The Strange World Of Northern Soul
Sad to see all these artists so old but that’s what time is doing to us all. Although lengthy and sometimes repetitive this box set is really great. Full of all sorts of information and performances the only goes to prove how crazy we all are about this music and how doggedly Ian Levine was to trace and research and record it all for posterity.
For those of us old enough to have gone to Twisted Wheel in its golden era, some of the statements made about the club by those who didn’t, does stick in the craw somewhat.
The DJ Saxe is correct about the Jewish lads they were better off than most of the others. Being the DJ at the Wheel helped if you were Jewish, the Wheel and Blue Note were Jewish owned. But when he says that Roger Eagle did not kick start of Northern Soul then he is sadly mistaken. It sounds just a little bit to me like jealousy.
As for the Wheel owning a massive record collection, much of this is a fiction. Yes they did have a big collection of UK released LP’s and singles but the real collections and really rare stuff and imports were the private property of the DJ’s.
Paul Davis had a great record collection and worked mostly on the early shift on Saturday nights and did the weeknights too. He loaned records to the Allnighter DJ’s. We would often see him in Piccadilly bus station with his hold-all full of his 45’s and we talked and swapped information, waiting for the all-night bus. Often I had just finished at the Blue Note and I had a similar bag full of records.
The Wheel and the Blue Note owners had an account at Ralph’s Records (keeping it in the Jewish family so to speak) and DJ’s from the Wheel and Blue Note could buy records using this account. I know for certain that the club owners used to ask Ralph to buy the same records for the club that the DJ’s often bought for their own collections! However, most of our record collections had been built up from other places and unlike some old record shops Ralph’s did not keep a back catalogue of non returns. (A shop could return records for a rebate against new releases). We had been collecting records since 1962 and Roger Eagle from much further back.
Brian Raye was an Allnighter DJ after Roger left He was there fromn 1966 till 1968’and there were a few others who also did stints. But it was not the DJ’s that made the scene at the Wheel, as Ivor Abadi says (on the DVD) it was more the atmosphere in the club, the people, and the records a unique mixture. The DJ’s just played the sounds and didn’t have a great deal of kudos, in fact, the way the club was constructed with a series of rooms and the DJ in a ‘Wheel’ cage along a back wall, you hardly ever heard them and it was easy never to see them at all!
Roger Eagle without doubt was the Godfather of the soul scene in Manchester and that ‘scene’ in the sixties gave birth to Northern Soul. Without his influence may be Northern Soul would never have reached its status of today.
Northern Soul has changed from its root to a kind of cult which seems to be based around rarity and obscure USA imports.
The people who on the DVD reminisce about the Wheel are (mostly) not those that attended in the golden age of 1964 – 1968. The records that Roger discovered and the mainstream soul artists of the day were well covered by him. He constantly imported USA singles. As an example he obtained all Stax releases as they came out in the USA even opening his own club in Manchester, inspired by the label but spelt STAXX.
He was the one who introduced the Motown sound to the Manchester soul crowd in 1964/65 (the sound that Northern Soul derives from today) and many, many records that are classics of Northern Soul were well known, and played by him, long before the self appointed experts on the DVD had been ‘probably’ allowed to by their parents to go to the Wheel as their experience seems to mainly come after 1968/69 when imports came in much greater numbers and had to fill in the gaps in record collections due to DJ’s leaving, and to the club’s own library being stolen.
They started again but with imports whereas the old DJ’s and the clubs collection were mainly UK releases, and mostly very rare today.
Maybe it is the fate of old timers to become cynical about the next generation thinking they have reinvented areas of human knowledge. On the DVDs they say appear to believe that these tracks were discovered by themselves when they well known in the past. Do they believe that we had never heard of Leon Haywood? For example just because
One particular guy (Dick Watts) on DVD one, said that the Wheel played NO IMPORTS and only had one Bobby Bland LP. This is plainly not the case. Roger had brought Bobby Bland to us in 1965 with Good Time Charlie. Roger and many of the guys who frequented the Wheel were obtaining imports from the USA, but not on the scale as described in the film at the end of the sixties and the early part of the seventies.
Having said all that, we are of course fully supportive and knowledge the great sounds and the energy of the soul scene due to these people who kept the faith, discovered thousands of great tracks that we did miss, whilst we at that time had moved on, got married and had families and jobs to keep.