The Northern Soul movement has marked 2 significant anniversaries this year – the launch of the weekly All-Nighters at the scene’s most famous venue, Wigan Casino, in 1973, as well as the opening of its foundation club, Manchester’s Twisted Wheel, 10 years earlier. A new book, ‘Northern Soul – An Illustrated History’ was recently published by Virgin Books, its co-author, Bury-born Elaine Constantine, also the director of the upcoming film ‘Northern Soul’. The book has been well received by Northern aficionados, Constantine (and Gareth Sweeney) congratulated for their insightful overview of the movement, which is enhanced by the anecdotal offerings of some of the DJs, dancers and collectors who epitomized Northern Soul. Alongside the music and the clubs in which it featured, the book also highlights the drug culture that played such a major role, amphetamines fuelling its development.
Tag Archives | Colin Curtis
In 2009 I wrote an article on the history of mixing in this country called ‘How The Talking Stopped’. It was the most in depth piece I’d ever written, the research alone had taken many months, including a couple of trips to the British Library in London to comb through the copies of Record Mirror they have archived there, for it was within this magazine that the person who I’d certainly argue did more to promote UK DJ culture than any other human being, connected (via his essential weekly dance column) with fellow DJs in every corner of the country. This was the literally larger than life James Hamilton (1942-1996), and if you’re a British DJ, whether you’ve heard of him or not, you can’t have escaped his influence, for he’s part of the very fabric of our DJ / club heritage.
During recent times I’ve been intrigued to hear about the growing schism on the House scene here in the UK, brought about by the introduction, primarily by young black dancers, of ‘foot shuffling’ (aka ‘cutting shapes’), an increasingly popular style of dancing that has been met with much hostility in certain quarters, and, somewhat bizarrely, resulted in shufflers being banned from some clubs for dancing in this way. The accusation is that not only do they take up too much dancefloor space, but there’s a general ‘moodiness’ with regards to their attitude. Although it no longer seems to be online, there was even an ‘Anti Foot Shuffling Campaign’ page on Facebook, with some of the posts suggesting underlying issues of racism. As one person commented, “It’s not that all these people on here hate shufflers, they just don’t like fact that black people are into House music now.” Although this comment may be well intentioned, it’s also somewhat misguided given there are, and always have been, plenty of black people in the UK who are big into House – it’s just that their presence is usually to be found away from the mainstream, in more specialist avenues like the Deep and Soulful House scenes. Furthermore, some of the older black crowd are also resistant to this new wave of shuffling, so to present it as a purely black / white issue would be wrong.
Last month I was over in Chicago chilling out in my hotel room ahead of my first gig in the city, at Smart Bar, a venue with a rich tradition, which opened back in 1982. Chicago is, of course, along with Detroit, Philadelphia and New York, revered as a key US city when it comes to the evolution of dance culture (and, indeed, black culture, with, way before House, a deep heritage in Rhythm & Blues, Blues and Jazz, dating right back to the ‘great migration’ of black workers from the southern states, beginning just over 100 years ago).
Whilst DJ obsessives in this country could tell you the minutia with regards to New York’s celebrated club culture of the ’70s, I’m often surprised to find that they know precious little about what was happening here in the UK at the same time David Mancuso, Nicky Siano, Larry Levan and the other NY legends of the ’70s were bringing Disco to the fore. Maybe they think that there wasn’t much happening here, and that UK DJs were simply following the US lead, whilst, to the contrary, nothing could be further from the truth – go back into the ’70s, before Disco hit its stride, and you’ll find hugely influential figures including Ian Levine, Colin Curtis and Les Spaine in the North, Chris Hill, Bob Jones and George Power in the South – DJs with a wealth of knowledge between them, who made their mark on popular culture here at root level. These are giants, upon the shoulders of which subsequent generations of British DJs stand, whether they know it or not.
You don’t know how happy I am to be able to tell you that, after months and months of chipping away, the new redesigned revitalized Electrofunkroots website is now live and kicking, having undergone a complete overhaul, with loads of new content added. Full menu here:
As you’re no doubt aware, Manchester holds special significance for me, dating back to my fruitful association with Legend in the early ’80s. I talked about the return to my ‘spiritual home’ to reactivate my DJ career in the recent Music Is Better Re-Edited Highlights post: http://blog.gregwilson.co.uk/2011/09/music-is-better-re-edited-highlights
For my 100th blog post thought I’d flag up another personal anniversary this month.
Gil Scott-Heron died last Friday (May 27th 2011), aged 62. He was one of those artists who built his reputation on the fringes – hugely influential, yet almost completely unknown within a mainstream context. Initially a writer and poet, Scott-Heron hooked-up with musician Brian Jackson at university in Pennsylvania during the ’60s, the duo combining to great effect throughout the ’70s on a number of albums. His vocal style would be an inspiration to the oncoming Hip Hop generation, to whom his socially conscious lyrics, and their defiant delivery, helped lay the foundations for the Rap genre that would subsequently flourish during the ’80s and beyond, not least his keynote recording, ‘The Revolution Will Not Be Televised’, taken from his 1970 debut ‘Small Talk At 125th And Lenox’.
I got involved with Vintage on the back of ‘Music Played In Discotheques’, the mix of tracks I put together from the years leading up to when I stared deejaying in the clubs in late 1975, illustrating an era when disco music wasn’t a genre as such, but the music played in clubs and discotheques. This was something Wayne Hemingway and his son Jack (who’d been to some of my DJ dates) had asked me to do for the silent disco space they’d curated at Liverpool’s Tate Gallery, the centrepiece being an underlit disco dancefloor.