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Soul from UK to LA, yesterday & today

Well it was just about 25 years ago since I went to my first Northern Soul Venue back at home in the UK, and yet it was quite exciting to read all about the very first Los Angles Soul All Nighter that was put on Saturday November 29th, which I attended. It has been many years since I was last involved with the scene, as I left the UK in 1981 after spending most of the 70's in various clubs all over the UK involved completely in the Northern Soul Scene, but by the time 78/79 had come around the Northern Scene was in bad shape. When I mean bad shape it was for me and most of my friends as we had grown up with the scene in the 70's and it was getting stale and not so many new places were happening, it was like our generation was reaching an end with the scene as most of us were moving onto other things, jobs, commitments etc. During the later part of the 70's I spent more time going down south to all the funk clubs to have some fun and to dance. The Goldmine and Royalty were two very good places at that time with DJ Chris Hill.
I had been going to the Palace Disco in Rhyl when I was 15, where I would hear a lot of Motown and soul sounds, just when I turned 16 I got my Lambretta GP and started the "Soul Pack" a group of us interested in soul and scooters, it was a good blast that summer in 71/72, riding that scooter to Whichchurch all dayers. The soul scene really all started though when I went to Tiffanies in Newcastle U Lyme early in 1972 for an all dayer and was hooked from there on. It was such an adventure at that time, buying records, going to Jackson the tailors to get made to measure pants and suites to wear. Everything at that time seemed to be so based around the exclusivity of the Northern Scene. Very early on I wanted to get really involved into the scene and so I got very busy in the promoting the soul club scene in North Wales with my good friends Nick Lyde and Richie Andrews and all the other guys. It started at the Riverboat after the first go around by Gilbert and Robert who put on some great nights back then. We then we moved on to the Royal in Rhyl, then to the Highwayman pub, the all dayers in Colwyn Bay and numinous other venues, and soul nights at the Dixieland in Colwyn Bay. After the Pier all Nighters were closed down by the police in 1977 there wasn't much happening around North Wales any more. Maybe we put on a few more nights in the Riverboat but the scene was dying out, but the interest never died, most of my friends had moved on to other things back then.
There are of course such good memories of traveling to Blackpool Mecca, standing in line with our made to measure suits with 16inch vents and ten button cuffs on the jackets, ready to show off and dance to the sounds of Colin and Ian. The strange looks we would be given from the none soul crowd who were lining up to go in to the pop dance downstairs, who would just get drunk and fight with the poor bouncers downstairs while we were all dancing upstairs to some of the most soulful sounds ever. Some may say we were posers but that was just part of the scene at the time and what we enjoyed doing it was our scene and the way we lived it. Then after the midnight hour it was time to clean out of the Mecca and change into our cords and tee shirts to go dancing and record buying all night at Wigan, this seemed to go on for years, yet when I look back and see it started when I was only 16 no wonder I was so lucky to have older friends who got me involved at such a young age.
I also liked to travel all over the county though going to the Catacombs in Wolverhampton to listen to Blue Max and Pep play their balance of soulful tunes. Then it could be the Heavy Steam Machine in Stoke or Tiffanies for an all day in Newcastle, or the Top of the World Club in Stafford, or the annual bank holiday Monday spent at Whichchurch all dayers. There were many late Thursday nights at the Blue room at Sale Mecca, with the hard job of getting up for college on a Friday morning. Some of the most soulful memories are some of the early all nights at strange little places around the country, and then the bigger all dayers at the Mecca with lots of acts, such as Junior Walker, Edwin Starr, Temptations, The Exciter, Major Lance, etc.. I even look back at some of the Friday nights spent sitting outside Brian Phillips house waiting for him to come home half drunk, so we could buy the latest sounds from him when he got his shipment from the USA. ( Brian used to DJ at the Wheel ) We would try to beat Soul Sam and the rest of the guys as Brian had good connections at that time with a famous Simon Susan who lived here in LA at the time.. even in the early days of Wigan we would go up to Russ Winstanly's house and buy records off him after he got a shipment in from Simon, but that changed as Wigan and Russ got more popular later on. It was always a shame how the scene did get splintered in the mid 70's with that certain elitism about the Mecca and Wigan sounds, but if you didn't let it bother you then you were lucky to enjoy the best of both worlds and for me that was what it was all about, having fun, collecting records, meeting people, dancing and running the soul clubs in North Wales. Looking back I wouldn't trade any of those memories good and bad, it was the best of times. I compare it to my life since moving here to Los Angles and being involved in the triathlon world and competing in Hawaii at the Ironman, they are both exclusive events and I feel lucky to know and have had such fun times.
Yes sure the scene was sort of spoilt by all the commercialism in the mid to later part of the 70's but the music never died really as it so apparent today with all the new people being involved with the scene and the wide spread following of the music to other countries in Europe, and of course here in the USA.
The recent all nighter that took place here in Los Angles was quite a lot different as it was held in a commercial type building with a portable dance floor brought in especially for the event as it was not a regular dance club at all. The publicity had been kept to a minimum and was only really known amongst the soul crowd, information was passed along using the 90's technology of the Internet, something that we didn't have back in the 70's as back then I remember spending many nights driving around the local area's pasting up posters at bus stops and sides of building to promote our soul night. I arrived at the building at 9pm with a feeling of wonder, as it had been so long since I had been to such an event and of course never to a Northern Soul night here in LA. Upon arriving it seemed like it was taking a slow start to get going but it did give me chance to met Nancy who I do have to say a big thank to for sparking my interest back into the soul scene. Nancy is a LA native who is very much into soul music and has been over to the UK on many occasions to visit clubs over there, she certainly knows her records.
I met a couple of guys from San Francisco who told me that they have a monthly soul club scene up there with about 150 active followers. As the night went on the place began to fill, with a mix of people, many younger people dressed out as Mods with their suits on and the girls in their 60's style, there were a few ex Brits there who had been on the soul scene, namely Gabby from Northampton, who was around during the mid 70's in fact he was one of the forces behind many of the younger kids at the club as he had sold many of his original sounds to these people. There was Smithers and her husband Martin who took turns spinning some sounds, both had been into the scene back in the UK in the 80's. The remainder of the crowd consisted of a mix of people but most appeared to be into soul music.
The mix of music was not completely Northern Soul really as there was a lot of 60's type music that was played for the Mods in attendance, and some 70's style sounds, but nothing too commercial. There was a good deal of Northern Soul played, it was a good mixture of the old sounds that I remember but there was many classic sounds that I was waiting to hear, but I have a feeling that the people here are slow at getting into all of the soulful sounds as they like to hear the records they know and are familiar with. I do think having a microphone for the DJ would have been a big help and hopefully before the next all nighter which is going to be in February they will have one. I have also been asked to do a spot of DJing for the next night, so it's time to brush off the dust from my old record box and see what classics I still have left to play, I might even start collecting a few more originals before the next all nighter.
So by the time 2am rolled around I was feeling quite tired and had to head off home, such a difference 25 years make. Overall it was an enjoyable night and it was nice to see people enjoying good soul music.
Keep the faith

Robert Brady

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