Saturday, 31 December 2016

Northern Soul Classics - Up and Down The Ladder - The Intruders

Its 1968, in France workers have taken over factories and placed them under workers control; students have taken over the universities and provide free lectures to workers; the Prague Spring has erupted, as workers challenge the oppression of stalinist rule; in the US, university campuses are alight as students and progressive lecturers challenge the Vietnam War, and civil rights abuses, and the Black Panthers spear an uprising of mostly black workers in the industrial conurbations such as Detroit, against a backing track also provided by Motown; in Britain, workers engage in spontaneous action to defend their wages and conditions, whilst students every week flock into the London Squares, like Grosvenor Square, Red Lion Square and so on, to protest the Vietnam War outside assorted embassies.

Its mirrored for me, still at school, as some of us side unconditionally with the workers and students, whilst others argue that the workers should all go back to work, and the students restrict themselves to their studies.  But its not the only division.  The early 1960's, had been marked by the weekend battles between Mods and Rockers.  It was a bit of a conflict for me.  My Dad had been a motorbike dispatch rider, in Italy, during the war, he grew up with motorbikes, and so did I.  But, there was no doubt that, despite that, I was going to be a Mod.

By the early 1960's, my elder sister had long since gone past chart music.  Instead she was going out to the George Hotel in Burslem, and other venues, listening to R&B in various forms be it the Soul Sisters, Gino Washington, or Long John Baldry.  Her reel to reel tape recorder, which I took over, was filled with the sounds of motown and other soul tracks.

By 1968, the mods and rockers battles were at their tail end, but the Torch was ruled over by King of the Mods, Tombo, and he Sparky, Chat and Walter led an army of Potteries Mods that still engaged in skirmishes every week or so with with Potteries rockers that led to scooters being trashed outside the Torch, and motorbikes thrown through cafe windows.  It culminated in a pitched battle one Saturday afternoon, as a load of Hell's Angels from elsewhere turned up, tooled up with bike chains and other implements, and Hope Street through to Cobridge traffic lights resembled a scene from the Battle of Waterloo, as Mods, Rockers, police and police  dogs confronted each other, moving in one direction then another.

The DJ's at the Torch were Keith Minshull and Davo.  Keith's brother Geoff had recently started work at Bill Eardley's barbers shop in Goldenhill, where we could still get a haircut, on our way home, from school (for most of us a two minute walk into the village back streets) for the equivalent of around £0.10 in today's money!  Geoff drove a Mark II Zephyr 6 like those appearing in "Z Cars".  He started to offer new hair styles to the short back and sides that was Bill's stock in trade.  Shortly after, Geoff set up his own "salon" in part of the old Co-op in Sandyford, next to another part that had been turned into a launderette, where we would go and wash our Levis.  Ironically, in later years both bits were turned into a motorbike shop.

A couple of nights a week, we would walk the mile down to the Torch, where mid-week, you could often get in for free.  This week's Northern Classic is one that reminds me of that period in the late 60's, when we would go to these mid-week sessions on school nights.  I'd recently come second in a Potteries Judo competition, and had also just taken up Yoga.  The Judo taught me how to fall and roll, which was useful for practising forward rolls off stacked school tables, as preparation for doing that from jacknives.  The Yoga was useful for suppleness, for dropping easily into backdrops, and flipping into forward presses, and back, all of which were practised in the school hall.  All of which moves, I hasten to add were being undertaken as part of our dancing, at that time, long before anyone in Britain had even heard of Bruce Lee, whose popularity only started after the release of "Enter the Dragon" in 1973.

Its one of the things I've found a bit jarring with both "Soul Boy" and "Northern Soul" because although Northern Soul is described as an underground music phenomena, it was only that for the general public.  If you were aged between 13-20 at any time after 1968, and lived in Stoke, or other similar cities in the North, you would have to have been some kind of recluse not to have been aware of Northern, even before Dave Grodin coined that label for it.  Even those of our school friends who were into what we then called "Fribbo Music" were aware of it, and could hardly be anything other, because every morning, dinner-time and evening at the youth club held in the school, it boomed out from the school record player.  And every youth club, workingman's club and other venue played virtually nothing else.

My wife started going to the disco at Trentham Gardens, in 1968, when she was 13, and it was run by Bob "Smiler" Morris, from Trent Vale, another Torch regular.  I started collecting records at around that time, even though I didn't have a record player!  I remember as a result lending a number of pressings on Jeff King's Soul Sounds to my friend Phil Churton, who was DJ'ing at a number of places, and later went on to DJ at the 100 Club in London.  So many memories I could fill several books, just from that period.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

The main difference seems to be that the rockers came first in order of time. The mods came slightly after.

Are these differences worth going to war for?

If there were no news headlines anticipating pitched battles then would there have been any pitched battles?

Wouldn’t it have made more sense for mods and rockers to have organised joint concert with a rock n’ roll singer and a soul singer on the seafront?

Mods and rockers should have shared the loudspeaker to criticise the accuracy of the news coverage.