The Genesis – the roots – of NORTHERN SOUL: why, where, and how it all began… And it all began in Manchester England, at the TWISTED WHEEL Club, with its Soul Mod ‘In’ Crowd – the suited, sleek, clique, clientele.
Northern Soul started at the Twisted Wheel Club and was originally a Mod thing because Soul was on hard to find vinyl 45’s from mostly black USA singers and musicians: not widely accepted in the pop industry in the U.K. and classed as race music stateside. It was and still is great music and was greatly appreciated by the Mod scene youth in England in the 1960’s. And it wasn’t just Tamla Motown!
The name ‘Northern Soul’ was given to the music genre played at the Twisted Wheel club in 1971. An article about the club and the music played there was put into the Blues & Soul magazine after Dave Godin one of the magazine’s contributing journalist visited the Whitworth Street club in 1971 (second Twisted Wheel location). Dave was the owner of a record shop and a record label that re-released several rare vinyl 45’s: Soul City. He was also the originator of the Tamla Motown appreciation society in the UK and mostly responsible for persuading Berry Gordy the owner of Motown to bring about a U.K. tour of his artists in 1965: The Motown Revue.
Dave Godin was a Londoner being quite amazed at the scene and the appreciation and enthusiasm in Manchester, probably thinking that by all things being equal such a scene should have been in London, but it wasn’t; it happened in the North hence the name tag.
However by the time Dave Godin did arrive in Manchester he had missed the roots of it all as the scene he became aware of had in fact started in 1964 at the first Twisted Wheel in Brazennose Street and was fostered by the clubs legendary Blues, R&B and Soul music fanatic Roger Eagle, who was spinning great vinyl tracks; many imported from the states. The scene at the club in 64 & 65 was all about Soul music even if the live groups were mostly Blues musicians but much appreciated by the Northern Mohair suited short hair cropped Mod’s. Most of these original Soul Mod’s had left the scene by 69 and the newcomers began to re-discover much of the music that the original DJ,s on the Manchester scene had pioneered. These ‘new Wheelers’ did a good job and found many imported USA 45’s that we had missed and the Northern scene that emerged just goes on and on, you just can’t keep a good thing down. Great music lasts forever and the motto is to Keep The Faith: its more than a religion. These days many in the USA are discovering their musical heritage kept alive in Northern England – the mostly unknown, less popular Soul artists who did not make it big in the sixties but were LOVED in England.
Much of the Northern thing is about record collecting and giving high value to the vinyl it was pressed upon, like the container being more valuable than the content, perhaps a little unfair, but the music is the thing!
The untold story of the genesis of Northern Soul can be found in two books: one a factual attempt to describe the scene, the people and artists and all that happened at the ‘Wheel’. The other book is The Manchester Wheelers; a novel based upon real experiences at the Wheel and other northern clubs of the period, it tells the story of All-night dancing and amphetamine abuse and re-lives it like it was.
When Dave Godin began re-releasing Soul 45’s in the late nineteen sixties a lot of record collectors were not too pleased with him as they believed it would de-value there original label collection. For example many people in Manchester at the time when Soul City put out “GO NOW” by Bessie Banks had it on the original U.K. Red Bird Label.
“GO NOW” was a recording copied and taken to number 2 in the UK hit parade in 1964 by the Moody Blues: so demolishing any chance of the original making the UK Charts. Of course it was the original that real Manchester Soul fans demanded and this song remained a firm favorite throughout the 60’s decade in the Manchester Soul Clubs The ‘Wheel & The Blue Note.
On the USA Tiger Label from the recording company set up by Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller and written at the famous Brille Building in New York at 1619 Broadway.
Bessie Banks was from New Orleans and her brother co wrote this fantastic bluesy soul, song. The aching soulful lament in ‘Go Now’ just about sums up what soul is all about; it comes from the heart, it has ‘truth’ in the lyrics made manifest by the singing from deep in the Soul, describing and acting out, in that performance deep loss, hurt, a love that has to end. It’s the ability of a Soul singer to generate deep empathy in the heart of the listener.