DAVE GODIN a NORTHERN SOUL a biography by Stephen Stevlor
The fascinating and colourful life story of one of the most respected and important figures in black American music and the British Soul scene.
From his teenage discovery of Rhythm & Blues in 1950s Bexleyheath, walking into his favourite Friday night haunt, The Silver Lounge ice-cream parlour, and being instantly and utterly devastated by Ruth Brown's '(Mama) He Treats Your Daughter Mean', blasting out from an American jukebox freshly installed in the corner of the room.
..."This wasn't the crapola slush of popular music expounded by white folks, this was real men and real women, as opposed to boys and girls, talking about real passions and hard emotions."...
From this day forward Dave Godin began his crusade to promote and champion black American music, encouraging anyone who would listen to explore the magic of R&B, though in future years would regret passing on his enthusiasm to a young Mick Jagger, later berating the rock star and his band The Rolling Stones (Who, with friend Bobby Beckwith, Godin had been instrumental in the formation of) for stealing black music for personal gain.
..."The Stones started life as a harmless pastime," recalled Godin. "Keith Richards played guitar, Bobby played something, Mick couldn't play any instruments. It was really just a jam session 'round Bobby's house." Godin himself could accompany any Howlin' Wolf track note perfect. Suddenly it evolved into a more serious concern with founding member Bobby Beckwith being ousted and Mick Jagger making his play for front man. "One night Mick said he wouldn't mind a go at singing. Bobby had an amp and a microphone and Mick did his bit!" Dave found this particular act both hilariously comical and acutely embarrassing, being totally unimpressed by Jagger's vocal abilities he seriously expected the young lad to be immediately laughed off stage should he ever actually be allowed upon one! Godin was also far from impressed by the persona of Brian Jones whom in later years would describe as, "One of Thatcher's children before Thatcher. Vain and horrible, but thankfully more of a friend of a friend so I wasn't obliged to speak to him that much!" Keith Richards didn't fare that much better either, apparently never a bunch of laughs and a little shy with the soap!...
..."That was the great divide. We were working on behalf of black America while the Stones were working on behalf of themselves."
In the early 60s he established the Mary Wells fan club which lead to the formation of the Tamla Motown Appreciation Society and Godin's future appointment as Tamla's official UK representative. It would also be Dave who amalgamated the two labels Tamla and Motown together to create one of the most famous record labels in the World.
...In the early 60s Dave's Church Road home was more of a music Mecca than in the Soul days because all these aspiring blues groups knew that there was him and maybe a couple of others in the whole of London who had the records and they could go 'round and listen to stuff, transcribe it, record it, even buy the disc off Dave. So up to the Motown change over, a lot of bluesy types went 'round there. Motown was the pop end of Soul but Dave was obviously a very shrewd operator and apart from genuinely liking Motown I think he also realised that blues was going nowhere commercially and when Dave heard these Motown records he was like people in the 70s when they first heard Punk he was so excited by them." (KEITH RYLATT)...
...When we started meeting people from Motown we used to spend weeks beforehand on Dave's bedroom floor making up banners. Dave used to cut letters out of a white sticky backed plastic called Fablon and stick them on these big pieces of maroon cloth which had previously been sewn by his mum so you could put banner poles up each side. Before Dave had gone to the states he's worked as a florist and learned how to make proper bouquets so that each one of them got one. The record companies weren't doing anything! They'd just cram the groups into a big car and whish them into London from Heathrow but it was the TMAS holding up the banner with their names and picture on saying 'We Welcome You'. It was all very organised, very professionally done and all from a 12ft square room in a back street in Bexleyheath! I don't think the record companies or stars knew that!...
...I used to go to all the 'do's' where Dave used to rent a room above a pub and you'd get The Four Tops performing!" recalls Graham Moss. "There would be a reception for society members and whenever groups and singers came over to play there'd be a meet....
...what they also used to do was build a stage, put down beer crates and put planks on top of them and then play a record and whichever group was there they would mime to the record. They did all the movements and everything, it was the stage show but it was done just for us in an upstairs room in a pub. They were coming over to play air-force bases, plugging records and to appear on Ready, Steady Go! Dave used to get tickets for RSG!, which those of us who lived close enough around London, and could swear would actually be there, would get. I remember sitting in the studio canteen and the tables were on a kind of platform with a fence and corridor around it and the group Manfred Mann were sitting at the same table and Dave was going on about plagiarism and Paul Jones from the band said "What do you mean by plagiarism?". And before anybody could say anything, me, not knowing who Paul Jones was, said, "Well, some fucker's ripped off 'Do Wah Diddy Diddy', it's unbelievable what rubbish they've made of it!" And Dave kicked me under the table, and I didn't know why, and he told me afterwards it was cos it was Paul Jones who was singing it! But we didn't watch television so much and I certainly didn't buy pop magazines so I wouldn't have recognised these people if they'd come up and slapped me with a kipper! Jones' response to my outburst was one of embarrassment and he just looked the other way."
As a regular contributor to Blues & Soul magazine his bi-weekly column became the stuff of legend, avidly read by Soul fans and DJs alike, the latter using his recommendation's of 45s worthy to source to add to their playlists. On occasion Dave himself would make an unscheduled appearance in the DJ booth to spin a new white label release as in the case of 'Blowing Up My Mind' by The Exciters which he uk debuted at Manchester's Twisted Wheel.
In 1966, along with David Nathan and Robert Blackmore, Dave opened Soul City, the first record shop in London dealing 100% in music of black origin. On launch day, vinyl stock was so scarce, discs from the personal collections of Godin and Nathan filled the record racks. Twelve months later Godin mentioned the iconic term 'Northern Soul', a description that by the 1970s had become the tag-line to a music phenomenon that swept the UK and a phrase still used Worldwide today. The associated record labels, Soul City and Deep Soul, followed, releasing hard to get material by the likes of Gene Chandler, The Valentinos, Bessie Banks, The Ad-Libs and Roy Hamilton amongst many others.
..."I might have coined the term 'Northern Soul' and in my advantaged position as a journalist given it every encouragement, but it took thousands of loyal and ardent fans to keep and spread the faith, and in doing this, they gave black America their highest compliment and collective thanks."...
The late 70s saw a massive change in direction for Dave Godin, first a move to Lincolnshire, his involvement with the Right On! record label (responsible for the first UK release of 'Your Autumn Of Tomorrow' by The Crow) and then a permanent location to the steel city of Sheffield to study Film & Art History as a mature student at the city's Polytechnic.
... As he embarked on his film studies course Godin waved a temporary goodbye to the music business with a final PR job helping old Motown mate, Harvey Fuqua and the Fantasy record label push the disco flavoured single, 'You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)' by Sylvester into the UK Top Ten. Dave recalled how bizarre it was for him to be traversing the corridors of the Polytechnic's Psalter Lane campus as a mature student and have his younger peers walk past singing the song out loud while having absolutely no idea of his involvement in the record's success. Also, on joining the Student Union, Dave wasted no time in putting himself forward as a candidate for Student President. Dave wore his 'Vote Godin for President' sticker with pride and fellow student, Jenny Wright, remembers that once elected as branch president, as well as campaigning against every injustice going, "Dave also got us doing a 'sit in' for such things as the exorbitant price of filled cobs in the canteen. I believe they'd gone up to the princely sum of 39p, a lot of money in the early 1980s."
..."The students saw him as amusing and a leader at the same time, they all loved him as he shared their same pure and aspirational ideals," says Jenny. "I was in awe of him and related to him immediately. A journalist friend of mine who was a Soul fan couldn't believe it when I mentioned Dave's name, he asked me to go back and check if in fact it was 'the' Dave Godin, which of course it was."
On graduation he applied and was successful in his application to become the manager of Sheffield's Anvil Cinema, the first cinema in the country to be owned and run by a City Council. Here he could indulge in his other life-long passion for obscure films, filling the programs with work by little known directors including, Fedor Ozep, Pudovkin, Gillio Pontecorvo and Paolo Pasolini.
..."He once booked in a Russian film from the silent era and I don't know how he dared book it 'cos it had Russian sub-titles and no one could understand it. But he had them all translated into English and each sub-title put on a postcard. As the film was shown Dave stood there at the front of the cinema with a little light over a lectern and as each sub-title came up he read the translation out loud from the postcard. The cinema was full that night and the audience reaction to Dave reading out each Russian sub-title in English was one of true amazement!" (ANVIL ASSISTANT MANAGER DENNIS O'GRADY)
"I went to a Northern Soul reunion with Dave in the early 90s and I gave him a suit to wear. It was a beautiful three piece suit made from a heavyweight dark rich grey material called Thornproof, cut in a Victorian style. For some reason I'd had two made, both identical so I gave one to Dave as a gift. He loved it, it fitted him like a glove, he looked amazing. Anyway, I was in this Soul club and there were a lot of leading lights of the Northern Soul scene there and suddenly there was a hush in the room and Dave Godin walked in looking amazing in this suit, and it was almost like a meeting of vampires and Dracula had just turned up!" (MICHAEL SOMERSET, SONGWRITER)
"I'm going to Blackpool in September as there's a Northern Soul weekender, and Barbara Lynn is appearing. As I was the first (only) person over here to review (rave review) her first single in 1962, and have championed her many great records since, I've been asked to go on stage to introduce her. Barbara Lynn has an almost phobic fear of flying, which is why she has never before performed in the UK! I just hope I don't have to go on stage and explain the psychological reason why she is "unable to be with us tonight... And will Geno Washington be an acceptable replacement?"! (DAVE GODIN LETTER EXTRACT)
The 1990s saw Dave's professional return to Soul music with the critically acclaimed and best selling CD compilations, 'DAVE GODIN'S DEEP SOUL TREASURES' for the Kent/Ace label. The final release compiled and released shortly before his death.
"In a strange kind of way Soul bestows a kind of immortality on all of us," Dave would finally conclude. "Certainly when my time comes, just dig out your copies of the 'Treasures' CDs and what I was but no longer am will still be there alongside you all." (DAVE GODIN)
ORIGINATION OF THE BOOK
Author Stephen Stevlor is a Northern Soul DJ, promoter and radio presenter living in Sheffield.
"I first met Dave Godin in the early 1990s when he agreed to write a regular column for 'Sheffield's Alternative Magazine' (SAM for short) of which I was the editor. I'm ashamed to admit it but at that time I had absolutely no idea who he was or aware of his impressive past, but when a friend who'd advised me to phone him also informed me that Dave had been Motown's UK advisor, the man who coined the iconic term Northern Soul and had once told Rolling Stone Mick Jagger to "Fuck off!" on the set of 60s TV pop programme Ready Steady Go, I reckoned Dave Godin was a man worth chasing up. Amusingly when I told a friend later that Dave Godin had agreed to provide a column every month for SAM, he, being fully aware of Dave's history, asked tongue in cheek, "Are you sure he knows SAM stands for Sheffield's Alternative Magazine and doesn't think he's writing for 'Soul And Motown'?"
It was about nine years after his death that I decided to write his biography. Twice a year on my Soul Radio Show I would transmit special broadcasts for the months of June and October to celebrate his birthday and commemorate his passing. As far as I knew I was the only Soul show doing this and couldn't understand why other shows playing Northern Soul didn't do the same. When features concerning Northern Soul appeared in the press or when documentaries and films were made, Dave was either a very brief mention or never name-checked at all in connection with a genre of music and sub-culture he'd christened and given a specific identity to. I was beginning to feel he was being ignored and maybe his incredible input, sadly, forgotten. So, I decided it was time to write his story, but not just the story of a Soul man but also the other avenues of his life, his passion for film and art, life long battles for civil and animal rights plus his atheism, anarchism and freedom flag waving libertarianism.
Dave Godin was a natural archivist, saving and filing every letter, missive and photograph received or sent. His story should have been easy to research 'cos all the info required was there. Unfortunately, shortly before his death and in the weeks following, so called 'friends' appropriated items of choice. Objects were cherry picked and a lot of the most desirable pieces relating to his life in Soul disappeared. As well as writing this biography I also wanted to re-build his archive for an on-line retrieval system that could be accessed by anyone. I put a call out to try and track down some of the missing objects and documents, I wasn't really interested how people had actually acquired things, I appreciated a lot of stuff was purchased in good faith and the buyer may have had no idea that these items had been made available without permission of Dave or his estate, so were in effect stolen goods, all I basically wanted was copies of letters, photographs etc to formulate an archive which was a thing Dave had always dreamed of. A few good 'Souls' sent stuff through with proof of ownership, some items made it into the book, but it was a pretty poor response considering the amount of material and memorabilia that disappeared.
There's a 'Collections' chapter in the book that touches on items appearing for sale on internet dealer sites that 'true' friends recognised as Godin property, but the dealers when questioned showed no concerns about where the items had originated from and amazingly all appeared to be selling on behalf of "Some guy from Manchester!" This chapter will probably be of major interest to Northern Soulies as it also concerns Dave's substantial record collection which caused major division amongst friends because of why and who (legally by the way) ended up with it. I think a lot of people closer to Dave expected it to travel their way and were disappointed by the outcome.
I thought the biography would take about six months to research and complete until I discovered how many facets there was to Dave Godin. Over six years later, here we are!
This was always going to be a book about his entire life and not just Northern Soul and features over 450 full colour pages, but because Dave re-visited black American music periodically, I would say 80% of the book is - DAVE GODIN a NORTHERN SOUL.
DAVE GODIN A NORTHERN SOUL is officially released on 15th October 2020 (Dave's death date) but is available to order to order now for £29.99 via PayPal, Bank Transfer and 'Old School' Cheque by contacting STEVLOR at email@example.com
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