Anniversaries are prevalent in the Northern Soul World. This year there has been a lot of noise regarding Wigan Casino’s 50th and Morecambe Pier’s 40th. However, it seems to have gone unnoticed that the place where it all started The Twisted Wheel Club, Manchester opened its doors for the first time 60 years ago on the 27 Jan 1963. The all-important trademark Black Music all-nighter was held later in that year on 28 September 1963.
Please see the attached link The Twisted Wheel Anniversary soul source.pdf for more details.
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"A good and comprehensive review of the second location of the Twisted Wheel - I ought to know I went there from 1963 the first Wheel and regularly until 68' being the dj at the nearby Blue Note club visiting the Whitworth St club after finishing to watch the fantastic acts at The Wheel after midnight on Saturdays up to 71'. That last night with Edwin Starr. My own book about the period is The Manchester Wheelers".
If anyone would like a copy of the book £15.00 by PayPal F&F POST FREE to Soul Source members please send a personal message
Rob Mckeever aka @Chapelisland
THE TWISTED WHEEL CLUB MANCHESTER 60TH ANNIVERSARY 28-9-63
A Brief Introduction from the Book 6 Whitworth Street Manchester, the Birthplace of Northern Soul
Anniversaries are prevalent in the Northern Soul World. This year there has been a lot of noise regarding Wigan Casino's 50"" and Morecambe Pier's 40' However it seems to have gone unnoticed that the place where it all started The Twisted Wheel Club, Manchester opened its doors for the first time 60 years ago on the 27 Jan 1963. However the all important trademark Black Music all-nighter was held later in that year on 28-September-1963.
The club was born out of the London Mod clubs specifically the Scene Club where Roger Eagle The Wheels first DJ visited before settling in Manchester. When he first arrived in Manchester, he struck up a friendship with a Roger Fairhurst; a fellow enthusiast As their friendship grew Fairhurst would visit Eagles flat where they would listen to records and according to Fairhurst.
"We got a bee in our bonnets about the fact there was nowhere to go and listen to this stuff. All the clubs in Manchester were playing beat/pop stuff The Beatles had started by then, it was ok in its own way, but not our thing. We had heard about Guy Stevens and the Scene Club in London and we were thinking why we can't do that".
The Scene Club was a small club in Ham Yard, 41 Great Windmill Street, Soho. Its R&B nights started in 1963 fronted by Guy Stevens who also sold R&B imports at the club. Stevens was a revolutionary player in UK R&B. At the Scene Club, he played obscure R&B records which attracted a growing number of Mods and musicians, including members of The Who, The Small Faces, The Yardbirds, The Rolling Stones and The Beatles. Richard Barnes in his book 'Mods' states
"It was exciting at The Scene there were lots of interesting people. The DJ Guy Stephens, the man with the best R&B collection in the country was playing some of his precious rare records. He had the best records before anyone else. I used to go along with [Pete] Townshend to his flat in Regents Park to hear records that the High Numbers [later The Who] might want to play on stage or record. He had hundreds of albums and piles of singles from unknown and remote small record companies. For a fee he would tape the ones you wanted".
When Eagle started his DJ career at the first all-nighter held at the Wheel on Saturday, 28th September 1963. He recalled: "That was the first time ever that a place [in the UK] played almost 100% Black music. It was danceable [music]. I had to keep people dancing for 7 hours and there weren't many Soul and R&B records about at the time, the bands played for 45 minutes [on that particular night Graham Bond Quartet and Spencer Davis]. I played Little Richard, Black Rock and Roll and Rhythm and Blues. The first few weeks were dismal, as they were attended by a scruffy bunch of ex-Left Wingers"
However, after about a month, following their customary few drinks in a nearby pub the two Rogers, Eagle and Fairhurst (who also DJ'd), set off for the all-nighter. As they turned in Brazennose Street, to their surprise they were confronted by the sight of a large crowd. Initially confused, they soon realised that people were queuing to get into The Twisted Wheel; there was even a coach from the Midlands. Word had spread that this club, on a Saturday night was offering something different. The two of them soon realised they had created by design, or accident, a new musical experience, at least for Manchester. The Wheel was playing sounds that could be heard in few, if any other, places outside the USA, possibly with the exception of the Scene Club and a few others in London. Even in the not so mobile 1960s, people would travel by any means possible to hear exclusive or rare music and to dance. They had inadvertently set a tone for the Northern Soul DJs of the future, where exclusivity and originality were paramount.
Although initially, the club was primarily attended by Mancunians, as word spread from the mid-'60s onwards, the club attracted youngsters from all over the North of England, North Wales and the Midlands, travelling by whatever means they could. They subsequently took the music back to their home towns. They collected (as best they could) the records they heard at The Wheel which they then played in local pubs and clubs. Like missionary zealots, they spread the faith, but it wasn't that difficult as people were readily converted. One such person was Carl Woodroffe who started going to The Wheel in November 1964 and continued until 1965. He later resumed his visits to The Wheel at Whitworth Street in 1967. Carl himself was a pioneer who took Northern Soul to the Midlands under his DJ name, 'Farmer Carl Dene'. He was responsible for starting the Soul nights at Chateaux lmpney,
from January 1965-1967, and the legendary Catacombs Club, Wolverhampton, which he started in October 1968. He recalls his early visits to Brazennose Street:
"The music at The Wheel was far superior to anywhere else and the atmosphere very special. When we first went, the dress code was very casual, but it seemed to change overnight. A few weeks after I started going the Mods had adopted the club and the dress code became smart, very smart. Musically everything at that time came out of The Wheel".
There is certainly evidence to suggest that The Wheel was setting the trend. Eagle was quoted as saying that Peter Stringfellow, manager/DJ of Sheffield's well regarded R&B club, King Mojo, brought a pen and paper with him when he came to The Wheel to write down the artists' details and song titles to buy the same records to play at the Mojo.
The Brasenose location closed and moved across town to Whitworth Street 11"" September 1965. By coincidence, the move to Whitworth Street was musically 'right-on- time' as far as UK releases of Black Music were concerned (imports at the time from the USA were either difficult or impossible). The Atlantic Record Company, one of the all-time great Black music record labels had sixteen releases in 1964 but over fifty in 1965. Although the company was registered in New York the music and artists came from the Southern (USA) States. Atlantic had set up a distribution agreement with Stax in Memphis and this is where most of the label's material came from. The Mods took to 'Southern' Soul with its edgy, double meaning lyrics with gusto and so did Eagle accordingly this type of music persisted for some time at the Wheel, until around 1967
Also in 1965, the Tamla Motown Label (TMG) was launched in the UK.
The label was the creation of Berry Gordy, but the name was suggested by Dave Godin. Godin founded The Tamla Motown Appreciation Society in the UK and was later recruited by Gordy as a consultant. Tamla Motown was an amalgamation for UK releases of his US labels, Motown, Gordy, Soul and V.I.P. Previous Motown releases in the UK had been on Oriole, Fontana and (mainly) Stateside. In that year TMG released 48 records. In the same year, other US labels with a presence in the UK had noted an increasing popularity in Black American music and followed suit. In 1965 Okeh, the R&B label owned by Columbia Records in the US released R&B and Soul music on Columbia UK
Similarly, Sue UK (apparently advised by Guy Stephens of the Scene Club) increased their releases but remained for the time being an R&B label. London, the UK subsidiary of US Decca, licensed material from US labels such as Imperial, Chess, Dot and Atlantic. In that year London released: Lou Johnson, 'Unsatisfied', The Soul Sisters, 'Good Time Tonight'; and Willie Mitchell, 'That Driving Beat'. Similarly, the HMV label released 'Woman's Got Soul' by The Impressions and two tracks by The Sapphires, 'Evil One' and 'Gotta Have Your Love'. All subsequently became Wheel classics.
Arguably the most respected UK label amongst Northern Soul followers was the Stateside label, owned by US Warner. In 1965, Stateside released over one hundred titles, which included a significant number of R&B and Soul recordings. These included Wheel favourites such as: Alvin Cash & the Crawlers, 'Twine Time'; Gene Chandler, 'Nothing Can Stop Me'; The Invitations, 'What's Wrong With Me Baby; Mickey Lee Lane, 'Hey Sah- LoNay'; and The Three Degrees, 'Gotta Draw the Line', etc. These and other records found there way to The Wheel where Soul music was starting to make an impact.
1966 brought a flood of releases. In particular it, gave the first glimpse of things to come when TMG (Tamla Motown Group) released Stevie Wonder's 'Uptight' in January and, a few months later, The Miracles' 'Whole Lotta Shaking in My Heart'. Both what would later be termed 'floor-shakers'. A term possibly first used by future Wheel DJ, Brian Phillips, to describe some of the records for sale on his lists back in the early '70s. Even the 'King of Rock and Roll' Little Richard was recording Soul records on the UK Columbia label by 1966 with 'A Little Bit of Something' and 'Poor Dog'.
Some of the content released on Tamla Motown tended to be of a commercial variety, particularly by Motown's biggest act, The Supremes. Although a lot of Motown was played at The Wheel, as the 60s progressed the crowd preferred the more uncommon releases such as Barbara McNair, 'You're Gonna Love My Baby'; The Temptations, 'Girl, Why You Wanna Make Me Blue'; The Contours, 'Just a Little Misunderstanding'; Marv Johnson, 'I Miss You Baby'; Gladys Knight, 'Just Walk in My Shoes'; The Velvelettes, 'These things Will Keep Me Loving You'; and Marvin Gaye, 'Little Darlin' to name a few. All of these recordings became enduring Wheel favourites and arguably, in technical terms, some of the best Motown produced.
After the move to Whitworth Street, Brian Phillips, who was soon to DJ at the club, noticed a change in Wheel personnel;
"The Brazen nose Street crowd had moved on, a younger element had arrived and they were demanding up-tempo records".
It was during the latter years of The Twisted Wheel at Whitworth Street that the term Northern Soul was first used. Dave Godin, an influential Black music fan, literary critic and visitor to The Wheel, used the term in his articles to differentiate between the type of Soul music then being played in the South (of England) to that in the North. It was first publicly used in Godin's fortnightly column in Blues and Soul magazine, in an article entitled 'The Up-North Soul Groove' (June 1970).
The club's reputation had stretched far and wide, and there were few towns and cities in the North, Midlands, North Wales and parts of Scotland that were excluded from its members' address list. Phil Saxe, who was a regular, then a DJ at the club from 1965-71, estimated that by the late 60s "50% of the attendees were from the Manchester area and 50% were from out-of-town".
No one, on a first visit, could fail to be mesmerised as they walked downstairs to the basement and into the DJ room early doors, to see the dancers in full flow. Fast and furious footwork, arms flying in the air interspersed with spins, drop-backs and the splits, at times complemented with spontaneous handclaps. At work the following week, some of these dancers would almost certainly be shrinking violets but, at that very moment in time, they were masters of their own Northern Soul universe, filled with a confidence and a look of invincibility that amphetamines readily gave.
Undoubtedly the dance style came from North America. According to Rylatt and Scott (authors of CENtral 1179), Alvin Cash & The Crawlers of 'Twine Time' fame, performed drop-backs, spins etc when they appeared at The Wheel; from then on, the crowd followed. If there are any doubters that Northern Soul dancing was inspired by Black artists then, with the benefit of hindsight provided by technology, we can lay that argument to rest. You can now observe on YouTube, Jackie Wilson's performance live in 1965, dancing and singing to 'Baby Workout', spinning, doing the splits and drop-backs with natural ease. Similarly, watch the 1963 recording of 'Monkey Time' by Major Lance, as he effortlessly displays his footwork 'Northern' style around the dance floor or any number of James Brown videos showing his finesse at the splits. Not only did Wheelers follow the music of Black America but also the dance moves. In 1967, Motown was massive at the club. Barry Turner was DJ'ing at the all-nighters and his repertoire contained at least 30% Motown records.
Until 1968 with some exceptions the Wheel plays were UK releases due to the lack of knowledge and logistics of importing records from the states except by a few 'in the know' individuals. However from 1968, imports were starting to 'come over' in a steady stream. One person, in particular, to take advantage of this was Brian '45' Phillips, who was responsible for introducing more rare imports to the club than any other DJ. Phil Saxe, with record collector Rob Bellars, also played a part by introducing amongst others: Jackie Lee, 'Darkest Days' (a Carl Woodroffe discovery); Sandy Sheldon, 'I'm Gonna Make You Love Me'; Gene Chandler, 'There Was a Time' (also by James Brown); Joy Lovejoy, 'In Orbit'; Larry Williams and Johnny Watson, 'Too Late' (Two For The Price Of One LP) and The Isley Brothers, 'Tell Me It's Just a Rumour' (Soul on The Rocks LP). It was common at The Wheel, that members brought in their own records to be played that the club didn't have; accordingly, the club had many new discoveries that came via this route. For Instance, Dave Godin on his famous visit brought The Adlibs; 'Nothing Worse Than Being Alone' and Sandy Sheldon 'You're Gonna Make Me Love You'. Ian Levine brought: Wingate's Love-In Strings, 'Let's Have a Love in'; J J Barnes, 'Please Let Me In'; and Rose Batiste, 'Hit and Run'. A number of the titles mentioned have proved to be enduring Northern Soul records.
Live artists were an important feature of the Wheel's format. Numerous Black artists appeared at the Whitworth Street, Saturday all-nighters at around 1.30am-2.00am and announced with great fanfare. Probably more Black performers appeared at the Wheel than any other UK venue. At Whitworth Street, there was a gradual shift from R&B, to Soul artists as the '60s progressed but not entirely.
In 1967 'new' Soul acts were introduced with The Spellbinders, Alvin Cash & The Crawlers, Mary Wells, Junior Walker and the Vibrations. In 1968 Robert Parker, JJ Jackson, James and Bobby Purify, Ike and Tina Turner, The lkettes, Clyde McPhatter, Oscar Toney Junior, The Showstoppers, and Johnny Johnson and the Bandwagon. Similarly in 1969 Billy Stewart, Marv Johnson, The Platters, Jamo Thomas, Jimmy Ruffin, The Shirelles, Fontella Bass, Arthur Conley, Percy Sledge, and the one and only appearance of Northern Soul icon Major Lance. Probably the most respected and talented performer was Edwin Starr; Starr a big personality, who was an impressive vocalist and a talented writer. His records were Wheel anthems: 'My Weakness is You', 'Back Street', 'Agent 00 Soul', 'I Want My Baby Back', 'Way Over There', '25 Miles', 'Stop her on Sight (S.O.S)', and 'Time'. One of his best was '24 Hours to Find My Baby' from the 25 Miles LP; it was never released on a 45 and, as a consequence, remains underplayed to this day.
Ultimately, due to perceived? drug abuse, there was an air of inevitability about the club's closure. Manchester Corporation's introduced a restriction that any club in the Manchester area was forbidden to open between 12 midnight and 12 noon. Thus making the The Wheels Saturday all-nighter illegal and as this was the only functioning event at the club, closure was inevitable. The final appeal failed; the last all-nighter was 30" January 1971.
As far as Whitworth Street's Saturday early session and all-nighters are concerned, the main DJs, after Roger Eagle were: Bobby Dee, Barry Turner, Brian Rae, Paul Davis, Brian Phillips, Phil Saxe and Les Cokell.
In the history of The Wheel at Whitworth Street, one Northern Soul DJ stands out; Brian '45' Phillips. He is credited with introducing rare Soul, (by fellow and the longest serving DJ Paul Davies) especially imports, and it seems that at the time, nobody dug deeper to look for records more than Brian firstly as a DJ then as the first Northern Soul dealer. He had records no one else did. According to one member "It was a time when the Wheel was struggling with a lack of records, some were getting played three or more times a night when Brian started DJ-ing he made a difference". As Brian himself explained:
"In my time DJ-ing at The Wheel, imports were becoming more and more prevalent and accounted for around 35% of my plays. Soul imports started surfacing in the mid-'60s, turning up in obscure places, especially market stalls in London, where I visited on a regular basis. I went frequently on a Saturday getting the early train and returning on the last one. There were regular market stalls I used to visit, Record Comer in Ba/ham was a good source but I never had much luck at Soul City. Many shops seemed to have soul records in the 60s, I remember going into a book shop in Manchester and there was a stack of Okeh records lying on the floor".
"I dabbled in selling; swapping and dealing since the beginning of my involvement with The Wheel, say late '66. I remember in 1968 supplying Rob Bellars and Phil Saxe, but from 1969 I really got into it. Initially, I got most of my records in the UK. Later, as I established contacts in the US I imported directly from the States, sometimes 500 records at a time and started issuing lists. I had contacts in Philadelphia, LA and Jacksonville, another source was Martin Koppel in Canada who I forged a loose relationship with and got many from him. I supplied The Cats ([Catacombs)] guys at one time, Bob Crocker and lan Peiera. I had been interacting with Bob Croker for some time swapping records we were both obsessive about Soul records. The Cats were rivalling The Wheel for musical content in the late '60s. I also supplied The Torch DJs, Colin Curtis and Keith Minshull. Keith used to send someone from Stoke to collect them as he couldn't drive at the time. Ian Levine was a good customer".
Even after all these years, five decades of discoveries by dealers and collectors scouring every inch of the USA in search of records, many of the Wheel's records have a proven enduring quality. In Kev Roberts' book, 'Northern Soul Top 500', the Top 20 contains eight Twisted Wheel plays, as follows: 2-Dobie Gray 'Out on the Floor'; 5-Jimmy Radcliffe, 'Long After Tonight Is All Over'; 8-Garnet Mimms, 'Looking for You'; 10- Chuck Woods, 'Seven Days Too Long'; 11-Billy Butler, 'Right Track'; 15-Tony Clarke, 'Landslide'; 16-Larry Williams and Johnny Watson, 'Too Late'; and 18-Willie Tee, 'Walking up a One Way Street'. There are no less than 34 Wheel plays in the Top 100 and a total of 126 in the books' Top 500. The choice is, of course, subjective.
The Clubs Legacy
The lamented closure of The Twisted Wheel was far from the end of Northern Soul. Perhaps the most important part of The Wheel's immediate legacy was reviving the careers of Black America's forgotten artists. The Wheel was responsible for some UK Records re-releases in 1970. The Artistics, 'I'm Gonna Miss You' (MCA); The Contours 'Just a Little Misunderstanding' (TML); and Little Hank 'Mr Bang Man' (Monument), all saw UK chart success on the back of Twisted Wheel plays.
After The Wheel's closure in 1971, the momentum continued. The UK R&B charts compiled by Blues and Soul magazine were awash with Twisted Wheel classics including Bobbi Lynn, 'Earthquake'; Jackie Lee, 'Shotgun' and 'The Duck'; The Formations, 'At the Top of the Stairs'; Mel and Tim, 'Backfield in Motion'; Tony Clarke, 'Landslide'; and Ramsey Lewis, 'Wade in the Water'.
More importantly in the same year, there were some commercial breakthroughs in the national charts for records that 'flopped' on their original release. Tammi Lynn's 'I'm Gonna Run Away From You' reached number four in the UK Top Twenty Singles Chart. The Elgins 'Heaven Must Have Sent You' (TML label) reached number three. The Fascinations 'Girls Are Out To Get You' had three releases, on Stateside, Sue and Mojo; the later release and most successful of these reached number 32 on 3'° July 1971.
Northern Soul icon, Jackie Wilson, had three subsequent re-releases of 'I Get the Sweetest Feeling', a Brian Phillips discovery on import. The first reached number nine in 1972 (MCA); the second, number 25 in 1975 (Brunswick); and finally on the third release, number three (SMP) in 1985.
Even eighteen months after the club's closure, in June 1972, Blues and Soul magazine's Top 60 British R&B Singles (new releases) included:
Ramsey Lewis, 'Wade in the Water'; Donnie Elbert, 'A Little Piece of Leather'; Joy Lovejoy, 'In Orbit'; Earl Van Dyke, 'I Can't Help Myself'; The Sapphires, 'Gotta Have Your Love'; Phillip Mitchell,' Free for All'; Jimmy Holiday and Clydie King, 'Ready, Willing and Able'; Homer Banks, 'Hooked by Love'; Fontella Bass, 'Rescue Me'; Little Anthony and The Imperials 'Gonna Fix You Good'; and Roscoe Robinson, 'That's Enough'. All these records were played at The Wheel and over the following years the list just kept on growing.
Numerous clubs in the North and Midlands evolved as a result of The Wheel's clientele taking the music back to their towns and cities and starting their local scene; in Carlisle, they even named a club The Twisted Wheel after the Manchester one.
At the Wheels closure The Catacombs Club, Wolverhampton, which had been rivalling The Wheel for musical content in the latter years of The Wheel's existence, assumed the mantle of the UK's premier Soul club, reinforcing the Midland's Northern Soul scene. Outside of Manchester, most Wheelers from the North migrated thirty miles west to Blackpool, where upstairs in The Blackpool Mecca, The Highland Room was dedicated to 'rare Soul' .etc
The Wheel was instrumental in inspiring most 'things' Northern Soul: exclusive records, the dancing, talc (for the concrete floor), badges (originally worn on blazers), the traditional handshake and holdalls for the travellers. It spawned the first UK Black music magazine, R'nB Scene, and the first bootleg records on the Soul Sounds Label. Also 'the enders' (last records of the night) the most famous of which was Jimmy Radcliffe's 'Long After tonight is all Over' (borrowed from the London Mod clubs).
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