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This journey into the past might seem a little bit disjointed to some, but I don't seem to have the perfect recall that a lot of people do and I look on in disbelief when I read the stories some people write, but if I can't remember something that's all there is to it. A mate of mine said anyone who can remember all the details about Wigan Casino never really went! Anyway it was 1968 or '69  (maybe even 1970) and me and the lads were having a few pints in Wolverhampton and when last orders came and went we headed for the only place in town with a late licence,The Lafayette Club, to get a couple of more pints in. We stood at the bar and after a while I started to wonder why I had never heard any of the records that the DJ was playing before. I asked a mate and he said it was Soul music and the DJ was Blue Max a top man in the Soul world(it wasn't a scene back then). A record came on and I loved it so I went and asked what it was called and now I can't even remember what it was but I do remember it was by Darrell Banks so that limits it a bit. I thought this guy had a great voice and decided there and then to find out a bit more about Soul Music. I asked around without any success and it was months later back at the Lafeyette I spotted the elder brother of a lad I knew as Martin who lived near me. The next day I went to see this Martin and asked him what he knew of his brothers taste in music and he said nothing much but his brother kept his records in the front room and I could go and take a look at them if I wanted. I jumped at the chance and I looked through this small box of records without
recognising a single title or artist.  I moved away for about 3 years and when I returned I almost immediately struck up a firm friendship with Martin who said he was now into Soul and listened to his brothers records at every opportunity so I started to go round and every time his brother went out we would dive straight into the record box, despite being under threat of death if we were caught. The only records I can remeber were The Brothers and Mickey Champion but boy did I like them! This situation seemed to go on for ages maybe 18 months to 2 years and still I can't remember any of the tracks! Anyway I started work now and eventually found someone else who was into Soul and he did me tape after tape and I listened and learned until he said a Northern Night was coming to the rollerdrome in Wolverhampton with DJ's from the countries top club,Wigan Casino. I went to this night and what a night it was. I had never seen dancing like this. I was hooked, I had to have more. So
from then on I went to every local Soul night and every local disco that could be persuaded to play a bit of Soul even if it was only a couple of records. But this was not enough. I needed more. Everyone was talking about Wigan but then I heard talk of the Blackpool Mecca. This intrigued me because I had been born and raised in Blackpool and new the Mecca well. So that what it I decided to make the Mecca my first "big do" and what a do it was... The first thing that I always remember about that night was that it cost me 42 pence for a scotch and coke for the bird I was with. It was only 19 pence in Wolverhampton!!!!  The place was still as tacky as I remebered it with plastic sheilds on the walls and talcum powder in the womens bogs but the music was out of this world. I had never seen the fat DJ before nor the thin one with the long girly hair but I got to know them over the next few years as we brought and sold many sounds from and to each other. The few records from that first night that I can remember are Van Dykes, Eddie and Ernie and Estella Denison. But that was it, almost every Saturday for the next two years I visited the Highland Room  sometimes going on to Wigan sometimes not. I won't say to much about the Casino because it has all been said before so what I will do is concentrate on some of the other clubs, some good, some not so good, that flourished during the next few years.

So that's about a dozen visits to Blackpool Mecca, countless trips to local Soul nights and even playing our own records at the local youth club and I still haven't had the guts to dance!!!!!!! By this time( I can't even remeber what year it was, about 1974 I guess) I own about 300 singles dozens of tapes and I've practised for hours and hours in the bedroom but Ive never danced in
public. So this weekend I go out and buy a new pair of shoes, Brown Solatios, and these are to be my dancing shoes. So off we go to Blackpool on Saturday night and I spend all night talking to a couple from Crewe and neither of us dance! They offer me a lift to the Casino in the back of their van and I decide to go and hit the sacred floor. What better place to start, I think to
my self on the way there, the current number one club was to be the scene of my first dance. Or was it?. We got to the Casino at about 3 a.m. and it was absolutely packed. All of you out there who went must remember the nights when for no apparent reason everyone seemed to turn up and the place was chocker. Well this was one of those nights. Apart from the fact that there were so many more people to go and say Hi to and so many more boxes of records to look through there wasn't an inch of space on the floor for me to stand, let alone dance. So 8 a.m. came and I headed for the train station still a dancefloor
virgin!!  So it's Monday night and I go to a teenybop disco at Willenhall Baths just to please the girlfriend (who's more Bay City Rollerish than Bob and Earlish) But imagine my shock as I walk in and hear, yes I can remember this time, The Snake by Al Wilson this is followed by the Temptation Walk and as we go further into the dance hall there are about 20 Soulies high kicking
and back flipping like mad. So before I have the time to lose my bottle I dive in there and dance on rubber legs, or so it felt, for about half a dozen more records until the DJ goes back to the chart stuff. Later on he does another Northern half hour and by now I am a seasoned campaigner and get a spot in the middle, right at the front. That's it. I'm now a dancer.The next night I went to another disco, by the same DJ, at Walsall Town Hall and 2 nights later I was dancing to him again at Darlaston Town Hall. This was brilliant, three practise sessions a week. I would be brilliant by the time the weekends came.I couldn't wait for Saturday night to arrive...

So now I can dance, or at least I think I can, and the Soul nights are being visited thick and fast : Wigan Casino, Blackpool Mecca, Tiffanys in Stoke, Derby, Leicester, Ritz Manchester, Whitchurch Civic Centre(on a 52 seater coach with just 8 people travelling), Yate, Gloucester, Blackpool, Central Pier, Mr Georges,Coventry, The Antelope,Stoke and somewhere in most other parts of the country. Before long the trusty holdall was full up and I had to take to wearing caps just to have somewhere else to sew the badges on!!   Then it came. One night at the Mecca Ian Levine said that the time had come to move
forward and did about an hour and a half of his new type of music. I gave it a chance and even tried it again on the way home, as my mate Dave had once again managed to sneak in his cassette recorder. Some of it was okay but I thought the majority of it stank!! The following week we went back but there was even more of this stuff and now Colin was playing it as well. We made a decision to give it a month and if things didn't go back to what they were we would stop going to the Mecca. As everyone now knows things in fact got a lot worse and the amount of funk played went up and up so we switched saturday nights to Wigan where the funk was kept a bit more under control. Looking back this was definately when I started to lose interest and started looking for reasons to moan about Soul gigs and then finding reasons not to go still blaming everything such as too many kids or to much funk or too packed or not busy enough just trying to find a reason other than the truth which I knew deep down inside that I'd simply had enough!! Too many years of overkill and I was bored. So like a lot of others I strayed away from the scene had a couple of kids and listened to my old records and tapes. In the back of my mind I knew
that I was just taking a break and sure enough a phone call from an old mate saw us back at the Junction 10 Allnighter but it was so hard knowing hardly any of the music anyway that was about 10 years ago now and once again I'm off somewhere most weekends although the birth of a new daughter 15 years after my last one has forced me to slow down again for a while. But I'll be at the Mecca reunion and however sad it might be in 30 years of listening to Soul I STILL say that the Oldies are the best!!!!

Paul

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Copyright M Fitzpatrick
mickfitz@koan.de