The 40th Anniversary Of Wigan Casino + My Favourite 100 Northern Soul Records But Plenty I’ve Not Heard Yet

This month it will be 40 years since Russ Winstanley booked Wigan Casino for its first Northern Soul all-nighter, starting at 2am on a Sunday morning. The faithful paid 75p each to dance until 8am to rare black American records – and though the price has gone up a bit, the scene is now bigger than ever.

It was Wigan Casino that partially influenced Robert Stigwood to make the film Saturday Night Fever, and household names from Peter Stringfellow to Mick Hucknall were inspired by the Northern Soul scene. When ITV showed a documentary on the Casino for its This England strand in 1977, it reached an audience of 27 million and the reverberations are still being felt.

The phrase Northern Soul was coined by the late London journalist and rhythm & blues guru Dave Godin in his weekly Blues & Soul magazine column in June 1970 to describe a danceable type of rare soul cherished in clubs across the North and Midlands. The sound was based on the 4/4 beat of the Four Tops’ Tamla-Motown classic I Can’t Help Myself, although it would come to be associated with faster stompers as heard during the Wigan Casino era from 1973 to 1981. But the most important element was its emotional, soulful content.

The momentum of the scene in the Sixties derived from the British white working class, which instinctively saw common causes that linked it to the black American experience. But in Britain the marker was class, not race. Godin once said that it’s not the colour of your skin that counts against you so much as the way you talk or your educational disadvantages or what your daddy does for a living.

The greatest aspect of Northern Soul is its resolute determination to call its own shots. Although plenty have tried, it has never been owned by an elite. Godin reinforced this by adopting the signs and slogans of America’s black civil rights movement: the clenched fist and “Keep the Faith” badges. He even kept it safe from the Hush-Puppied cultural élite in London by including the word “Northern” in the name. The headline of that particular column was “That Soul Sound with the Up North Groove” and his reference was the club where it truly began, the legendary Twisted Wheel in Manchester.

Though more scattered, the scene now is bigger than ever, with dedicated Northern Soul conventions in Los Angeles, Hamburg, Gothenberg, Las Vegas, New York, Detroit, Chicago and Tokyo. The records, always expensive and collectable, now fetch a king’s ransom, especially on the Japanese market. This popularity is reflected on the internet, with sites dedicated to its infamous clubs – the Twisted Wheel, the Golden Torch, the Blackpool Mecca – and its DJs such as Richard Searling, who has a long-running-soul show on Smooth FM in the North West.

There are online juke boxes, recommended lists of records and footage of performances at Wigan Casino all over YouTube. Although the original vinyl prices have gone through the roof (in 1996 Scottish double glazing business man and soul collector Kenny Burrel bought Frank Wilson’s Do I Love You for a reported £15,000; a demo of Darrell Banks’s Open the Doors to Your Heart went for a mere £900), compilation CDs and the internet are opening up the scene to those who for years have had their noses pressed against the glass looking in. The greatest achievement is that a whole generation of soul fans from the Sixties and Seventies has saved, catalogued and cherished a raft of independent black American culture that otherwise would have been lost and is now making it available to the next wave of enthusiasts.

My Favourite Northern Soul Tunes

Forgive me , I’ve been listening to northern soul for 35 years. It was hammered down our throats at our local youth club in old Trafford when what we really wanted was Roxy music and Bowie , I even went to Wigan Casino once back in 1980 to the hostile glares of the Soul fraternity who looked at me and my mates dressed in our Quadrophenia style mod boy outfits and scorned our naive fashionista behinds out of the building. As a teenager I listened to Wigan Casino oldies DJ Dave Evison on Piccadilly Radio in Manchester on Mike Shaft’s Taking Care Of Business playing tunes like Eddie Parker -I’m Gone and The Montclairs – Hey You as I struggled through my Physics homework.

In 1982 when I presented my first radio show on BBC radio Derby I immediately recruited Wigan Casino Oldies DJ Dave Evison to present a regular 20 minute slot every week and attempt to make a novice like me understand what the Soul scene was all about – when Dave took his talents and record collection off to Signal radio in his native Stoke-on-Trent I recruited Guy Hennigan , 60’s mafia man extraordinaire and avid collector on to the radio and was mesmerised by the sheer soulfulness of his weekly selections. I was grateful when Guy Hennigan followed me to Key 103 in Manchester in 1989 , so we could at least play Garnet Mimms at least once a week alongside the likes of The Stone Roses and Happy Mondays, it was somehow apt. When I moved to Sunset Radio in early 1990, the UK’s first official Black Music station, I was followed on air every Sunday by Richard Searling who guided me in the direction of some great songs as well. Since then I’ve always played northern soul on my radio shows, it’s the roots of club culture, it’s truly underground and it’s all about the music, the passion and that soulful feeling

As far as Northern Soul is concerned I’m an admirer and a fan, but sadly and in even more ways gladly , after 35 years of listening and learning from some of the best and interviewing the late legendary Detroit producer  Richard Popcorn Wylie, Edwin Starr, Eddie Holman amongst others I’m still an outsider in every way on the edge of a scene that is and will be forever triumphantly private. So apologies to the true believers who’ve kept the faith for this list of my favourites from my limited,yet loving, admiration for your scene. This is a top 100, but it’s not carefully compiled and it’s certainly not in any particular order, as the great songs came into my head I wrote them down and tried to check that they weren’t double entries.

  • 1.Gerri Granger – I Go to pieces
  • 2. Maxine Brown – it’s Torture
  • 3.Eddie Parker – I’m Gone
  • 4. Ronnie McNeir – Isn’t She a pretty Girl
  • 5. George Pepp- This Feeling is real
  • 6. Alice Clark – You Hit Me where It hurts
  • 7. Bettye Lavette – You’ll never change
  • 8.Bobby Treetop – Wait Till I get To Know Ya
  • 9.Jackie Wilson – I’ve Lost you
  •  10.Larry Clinton – She’s Wanted
  • 11.Frankie Beverley – If That’s What You Wanted
  • 12.Eddie Hamilton And The Arabians – Baby Don’t You Weep
  • 13.Lenny Curtis – Nothing Can Help You Now
  • 14.Eddie Parker – Love You Baby
  • 15.The Steinways – My Heart’s Not In It any More
  • 16. Chuck Holliday – You can’t Trust Nobody
  • 17.Salvadors – Stick By Me Baby
  • 18.Judy Street – What
  • 19.Barbara Acklin – Just Ain’t Love
  • 20.Jodi Mathis – Don’t You care Anymore
  • 21.Moses Smith – The Girl Across The Street
  • 22.James Fountain – 7 Day Lover
  • 23.Cody Black – I’m Slowly Molding
  • 24.The Five Stairsteps – Stay Close To Me
  • 25.The Falcons – I’m A Fool I Must Love You
  • 26.Eloise Laws – Love Factory
  • 27.Eula Cooper – Standing By Love
  • 28.Don Varner – Tear stained Face
  • 29.Johnny Wyatt – This Thing Called
  • 30.Barbara Lynn – Take Your Love And Run
  • 31.Los Rubins – You’ve Been away
  • 32.Johnny Sayles – I can’t Get Enough
  • 33.Tommy Hunt – loving On The losing Side
  • 34.Barbara Lynn – Take Your Love and Run
  • 35.Charles & Inez Fox – Tightrope
  • 36.Little Johnny Taylor – Zig Zag Lightning
  • 37.The Yum Yums – Gonna Be A Big Thing
  • 38.The Bell Boys – I don’t Want To Lose You
  • 39.The Detroit Emeralds – the Cool Off
  • 40.Dee Dee Gamble – The Bottle And Me
  • 41. Garnet Mimms – looking For You
  • 42. Dobie Gray – Out On The Floor
  • 43. Darryl Banks – Open the Doors To Your heart
  • 44, Ike And Tina Turner – Somebody Somewhere Needs You
  • 45. Sandi Sheldon – You’re Gonna make Me Love You
  • 46. The Impressions – can’t satisfy
  • 47. Ann Byers – I’m happy Without You
  • 48. Robert parker – Barefootin’
  • 49. Jimmy Burns – i really love You
  • 50.JoAnn Courcy – I Got The Power
  • 51. Jock Mitchell – Not a Chance In a million
  • 52. Bobby Treetop – wait Till I get To Know You
  • 53.Johnny Mae Matthews – I Have No Choice
  • 54. Troy Dodds – Try My Love
  • 55.Johnny Taylor – Man Up In The Sky
  • 56. Rose Batiste – Hit And Run
  • 57. Gene Chandler – Nothing Can Stop Me
  • 58. Don Thomas – Come On Train
  • 59. Al Wilson – The Snake
  • 60. The Carstairs – It Really Hurts Me Girl
  • 61. Sam Fletcher – I’d think it over
  • 62. Al Green – Don’t Leave me
  • 63. Seven Souls – I Still Love You
  • 64.Little Tommy – baby I Need You
  • 65. Benny Mahan – She Knows How
  • 66. Tony Clarke – landslide
  • 67. Jimmy Radcliffe – Long After Tonight Is all Over
  • 68.Dean Parrish – I’m On My way
  • 69. Tobi Legend – Time Will Pass You By
  • 70. Yvonne Baker – You Didn’t say A word
  • 71. Harold Melvin – Get Out
  • 72. Don Garner – the Cheatin’ Kind
  • 73. Moses Smith – Girl across the Street
  • 74. Garnet Mimms – Prove It To Me
  • 75. Little Carl Carlton – Competition ain’t Nothing
  • 76. Dobie Gray – the In Crowd
  • 77. Gloria Jones – tainted Love
  • 78. Judy Street – What
  • 79. Barbara Acklin- Love makes a woman
  • 80.Darrel Banks – our Love is In the Pocket
  • 81. The Parliaments- Don’t Be Sore At me
  • 82. The Exciters – Blowin’ Up My Mind
  • 83. The Poets – She Blew A good Thing
  • 84. Charles and Inez Fox – Tightrope
  • 85. The Incredibles – There’s Nothing Else To say Baby
  • 86. Lou Johnson – Unsatisfied
  • 87.Frank Beverly and The Butlers – If That’s What You wanted
  • 88. Bobby Bland – These Arms small But mighty
  • 89. Bobby Bland – Shoes
  • 90. the fascinations – Girls Are out To Get You
  • 91.Little Anthony and The Imperials – Better use Your Head
  • 92. Jamo Thomas – I Spy for The FBI
  • 93.Morris Chestnut – Too darn Soulful
  • 94.The valentinos – Sweeter Than The day before
  • 95. Chuck Wood – Seven days is Too Long
  • 96. Bobby Womack – Find Me somebody
  • 97. Frank Wilson – Do I love You
  • 98.Frankie Beverly & The Butlers – Because Of My Heart
  • 99.Denise La Salle – love Reputation
  • 100. Jackie Wilson – I’ve Lost You

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This Post Has 7 Comments

  1. Murph says:

    I love the music but what I’ve never been able to stand about “Northen Soul’ is the supercilious and elitist nature of the people involved in it. They’re worse than the ‘jazzo’s’. There seems to be more concern with the image to these people as opposed to any real love of the music. The inverted snobbery amongst them is staggering. By the way, I’d have Stevie Wonder composed Aretha Franklin classic ‘Until You Come Back To Me’ and King Curtis’s ‘Memphis Soul Stew’ somewhere in that top 100

  2. Saffy says:

    Wow .. Brought back some memories .. Shivers x

  3. redmanthinks says:

    Sam Fletcher : I`d Think It Over
    Little Anthony & The Imperials : Better Use Your Head

    Music of any genre does n`t get much better than this.

  4. Great article. Being a Soul/Mod DJ in Canada, I’m continuously amazed at how I can still find, to this day, great 60s Soul 45s that are totally unknown, waiting to be discovered.

    Little note: Isn’t #11 and #87 on the list the same record?

  5. Lambretta says:

    For someone who went to Wigan Terry. you made a great article of the way we lived in the 70s.Oh by the way like your top 100,But Paul Sinbad(I was a fool should have got a shout.

  6. Fifi says:

    Hi Terry, (aka Bruce Lee). Thanks for this great article. I have just been to see the new film, Northern Soul, on my birthday and, obviously, thought of you, hence finding this article.
    Hope all’s well on Planet Terry, it’s fantastic on mine.
    From an old flame from Avery Hill days

  7. len brown says:

    Yeah great piece…

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