Dug out my copies of ‘Deep Soul Treasures’, the four volume series compiled by Dave Godin, for a recent road trip. Got me thinking about Godin’s evangelical role in spreading the Soul gospel here in the UK.
World War II was the catalyst for a wider appreciation of black music on these shores, via the US bases that were scattered around Britain, for where America went so did its culture. The major conduit was the jukebox, which had become big business Stateside in the ’40s, entering its golden age in the ’50s when manufacturers, the Seeburg Corporation, replaced the old shellac 78 rpm records in 1950 with 45 rpm vinyl pressings (7” singles). Jukeboxes were standard at US military barracks and black American servicemen would have theirs filled with the latest Rhythm & Blues tracks.
Dave Godin was born in Peckham, London, but his family had relocated to Bexleyheath in Kent during wartime. It was as a teenager at the Silver Lounge Ice Cream Parlour, on the town’s Broadway, that he first came across the music that would shape his life, courtesy of a newly installed jukebox, obtained from a nearby American base, complete with US 45s. In an article written for Grand Slam magazine in 2003, 50 years on from this epiphany, Godin recalled:
A group of young men were seated by this marvellous novelty, and constantly putting money in to keep the records spinning, and I had NEVER heard music like it before! This wasn’t the crapola slush of popular music as expounded by White folks – this was real men and real women (as opposed to boys and girls), talking about real passions and hard emotions! This was no-shit reality to me, and I was hooked.
I went over to the machine to see what was playing, and determined I had to get my own copy. The chaps who had more or less taken charge of it noticed my interest and one of them asked me if I liked that music.
I told him I had never heard music like this before. What was it? He explained is was “Rhythm & Blues”, music made by “coloured Americans” (to have used the word “black” in 1953 would have been unthinkably evil – only out and out racists ever used that word), and he went on to point out several other titles I might like to hear. Since I didn’t have any more cash with me, this wonderful person, who, without knowing or realising it, was to have an effect on me that would last for the rest of my life, shovelled a handful of sixpences into my hand and showed me how to operate the machine and which titles to play that I might like.
What heaven! What magic! And how I wish I could somehow thank that chap for his generosity and guidance.
It would be an auspicious day for British popular culture. Having gained a scholarship to Dartford Grammar School he introduced fellow student, Mick Jagger, to what he termed ‘Blackamerican music’. Later down the line, in the early ’60s, he founded the Tamla-Motown Appreciation Society (visiting Berry Gordy at his Detroit ‘Hitsville’ Motown HQ), and it was due to his efforts that the label would be launched in the UK – remember, there was no Tamla Motown label in the US, but separate Gordy owned labels, Tamla, launched in 1959, and Motown, launched in 1960 (further subsidiaries would include Gordy, V.I.P and Soul). He’s also responsible for coining the term ‘Northern Soul’, and was revered by a generation of black music enthusiasts for his writings on the subject, most notably in the pages of Blues & Soul magazine. London’s Soul City record shop and label, which he ran with fellow aficionados, David Nathan and Robert Blackmore, initially in Deptford but later in Covent Garden, further enhanced his reputation as one of the UK’s leading authorities on black music.
And all this grew from the small acorn of his Ice Cream Parlour initiation. The first record he bought, having heard it that fateful day on the sacred jukebox was Ruth Brown’s ‘Mama, He Treats Your Daughter Mean’ (1953). You can hear it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MfuNykUVQsg
The quartet of ‘Deep Soul Treasures’ were released between 1997 and 2004, the year of his death, and Godin said the series was his proudest achievement. The writer, Jon Savage, described it as follows:
In Pop’s millenial time travel, the compilation has become an art form in itself: a highly practical method of mapping a history that is still up for grabs. Like all the best compilations, ‘Dave Godin’s Deep Soul Treasures’ matches scrupulous research with passionate, first hand knowledge: the product of a highly personal vision, this astonishing collection of mid to late ’60s soul, like the music that it encodes, makes you see the world in a different way.
Full review here:
Godin was the embodiment of the British Soulboy at origin, one of an ever increasing amount of young white kids in the ’50s who, without having any direct connection to black culture, were deeply moved by the music of a people who were still very much enduring what was in essence an apartheid regime across the Atlantic, at a time when the Civil Rights movement had still to find momentum. These recordings, which could only have come out of the struggle black Americans faced, transcended colour and went straight to the emotion. In this country, the subsequent obsession with black music would change everything, and when the British Invasion of bands including The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Yardbirds, The Who and the Spencer Davis Group, conquered the US in the ’60s, it was facilitated by their love of Blackamerican music, be it R&B, Rock & Roll, or straight up Blues.
It goes without saying that Dave Godin was a pioneer of this movement, and certainly one of its most active advocates. His legacy within black music circles is assured, and his passion acts as an example we all can admire.
Deep Soul Treasures Reviews:
Dave Godin Wikipedia: