THE 100 CLUB….. 40 YEARS ON
The 100 club allnighter celebrates its 40th anniversary in September, which makes it, by some distance, the longest running allnighter. In the greater scheme of things Northern, this is a unique milestone and for many of the northern soul fraternity, the allnighter has a legendary & iconic status, for some, go further, and see it as a national treasure! For those that have not ever visited, it’s situated in London’s famous Oxford street and is a compact, no frills basement club with a capacity of 350. It could be described as grubby, quirky, dark and very hot, but has loads of character and atmosphere. There are two bars at either ends of the dance floor, but only one is usually open. In true ‘northern’ fashion, the toilets are grim, but nowhere near as bad as the infamous Wigan bogs. One big factor in its favour is that it is a proper club, a perfect fit for the 6ts rhythm and soul brand.
It all began in the late 7ts, as Ady Croasdell explains: “Original London mod and soul fan Randy Cozens and I had been attending occasional London Northern Soul dances in the late 70s. By late 1978, one of these - OBJs at the Prince Of Wales in Hammersmith on a Wednesday evening - became very popular, with DJ Terry Davis playing a mix of Northern and old mod, club soul. When it closed there was a sense of loss over such a remarkable night. I knew of a perfect venue at the Bedford Head on Maiden Lane in Covent Garden and teamed with Randy to run a dance there on Saturday Aug 17th 1979 with DJs Ian Clark, Terry Davis, Tony Ellis, Barry Quinell, Tony Rounce and Randy. People travelled from Worcestershire, Gloucestershire, Bedfordshire, North Wales, the South Coast and Market Harborough - the DJs excelled playing a selection of classic and under-played 60s club soul that had largely been ignored in the Northern Soul clubs for many years. A good portion of young mod revivalists had their eyes opened. The 6TS was up and away.
After successful nights in Covent Garden, West Hampstead and a handful of one-offs in London’s West End the 6TS settled at the 100 Club, 100 Oxford Street starting on Friday 20th February 1981. The monthly newsletters we wrote and posted to members along with Clarkie’s latest flyers, really helped establish the club and give a sense of togetherness. Randy retired from promoting but stayed an influential DJ and enthusiast. After a few months of Friday night dances, we were told a regular club was taking over and we had to leave. I then proposed Saturday all-nighters after the jazz club had finished at 1am - a chance for the guvnor to double his takings! On October 24th of that year we had our first 100 Club all-nighter. The club classics continued, particularly in the early part of the evening, but inevitably the all-nighter attracted night owls from across the country, many of whom I and the DJs knew from around the Northern Soul scene. There was a split among the DJs over the music policy with some feeling the R&B side didn’t fit in with the Northern; a recently revived point of view! As the nights progressed the tempo upped and with the addition of Mick Smith, Pete Widdison, Roger Stewart and myself to the roster, by mid ‘82 we were a full-blown Northern Soul all-nighter”.
Keb Darge has his own unique recollection about that period: “I moved to London in February 1979 and very quickly hooked up with the 6t’s crowd. I went to their nights, if I wasn’t at Wigan or the Clifton Hall. I did used to hang around grumbling at the lack of proper northern being played so me and Mick Smith started a pure northern night in the West Hampstead Country Club in the summer of 79. Some of the 6t’s crowd came, but not many, as they felt themselves above the northern thing. We therefore filled up with curious mods.
When the first 100 club all nighter was announced I felt sure we would get more northern, but again hung around most of the night with some other exiled Wigan-going Scots, grumbling and pestering the DJ’s. I remember clear as day towards the end of the night Mick Smith saying on the mic ‘what the fuck is wrong with northern anyway’, he then played Lennis Guess “just ask me”. What followed was a rush to the floor by seven wild jocks and a throng of young mods standing around jaws on the floor watching the fancy dancing. From then on these young mods wanted more. I took a load of them up to Wigan on a coach not long after and guaranteed myself a much larger team of DJ pesterers, asking for northern at subsequent London nights. Eventually, in 1983, Ady gave in and said to me, if you want northern you play it yourself and gave me a regular spot at the 100 club”
Ian Clark is a dj who is synonymous with the 6TS story and he sums up his own experience: “40 years is a long time....who would have ever thought it would last the decades.....thanks to the likes of us, intelligent djing..and some crackin tunes, we all did it justice. So many fond moments, too many great tunes...so what does one say....its very very emotional...we were all in the right place at the right time. Ady and Randy had the vision and opportunity to find a cracking venue...100 oxford street and riding high on the apt. mod revival, more youngsters were into soul, a great group of soul friends were picked as djs and it worked. Ady created a magical world beneath London’s most famous street and folks loved it. It became a mecca for all soul fans from all over the world. It is one club that has flown the flag for soul music as high as the Mecca, Wigan and so many others. It bucked the trends to survive many obstacles and was fuelled by Ady’s luck and sterling work at kent records. That first lp. crackin cover by the way, was a turning point for us all, great fun, great music, great friends and it has given immense pleasure to millions....and the best music ever made. I do miss it and one 45 stands out, capturing the club atmosphere, Spooners Crowd, two in the morning on Cadet...it takes you there! With love and sincere thanks to Ady..... Clarky, the man in red spexs”.
A DJ that crops up a lot when telling the story of the Rhythm & Soul phenomenon is Mick Smith, the proprietor of the famous record list, MJ records and UK collector extraordinaire. A Northern soul fan since the early days and a reputation for unearthing very rare British soul 45s. I first ran into Mick in the record bar at Wigan Casino, where he was selling records next to Pete Widdison. I soon found out that he loved to take the piss out of young and gullible collectors, but as the years passed he became a warm and likeable friend. I spent twenty unforgettable years DJing with Mick, something ill never forget and found him to have a real passion and love for the scene and the music. He always seemed to have a deputy with him when he was selling his records. Firstly it was Taffy and then later Pete Hulat, two top blokes that I’m pleased to call mates.
Mick told me that “the longevity of the 100 Club imo is down to Ady, especially when he started getting the unreleased stuff via Kent and also getting butch on board playing the super rare records & C/Us. That’s what keeps people coming back because they can hear records that no other venues are playing. Just like the old days, when we travelled to hear exclusive sounds that only one club had. The 100 club gave me a chance to play some underplayed Oldies and reactivate some things like, Vicky Labatt-got to keep hangin’ on, the Differences-five minutes and Walter Wilson- love keeps me crying. I also procured a great unknown seventies record from John Anderson, at Soul Bowl and covered it up as Eric Lomax, which took off Nationally after its first airing at the 100 club. Later to be uncovered as Lil Major Williams and now a major spin by most top jocks”.
During the early 8ts, Roger Stewart was added to the DJ roster, with Dave Greet and Taffy joining a year later. By 1988, Keb was getting divorced and selling his collection, so he dropped out and recommended butch as his replacement. Val Palmer, the first female DJ at the club, was enlisted at about the same time. By the time the 9ts arrived the DJ lineup had unraveled to include: Ady, Mick Smith, Ian Clarke, butch, Val, Irish Greg & Shifty. As the years passed by, Ian, Val, Irish Greg and Shifty retired and following the millennium Keith Money, Joel Maslin and Tomas Mcgrath joined the spinners. I should not forget to mention the many guest DJs who have fulfilled their dreams and ambitions to get behind the sacred decks and spin their top tunes (too many to mention) At its inception, to gain entrance, you needed a membership, which after a number of cock-ups, was eventually phased out. By now the membership would have reached an estimated 35,000 if it had been kept in place.
The club has been run almost single-handed by ADY CROASDELL, who decided the musical direction it should go in by selecting DJs who could support him in that journey. The 7ts DJing tradition of unearthing and breaking decent new sounds is maintained, played along side Oldies, with a smattering of c/u’s to keep the crowd guessing. Ady principally cites the longevity of the allnighter to his excellent relationship with former owner, Roger Horton and currently his son Jeff. Ady says very little is planned; he plays it by ear and lets nature take its course! Of course we all know that’s absolutely true, as he can be slightly disorganised but in actual fact, Ady is a great ambassador for the club and most of the regulars look up to him with warmth, affection and respect. At the beginning of the night, he is usually to be found at the entrance, greeting clubbers with a smile and a handshake. He is also a pioneer DJ. who has introduced many wonderful new discoveries over the years and since the mid 8ts, he has worked for Ace, Kent, as their compiler of soul & RnB product.
As far as possible, Ady hasn't let the 6ts night fall into an Oldies night, even when on the occasion crowd numbers have waned. The music policy has always been to break new sounds and to keep the night interesting and fresh. Oldies are routinely played, but not predominately. He has recently been joined in partnership with Matt Bolton, a young curator, who has plenty of energy and clubbing know-how and between them aim to push the event into the next decade. Matt recently made this point to me, that in a world of instant access to music, that after 40 years, the club still offers us something to genuinely travel for; quality records that can heard literally nowhere else in the world.
Many of the club’s regulars are slightly younger than your average NS club-goer and have shared values of what to expect at a typical 100 club nighter. They are an extremely knowledgeable crowd and can be exceptionally receptive to records that are ‘going big’ at their club. The 100 club doesn't suit everyone who makes the visit: many aficionados and connoisseurs from an earlier time on the Scene have been to see if it measures up to their strict definitions of a Northern night and many have left, been sadly disappointed. They have probably been somewhat right in their judgement, the 100 club isn't like other clubs in Britain, it has its own bias and sets its own course. I remember Ian Taffy Guy referring to the allnighter, as ‘our thing’ Between 1982 and 1986 the 100 club ran along side the now famous Stafford allnighter and during that period was regularly supported by the Scottish soul clan, a chapter of the British 6ts mafia, a dedicated and enthusiastic group, who thought nothing of travelling the 800 mile round trip each week to listen to their favourite records of the day. Now that’s what i call dedication!
I also must mention the bouncers used specifically for the allnighter and for over twenty years Winston looked after any issues that might arise. Such a likeable and friendly chap, kept a low profile until really needed and over the years became just one of the crowd. During one night he had to eject some drunken lad, who wasn't too pleased getting thrown out and who came back with a sword to take some revenge. Winston with all his coolness and experience managed to convince the wannabe swordsman to ‘leave it out’ and go home to nurse his hangover. After Winston retired, at least another three of the regular bouncers used were just as much interested in the music as the regular punters, coming over to the decks to enquire and make notes about the current sounds getting played. For many years, not really bouncers, but more security, we had ‘backdoor Kenny’ and Jim Eddlestone.
When I think back over the years of the niters, a few things that happened still make me chuckle, like when Gaz Kellett DJ'd with a homemade cyberman helmet on his head; when Betty Lavette's breast popped out while singing live, when Barbara Acklin came over to perform at the Xmas party; her voice was so shot Ady waited until midnight for her to sing, when all the punters were pissed and then they all came up and said how great her singing was. I also remember Pete Lawson getting barred for 3 months, but he still turned up each month and sat in the back mews car park chatting to anyone who popped out to see him. And when Kitch, driving the Notts crowd down in a minibus, decided it was a good idea to knock down the bus stop outside the 100 club. Additionally, one night a couple of quest DJs had a particularly bad time behind the decks, when they played more of the slip mats than their records. Equally funny and strange was what became known as the ‘dirty protest’ when someone had a crap, in the corridor, outside the women’s toilet!
The anniversary night in September, which is usually well over prescribed, is an all-ticket affair. Customarily on entrance, each ticket holder is given a unique anniversary 45 record, usually with two previously unreleased northern tunes. By the time the anniversary night is over, these records become instant collectors items, commanding quite a wedge. In the early days of the allnighter anniversary, unbelievably these singles weren't that sought after and many of the clubbers left them on the tables as they left; hard to imagine these days.
During the 1990s there was a healthy augmentation from overseas soul visitors, mainly from Europe, but also from Japan, USA and Australia. Some of these soul-pilgrims enjoyed the experience that much, they decided to stay and now have become part of the 100 club furniture, such as Yann & Kim Vatiste, Cristina Naggar, Philippe Breauvais, Etsu Kinoshita, Adriana Ventura, Emmanuel Guerit, Bettina Lauk, Paul Duffy, Paul Davis, Lisa Wolverson and Andy Newman who flies in from Guernsey every month.
One such piece of furniture, Naoko Omasa, from Japan, reflects: “in 1993, i moved from Osaka to London to study art. During my first few months in the city, i was looking for a club with a Mod feel, as i had studied the British fashion and music scene. We came across a place in Soho, called the Wag, where Keb was playing Funk & Northern. I was immediately lured into the Northern sound and Keb suggested that i check out the 100 club, as they specialised in that genre. At first i was overwhelmed by the dancers and the music, but after a few visits and because of the friendly atmosphere I eventually felt I was part of it all. Northern Soul has a very strong following in the Kansai area of Japan, which sprung up around the millennium and some of the most enthusiastic disciples have made trips to Britain to sample the renowned venues, almost all wanting to dance in the Oxford street basement. Over the last 15 years, the DJs at the 100 club have included more Modern soul into their spots, which hasn't always gone down well with some of the clientele, but personally, it’s just up my street. When I'm feeling stressed, slightly down, or just in the mood for a proper dance, i usually head off to the 100 club allnighter to take my soul medicine- the place that for me, opened the door to soul music”.
Although the regular attenders are by far the most important component of the 100 club soul events, in passing we can mention the celebrities that have had a taste of the sweaty shindig; Billy Jackson, Ronnie McNeir, Bobby Patterson, P P Arnold, Shane McGowan from the Pogues ran the cloakroom and frequented regularly. Paul Weller, Cook & Jones from the Sex Pistols. Roisin Murphy and Sharleen Spiteri were regulars. One of the Gallaghers from Oasis came down, Liam I think. Andy Kershaw and Mark Lamarr. Mainly pop stars, half of whom I didn't know. Ady reckons he kicked out George Michael for being a prat with a water pistol and made Van Morrison & his minder go to the back of the queue to get into the dressing room to see Doris Troy. One night, I remember Bobby Patterson turning up out of the blue and agreeing to sing a few of his songs. So the DJs stopped for a while and Bobby got stuck into a few of his Jetstar classics, ‘my baby’s coming back to me’ ‘what a wonderful night for love’ ‘i'm in love with you’ etc. beautifully serenading us even without a backing band. What a talent!
On to the records, one of the main reasons that the club has sustained itself. Most people who have frequented the event, will have some fond memories of the following 100 club records (and many others)
Maxine Brown - It's Torture, Melba Moore - Magic Touch, Carla Thomas - I’ll Never Stop Loving You, Bobby Kline - Say Something Nice To Me, Jesse James - Love Is Alright, Sharon Scott - Lock And Key, Chuck Jackson - Whats With This Loneliness, Johnnny Maestro - I’M Stepping Out, Mayfield Singers - Dont Start None, Royal Esquires - Ain’T Gonna Run, Moments - Baby I Want You, Walter & Admirations - Man O Man, Antellects - Love Slave, Parliaments - This Is My Rainy Day, San Francisco Tko’S - Make Up Your Mind, Kurt Harris - Emperor Of My Baby’S Heart, Nancy Wilcox - Gamblers Blues, Little Nicky Soul - I Wanted To Tell You, Timi Yuro - It’ll Never Be Over For Me, Lil Major Williams - Girl You're So Sweet, Paramount Four - Sorry Ain’T The Word, Saints - Ill Let You Slide, Ben E King - Getting To Me, Luther Ingram - Baby Don’t You Weep, Hytones - Good News, Ruby - Feminine Ingenuity, Peggy Gaines - When The Boy That You Love, Sensations - Demanding Man, Proffs - Look At Me, Sammy Ambrose - Dreamsville, Esther Phillips - Just Say Goodbye, Magicians - Faith And Understanding, Mr Lucky - Born To Love You, Willie Kendricks & Nancy Wilcox - She’ll Be Leaving You, New Wanderers - Aint Gonna Do You No Harm, Appreciations - It’S Better To Cry, Robert Tanner - Sweet Memories, Patrinell Staten - Little Love Affair, Jesse Davis - Gonna Hang On In Their Girl, Harvey Averne Dozen - Never Learned To Dance, Unique Blend - Yes I'm In Love, Metros - Ooh It Hurts Me, Imperial C’S - Someone Tell Her, Barons Of Soul - You Need Love, Lorraine Chandler - You Only Live Twice, Charmaines - I Idolise You, Gerri Granger Why Can't It Be Tonight, Hank Hodge - Eye For An Eye, Oc Tolbert - You Got Me Turned Around, Arthur Willis - The Hurting Is Over, Diane Lewis - You Aint Got A Chance, Mixed Feelings - Sha La La, Lee Mckinney - I’ll Keep Holding On, Jimmy Andrews - Big City Playboy, Darrow Fletcher - Love Is My Secret Weapon, Peggy Woods - Love Is Gonna Get You, Springers - Nothings Too Good For My Baby, Annabelle Fox - Lonely Girl, Ebonies - You Got Want I Want, Bobby Rich - There’s A Girl Somewhere For Me, Tommy Knight - Don't Bring Back Memories. Etc. Etc.
One memorable and exciting music find for the 100 club in 9ts, was when Ady negotiated with RCA to dig into their back-catalog for unreleased soul records and then unleashed some magnificent examples of Northern, whipping the dancers into a frenzy. Johnny Beggs, former Torch DJ (and my co-driver to the 100 club for over 12 years) recollects: “one hot night down in the 100 club basement ...so Ady says..’we just bought a load of unissued RCA stuff and i’ve got a cassette of it if you wanna listen to it’? We say yes. So four of us, (myself, Butch, Dean Anderson and Ady) slipped out of the back entrance of a sweaty, seedy, packed night club in the middle of London, into the dark back alley, squeeze into my 2.8 injection ford capri and listen to some unissued RCA material for the first time ever! It blew us all away! Priceless memories! Incidentally...i still have the cassette…”
One of my good & close friends from the Northern scene, Dave Peers (Campo) was a regular at the 100 club during the 1990s and makes the following insightful observations: “The 100 club seemed more of a secret scene tucked away underneath Oxford St. - most people didn’t know about it or that we were there - it was like you needed to be given the nod. Being once a month it was more of an occasion. From the ashes of the Casino the embers still flickered on at Stafford but I felt my fire was only really ignited again at the 100 club. Part of the fun is in the journey; the drive down Oxford St. which is great for people watching & London gives it that extra buzz.
It was not in traditional Northern soul land - times had changed , this was a new exciting venue run by a fan for the fans - I felt it was that new beginning I’d been waiting for -the scene sucked me right back in. It didn’t seem to be a business just to make money out of you. It wasn’t like the typical dance hall environment that I d been used to eg. Casino / Mecca establishments, so had a very different “club” feel - much more like Yate than any other all nighter. As it was small you felt part of it all, where at the Casino you only felt part of your spot where your mates sat or the record bar. It was much easier to meet and get to know the crowd as the numbers were so much smaller and the atmosphere was enhanced as it was underground. It was small and intimate - you got the feeling that the people who went, were the cream de la creme; there was no room for that joe 90 style crowd.
It was friendly with an accepting but discerning older crowd who wouldn't put up with any crap sounds or dodgy DJs - even had a female DJ which made it more contemporary.
The d j line up for me was way ahead and ambitious - there was life after Searling after all - no old DJ s who used to play the ....or the .... I liked the DJs doing s double sets, great for introducing new sounds.
That Casino style dress uniform had gone - thank god. Having a smaller dance floor worked well to build up the reputation of new sounds - sometimes there weren’t many dancing , but that was ok as it wasn’t as obvious like those infamous Casino floor clearers. What did I miss about the old casino days - no balcony for people watching! The clapping I remembered so well had largely petered out - the acoustics of the Casino gave some records that extra edged and turbo power. The toilets in the 100 club were def. not as scary. For me the Casino was all about the “atmosphere” the 100 Club was about style and substance”.
Tim Ashibende, luminary of the NS scene, writes of the 100 club: “When I think of the 100 Club, the first thing which comes to mind is the word ‘Subterannean’! From about the age of 12 or 13 onwards, for several years, like many many other 70’s teenagers, I regularly frequented a ‘Youth Club’, a long forgotten phenomenon now, and seemingly a completely alien concept to today’s cyber-focussed youth. But back then it was almost a right of passage. On Friday nights all activities centred around an archetypal wooden hut, within whose timber walls was the ever present 70’s Youth Club fixture, the table tennis table! While waiting for your turn, the older lads would command the small knackered Dansette record player to treat us to the likes of ‘Rescue Me’ ‘My Guy’ ‘Young gifted and black’ ‘Sweet Soul music’ Black Pearl’ ‘Walking up a one way street’ ‘I spy for the FBI’ and a host of other Motown, Reggae, Ska. Sunday night was the night though, coz on Sunday, as an incentive to go to the church there, the youth leaders would allow a couple of hours in the club room in the cellar under the church, after church service, where the older teenagers went to. No more Youth Club ‘light’, this was the real deal, where the real action was.
On walking down the stairs the first thing you’d see were all the walls painted brightly in metre high arty graffiti, with words which made no sense to me back then; Catacombs’ ‘Twisted Wheel’ etc. Those words may have made no sense to me, but the music certainly did. That’s where later, I first heard ‘Free for all’ Skiing in the snow’ ‘Queen of fools’ ‘Love love love’ Doris Troy, Scrub Board, Mitch Ryder, Major Lance, etc etc. That’s where it all began for me; this incredible musical journey, lifestyle, and roller coaster ride which I’m still on.
Many years, many niters, and many 1000’s of great records later, I had feelings of ‘deja vu’ every time I visited the 100 Club. That same feeling of “this is how it should be”; underground music in a dingy atmospheric underground club, underneath a big city. Normal people above overground, and soul music lovers doin their thing below those City streets, oblivious to the mundane humdrum goings on above them in the metropolis. The 100 Club for me, has always had that claustrophobic, sweaty, 60’s throwback club, atmospheric vibe, which you know is gonna yield up some awesome tune you never heard before, and which will never sound the same again, as in that musical dungeon. I loved Wigan, and that huge ballroom venue format, but uniquely, the 100 Club has always had that intimate, 60’s ghetto ‘Speakeasy’ club feel to it, which reconciles so well with our music. So so many great records have been pioneered, played and broken there, but one abiding memory is sitting near the bar with Butch, and suddenly hearing Ian Clark for the first time play an unknown covered up as Eddie Banks. It was ‘Goose pimples everywhere’ time; reason being it was the first time we’d had the pleasure of hearing what turned out to be the Springers, ‘Nothings too good for my baby’….awesome.
A few years before that, It was only when I visited the 100 Club one time, that I realised that on the other side of my Soul Bowl ‘pound special’ ‘TCB’ lurked the beautiful ‘Say something nice to me’, brought to the attention of the masses, (and me) by Mick Smith, via its humble beginnings at the 100 Club. A universal Northern anthem now, but to me it will always have a ‘100 Club’ association. There can be no better venue on the planet for hearing Lorraine Chandler’s ‘You only live twice’ for the first time. The unbelievable synchronicity between the dimly lit, subculture venue that the 100 Club is, and the echoey ‘recorded in a subway’ sound of that iconic James Bond’ish Northern powerhouse was really something to experience. For me there will always be something magical about the memory of hearing my best buddy Butch play the ‘Just Brothers’ Go on and laugh’ ; a fantastic ‘one off’ mysterious soul record played in an appropriately mystical iconic unique music club.
Finally, when I see the 100 Club in my minds eye, I see the characters, legends and friends who always typified it for me, especially in the early days, Ady of course, Mick Smith, Ian Clark, Pete Widd, Roger Stewart, Pete Crampton, Eddie Hubbard, Tony Smith, Duncan Morris, etc etc; so many. Not forgetting the dance floor either; Keb’s classic northern dance floor athleticism, and Ion, lurching, always precariously backwards, to the audio mayhem of the Mello Souls or similar. These and many more, are just a few of the many ‘Subterranean Soul’ experiences which contribute to my memories of visits to the 100 Club”.
Elaine Constantine, the globally recognised photographer & director of the film, Northern Soul, with her creative edge gives us her slant on 100 clubbing: “I often spot a first-timer entering the doorway that brings you immediately onto a dark and packed out dance floor. It’s like watching yourself enter all over again for the very first time. You see people almost fall in. They're trying desperately to recognise some music while re-setting their eyes’ ability to see. Barely in before they’re faced with a Kaleidoscope of murky, sweat-covered faces that emerge and retreat quickly through weak sporadic shafts of light. Is it possible to stay? Stay dry, or stand still. Will I remain intact?
My first time… I was working for the Face magazine in the 90’s.This was an assignment, not a night out. I thought I could just go in there, get some good photographs, then leave, a one off visit, put it behind me. I had left the all-nighter scene in the 80’s since becoming a photographer and moving to London. I know now that when I entered it must have been Butch or Ady playing as I didn’t recognise at least half records but they sounded good, new discoveries, great to hear, and that cheer and enthusiasm that I thought had gone away since I’d stopped going to these things up north was there again. That was a lovely thing to hear after the years away and experiencing other types of clubs.
I snapped away with my camera, trying to distill the atmosphere but my flash was killing it. I almost expected it when a bloke tapped me on the shoulder, ‘We don’t like that here’… ‘We’re not bothered’… Okay, I thought, fair enough, so I stopped for a while and sat on the edge of the stage taking it all in and trying to work out if I had enough images in the can or should try for more. I’m not really sure what happened next but a track I knew came on. ‘You left me’ by The Admirations. I got up and my legs were moving around before I’d even had chance to think through that I was not an observer anymore, I was a partaker.
Several tracks later, the guy tapped me on the shoulder again. ‘I didn’t realise', he said. He must of meant, ‘one of us'. I nodded back to him but I was in another place. I was becoming more and more focused along with the rest of the floor. Little did I know, but I was subconsciously hooked in again and wouldn’t be able to leave it alone. I got chatting to a group of people near the stage who were into their dancing and they were very welcoming. We became friends and I still see some of them down there these days on a regular basis.
When I finally ventured through that dance-floor I emerged literally right in front of a pretty impressive record bar. No corny merchandise on sale like you see elsewhere. Not a night-owl key ring or a beer mat in sight. Just tapes/cd’s and records and hoards of blokes shuffling at speed through boxes of vinyl, some with torches dangling from their mouths.
I still don’t know what happened that night to make a difference but I knew I’d found a second home. I went along to other all-nighters again and had many great experiences, they certainly sometimes felt more welcoming and didn’t give you that sensory overload the second you are through the door like the 100 club did.
Maybe it’s down to Ady’s music policy coupled with and the fact it’s just so bloody dark, it gives all these die-hards the opportunity to simply enjoying the music and dance without being on show which is quite liberating, especially since the age of social media. I know there’s nowhere else quite like it. It’s kept me coming back. I met my husband on the dance floor there and many of my closest friends, so it’s not going to be easy to get away now even if I wanted to”.
Currently, one of the younger members of the DJ team is Joel Maslin, an enthusiastic soul lover and general all round great lad, who on many occasions since starting to DJ, has gone without a decent meal, having spent his hard earned wages on vinyl instead of buying groceries! He describes how he got into the 100 club tendency:
“As a younger member of the 6t’s family my path to the club was through the early 2000’s mod scene. We’d heard talk of the nighters through word of mouth - often spoken of in revered tones - so this made the prospect of our first trip down there all the more exciting. Some familiar faces we’d begun to see regularly from the mod scene around Gerrard / Wardour Street asked us to join them ‘over the road’ at a 100 Club allnighter. Part of the Allnighter’s allure for me was not only the underground, slightly forbidding reputation it had but the fact it started at 1:30am - which felt like a real taste of ‘backstreet’ London nightlife.
Only having heard a very limited amount of rare/northern soul at the time our first visit was a mind blower - I can vividly remember hearing the strains of Luther Ingram’s ‘Baby Don’t You Weep’ as we barrelled down the stairs into a dark, sweaty, heaving atmosphere. It was that same dark basement vibe coupled with those first experiences of knock out sounds such as the Charmaines, Martha Starr, Brooks Brothers and so on (all of which i’m pretty sure we were treated to on that first visit) that instantly sealed it for us as THE club to frequent.
I remember also being desperate for the following date to come around so I could hear those same sounds and more, and we quickly signed up to be proud card carrying 6t’s members (another element of the night that gave it an exclusive, alluring feel). Subsequent visits found us dodging the spinning and back dropping moves of the regular dancers as we made our way to ‘mod corner’, but it wasn’t long before all that seemed to matter to us were these incredible new exclusive sounds…fresh to our ears…. hard rhythm and soul records… powerhouse northern… our first real taste of rare forgotten late 70’s soul… and of course a whole new vibe for us to digest - crossover.
After that musical box of tricks had been opened we visited as many times as possible, and quickly became immersed trying to listen to as many new sounds as we could. In doing so we also found that the club’s initially tough exterior faded away and we were soon being greeted by regulars of all ages and quickly forged what has turned out to be long lasting and great friendships. We’d already begun tentatively collecting original records, but this now seemed to take on a whole new sense of purpose and meaning - to say we began an obsessive relationship with soul records at this point would be an understatement!
It was quite some years before I was asked to guest DJ at the Allnighter, and I was of course hugely flattered and nervous on a whole new level. I’d never intended to regularly DJ but was always happy to oblige if kindly asked by friends. I’d been busily collating all the best sounds I could afford that pals had turned me onto… a varied mix of the various styles of soul music our scene encompasses. I was very lucky to be put onto some fabulous music by some of the most knowledgeable people through the club, and still am - something i hope never comes to an end! To then be asked by Ady to join the 6t's gang as a permanent member a short while later was of course a huge honour. It’s been a real pleasure to DJ for such a discerning and welcoming crowd”.
John Kerr, from Shrewsbury, was a regular at many venues in the 7ts, Wigan, Whitchurch etc. and returned to the scene in 2005, after which he hasn’t missed many 100 club nights. John reflects on his comeback: “Like numerous soul fans I was aware of the 100 club, Ady Croasdell and Kent records for many years. Northern all-nighters in London were not on my musical agenda at the time of my first visit in 2002. I reluctantly accompanied friends (who where regular attendees in the late 80’s and early 90’s) after a night out. Not expecting to, I really enjoyed the night. It was busy, and the atmosphere felt quite intense but had a happy, good- humoured vibe. I wasn’t that focused on the music I didn’t know, of which there was a lot. A lasting impression of that first night was how many rare oldies were played one after the other and how good they sounded (Mick Smith spots I guess). My friends all left after a couple of hours, I stayed until the end and was so pleased I’d been persuaded to go. It was meant to be just a one off visit – but the seeds were sown!
In 2005 I made half a dozen visits. That year I was attending a few other venues including some wonderful bank holiday all-dayers at the Orwell in Wigan. I mention this because the connection was one D.J. in particular (Butch) who I’d heard at these other venues but I just knew I had to hear him at his residency at the 100 Club. At the start of the year I knew virtually nothing on his playlist. As the year progressed I heard so many wonderful records from the 60’s, 70’s & 80’s and put together so well. Also importantly here was someone applying quality control and that had excellent taste. My first contact was at the decks asking the usual record trivia questions, I found him very generous with information and genuinely interested in any comments. This was to lead to further discussions and recommendations. He soon became a good friend.
The excitement of those first few visits convinced me that this was where I needed to be. From 2006 the 100 club became my priority over all the other events. Opening times were still 1:30 - 8:00am and usually a full house. I got to know more and more people so it became very sociable. I got to know the D.J.’s and their sets and learned so much. Anticipation was always a factor and still today and it’s my number one venue, I hate to miss it. I still make new friends and miss old ones. We still get to hear so much good music, always something new. I can spend much of the night in discussion about music, the collective knowledge is tremendous. I’m proud to wear the badge of a regular!
Through all the twists and turns, licensing issues, low numbers in, closer threats etc. Ady Croasdell has kept the faith. Thanks Ady. I remind myself often not to take it for granted. The 40th anniversary is a great reminder of the continued effort from Ady and the team that allows us to all come together and share in something special once a month or so. Not every time is a classic or the best night you’ve ever been to. However attending as often as possible supports the club and does mean when the best nights happen you’re there!! I’m always glad I made the effort. The nights usually fly by and I’m sorry to leave. The long journey home gives me plenty of time for reflection and of course to start building up a little anticipation for the next time”.
Another recent regular at the club is Jack Gadsden, one of the younger posse who frequent the night: “I remember my first visit to the 100 club quite vividly. It was the December 2018 allnighter and as I walked down the steps I heard the thumping bass of Soul Incorporated - My Proposal, through the doors as I walked down the stairs. The first thing which gripped me was the atmosphere, seeing a sea of people dancing under the low light. I quickly met other young people, had a great night and stumbled out at 6am in anticipation for the next. As I’ve attended more and more allnighters across the country, the 100 club still feels like my ‘home ground’. The consistent high quality in music, especially the presence of new sounds makes it a standout event in my calendar. Being able to hear beat ballads and mid-tempo throughout the night is a breath of fresh air. I now regularly try to bring other young people from various other subcultures to introduce them to the music and every time they leave wanting more. The 100 club is certainly iconic and long may it continue”.
On a personal level, Ive now spent over half of my life attending the 100 club; it almost feels like a second home. Although not every night has been a corker, most have been well worth the 160 mile drive. I've thoroughly enjoyed the experience and have made some very close and first-rate friends there. Over my 30 years, the regular crowd has changed many times and that can mean friends that you've made over some years, sadly suddenly disappear to do other things. But there are two upsides to that: making new friends as a new patrons begin to become regulars and when out of the blue, an old friend pops back into the club again after a long spell away. Musically, no one can deny it’s been an enduring upfront venue, where many great new Northern records have been aired and I will always have top notch memories of its wonderful contribution.
The 100 club is still a thriving northern soul hub, but eventually as all events do, it finally closes its doors for the last time, I like many others will be gutted, just as we were after Wigan closed. And as Ian Clark predicts, that’s when this venue goes into NS history as an iconic club along side illustrious names such as the wheel, the Torch, Wigan, the Mecca etc.