Dave Godin A Northern Soul, a biography by Stephen Stevlor.
Review by Damian Conaghan.............. aka Dim @Dim
Those of us who regard ourselves as Soul Music fans have heard of Dave Godin. My introduction to him, along with many of my peers, was via his column, during the early 1970s, in Blues & Soul magazine, where his musings gave due weight to the beauty of the music we love. A few of our number got to meet him and a few got to know him to varying degrees. But I never met him and, beyond his stellar reputation, his coining of the phrase 'Northern Soul' and the whole legend of Soul City, I knew very little about him as an individual. So when this book became available I bought it without hesitation, hoping it would put some flesh on the bones of the reputation and provide some sense of what Dave Godin was about as a "person". What the book delivers is an enthralling, fascinating and, at times, contentious view of the man himself.
In his Introduction, Stephen Stevlor states that what he imagined to be a project that could be completed in months actually took him years to put to bed. You can see why for this is a substantial body of work running to just short of 450 pages.
The layout of the book is interesting in and of itself. As well as the narrative the book is peppered with a variety of images, all relevant and all working well to assist and augment the unfolding story. Of great interest to me are the numerous Dave Godin Top 10 charts, wherein some of his choices may cause eyebrows to be raised. The written pages are produced in a variety of colours and, in a way that I can't fully explain, helped to make my journey through the book that little bit easier.
The admiration and love for his subject shines through Stevlor's prose, which is at once immensely readable without ever descending into a fact based diatribe or a hero worshipping paean to Godin. There are a number of wonderful contributions from a selection of those who knew him... more of which later.
So, to the content...
Stevlor takes us from Godin's childhood in South London, where he became aware at an early age that he was 'different'. His vegetarian conversion and realisation of his homosexuality are covered but not in any laboured way. His principled anti war stance, his passion for animal rights, his deep dislike of censorship, his atheism and his anarchic thinking are all there as the book develops. We have great detail on the Dave Godin that earned the reputation we have come to take almost for granted. From his "road to Damascus" moment in a cafe (jukebox) that he frequented regularly after school ..... Ruth Brown's "(Mama) He Treats Your Daughter Mean". The whole Tamla Motown Appreciation Society story, Soul City, the shop and the record label, are well covered as you would expect.
From my perspective however, the move to Sheffield, via Lincoln, the events at the Polytechnic, the Anvil Cinema, which provided the perfect vehicle to share his love of film, the contributions to the Sheffield Alternative Magazine, his relationship with senior management at the City Council and his eventual departure, was totally new to me and served to add layers to the already complex and complicated character of Godin being explored in the book. His return to Soul and the Northern Scene is extensively covered, including his somewhat disputatious relationship with Ian Levine and his move to Black Music magazine, which also plays a part in the Mecca v Casino 'feud'. Mary Chapman (and Cleethorpes) also plays an important role in that her view of Godin is a little different to some others....albeit very positive. His great pride and pleasure in seeing the release of the Deep Soul Treasures lights up the pages, as does his great relationship with Ady Croasdell as they worked tirelessly to get it done via Ace Kent.
The section of the book that covers the period from the onset of his illness through to, and in the immediate aftermath of his passing, meticulously described by Stevlor with contributions from those who were witnesses to events, makes for quite poignant and (at times) distressing reading. But the account of his funeral, and the celebration of his life that followed, is uplifting The play lists of the DJ's who illuminated that evening are included in the final chapter.
I mentioned earlier the contributions in the book by those who knew him. There are a couple I'd like to refer to specifically.
The first is by Sean Hampsey, which in it's warmth and admiration of Godin really encapsulates the reverence and high regard that Soul people feel for him. Diggin Deep 007 was dedicated to the memory of Dave Godin. (Jaibi... It Was Like A Nightmare c/w You Make Me Feel Good.)
Contrast this with the recollections of David Patmore and and Jane Edwards of Sheffield City Council, which are less than favourable, and you have a conundrum to address.
When I finished reading the book I found myself pondering who Dave Godin really was. A man of principal and passion. An articulate and lucid thinker. A man possessed of great generosity and compassion. But also a man who could be dogmatic, at times very despotic, taciturn and unforgiving.
A Godin quote...
"I have always stressed in my opinion that true Soul appreciation springs from the heart rather than the brain"
Godin leaves a rich legacy and very prominent in this is that the Soul Scene is blessed with people like Ady Croasdell, Sean Hampsey & Kev Briscoe and Garry J Cape who carry on the standard set by him in the pure Soulfulness of what they do and that they do it in the right way.
This is an important book in my eyes. Not just for the story it tells but also for the fact, as with most good biographies, it leaves you wondering about the unanswered questions it poses.
Stephen Stevlor deserves great credit for this biography. I cannot tell you how pleased I am to have it on my bookshelf.
Damian Conaghan.............. aka Dim
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