Northern Soul 2 – The Drugs

Tales of illicit derring-do, from the DDA of Northern Soul’s pharmacy.

When you’re the runt of your peer group, there’s a tendency to try and impress (and ape the behaviour of) the big lads and for my first few visits to Blackpool Mecca, I chewed lots of gum to look the part of a pill-head, but – to keep a clear conscience (particularly out of regard for my parents) – I resisted taking pills.

Having studied the older kids for extreme side effects, and found that they hadn’t grown a tail or an extra head, I dipped a metaphorical toe into amphetamines at the Highland Room, in the Summer that the Va Va opened.

We were in Blackpool by early Saturday afternoon and eating what became a regular pre-Blackpool Mecca diet of crisp barms, because I never had much money and wasn’t gonna waste what I had on food.

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Northern Soul 3 – The Dancing

Notes from the dance floor of Northern Soul’s Big Bang.

The most groundbreaking element of the Northern Soul phenomenon was/is not the music: no, the music existed before we found it, and cannot be replenished unless current Black American artists take a(nother) vow of poverty, and aspire only to be obscure commercial failures in order to keep a rare vinyl industry afloat (aouch).

So, unless Indiana Jones or Lara Croft discover a warehouse full of obscurities – Raiders of the Lost Demo’s or Tune Raider ? – the top-notch rare soul music is long gone. But all is not lost to innovative future generations, because the aspect of Northern Soul that’s ever-ripe for youth to take it up, break it up, (re)make it up and bloody-well own it – without interference or strings from the past – is the dancing.

Forgive me for again indulging in over-simplification, but there were three primary categories of youth who signed up for Northern Soul duty: – pill-heads, dancers and collectors.

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Northern Soul 4 – Richard Searling

Notes from the front seat of Northern Soul’s van-guard – Over seven years on the road with a White Van Man ‘legend’

I first met Richard Searling as he struggled under the weight of his record boxes, at the entrance to the Va Va Northern Soul all-nighter in Bolton, when I was still at school.

Soon, he was trying to groom me, with occasional visits to a noisy North London establishment, to see some foreign geezers called Villa and Ardiles: But I wasn’t destined to be a Spurs fan.
In fact, I’ve since become a double Heretic:
A fekin’ Gooner ?…
…(Who believes the whole Northern Soul record box should be bloody-well-remixed, re-modeled, re-recorded and reworked) !

To impress him with my knowledge of Northern tunes, I asked if he had a record I believed only Ian Levine owned (Rat Race by the Righteous Brothers Band, I think).

At subsequent all-nighters I wedged myself up against the perspex sheets surrounding the DJ box and we became friends, thus beginning my seven/eight year stint as Richard’s original co-pilot, in the first of many steeds; a white Escort van.

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Malcolm Muggeridge

Meetings with one of the greatest essayists of the last century.

In my youth, I turned on the television to find Michael Parkinson interviewing some gnarled old chap I’d never seen before. Another guest shortly appeared, singing the praises of America and how generous the people were to him, a ‘poor Englishman’.

With an uncanny likeness to my mental picture of Dickens’ Harold Skimpole, the new arrival to Parky’s show stated (words to the affect) that every time he went to the States, all he had to do was admit to being poor and the locals would come to his rescue and make up the deficit.

He of the gnarled countenance was unmoved and clearly wanted to debate.
‘Have you been to the Bronx recently?’, enquired the old man.
In the absence of a reply, he added that ‘the American Dream is all washed up.’
The old man was Malcolm Muggeridge.

Although I cannot recall what else was said, his words swam against the prevailing tide of materialism and the culture of ‘I’ve got mine’, and his eloquence planted seeds.

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