Way before the days when an all nighter was a common occurance for a good portion of people heading out over the weekend, rare soul tracks were emerging and fueling the dance floors of the Northern Soul scene. Thanks to DJs making countless record buying trips to the USA, the likes of the Wigan Casino and the Blackpool Mecca became a hot spot for record dealings as well as a place to show off your moves to the songs on rotation. Ahead of his appearance at the London Funk and Soul Club's next event on the 20th of November, DJ Keb Darge was on hand to give us an insight to 7 records that changed his life.
The Human Beinz - Nobody But Me
"First up, in summer of 1974 I was working at Glen Elgin Distillery, and heavily into Taekwondo. After hearing Footsee on the radio Mstr Michael J Thompson told me of the mysterious world of Northern Soul, and wanting to see it for myself I headed off on my own to a night in a far off golden city known as Dundee. I sat and watched the fancy dancing all night without paying too much attention to what was playing. Then this came on, and became the first record I ever asked the "what the f**k is this?" question too. I think it was Ned Jordan (RIP) who played it, but can't really remember. I was then on the mission I think most of us back then got onto, of trying to buy the tunes we heard at these magical nights."
Ron Holden - I'll Forgive And Forget
"Not long after the Human Beings experience I found myself excited by quite a lot of the records being played on the Northern scene. I can clearly remember being in the record bar at the Blackpool Mecca and seeing this in a box for 7 quid. Now at the time that was a weeks wages for me so I moved on to the next box. I then went through the thoughts of how great it would be to play this in Aberdeen, and the wow factor it would give my ego. I then saw another chap looking at it, and pounced. My first "rare" record was now in my possession. On the way back to the Highlands I had feelings of joy mixed with guilt. Rent had to be paid, food had to be bought, and I had nothing left. I did get the thrill I desired when John Snelling played it at the Aberdeen Center City Soul Club for me."
Aquarian - Dream Pheonix
"We are now in 1976. A new sound is creeping onto the northern dancefloors. Some are happy, some very angry. Up in Aberdeen we didn't really care that much, some liked both styles, some preferred one over the other. We called it New York Disco when it first arrived, it then evolved into Jazz/Funk/Disco. I started dancing to, and buying both styles, though I did prefer the traditional sixties northern sound. It only took a year or two for the scene to completely split. At first the Mecca mixed the stompers in on the main floor, then the two styles were separated with stompers upstairs in the old Highland room, and this new stuff in the main ballroom. Then after a few fights the two styles were seperated for good. By the time we reached 1979 I began to dislike most of the new tunes, they were becoming too over produced, and cheesy for me. However one of my fondest memories is of Angela Florence Bruce, Carol Spence, Vikki Spalding, Ian Copland, Billy Davidson, Phil, Dave, John Snelling, and all the rest going daft to this one. All doing some fancy hand wavy dance to it. I loved it then, and it is one of the few that I still do love."
Flame 'N' King & The Bold Ones - Ho Happy Day
"Track four and we leap forward to 1979. Neil Speedy Allen and I are at an All-Nighter in the Carousel Ballroom in Manchester. We were dancing away to the big tunes of the day when on came Soul Sam, who made a wee speech in an unintelligible southern accent, then on came this. Neil Speedy Allen and I looked at each other in a bemused fashion. This was very different, we had heard the Jazz/Funk/Disco stuff, we had heard the Mecca style early seventies shufflers, we had danced to the Flaming Emeralds Have Some Fun, The Lovelites Get It Off My Concience, and similar at Wigan, but this was very different. Futuristic like the disco stuff, but much more classy. I think Sam played it twice in his set, and we were hooked on this new style."
Bobby Hutton - Come See What's Left Of Me
"We are now in the early eighties. The soul scene is dominated by oldies, (records that had been big discoveries in what was seen as the heyday of the scene, Wheel to Casino). I am DJ'ing regularly at the new 100 club All-nighters playing a mix of "modern soul", big tunes of the day, and the odd sixties newie. Then in 1981 or 82 Ken Cox who runs the Peterborough All-nighters decides to try out an experiment, somebody will no doubt confirm the year. He puts on a sixties newies All-nighter where all that will be played are new discoveries recorded before 1970. The DJ's were if I remember correctly Guy Hennigan, Pete Marshall, Kevin Draper, Dave Withers,(the face of the 1976 documentary about Wigan Casino), and I think Gary Rushbrook. I went along cassette recorder in hand so I could record the tunes for studying later. I was working nights in a butchers factory at the time, and spent the next few weeks scrutinizing the cassette recordings of the night. Big Joe's Ivory Brass was on there, but Mark Linton already chose that, so I chose Guy's Cassanova Bennet cover up. While listening to it I thought surely those modern soul people would get it, and those that thought newies died because all that was left were pop stompers would also come on board. So this is really only one of the records played that night that pushed me in a new direction which I did very well out of eventually."
Johnny Burnette - Rockabilly Boogie
"This one, and the story with it will confuse some of you that don't know me well. We are now in 1988/89. I am living with my girlfriend Yumi Takezawa at the time, and she tells me two of her mates are coming over from Tokyo for one night before they move on to New York. They wanted to meet us at a Rockabilly night in a pub by the side of the Camden Palace.
We met her mates outside and all went in and sat at a table next to the dance floor. I was impressed with the dancing especially the bopping, it looked like a strange version of the northern soul shuffle. The strolling looked like what we called "the Wigan Walk", but I still wasn't listening. Then this f**ker came on, and I suddenly got engrossed in the sound, I really did think "f**k..f**k.. listen to this, it's f**kin brilliant". I went up to the DJ who I believe was Michael Zihni to find out what it was, and being a northern soul boy, how much an original would cost me. He sent me over to the only record dealer there, bought it, and a repro of the next record on the decks. I then spent all the money on me on repros of this stuff trusting the record dealer to pick out what he thought were classics on this scene. When I got home I stayed up all night listening to my bundle of repros again thinking "f**k, f**k, how did I miss this stuff, it's so f**king good."
The Savoy's - Can It Be
"I am staying at Shane Cosgrove's in Manila before going off on a European tour with Gu At Work. I had just done a wee tour of Japan, and wondered why I hadn't been booked in Kobe for a while
A few days later I was back in Padang, and a big naughty typhoon wiped out my surroundings, which after a couple of months forced a move back to the UK for me and Edith Calites-darge. I turned up with a box of very expensive fancy Rockabilly and Surf originals to do a bit of DJ'ing. To my dismay I couldn't get any work, the place was full of toy DJ's playing virtually all the same stuff off bootlegs, and repros. I was very happy to find that only a tiny fraction of this Garage stuff was available to any of the afore mentioned toy DJ's. So I began to sell lot's of my rocking stuff, mostly to the lovely Jerry Brill, in order to raise money for a collection of Garage originals. There are still so many magnificent Garage records to get, and they are all so bloody rare. I like rare on one hand, it keeps a record interesting, and gives it a longer life, on the other hand, I am not as rich as I need to be. I am now engrossed, and at the bookings I get I am virtually playing nothing but my new acquisitions."
Keb Drage joins The Haggis Horns (Live), Lazy Habits (Live), Dom Servini (Wah Wah 45s), The Brass Funkeys (Live) and more at The London Funk & Soul Club on Friday 20th November.
Photo courtesy of Soundcrash