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An Oldie now a Newie


I was born in Cardiff - hence my funny first name - but spent my teens in Preston, Lancashire,
It was 1968 when I was hit like TNT upon hearing "Roadrunner" at a disco in a Butlin’s holiday camp at the tender age of 13. After wandering in a daze for the rest of the week we returned home to Preston where my next conscious action was to rush out and buy Motown Chartbusters Vol. 3 and wear it out through constant, non-stop play. I could recite every lyric, hell, I could do the choreography if you pressed me…I was hooked. Around this time I started hanging out at Kingsfold Youth Club in Penwortham. They had a record player and so a few of us started bringing in stuff to play. It just so happened that Dave’s elder brother collected records on his trips to some motorist’s club in Manchester and so we got to listen to the likes of ‘Competition Ain’t Nothin’, ‘Our Love Is A Monster’, ‘Cool Jerk’, ‘Soul Time’, ‘Get On Your Knees’, ‘Right Track’, ‘Little Darling’, ‘Um, Um, Um, Um, Um, Um’, ‘I’m Satisfied With You’, ‘Friday Night’, ‘Here She Comes’, ‘Shotgun And The Duck. Phil added ‘Backstreet’, ‘Bar-B-Q’, ‘Festival Time’, ‘Gotta Have Your Love’, ‘The Next in Line’, ‘Cigarette Ashes’, ‘Music To My Heart’. Pete had a few good sounds like ‘Mr. Bang-Bang Man’, ‘Secret Home’ and ‘Wade in the Water’ and Kirls made me jealous ‘cause he had ‘Helpless’ and ‘I Ain’t Particular’ and never let me tape them!
I didn’t know it then but I was in heaven. On Sunday nights we’d head off to the Top Rank Suite in Preston and let Jason Dee and Noca entertain us with stuff like ‘Billy’s Bag’, ‘In Orbit’, ‘Catch Me I’m Falling’, ‘You’re Ready Now’, ‘Run, Baby Run’, ‘Goodnight Irene’, ‘Surprise Party’, ‘Nothing But Blue Skies’, ‘Hey Saloney’, ‘At The Discotheque’, ‘Deeper In Love’, ‘Hey America’, ’Tightrope’, ‘The Way You’ve Been Acting Lately’, Penguin Breakdown’, ‘Don’t Make Me Wait Too Long’, ‘At The Top Of The Stairs’, ‘Girls Are Out To Get You’, ‘Heaven Must Have Sent You’. We’d dance our little booties off trying to emulate the REAL dancers, and then the following Friday try out new moves at the youth club. The Rank had a strict dress code - jackets and ties at ALL times otherwise on yer bike son, so there we’d be in our Bennies, Tonics with the sewn-in seams, tie in a HUGE Windsor knot, Barathea blazer, just dripping wet at the end of a night, you could have mopped the floor with us. I didn’t really know that this was a RARE soul scene, I just thought that this was what ALL the clubs were playing. All I know is that I fell in love with you Northern Soul!
As time went on we started venturing further afield. The first holiday without parents at Douglas, Isle of Man where we discovered The Athol Club and Pete Dunn running up the the disco wall and flipping backwards head-over-heals into a somersault. ‘Love, Love, Love’ and ‘Funky Street’ ( I think there’s a line that goes "I turn a backover flip") always remind me of that place. Back home a few of us, but mostly Iram and me, started going to the Highland Room at Blackpool Mecca, popular because the Mecca used to put on free coaches from Preston. This was whole step up - an older crowd, REALLY RARE SOUNDS, mingling with people you’d read about in Blues and Soul, the atmosphere was ELECTRIC. There I first heard the likes of ‘Bok To Bach’, ‘I’ve Got Something Good’, ‘Blowing My Mind To Pieces’, ‘I’ve Had It’, ‘Get Out’, ‘Skiing In The Snow’, ‘Just Can’t Live My Life’, ‘Tainted Love’, ‘Help Me’, ‘Dance, Dance, Dance’, 'Psychedelic Soul' , ‘There’s A Ghost In My House’, ‘Working At The GoGo’, ‘Sidra’s Theme’, ‘Breakaway’, ‘I’m On My Way’, ‘Cool Off’, ‘You Don’t Love Me Anymore’, ‘If That’s What You Wanted’, ‘Crazy Baby’, ‘Hung Up On Your Love’, ‘It Really Hurts Me Girl’, ‘You Made Me This Way’ , ‘They’ll Never Know Why’, ‘Cry Your Eyes Out’….the list goes on and on and on.
Other nights I’d be out with some of the other guys at the smaller, more local clubs like the Lodestar, the Howard Arms, the Hibernia where they played mostly commercial stuff, but then every once in a while you’d hear a ‘Never For Me’ or a ‘Picture Me Gone’ or ‘That’s Alright’ or an ‘I Feel An Urge Coming On.’ and we’d leap onto the dancefloor for 3 minutes of bliss.
In 1973 my life took a different turn when I left home and went off to the first of a number of Higher Education establishments, mostly in southern England. The sudden loss of a familiar scene was somewhat made up for by the student bar and the occasional dalliance with one of the eager and ……..well, that’s another story, All I can say is that I hope I Kept The Faith and carried the Northern Soul Torch high and managed to make a few people aware of the music and the dancing and the camaraderie.
I was able to get to the newly-opened Wigan Casino a couple of times on trips back to Preston, but all in all it seemed like other things were taking my attention away from the Northern Scene. The only constant seemed to be that I was unable to walk past a rack of records without having to have a look through and, every once in a while, I’d be rewarded by finding something on my mental ‘Wa
After moving to Canada in the early eighties (shipping a couple of hundredweight of vinyl and about 30 pounds of other personal effects) I’d pretty much lost touch with Northern Soul. I found some comfort in Sam The Record Man’s store on Yonge Street in Toronto where he happened to have a few albums on a British import Kent label that I’d never seen before. They (and most subsequent issues) got snapped up as I indulged my secret passion, but then I fooled around and fell in love, got married, and harvested the fruit of our loins (Natalie) ., with a second harvest four years later (Madeleine) - yes she was named after the singer….
Fast Forward to 1997 where the Internet enters my life in meaningful way. Casually wondering one day if there are any Northern Soul sites, I Yahoo into about a half-dozen. Hannes Rosenhagen’s is the first, where I am amazed to see that this is a still flourishing scene, new clubs, new sounds, old sounds re-activated.
Mick’s site is next where I read the stories and think -‘I’ve come home, I’m amongst friends’. Right around the same time I discover Goldmine/Soul Supply and order the first of a flood of their CDs to Canada. I am rejuvenated, although I find the years have taken a toll on this once proud temple of a body (well I used to worship Boddington’s and Greenall Whitley’s) i.e don’t attempt a backdrop at age 42, especially with one’s nearest and dearest looking on - the guffaws are deafening…

Alun Bell

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Copyright M Fitzpatrick
mickfitz@koan.de