club, Jazz such a Jimmy Smith, Blues like Muddy Waters were mixed with early Motown releases and Rolling Stones and Beach Boys tracks. Live bands played like Alexis Korner, Georgie Fame and the Blue Flames. It all added up-to a unique sound and location: a coffee bar upstairs already in a cellar then going further down into a sub- basement cellar for a series of dance rooms and stages for the live acts.
Roger introduced a generation to the blues and live performers like Sunny Boy Williamson and John Lee Hooker. He found, imported then played hundreds of obscure R & B artist’s recordings. Eventually setting the scene for soul music domination at the club by the time of its closure in late 1965. By this time the movement was established. The place was a hotbed of Mod activity and style. Everything that followed was in place at that time; recordings by artists supposedly discovered many years later and christened ‘Northern Soul‘ had already been established here and by Roger. And Roger and other club members imported USA records, which according to many books on the subject today claim only happened at the end of the decade! Others, who obviously had no clue that the first Twisted Wheel had been the wellspring of their culture, have made many misleading statements like they discovered Major Lance!
The Wheel closed in the centre of the city and re-opened down near Piccadilly station on Whitworth Street opposite the Fire station HQ were Roger increasingly moved to ‘Soul’.
Anyway this website will show that the originals were Manchester Mods who along with DJ’s and especially Roger Eagle were unearthing massive amounts of American music long before they re-discovered our music then claimed to invent it all five years later!
For those with a historical accuracy interest and those with an open mind this website ought to prove useful.
Far from knocking ‘Northern Soul’ we are full of admiration for it, as it continues our own great interest in the music. Especially favoured by us are the efforts of Ian Levine in his monumental work to document the original artists on his Motorcity CDs and the DVD collection: The Strange World Of Northern Soul.
But before we return in praise of ‘Northern Soul’ as currently understood, and we will, we need to rant and get a few things of our chest..
It is true that Northern Soul found many great tracks we missed, but they do not value to the extent we did the tracks we found and played, their obscurities go rarer and rarer to unearth what we couldn’t, due to the fact that we were living inside a vital and concurrent living scene. With many if not all the accepted today as major soul stars being’ discovered simultaneously then. Had we had any access to warehouse in the USA that stored hundreds even thousands of deleted 45’s I bet we too would have found many of the same ones, since discovered.
We imported USA singles; we searched out tracks in second hand shops and bid for 45’s in postal auctions. Always predominant were the sounds of the Drifters, The miracles, The Supremes, The four tops Booker T and the MG’s…and so on..hundreds of major soul artists.
This Website may annoy some people as it points out many things that later day soul folks of the Northern Mould are misguided about. Books have been written probably with good intent, yet they omit major facts, or claim to have discovered things already known and fail to remember things like the vibrant Manchester pub and club scene that the Manchester Mods unlike the Saturday Allnighter importees, frequented, during the other six days in a week after the Allnighter. The Old Nags Head and the Rising Sun pub, which Rod Stewart and other Wheel acts frequented, the Town Hall, Tommy Ducks and loads of other pubs, the Favourite Snack Bar in Albert square the Cona cafe. Manchester Mods would frequent and meet for a pint or two, then go to the Wheel, the Jigsaw Club, The Blue Note and lots of other places during the week. Also records were swapped and bought, discussed and investigated for knowledge of the writers, the producers all sorts of semi obscure facets like the originating source USA label identification. Many imports were obtained, often from mail order auction lists. This import aspect is particularly annoying; when some recent Northern Soul books claim that they invented imports only in the late 60’s! One even claims to have exclusively found Major Lance! When we were dancing away to “Rhythm” in 64!
Others list records that they discovered, however to put the record straight they were virtually all known long before, unbeknown to these people as many of these guys came along at the very end of the Manchester scene. They may not have heard them due to their ‘late’ entrance to the soul scene, as often many became displaced by more popular tracks (at that time) or simply the new wave of DJ’s just did not have them in their private collections. We prized original labels and recordings USA imports and original UK label releases were prized above all. These you simply could not get from shops that one book says everyone frequented like Ralphs and Barrys record shops; we had long since cleaned them out and were mining almost secret shop locations for back track vinyl. Many sounds we valued then still go unnoticed often ‘B’ sides that were extremely popular but probably diminished in their airtime by the late 60’s. These and other sounds will be listed here in this database. Whilst taking a few swipes at our ‘Northern Soul friends’ we do like them really AS THEY LIKE OUR MUSIC, WHICH WE STILL LOVE. They may keep the faith – we started the religion!
The Soul City label proprietor Dave Godin gave credence to ‘northern soul in 1971when he visited the Wheel. But this is not anything to impress us, he came too late by around five years approximately, and we at the time did not particularly regard him in high esteem, as he was a re-release merchant; with his Soul city label – whilst we, arrogantly no doubt, wanted the originals after all we were the In crowd and the originals and the greatest!
Northern Soul had its Genesis at the Twisted Wheel, it is a fact. It began from the sounds played there by Roger Eagle, then others and including Paul Davis. Pop, Jazz Folk was predominant in the early days 63′ to early 64′ with jazz and blues, then in late 64′ this moved away from pop to heavily blues influences, and soul began to predominate at the end beginning of 65′. The Mod scene predominated; Mod groups; the Stones Spencer Davis, Georgie Fame. By late1965it was the soul music that entirely dominated in many places in the UK in London and in Manchester integrally connected to the Mod scene. Manchester was the quintessential soul location, but the end loomed as the Brazennose Street Wheel closed in late 1965. No one thought it could be better, or even the same. But 1966 at the New Wheel in Whitworth Street was probable the peak of the soul Allnighter scene. In 1965 the last live session at the ‘Old’ Wheel as it affectionately became known as was The Spencer Davis Group. They had always been firm favourites and of course did many great tracks that were all played at the old and the forthcoming ‘New’ Wheel. It was fitting that when the club re- opened at ‘almost the corner of London Road and on Whitworth street it was Spencer Davis that was the live band.
1966 was also the peak year of soul music releases, by this time the Twisted Wheel and Roger the DJ had generated the core of the music soul scene in the city and set the course that followed leading to the name Northern Soul. Although lots of obscure and hard to find artists and tracks were played, the dominant sound was the concurrently emerging mainstream soul artist’s; The Four Tops, Temptations, Miracles, Otis Redding and so on..slow soul and rapid dance soul it was all inclusive.
1967 and 8′ continued the scene with a similar intensity but not quite matching the ‘buzz’ of 66,and 65′ but by the end of 68′ it started to diminish with most of the originals, leaving the scene for other interests, or simply just worn out. The Blue Note paralleled the Wheel. in music content 66 to 68 but by the end of 68/ mid 69 the Reggae supporters crowd had disrupted things and the soul content was diminished.
The Wheel kept going until around 1971/2 but the original crowd by this time had been completely replaced. Following the closure of The wheel, Northern Soul became the buzz again and went underground and started up at Wigan Casino 1974.
Recently these folks who came along after us have issued books, with all sorts of inaccuracies and wild claims; like they discovered artist we had introduced and played their recordings, statements like these later day Soul people saying they were the first to get imported records, when The Wheels legendary DJ Roger Eagle was importing them at their USA time of release!
The simple fact is that few of them were active in 65/66/67 the golden years of the Manchester soul scene and the few that claim to have been there could be suffering from memory loss. A large percentage of what these folks claim to have discovered were known but less played as they had to rub shoulders and compete with far better tracks from major soul stars and so were squeezed out of the major impact hit lists of the club DJ’s at the time.
Soul did not stand still only rooted in the 60’s. The Northern Soul scene appears in the main to only value obscure soul tracks that are just rare. Obviously some are fantastic and without this scene many would have been lost, but compared to the live and current scene in those core years when hundreds and hundreds of high quality sounds were issued cannot ever be the same as digging out those that did not surface fully at that vibrant time. The conclusion is that this secondary follow on scene found far, far, less great tracks than we did, and the insult is that they value their finds as greater! Just human nature I suppose. The other attribute of this scene that insults soul music is the steadfast ignoring of new great soul artists and tracks from established ones that have emerged since the sixties, the answer seems to be that only rarity is the value sought and not quality.
Northern soul has steadfastly ignored great pop soul. Seeking out copycat imitators of Motown drums, cymbals, and tambourine styles, formulaic rather than originality.
It’s about rarity not talent one off wonders not consistency and most of all the cult of the DJ who introduces such rarities.
In Northern soul you never see listed Sam Cooke or Otis Redding and others in their top fifty or five hundred great soul listings because they are so popular they are easily acquired, but the mistake they make is that these great fantastic artists are at the heart of soul, and putting retrospective rarity as the main criteria leaves massive holes in the soul repertoire. Its this dismissal of the value of the major artist that shows that the emphasis is on rarity manipulation, repetitious seeking out of one hit wonders, and then making out they are better than highly and widely acclaimed soul artists. Its as if these great artists never happened! When they and their music was the Genesis of Northern Soul.
If you put all their tracks and all the rarities we discovered in those core years onto an imaginary scales and put all the Northern Scene ‘legitimate’ discoveries onto the other I can tell you it would be very on sided!
But please do not think that we condemn the ‘Northern Scene, no we love it but we want the record put straight and we want the truth to be seen; it is a hyped up scene benefiting those that promote and gain from discovery and then repeated plays of rare vinyl. No doubt without it no new blood would be introduced and the cult of belonging to an underground rarity cult would have petered out.
This website has been put together to put the record(s) straight. Too many books and some websites claim all sorts of inaccurate things and especially ‘finding’ recordings that we had heard many times long before these were then re-discovered, later – at the wheel long after the core golden periods had set the style the scene and played and discovered the core soul sounds from 1964 to 1968.
Both Twisted Wheels (and the Blackpool Wheel) And the Blue Note club were instrumental in locating and playing thousands of soul records many were first time discoveries, and many that now are mainstream were in fact difficult to find at the time! The likes of Stax Atlantic Motown and the soul releases of Stateside were often even then hard to obtain, as records could be deleted fourteen days after their release date.
The artists and the tracks we favoured are all listed at the top of each page within this database, you can see for yourself who was great, who was in, and what was played.
We have nothing against the later- day Northern Soul crowd, apart from their scruffy image. Manchester Soul Mods would never have turned out in such a raggedy state. We managed to dance in suits.
Mod’s were modernists, not like Northern Soul’ers who are backwards looking at sixties rarities. If Mod’s happened today they would have embraced modern things like MP3’s They would have played CD tracks and they would have valued the content over the container, is the vinyl more valuable than its content the song?
However it is they the Northern Soul crowd, who have ‘Kept The Faith’..our faith. And it is they that have brought about the ongoing scene to this day and along the way brought out many worthy tracks that we did miss, apart from our view to set the basic facts straight, we hold them all in high esteem.
The database on this website reflects the full range of music played on the Manchester Soul scene, some pop, some Jazz, certainly blues and it shows the range of included music but of coarse depicts in the main the seam of soul music as the most predominant.
The tracks high lighted at the top of each page were certainly played and those in capitals or other highlights were the most popular, also please bear in mind that at that time the main stream soul singers that Northern Soul ignores as though they did not exist certainly dominated then with all their 45’s constantly on the turntable and often quite a few LP tracks too. You only need to notice the dates on the recordings to see which ‘Wheel’ was playing them first!
Mid 1966 and Roger had left the ‘New’ Wheel and best remembered by us is his replacement Paul Davis. Roger went briefly to the Blue Note taking his record collection with him and setting up that club as the inheritor of his brand and style especially collating and playing the Stax sound alongside the Motown predominate style of the Wheel. (In fact Roger opened his own club called STAXX due to his appreciation of the label).
DJ’s Dave&Dave followed in the tradition of Roger, at the Blue Note; their combined record collections easily matched Rogers as they had been buying and collecting whilst being adherents of Rogers since the old wheel in 64.
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