Wholly Holy — Religious symbolism on the Soul Scene.
Bricks and Mortar: Wheel, Torch, maybe Mecca, Catacombs, Cleethorpes but predominantly Wigan. Stafford may be coming through and 100 Club if it ever closes, but if they do, I’ll be making a case for Dunelm House and the Three Tuns.
Tied in to the all-nighter thing is the issue of substances, and while anyone who knows me will confirm I’m no prude when it comes to these matters, it’s unfortunate it’s become part of the mythology of the scene in the seventies, like it was obligatory; while many of us preferred late nights and all-dayers to early mornings.By far the most divisive and destructive ritual on the scene is the worship of vinyl and I can’t believe I’m still writing about this. Admittedly, Music is my religion, but my mission is to hear as much as possible, not to worship artefacts.
Not only is vinyl not the life blood of Soul Music but it’s choking the life out of Soul Music. If Messrs Womack, Green or Dozier want to tell me it’s OK to listen to Jazz, Reggae, Blues etc. on CD, but I have to switch to vinyl to play Soul, I’ll tell them to stop being so stupid.Vinylism is another incidence of discursive practice, whereby those ‘ in the know ‘ are elevated above the rest of us, although none of them can ever tell you why it matters, except to say it’s obvious, normal, natural, inevitable, universal or common sense. I’ve even heard people bemoaning the proliferation of politics in Soul Music and then protest about CDs, which is staggering.
There’s a very famous essay from the sixties called the Medium is the Message by Marshall McLuhan. It was recently discussed on a TV programme where it was claimed they didn’t know what it means and didn’t think the author knew either. I think the author did know and, as an active Soul Fan, I know what it means and the issue of vinyl on the Soul Scene is one of the best examples. For some on the Soul Scene, and not as many as they would have you believe, the act of playing vinyl is more important than the music it generates.
Computers are another case in point where the act of using a computer may be more important than anything you might do with it. Often on the music forums, you come across people who are clearly about as interested in Music as I am in football. It has been commented that nobody ever changes their mind about vinyl, but Colin Curtis has and I have and lots of others too. Some people seem to think that in the seventies we selected vinyl from a range of alternatives, but there weren’t any alternatives and in my experience, the majority of people who were doing it then don’t care. One I can think of, but I doubt if anybody would take him too seriously.
It’s important that those of us who aren’t simply going along with it, shout from the rooftops so vinyl apparatchiks can’t turn it into our problem — it’s their problem - and this includes not humouring people by sticking a slice of vinyl on the turntable while playing a CD, or telling them they’re entitled to their opinion. Like the Emperors New Clothes, it just takes one.
Opinion is nowadays used as an excuse for all sorts of things, but how seriously can we take an opinion whereby music is judged by the format it’s played on. Of course people are entitled to the opinion that the sound quality is better with vinyl, and they can choose not to reconcile their own vinyl collection with their ‘ interest ‘ in Music, but it has nothing to do with them how others choose to play Music; that would be fascism.
I’ve had people who know absolutely nothing about Soul with no interest in it whatsoever telling me it’s an integral part of the culture; but who says?
Chatting with someone recently who did ns in the mid-seventies but now listens to allsorts on vinyl, CD, computer and live, and he thinks it’s ok for ns people to insist on vinyl if that’s what they think. However, who are the people who think this and who gets to decide who the arbiters of ns culture are?
As Super Hans says in Peep Show, you can’t trust people; people voted for the nazi party, people like Coldplay. Taken to an extreme, you could say it was OK for the Nazis to kill Jews or for paedophiles to have sex with toddlers. OK so I’m using hyperbole to illustrate a point, but why should people who essentially missed it, who have nothing more than a second hand myth about NS which has emerged since, get to decide what ns culture is and threaten the legacy and the future by turning it into a joke amongst the wider Music community.
I know someone who went to Wigan in its final years, bought a few records, the ones Soft Cell covered being favourites, but hasn’t been to a Soul Night or bought a Soul Record since, but still knows it’s not the real deal if you don’t hear the needle hit the plastic.Somebody else got into Soul in the late sixties, played a significant role in transforming it from whatever it was into what those of us of a certain vintage recognise as NS; is widely recognised as number 2 from that Golden Age, and has been an enormously important and influential DJ ever since.
Who are any of us to tell Colin Curtis how he should play Music? There are very few certainties in Art and Music but Curtis has 3: Mayfield is the greatest lyricist ever, Superfly is the finest soundtrack ever, and it makes no difference to you that Curtis plays CDs; not a matter of taste or opinion, not a topic for discussion, it just doesn’t matter. Other important players who at least touch base with CDs are the late Dave Godin, Searling, Levine, Chris Hill, Ralph Tee, Russ Winstanley, Tim Brown, Ady Croasdale, Terry Jones, Paul Mooney and Keb Darge and my guess is that some of them, either openly or secretly, are as bewildered as the rest of us by the prejudice.
I have always said, 3 years of NS in the mid-seventies is worth 36 years since, and I won’t be taking lessons in Soul from anybody who started in the nowties or nineties or eighties or late seventies, or anyone who’s always been in the wrong place at the wrong time, or took a 30 year hiatus, or have never seen a live band, or buys the occasional record(ing), irrespective of what they pay for it. Come to think of it, I won’t be taking lessons on any music from anybody.
If we were to line up the most important names on the Soul Scene in the NE, even before the weekenders, Alex gets bronze, silver and gold. . Accept no substitutes, I was the youngest person on that scene by a couple of years for a couple of years. In fact, the demographic of ns nights hasn’t changed for me except that the grownups are no longer 15 and 16 but 50 and 60. . There is hardly anybody else left who has been around more or less continuously ever since. . I’m on video shaking hands with Frankie Beverly. . I was instrumental in the emergence of the weekenders, probably second only to Alex. . When Sam Dees first arrived at Fleetwood he asked for me by name ( which went down well with Alex ). One of the Dramatics told me I have a good ear for Music. . I’ve seen more live acts than anyone I know ( even if you include endless one hit wonders at countless weekenders ). . I’m fluent in all areas of Black Music except Gospel, perhaps because of my atheism, and hip hop which I consider the punkrock of Black Music. . I am almost as prolific in Jazz, Rock, Blues and Reggae and listen to almost every genre of Music you can name. . I have nurtured 2 multi-instrumentalist sons, one an exceptional guitarist. . I am educated to degree level in Cultural Studies.
Anybody in the NE with more impressive credentials without getting paid? So if I don’t have anything to prove to the rest of the NE and Curtis doesn’t have anything to prove to the rest of the world, how come we don’t decide.
It seems to me, for the majority of vinyl worshippers, the reason for their disdain of CDs is that they are just not sufficiently interested in Music to either replace or maintain multiple formats, while I know many people who buy CDs but maintain their vinyl collection too.
It’s only the real obsessives who just can’t help ourselves and buy everything. For years I wouldn’t buy 12” singles because I feared they would contaminate my albums, but eventually had to put the Music ahead of some misplaced ideology.
Updating formats is a good opportunity to clear out the rubbish which inevitably accumulates. There are many recordings I have had on multiple formats: Live in New Orleans I have had on cassette, vinyl, VHS, CD and DVD ( and LA on all but cassette ). People might say I have a special relationship with Maze, having given me the best 5 concerts I’ve ever seen ( I’ve seen them 8 times ), but there are many artists I’m complete in and lots of things I’ve had on multiple formats.
Having an open mind to alternative formats is extraordinarily liberating, alleviating the inclination to always play big, in-demand, rare, valuable records. I always hated it when people wanted me to play Curtis Anderson, not because it’s particularly extraordinary, but because it was one of only a handful of copies in the country. This doesn’t mean you don’t play lesser known Music but it levels the playing field so the ideology, sport, economics, religion and politics dissipate and you play the best Music you can.
Anybody with a passion and thirst for Music will tell you it’s always a work in progress. When I discovered Amazon ( ssss ) I could suddenly buy about 80 albums I’d been unable to find on vinyl or from the usual outlets, which was fantastic(ally expensive ).
My shift at work begins with at least an hour checking the nearly 600 items in my basket to see what I need to buy because it looks like it may go up in price or disappear altogether.
During a recent hot spell, I bought an album on vinyl by mistake and didn’t know what to do with it, half expecting it to warp in the heat or break. It cost me £10 but is £300 plus on CD which is increasingly becoming the norm.
When I saw Charles Walker at Hoochie Coochie, somebody told me they had his latest album on vinyl while I had 3 on CD. When I bought the latest on the night his wife asked me why I didn’t pay an extra £3 for vinyl and, without thinking, I said cos it’s an antique, prefixing it with an expletive. I realised at that moment I was no longer prepared to encourage, indulge, humour or patronise anyone whose interest in Soul Music is not unconditional, including nights with a vinyl only policy.
I would have had to carry it around a busy night club and a lively city centre when I could slip a CD in my pocket and play it on the way home. Not only is it easier to access far more music, but it’s more practical.
I have dozens of acts I’m working through their back catalogues chronologically, while back in the days of vinyl, you would end up with key albums or a best of. For instance, I never bought Leroy Hutson albums because they weren’t considered very good, but it turns out each had one or two sublime tracks.
Generally, ahead of a live concert, I just buy the entire back catalogue, which you could never do with vinyl from a single source.
One day the post man said to me — only one today — and I realised I had a problem. Imagine trying to do that with vinyl. There’s nothing clever about making it even more difficult by erecting an artificial barrier for purely ideological reasons.
Anybody remember 78s? Anybody remember 54s? Anybody know anyone who still plays 78s? Things change get over it.
Does anybody seriously think manufacturers will continue to produce record players for a few ns dinosaurs? Does anybody seriously think if CDs had happened first, vinyl would have ever got invented.
Ironically, while vinyl is becoming antique, CDs are already obsolete. Yes the pop nerds like to harp on about vinyl but that’s because they too are not sufficiently interested to replace them and are perfectly happy to play new music on CD or computer. And the Soul Scene in the Sixties and Seventies was built on a desire for separation from pop nerds, if often a touch naively.
I recently discovered that vinyl was developed specifically to sound good on the radio which might explain why the sound quality at ns nights seems so poor now, which we wouldn’t have realised at the time
When Alex and I saw Genesis in 73 ( complete with exploding Peter Gabriel ), it remained the best gig I saw until Teddy Pendergrass almost a decade later, and it’s only when you see footage of that tour now that you realise how poor the sound quality was back then.
I note jukeboxes are making yet another comeback and this is another example of people who like the idea of Music more than Music so they need something additional to cling to.
In the eighties, more discerning listeners noted that MTV and music videos reduced the significance of the music in favour of the visual.
Recently I found some vinyl and the shop where I sell CDs were really enthusiastic. While I was there, they told me they sell more vinyl than CDs but only bought 4 vinyl albums ( Yes, Wishbone Ash, Chic and Richard Pryor ), didn’t even look at the singles and bought all the CDs apart from Steps and Michael Buble.
While looking through the vinyl, he said the Swamp Dogg album was too late in his career but bought the exact same album on CD without flinching. People like the idea of vinyl; they like the idea of all-nighters, of substances, of the sixties, of Swamp Dogg, and of white musicians at Muscle Shoals.
People who collect stamps don’t stick them on envelopes, people who like steam trains still use locomotives, and people with vintage cars generally also have a modern vehicle. As Soul Fans, is that all we aspire to, trainspotting and stamp collecting? By all means have a hobby, but don’t confuse it with Music and don’t let it encroach on others love of Music.
If Soul Music manages to survive, future generations will be bewildered that otherwise intelligent people preferred to listen to rubbish on vinyl than the finest Soul Music known to man on alternative formats.
Ironically, when I first moved to West Yorkshire I was down to cassettes and the locals, armed with their new high tech CD players, would mock me and I would point out that they were listening to Meatloaf, Madness and Mercury ( Freddie ) while I was listening to Malaco, Miles and Mahavishnu.
I bumped in to my rocker friend at the Haddaway gig. He hadn’t contacted me since the Steve Howe Jazz Trio five years ago when I told him I hadn’t seen Steve Howe for 35 years, ostensibly cos he thought I was fibbing but actually because he knew I wasn’t.
He understands I’m way ahead of him on Soul, likes to think we’re matched on Jazz, Reggae and Blues ( in his dreams ), consoles himself he’s much better at pop, but can’t handle that I’m ahead of him on Rock. When I told him I’d seen Haddaway before, been to a Blues Festival in Switzerland, seen Sabbath and Metallica at Donnington, Pentangle, Santana twice, two Yes tribute bands, four ( Gabriel Era ) Genesis tribute bands and supergroup Transatlantic ( featuring members of Dream Theater, Spocks Beard, Flower Kings and Marillion ), he sent me a Duke Ellington 26 CD box set and a Weather Report concert, all on computer discs he knew I wouldn’t have the wherewithal to access.
Everybody’s at it whatever the format, and this was his way of articulating power over me; but I faced the beast almost 2 decades ago and the Weather Report DVD has been in my basket since its release.
The Jazz community ( and I don’t mean Soul people who dabble ) are notoriously prickly regarding change, but this has always been to do with the Music. They too were iffy about CDs but only because of availability, and once that played in their favour, it was more or less universally accepted.
At one time they didn’t like bebop but once behind them, they turned against Louis Armstrong because of all that grinning for whitey. Bird and Satchmo are now both rated among the top 4 Jazz Artists ever.
For a long time, they didn’t like electric instruments but the guitar needed electricity to get heard in live performance, and then in the seventies John McLaughlin tore it up beyond anything Charlie Christian could have ever imagined. Nowadays, guitar, electric piano and bass and syncopated horns are accepted by all except the extreme dinosaurs.
I recall fondly some indie boy explaining to me that Sex is used to sell hip hop and R+B, like when the punkrock/ indie / Britpop bands scowl and swear and snarl and smoke and swagger, it’s all real. I know what I’d rather watch.
People listen to Franz Ferdinand because they wear their guitars around their chests and Foals because they’re called Foals and not the Foals, while I prefer bands who wear their guitars around their wastes and bands who have ‘ the ‘ before their names.
Then there’s Elvis and SinAtra who were brilliant until others began writing ‘ their own ‘ songs when they became passé.
The Monkies were brilliant until it came out they didn’t play ‘ their own ‘ instruments when they became rubbish, even though the Beatles, using their veto, didn’t play ‘ their own ‘ trombones on All you need is love.
The Beatles were teeny, then passé, then cult after Lemon got assassinated which ultimately led to them being all things to all people.
Zappa and Beefheart were visionary til it turned out they didn’t use drugs after all when they became novelty.
Punkrock was ‘ just garbage man ‘ til years later when the fans voices had broken it became revolutionary.
All meaningless twaddle of course which, like vinyl, has nothing to do with Music and, collectively, constitutes a serious enditement on music in this country.
The only other comparable issue I deal with is tribute bands, although there is clearly more justification for objection. The economic base infiltrates all culture and the issue of vinyl is related to the capitalist preoccupation with ownership — my eldest son is sentimental about CDs in the same way we were about vinyl but my youngest is quite happy to download.
The issue of tribute bands is related to another capitalist preoccupation - genius. The key text is Death of the Author by Roland Barthes — nationalty? ( Millie, she’s making me mad Millie ).
I’m sure some vinyl bigots relate it to Fine Art and the need for it to be the original which was touched by the artist/ genius; but vinyl is no closer to the artist than CDs or computer downloads, and live music is much closer than all of them.
In terms of jouissance, one of the most powerful experiences I ever had was a live performance of Rites of Spring, perhaps the most important piece of music of C20th ( though I have always preferred Petrushka and the Finale to Firebird ); hugely influential, not just in Modern Classical Music, but Jazz, Rock and grown-up pop — an oxymoron in my view.
Nobody expected Stravinsky to arrive and start shaking his stick around, not least because he died in the seventies at a grand old age. So why is Blues based music less ‘ worthy ‘ ? The answer of course is that people like the idea of music but aren’t really that interested so are looking for excuses.
Incidentally, I don’t own a kindle ( though missus Silk does ) but this is as much because I already have hundreds of books, as my lack of confidence in something out there in the ether.
In defence of vinyl, and maintaining the Marvin Gaye theme, I’ve just played I want You on CD for the first time, ahead of Leon Ware, and it sounds disjointed with the short burst of I Wanna be where you are that ends side 1 vinyl followed immediately by the short intro to the title track that kicks off side 2. However, the album always sounded murky to these ears before the CD edition.
Similarly, on some albums a particular track makes a great closer and there are many examples of tracks which close side 1 vinyl but seem adrift in the middle of a CD.
Furthermore, CD’s have a tendency to be too long. When I Touched a Dream came out, their best album in a number of years, my brother was a massive Teddy Pendergrass fan and arguments inevitably raged about whether Teddy or Marvin Junior were the greater singer. My brother resorted to criticising the album on the basis that it was too short, but artists nowadays try to make their albums 50 to 60 minutes long and seldom maintain the quality and interest throughout.
When CDs first arrived I was big on Anita Baker and I remember saying I would get a CD player when Songstress, Rapture and, would you believe, What’s Going On came out. Ironic that Sam Dees has just arrived at last, which we probably thought would never happen. How things have changed.
Inner City Blues — MAKES ME WANNA HOLLER.
While writing this, Mrs Silk asked whether it is part of the book or just a rant. I want the book to be about all the Music I’ve listened to in my life and not just Soul, although Soul is inevitably prevalent.
While I am largely in control of what I listen to, Music does have some autonomy and for the last 2 ½ years, Soul has been dominant, after about 20 years of flitting about between genres.
This article is therefore a bit of a diversion while the book is temporarily on hold until I can bring more balance to it. I therefore allowed this part, with licence from Marvins subtitle, to turn into a bit more of a rant.
Once over I couldn’t get me on to Soul Source but then, with a little help from my youngest, I couldn’t go on without seeing myself in triplicate. People keep asking who I am and who I think I am and unusually for the Soul Scene, they’re remarkably similar, so by way of setting the record straight.
If there is a more complete Soul Fan in the NE I haven’t come across them yet, and I would have. There are some who scratch the surface and others who dig a little deeper. Some know the obvious stuff, others explore lesser known stuff, and some only know the in-demand stuff. Others are more Jazz Funk and some listen to related and comparable Music like Blues, Jazz and Reggae. Others pick off the sixties, some the seventies and others like newer stuff. Some go to live gigs and others go to Soul Nights. Some people only buy singles and others only albums, some only vinyl and others only CDs while some buy DVDs as well and others don’t buy anything. Some people stay local, others travel and some do it all from home. Some read about it, others may read some Black American Literature, and some might even watch the odd Blaxploitation Film. Nobody else has the lot to anything like the same degree.
In the seventies and eighties, John Powney and Paul Mooney were the Big Beasts, but I don’t think John’s been anywhere since the eighties and Paul since the seventies; and I don’t know if either have ever seen a live act, and there’s only so far even someone of their stature can go from the luxury of a computer console, or in Johns case a typewriter.
I reiterate again how vital live performance is in Music appreciation. Like a grounding in Cultural Studies, live performance can invoke heightened jouissance which will circumvent existing ideology and preconceptions. And there’s nothing quite like it ( except Sex natch ).
In Folk Music, I only really like half a dozen Folk Rock Bands and a couple of local chicks but I can still really enjoy it live. While I was a ‘ serious soul boy ‘ everybody got into Kid Creole and I had to be persuaded to go and see him live but he turned out to be a great performer who I’ve seen twice more since. Conversely, sometimes people like the idea of a particular act but only realise how rubbish they are when they see them live.
Don’t get me wrong, I loved my NS years - but one resentment - I didn’t see a single live act between George McCrae in 74 and the Commodores in early 78, and imagine who I might have seen in that period. I recall going to an all-dayer at the Mecca to see Eddie Kendricks which I think would have been 77, but he didn’t show. And before you knock George, he was Big Stuff in 74 and Dave Godin no less had Rock your Baby in his Top Ten albums ever at that time.
However, the only sure fire way of attaining the next level is a thorough understanding of how culture works. A course in Philosophy is great but perhaps the most difficult to apply to Music. Cultural Studies is ideal and will likely feature Music but even a good Media Studies course, which would definitely include Music, would suffice. Politicians and journalists love to rubbish Media Studies but this is because the Media is the most potent Ideological State Apparatus they have, and the last thing they want are people who, as Captain Beefheart says, have too much to think. I’ve done all three.
One of the benefits of an education which teaches you how to think and not just what to think, is that it enables you to grasp constants so you can see into the future, while most people only have a distorted view of the past and the present.
In the eighties I was always keen to associate with John and Paul ( though not George and Ringo ) because I knew I would always learn something and hear something I didn’t know.
Incidentally, Paul Mooney was the first person I ever corresponded with via Email and when I told my wife he was like me only more so, she said OH MY GOD! But this was before I realised how exponentially my obsession had grown.
Nowadays nobody seems to want to learn because everybody knows everything and has heard everything no matter how little they know and how little they’ve heard.
I don’t object to people who know nowt — in fact I’m a little envious of their wealth and contentment - but the Soul Scene is loaded with people who know nowt but act as if they know everything.
I don’t know whether to blame Blair or Cowell. Anybody who knows stuff is a know all or a big head but people who know nowt can be whatever they want to be, and act as if other people are whatever they want them to be, and claim it all in the name of ‘ opinion. ‘
Film Whatever Year stopped being relevant when they replaced a Film Critic with a succession of TV personalities, neither of whom I imagine had seen as many films as me, prior to their appointment and this is where Culture is now.
I remember George Martin saying that, between them, Stevie Wonder and Paul McCartney can play just about every instrument you can think of. My sons are 13 and 15 and, with the exception of drums ( which Macca and Steveland both play well ), they can play virtually any instrument you can name between them.
My eldest has seen dozens of world class acts from every genre there is and played with a Major Blues Artist when he was 13, but his friends, well versed in their parents Abba and Queen records, or Bob Marley and Stevie Wonder if they’re black, still insist they know more about music than him.
He is suspect OCD, evident primarily in his guitar playing, and it became apparent that I’ve been OCD about Music all my life. Once over everybody knew who the Music People were and the rest did it as much for the crack, but nowadays everyone wants to act like they’re big on music, no matter how minimal their interest. I am astounded by some of the people who’ve tried to talk down to me recently, never a great idea but distinctly absurd nowadays..
The most prolific active soul boy in the NE over almost 40 years has been Frankie Lucas. However, he would have increased his stature even further had he listened to more Deep Soul and some Real Jazz ( and even some Blues and Reggae ), but wasn’t so inclined and seems to have retired though he’ll be back. Big Ron falls somewhere between Frankie and the Armchair Apostles but has regressed back to ns and its limitations.
The most impressive people I know of now have moved here from outside the region. Tasty Dave Baker is passionate about little known Soul and tries to reflect this in his playlist, but he’s a younger chap and I’m unsure about his hinterland. There will come a time when people from the eighties will come into prominence, but we’re not there yet.
Deano, like me, is Jack of all Trades, but he isn’t Master of All. In fairness, he doesn’t claim to be a purist and, indeed, is quite vociferous to the idea. His insistence on only featuring guests at Seasons of Soul who aren’t as good as him is a real shame which will likely finish it, at least as far as credibility goes.
Most impressive is Gary Smith who, coming from Blackburn, was lucky enough to spend his life following Searling around. He’s strictly rare Soul Scene but knows everything. Strangely enough, never one for buying Music, he’s recently discovered the joys of vinyl and buys anything he likes the look of, from Pat Boone to Englebert to the Bay City Rollers; which is refreshingly honest.
When I discovered just how poor the Soul Scene was in the North East, it wasn’t lost on me that I worked in a hotel with a superb room. I’ve never been a DJ, nor a collector, neither being conducive to playing the best Music, but when people started asking if I could put on a Soul Night, I doubted whether anybody else could do it as well. I thought there were probably 4 people in the NE who can play everything but it gradually dwindled to one and I should have had an open invitation to play any night in the NE. In some cases I’m so in a different league I’m not even on their radar, others know so little they’re oblivious to how little they know and how much others know, but mostly people just don’t want someone who can play more/ better Music than them.
Having been around the NE and talked to lots of people, it never occurred to me that others would be ego-tripping out — there I go again, got to give it up, it’s trouble man.
One person even told me I needed to go to a ns night s/he was involved in, which I’d been to several times, while s/he never came to the Manor House; which must be like Alex telling Searling he should go to Nevilles X Youth Club to hear Footsie.
Nobody who experienced ns in the mid-seventies need ever go to another ns night again and I wonder how those who do can stomach it once the initial nostalgia has passed. I reiterate that time has not been kind to most of these records.
I have more than enough music going on in my life, with 4 gigs in March, 5 in April, 2 each in May, June and July, 1 in Oct and 3 in Nov already. I never need to go to any Soul Night ever again; at least not without a disguise or bodyguard.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not at all phased by being public enemy number 1 on the Soul Scene, particularly when it’s so desperately in need of HELP. My place in Music is such that I no longer care if people don’t like me. Music is important and worth falling out with people over. I’ve locked flugelhorn with French Horns many times through the night on the Classical Sites in defence of Post-War Music. On the contemporary sites I attract respect, fear and loathing in equal measures but only get fear and loathing from the NE soul scene.
Nobody liked Levine; half the country didn’t like Searling and the other half didn’t like Sam; and nobody ever liked Alex, until he became stinking rich when the rich kids decided they’d liked him all along
At what turned out to be the last ever Manor House, I thought I would blast the finest Modern Soul records on the planet, something you can only really do if you’re Richard Searling or not limiting yourself to vinyl. It clashed with Bridlington and I assured one person s/he would hear better Modern Soul at the Manor but I think s/he thought I was joking — I wasn’t. I always intended the Manor to be a sort of Mecca type engine room for the North East to improve the other nights.
Deano and the late Rob Bogey made a point of saying Seasons of Soul was to entertain rather than educate, whereas I believe a GOOD education is the best form of entertainment and this was always my intention at the Manor House, with my target audience the North East top Soul Fans, including those who are normally cynical about the Soul Scene and wouldn’t be seen dead at a Soul Night. If this all seems arrogant, I at least know where my ego comes from.
I originally thought about a complete education, including all eras and areas of Soul, as well as some Jazz, Reggae and Blues, a little African Music and maybe even bits of relevant Rock ( Zappa, Beefheart, Santana ). It never occurred to me that people assumed I was going to do Nevilles X Club 1976, Julies 1982, Fleetwood 1988 or in-demand crossover and R+B on vinyl. Anybody else with any bright ideas, please don’t waste my time.
Rather naively for someone so qualified in Cultural Studies, I assumed that everybody knew how limited and limiting the various nights are and the Manor House would be chocker from day one and we would have the best NE Soul Night since the Tuns, better than the Tuns, as good as any Soul Night anywhere.
I even gave flyers to Colin Curtis and Arthur Fenn cos I knew I’d be able to get away with better Music and thought I’d maybe give them a few ideas too. Next time I feel like offering my services to someone who’s struggling cos they don’t really know what they’re doing, I’ll tell them I haven’t been doing it long, don’t really know much, haven’t heard much, never really been anywhere or seen anyone and most of my music isn’t very good. But it’s on vinyl so I’ll see you there.
I wonder if Music will ever be front and centre again, like the mid-seventies or late eighties, instead of DJs and promoters scratching their ill-gotten ego’s and terrified to death to put on anyone who might play better Music than them; or was I too young in the seventies and drunk or worse in the late eighties to realise.
Let’s get it on — A new Hope.
Last year Deano had a birthday bash at the Cooperidge in Newcastle, a North East landmark even longer than John Powney, Pete Donnelly and Paul Mooney. Upstairs was playing housy type new releases and wasn’t bad but the real goods was downstairs.
Tasty Dave Baker was living up to his name when I got there. He was followed by Ewan Renton from Darlington who impressed me on his last set at Seasons playing the Whispers version of Make it with you and Razzy I Hate Hate. Here he slipped in Womacks version of Messing up a good thing which I’ve never heard played but was always the best track on probably his most consistent album.
The Soul was interspersed with non specific Latin type stuff which went down well. I have this theory which is totally unsubstantiated; that Elvis and the Beatles had less of an impact in Brazil and their pop music is still based largely on Jazz rather than rock and roll, with SinAtra still the main man; a far better result than the King or Fabs in my view.
Mickey Powney was hailed as the Rare Soul Man but was at his best playing safe: I want you, Why can’t we be lovers and Rising to the top on a 7” edit — no longer acceptable in this day and age IM(H)O. In fact he played so safe he had to pull out something special and, while The Love I Lost is certainly a perfect record, when you know, not only all the lyrics, but the grunts and groans too, it’s probably not the best choice for a relatively educated and expectant crowd.
Bobby Patterson I get my groove and Willie Hutch I’m gonna stay were too little too late and Josie Jo Armstaed I got the vibes, another record strangely missing from the Classic Northern nights, closed his hour.
Mickey is one of the people in denial about NS, claiming he was never really into it. The first time I ever met him, he and Alex were dancing around my parents living room while I played tracks off Ric Tic Relics, which puts it in 74 or 75. Oh Pretty Lady was his favourite, and mine too at the time. It’s not our fault what NS has become and it was exactly the correct place to be at that time.
Carlo ( from Darlo ) had promised some New York Disco but, when he opened with We the People, it was time for me to go for my nightshift.
The night offered an open goal for someone to put together a string of little known gems, but nobody found the back of the net. However, it did confirm for me what Tim Carr and others had told me, which I think I already knew; that for a proper Soul Night in the North East you have to get Darlington and the North Easts Top Modern Soul people. Regrettably, it’s hard to think who in the NE is going to do it, since I have belatedly come to think that maybe the Web is mightier than the Song.
Epilogue — In our Lifetime?
Reinstating the question mark the record company left off Marvins title for his most under-rated album.
Alex has apparently been talking about turning the Soul Room at Minehead back in to a — well — Soul Room. Ironic since he was never really bothered about a Soul Room in the first place. For a moment I thought about what would happen if I were to get involved again. I could scour the weekenders, nighters, dayers, nights, radio shows to assemble the greatest possible team all over again.
I would want some young enthusiasm in there, but predominantly, people who were there in the mid-seventies so they have experience of the scene at its most vibrant and frenetic time, but crucially, moved on when it all went terribly wrong circa 77. I would have to question why somebody would stay with it or start with it after it stopped being relevant.
I always say that going from ns to Disco/ Jazz/ Funk was like going from black and white to colour, but bearing in mind that Casablanca was in black and white while Hangover 2 is in colour. Clearly, disco became a bit of a joke in the wake of John Travolta and Donna Summer, but it’s aged remarkably well and civvies love it, and it’s now largely forgotten that ns was no less a joke at that time.
Is it just me or does it seem that more happened between 74 and 78 than in the 35 years since? Whenever ns or Jazz Funk people boast that they’ve been doing it for 30 years, I always think — better late than never, but you missed it.
I would also want people who were there in the late eighties/ early nineties when the Soul Scene was at its absolute best ever.
In hindsight, when Frankie left the Weekenders during the Fleetwood era to spend more time with his family, I should have replaced him as the NE representative. Even then, I was in a completely different league to anybody else in the region, between the withdrawal of Frankie and the rise of Ronnie: at least as good as most of the DJs and better than some and my contribution to the Weekender was such that Alex, despite his insane jealousy, could not have refused.
However, I was terribly nervous and sensitive ( not to mention hammered ) at that time and couldn’t handle DJing. Had it been a simple matter of pressing a few buttons, history may well have been different and we may have had an informed reappraisal of ns and not just wholesale revival, and No Thing on Me, Aretha Sing one for me, Still Waters and Just Soul may have been the thing a quarter of a century earlier. Oh, and we may not have had all the silliness about vinyl.
The bible tells us a prophet is never appreciated in his home town and 39 years of humility and modesty behind the scene hasn’t got us anywhere. When I started going back to ns nights in the early mid-eighties they were playing exactly the same records I’d been listening to 10 years earlier, which I assumed they knew, but it turns out they were oblivious; while I was listening to the stuff they listen to now, which they still don’t seem to realise.
Since people are not even catching up but falling further behind, on current form, a hundred years from now they’ll be going to a Soul Night where even the historicists have given up on vinyl, CDs will all be in charity shops and what’s left of vinyl ( Beatles, Frank Wilson ) will be consigned to antique shops; with a DJ who can play the whole of Soul Related Music, selected almost entirely on the basis of quality, with just a tiny nod to the dance floor.
I might even be doing a night playing who knows what? Deep Soul; Reggae; Mingus, Miles and Trane; Zappa; Weather Report; Eastern European Modernism, and no doubt still moaning that they don’t come, cos I never learn either