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.