A NORTHERN QUADROPHENIA
Outside London Mods flourished in many towns and cities in the UK. Most if not all were followers of the London trends and therefore always behind the curve of styles and events. The single location that did become a trendsetting place was Manchester and the location in the city that was the fulcrum of the Mods was the Twisted Wheel.
At the first ‘Wheel’ club in Brazennose Street (not far from the Town Hall) the Manchester Mod scene was going full tilt in 1964 and at other clubs too: The Oasis, The Jungfrau, The Manchester Cavern and others. In 1965 and 66 when the Mod scene was practically over in London, the scene in Manchester continued alongside a strong soul music adoration. This was mainly due to the Wheel D.J. Roger Eagle’s playlist; he was not a Mod role model but did have a knack in unearthing, importing and knowing what excited his soul appreciative audience. The Mods in the city faded out at other clubs but gathered and coalesced into ‘Soul Mods’ at the Wheel. Smart appearance was the order of the day – err the All-nighter. And they were on parade every Saturday night. Even in 1965 a trickle of Soul Mods from around the nation were travelling on Saturdays to the club, by 1966 it was a torrent. The Wheel was the Mecca for this burgeoning religion of Soul and local Soul Mods in the city attended ‘services’ four or five times a week at the club. The only other sanctified location for Manchester Soul Mods was another club: the Blue Note it was near to the second location of the Wheel, which had moved to Whitworth Street in September of 1966. And at the Blue Note the new D.J was the Wheel’s own legendary Roger Eagle. More importantly his record collection had moved with him.
The All-nighters at the Wheel are famous for the amazing Stateside acts that appeared there performing live. However of at least equal importance were the vinyl records on the twin Garrard decks played by the subsequent D.J’s behind a wall of bicycle wheels.
Amphetamines powered the all-night dancing, but unlike the myths surrounding all night dancing at the Wheel it was in fact very much subdued; most often just shuffling about on the same spot due to the crush of packed in All-nighter goers. It was later (years later) at Wigan Casino that ‘Northern Soulers’ had space to develop energetic dancing to our records and annoyingly claiming many of them as their own discoveries.
Drugs; large doses of amphetamines were taken by most of the Soul Mods for the All-nighters and then some more, at daily and evening sessions at other Manchester clubs on the Sunday after. It all had to end. The club itself was targeted as the epicentre of drug abuse and was to be closed down in 1971 but adroitly the owners side stepped the issue closed the Twisted Wheel Down then re-opened as a Disco Club (Placemate). A few years before that the originating Soul Mod crowd had retired, no one could keep up such a regime for more than a few years without physical and mental aberrations. Regardless, a great time was had by most and the vast majority survived to have very fond memories of that frenetic period of the original Mod Soul scene that today is acknowledged as the genesis of ‘Northern Soul.’
It is against this backdrop that the novel: The Manchester Wheelers is set. It pulls no punches in its descriptions of amphetamine overload. It describes a D.J’s struggle to control the inner automatic pilot of his mind, whilst his world crumbles around him after his girlfriend leaves him and his Soul club goes Ska.