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New Book 6 Whitworth Street - The Birthplace of Northern Soul


New Book 6 Whitworth Street - The Birthplace of Northern Soul magazine cover

6 Whitworth Street - The Birthplace of Northern Soul

Introduction

This book is about the Northern Soul years of the Twisted Wheel Club, at its Whitworth Street location.  It is about how one little basement club, in Manchester, created a worldwide music phenomenon.  It attempts to follow the evolution of Black music at the club from Blues through to R&B, Mod, Soul to Northern Soul.  Although the club went through different phases of Black music the lines were blurred and they were never completely segregated, R&B overlapped with Mod, Mod overlapped with Soul, etc resulting in different genres that were mixed by DJs in the same session.........................

 

Furness Peninsula Press:
6 Whitworth Street Manchester, The Birthplace of Northern Soul

by Rob McKeever

ISBN 978-0-9553283-5-0

Comprising 120 pages including 8 in full colour with approximately 70 images size B5 250mm high x 176mm wide

 

Extracts

Chapter 1

Brazennose Street

[The Scene Club London] “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”.

In 1964 Stephens was employed by the Sue record label in the UK.  During his tenure there he was responsible for releasing by agreement a string of successful singles on the Sue label, by obscure American artists. The Sue label was owned in the USA by Juggy Murray.  Murray terminated the agreement when Stephens started issuing additional releases by other USA independent record companies on the label.  Stephens also advised on the UK releases of Pye International who had access to the Chess/Checker recordings.  It was Stevens who brought Chuck Berry to the UK for his first tour after paying his bail to get him out of jail.  ........................Inspired by the Scene Club the two Rogers (Eagle and Fairhurst) went on a mission to fulfil their objective of promoting Black music in Manchester, as Fairhurst explains:

“So on Friday and Saturday nights I think it was, we use to get an armful of records each and walked around the centre of Manchester going in all these clubs and saying why you don’t play this stuff.  And these people looked at us as if we were absolutely out of our fucking minds”.........................

Eagle had previously visited the Scene Club at a time when he briefly resided in London.  Later when he became a DJ at The Wheel he sourced records from Guy Stevens......................................

The initial invitation, made some months previously by the Abadi brothers had finally materialised and Eagle started his DJ career at the first all-nighter held at the club on Saturday, 28th September 1963 as Eagle 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.....................

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 Impney, from January 1965-1967, and the legendary Catacombs Club, Wolverhampton, which he started in October 1968.................................................

Chapter 2

Whitworth Street

By coincidence, the move to Whitworth Street was musically ‘right-on- time’.  The Atlantic Record Company, one of the all-time great Black music record labels had sixteen releases in 1964 but over fifty in 1965.  ................The Mods took to ‘Southern’ Soul with its edgy, double meaning lyrics with gusto .....................In 1965, the Tamla Motown Label (TMG) was launched in the UK.  Tamla Motown was an amalgamation for UK releases of 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 a 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 .............................................

1966 brought a flood of releases; most were hardly up-tempo.....................That year did, however, give 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’.  ...................  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’.

.  Although a lot of Motown was played at The Wheel, as the 60s progressed the crowd preferred the more uncommon Motown 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’.  All of these recordings became enduring Wheel favourites and arguably, in technical terms, some of the best Motown produced.  ........................... by 1966 they didn’t have to look that far for records.  UK Soul releases were by now plentiful and if you knew about them before they were deleted most could be bought or ordered in Manchester at various record shops, notably at Barry’s Record Rendezvous which became The Wheel managements’ supplier of choice.  It was customary for one of the Saturday night DJs to visit the record shop on a Saturday afternoon, as Wheel DJ Barry Turner did.  He remembers Barry Ancill, the proprietor of the record shop, would have around twenty new Soul releases already selected for him; he would go into the booth and listen to them and decide what to play at The Wheel. 

 

In Manchester, as the 1960s progressed, The Wheel went from strength to strength.  The Mods ruled The Wheel until around 1968 when the mohair suits were replaced by denim jeans and jackets and Ben Sherman shirts.  A fierce competition to find obscure Levi and Wrangler jackets with cord or leather collars ensued.  The club still espoused fashion, dance and a passion for Black American dance music. 

.....................The club’s reputation had stretched far and wide, and there were few towns and cities in the North, Midlands 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 to a record like Mitch Ryder’s ‘Breakout’.  Fast and furious footwork, arms flying in the air interspersed with spins, drop-backs and the splits.  The dancing, at times, was complemented with the spontaneous handclap of leather on leather.  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....................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.......................................................It is difficult to describe the excitement this club generated for its members. To most of them, the music and the club was everything.  The sheer adrenaline rush felt when you queued outside waiting to enter hearing the music from inside being blasted out by a speaker on the street and again when you walked into the club, was immeasurable.  Contrary to popular opinion, the club was probably the safest place most of them had ever spent a night and by far the most atmospheric.  To every uninformed parent, it was their worst nightmare.  In their mindset a violent drugs den, full of undesirables and swarming with police. Or as one regular aptly put it “The club was very edgy in its ‘60s heyday, in that it was publicly regarded as a hellhole full of drug-crazed zombies.  However, if you were a Wheeler, it was a great friendly club at the cutting edge of fashion and music”....................................The Wheel was instrumental in inspiring most ‘things’ Northern Soul: exclusive records, the dancing, talc, 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,

 

Chapter 3       

Saturday Night DJs

..................Paul Davis played 90% UK releases.  Generally, all were new to the Manchester public at their first playing, but he also had some Motown imports.  He was probably the first to bring to The Wheel: The Contours, ‘First I Look at the Purse’; Earl Van Dyke, ‘I Can’t Help Myself’; The Incredibles, ‘There’s Nothing Else to Say Baby’; the immortal Darrell Banks’s, ‘Open The Door to Your Heart’ (on  Stateside); and he is almost certain, Lou Johnson, ‘Unsatisfied’.   In 1968, his plays from release included Al Wilson, ‘The Snake’ (on Liberty); Tommy Neal, ‘Going to a Happening’ (on Vocalion); and The Show Stoppers, ‘Ain’t Nothing but a House Party’ (on Beacon)...........................He enthuses, as he remembers sitting in the dressing room and chatting with the likes of Junior Walker, Ike and Tina Turner and Ben E King, after they had made an appearance.  In particular, he was full of admiration for Edwin Starr and Jimmy Ruffin...............

.......................Brian Phillips  “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 Corner in Balham was a good source but I never had much luck at Soul City.  Many shops seem to have 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”..................

 

Chapter 4       

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 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 3rd July 1971..............‘Hey Girl Don’t Bother Me’ by The Tams, originally released in 1964 in the UK on HMV, reached number one on 18th September 1971 on the Probe label, staying there for three weeks. 

Chapter 5     

‘The Twisted Wheel Revival

After the closure of The Twisted Wheel, 6 Whitworth Street was reopened by the Abadi bothers as a licensed club called Placemate 7. After Placemate 7, the building went through several changes of use.  Ultimately before its demolition, the building was used as a gay club, called Legends.  At the closure of The Wheel in 1971, a young Mancunian vowed to himself to reopen the club.  It was the Legends Club he walked into 28 years later in 1999 and told the leaseholder at the time:

“You don’t know what you have got here, this was once a famous R&B/Soul club, it’s famous all over the world and I would like to reopen it for a few nights a week”.

“Sorry not interested,” was the reply.  Undeterred he retorted, “Well I am going to keep coming in here and keep asking until you say yes”.

Every so often he would go to Whitworth Street and ask the same question and every time he received the same answer, No.  After about 6 months of pestering, one evening when he walked into the empty club the owner looked at him and retorted:

“Oh no not you again, I have had enough of this, what night do you want”?

“A Friday”, he replied. “No chance, you can have a Thursday.” “I’ll take it”, he said.

On Thursday, 6th July 2000, for the first time in 29 years, the club opened its doors to the sound of Black American music, 215 people turned out at a few days’ notice.  Surprisingly even in the latter years of the 20th century, although the building had been knocked about a bit internally, it had essentially retained much of the same physicality as in 1971.

 

A Whitworth Street ‘Northern Soul’ Discography

A complete discography of all the records played at Whitworth Street is way beyond the scope of this book.  It is more a guide to some of the records that were played that could be, but not necessary all of them considered ‘Northern Soul’ in the years ‘66-‘71.  ...............................To get an idea of the volume of records played at the club, Ivor Abadi is quoted as saying they had around 5,000 stolen in 1968 although this number is considered an exaggeration.  To those, you can add at least 500/1000 that the club acquired since that date to its closure (some DJs estimate purchasing 10-20 records per week depending on what was available).  Then add the personal collections of the DJs, numerous LP tracks and a substantial amount of records brought in by members over an eight-year period. ...................

Available from Furness peninsula press, Ebay, specialist soul outlets

Furness Peninsula Press:
6 Whitworth Street Manchester, The Birthplace of Northern Soul

by Rob McKeever

ISBN 978-0-9553283-5-0

Comprising 120 pages including 8 in full colour with approximately 70 images size B5 250mm high x 176mm wide

http://furnesspeninsulapress.co.uk/books/6-whitworth-street-manchester-the-birthplace-of-northern-soul/

Price £15.00 + £1.95p/p; Pay by paypal to email rjmckeever@gmail.com.

Also available from eBAY , Amazon and specialist bookshops. The book can also be ordered from any bookshop with the ISBN number

 

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The down points...

The Wheel memorabilia/pics are a bit thin on the ground and not very good quality as is the layout (should have got a proper designer - like me - to do it).

At the tail end it when it talks post-Wheel it completely misses out and is clearly not aware of Brian Rae's (for a time) massively successful Twisted Wheel revivals which ran on bank holidays for several years - saying that Pete Robert's events were the first soul dos run at the club for 29 years.

In fact, there were also some Placemate Allinighters in the very early 80s run by someones else, plus there were a few soul alldayers run there immediately after the Wheel closed and became Placemate 7 - I have Pete's Placemate 7 membership - I believe these were some of the first soul events that RS went to.

It would have benefitted from some more input/comments from Wheel regulars.

The bit on Les was pretty cursory too - specially given the fact he played the very last record, it also fails to make the point that ironically he DJed at Legends itself (as well as Heroes) in the 80s.

HOWEVER...

I have to say that what there is in there copy-wise is extremely well written and authoritative (only got it yesterday and have already finished it) - so overall I would HIGHLY recommend it, especially for the paltry £15 price tag.

Rob McCeever - if you ever want to redo it 'properly' give me a shout and we'll work something out.

Dx
 

PS Would have put this in the new topic but I couldn't find it!

 

Edited by Davenpete
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On 08/08/2020 at 11:23, Davenpete said:

The down points...

The Wheel memorabilia/pics are a bit thin on the ground and not very good quality as is the layout (should have got a proper designer - like me - to do it).

At the tail end it when it talks post-Wheel it completely misses out and is clearly not aware of Brian Rae's (for a time) massively successful Twisted Wheel revivals which ran on bank holidays for several years - saying that Pete Robert's events were the first soul dos run at the club for 29 years.

In fact, there were also some Placemate Allinighters in the very early 80s run by someones else, plus there were a few soul alldayers run there immediately after the Wheel closed and became Placemate 7 - I have Pete's Placemate 7 membership - I believe these were some of the first soul events that RS went to.

It would have benefitted from some more input/comments from Wheel regulars.

The bit on Les was pretty cursory too - specially given the fact he played the very last record, it also fails to make the point that ironically he DJed at Legends itself (as well as Heroes) in the 80s.

HOWEVER...

I have to say that what there is in there copy-wise is extremely well written and authoritative (only got it yesterday and have already finished it) - so overall I would HIGHLY recommend it, especially for the paltry £15 price tag.

Rob McCeever - if you ever want to redo it 'properly' give me a shout and we'll work something out.

Dx
 

PS Would have put this in the new topic but I couldn't find it!

 

I  can’t find it ?  Where is the “New Topic “ ?   Can the Soul Source team please sent me a link.

Pete Roberts.

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