The fifteenth edition of my ‘Discotheque Archives’ series for DJ Mag is now online, featuring more landmarks in pre-Rave club culture:
Tag Archives | Ian Levine
I’d meant to put this up back in May, 40 years after the record in question was released, but didn’t manage to get around to it. I wanted to highlight my Time Capsule series, which I put together for a series of 21 monthly episodes spanning January 1976 to September 1977. Each month consists of a podcast, nowadays available to stream via Mixcloud, featuring the dance music played by myself and other UK DJs back then. This was accompanied by text, where I talked about the tracks and the artists featured, whilst outlining my early days as a DJ.
This weekend Colin Curtis celebrates his 50th anniversary as a DJ with a special event at The Exchange in his home city of Stoke-On-Trent. Colin started out in his mid-teens at Newcastle-Under-Lyme’s Crystal Ballroom, before making his all-nighter debut at Stoke’s hallowed Golden Torch, one of Northern Soul’s foundation venues, eventually becoming one of the scene’s leading figures as a result of his legendary ‘70’s partnership with Ian Levine at the Blackpool Mecca. Info about the anniversary date here:
‘Don’t You Worry Baby The Best Is Yet To Come’ is a track that was first played at Blackpool Mecca in 1976 following the acquisition of a US promo from fabled Norfolk based Glaswegian record dealer John Anderson (Soul Bowl) by DJ Colin Curtis, and then a release copy via a London based supplier who specialized in importing new American releases to distribute to US Troops in Germany & Europe, specifically black GI’s with a love of Soul and Funk. The Northern Soul sessions at the Mecca were hugely influential, the club revered, along with Manchester’s Twisted Wheel, The Catacombs in Wolverhampton, The Golden Torch in Stoke-On-Trent, and the scene’s most famous venue, Wigan Casino, at the vanguard of the movement.
It’s 10 months since I blogged about the first 2 A&R Edits releases, issued simultaneously on DJ only limited 12” vinyl. Since then there have been 3 further additions, with another to follow next month, making 6 releases in all, each containing 2 tracks.
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.
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.
Exactly 30 years ago today, on 25th February 1983, I appeared on Channel 4’s influential music show, ‘The Tube’, demonstrating mixing for the first time on live TV in the UK – just my luck that the very point I was encapsulated in a cultural moment, it coincided with a brief phase where I looked like an extra from the Hair Bear Bunch, but that’s the way the mop flops. The footage is nowadays fondly regarded as part of British dance heritage, illustrating how the New York innovation of mixing was finally finding favour on this side of the Atlantic, where the microphone was still a key component of the DJs approach. For a full account of how UK DJs gradually put down the microphone and embraced mixing, check out ‘How The Talking Stopped’, an in-depth step by step account of its British evolution:
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.