A Break From Rolling News, A Return To The Sixties and More Northern Soul: ‘What’ by Judy Street

Another Saturday and another blog post from me. I’ve suddenly become quite prolific after a bit of a fallow period. We’ve all had our ups and downs over the last couple of years but thankfully my downs seem to be temporary. I feel for those whose mental health has really been affected however, as there just doesn’t seem to be enough help out there for the increased demand. This week’s news headlines won’t have helped – Could Christmas be cancelled yet again?

Something Mr WIAA and I have actively tried to cut back on over the last fortnight, is rolling news. Being home-based, we never wanted to fall into the trap of watching daytime telly, so always kept the screen in the kitchen tuned to a news channel. Problem is, in 2021 the stories have been bleak indeed, and not just down to the pandemic. Best to simply catch the radio news first thing in the morning then stay well away from it all for the rest of the day – Turns out a bit of property porn, or touching base with the heir-hunters when having a break, is far less depressing.

Kay Burley from the world of rolling news

Forgive me this indulgence, but over the years, whenever something quite big happened in our family, we didn’t just rush home to tell each other. Oh no, we also burst into song, the first lines from this song to be specific. One of DD’s favourite films as a young child was Summer Holiday and it was watched many, many times. Near the end of the film, Don (Cliff Richard) puts the world’s press right, via the medium of song. Here he is singing Big News from 1963. (Starts at 0:33.)

Big News by Cliff Richard:

Sticking with a 1960s theme, my Saturday morning starts well nowadays. Not just because of Rol’s Saturday Snapshots, but also because of the radio show Sounds of the Sixties. The current presenter Tony Blackburn is now aged 78, but his enthusiasm for the songs he plays is infectious, and in a 15 minute period he can fit in around five classic songs, punctuated with his short and snappy, so bad they’re good, dad jokes.

Couldn’t get to sleep so went to buy a new mattress – Salesman said if you lie near the edge you’ll soon drop off.

Tony started out in pirate radio and of course was the first DJ to be heard on BBC Radio 1 when it launched in 1967. The first record he played was The Move’s Flowers in the Rain, a useful fact for pop quizzes. He’s had a long career and even provided the inspiration for many a comedy sketch about aging, ‘not-so-cool’ DJs. Think Tony has had the last laugh though, as here he is still doing a job he adores all these years later – How many of us can say that nowadays. His first love was soul music and he always includes a floor-filler from the days of Northern Soul on his show. This morning’s pick was this gem from 1968, What by Judy Street.

What by Judy Street:

I’ve become fascinated by Northern Soul over the last few years and have written a fair few posts about the phenomenon that hit the North of England in the mid 1970s. I love to watch those dancers in action and live in hope I’ll master their moves whilst still fit enough to do so. The music usually drives the dance style, but because I wasn’t there at the time, tricky to pick it up in later life it seems. Maybe I’ll have to get one of those big circular skirts and put some talc on my laminate floor.

The song What was originally recorded by Melinda Marx, daughter of Groucho, and released in 1965. Judy recorded it in 1968 as the B-side to her single You Turn Me On. After being exported to England, it was picked up by DJs at Wigan Casino and became a big hit on the Northern Soul circuit.

So, ‘What’s It All About?’ – I used to be shocked when people I worked with said they didn’t really watch the news, as I always like to be well-informed about what’s going on in the world. It does start to wear you down however, when everything is negative, worrying and doesn’t give you much hope for the future. I will no doubt return to my old ways in due course, but for the moment, nice to have a bit of a break from it all.

It was a real delight to listen to back to back songs from the 1960s earlier on this morning – In a short space of time we were treated to Oh, Happy Day, Waterloo Sunset, Ain’t Nothing Like The Real Thing, Do You Know The Way To San Jose and I Couldn’t Live Without Your Love, as well as the song written about above. As for Tony Blackburn, just like Kay Burley in the world of television news, he’s not for everyone, but when interviewed he’s like the cat that got the cream, as he still can’t quite believe he gets paid for playing all these songs he loves. He is apolitical and never offers up his opinions, so his show makes for a nice relaxed start to the weekend. His predecessor Brian Matthews was more a connoisseur of ’60s music I think, often playing lesser known tracks, but Tony is a people pleaser and sticks to the ones we all know and love.

Right, time to dust off my plimsoles and get working on my spins and shuffles. If you want to find out more about Northern Soul, this episode of The Culture Show does well in explaining it all.

Until next time…

What Lyrics
(Song by H.B. Barnum)

Do you want me to get down on my knees
Beg you baby please cry a million tears
Do you want me to call you on the phone
Beg you to come home think of all the years

When I once lived in paradise
When the love light showed in your eyes

Oh tell me what
What (what) can I do when I still love you

What (what) can I say when I still want you
What can I do what can I say
You’ll never know this way

Do you want me to follow you around everywhere in town do you want a clown
Why do you treat me mean and cruel breaking every rule can’t I be your fool
We could make this a happy home
So come back where you belong

Oh tell me what (what) can I do when I still love you
What (what) can I say when I still want you
What can I do what can I say
You’ll never know this way

Please forgive me come back and then
We can fall in love
Over and over and over and over again

Oh tell me what (what) can I do
What (what) can I say
Say you’ll come back don’t stay away
What (what) can I do now baby


After pressing the publish button I made a bit of an interesting discovery. At the start of last week, my first post back after a break of a few weeks featured a song by Soft Cell. I of course mentioned that their first big hit in 1981 was a cover of Tainted Love, a Northern Soul favourite originally recorded by Gloria Jones.

In 1982 they also recorded What, and it got to the No. 3 spot on the UK Singles Chart. For some bizarre reason I don’t remember it at all, so can only put that down to the fact my life as a student had just come to an end and the world of paid work had begun – Different priorities. Anyway, here are Soft Cell with a very different version of today’s featured song. They obviously had an affinity for Northern Soul.

Author: Alyson

Whenever I hear an old song on the radio, I am immediately transported back to those days. I know I'm not alone here and want to record those memories for myself and for the people in them. 57 years ago the song "Alfie" was written by my favourite songwriting team, Bacharach and David. The opening line to that song was, "What's it all about?" and I'm hoping by writing this blog, I might find the answer to that question.

13 thoughts on “A Break From Rolling News, A Return To The Sixties and More Northern Soul: ‘What’ by Judy Street”

  1. A lovely read as always, Alyson, you’re the Saturday tonic for us all in Bloggerland. Keep the faith? Are you foreshadowing a Bon Jovi blogpost?!


    1. Hoping to get back to regular Saturday morning blogging again so glad you think so!

      As for ‘Keep the Faith’, nothing to do with Bon Jovi I’m afraid – It was the tagline for the Northern Soul Movement along with the clenched fist icon. Might have to add a picture by way of explanation, or take that line out.


    1. That was a surprise to me too and somehow a bit discombobulating. You think of Groucho with his moustache and comedy mannerisms but don’t for one second think of him as a family man with a daughter. Her career as a singer was short-lived. Always some new snippet to learn.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Kay, Tony and Cliff – They’re all popping up in this one so amazed I’ve had any visitors!

      Kay is one scary dude. Tony I’ve become fond of lately as I catch the last 15 minutes of his show before getting myself psyched up for Saturday Snapshots – Yesterday’s Sounds of the Sixties songs were very uplifting and I really liked that joke. Might even be able to remember it as short and snappy. As for Cliff, to me he will always be Don in Summer Holiday, driving that double decker bus.


  2. Even though Northern Soul is almost exclusively North American R&B, it really never was described as a musical genre on this side of the pond. Our radio formats back then were Top 40, Adult Contemporary, C&W and R&B.
    If you’ll forgive the segue, there is a fantastic version of Love Affair’s 1969 hit “Everlasting Love” in the ‘wake/karaoke’ scene of Kenneth Brannagh’s just released movie “Belfast”. I don’t believe the movie will be released in the UK until January, but you should be able to access the scene on YouTube. The rest of the soundtrack is exclusively Van Morrison material. A great movie expected to be considered for an Oscar in the Spring.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. No indeed, the Northern refers to the North of England. How bizarre that these DJs managed to prise young male factory workers onto the dancefloor by playing obscure American soul B-sides from the ’60s. I only now understand why these songs popped up on our music charts when I was a teenager, as I lived a long way away from places like the Wigan Casino (a dancehall).

      Your segue was very relevant actually, I remember Everlasting Love better from the 1970s as American Robert Knight had a hit with both it and Love On A Mountain Top because of the popularity of Northern Soul. The Love Affair version was from 1969 of course so fitting for the movie trailer. Just watched it and look forward to seeing it at the cinema. Many of my favourite actors from Outlander, The Fall, Merlin are in it. Also I remember those days from watching the news every night (even then) so will document the history of those dark days. Oscar nominations aplenty no doubt.


    1. Funnily enough it was the Soft Cell version I wasn’t familiar with despite remembering everything else by them around that time. Sometimes, because of travelling or being busy with other stuff, I find I’ve missed a crucial month of pop music history and this must have been one of those times.

      I’m still reeling from the fact Groucho Marx had a daughter who also recorded it!


  3. Judy Street is a new one on me, cool tune. Yes, I also only take in as much news as I need to stay informed, the cable news station just keep repeating stuff over and over to the point it makes one depressed instead of informed. Have a great holiday! Rick

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It was a new one on me too as for some reason I hadn’t remembered the 1982 version by Soft Cell – weird.

      I think it became a habit, when I gave up my job, to watch lots of news, as I missed all the chat/goings on in my office. Great when there’s lots of success in Olympics etc but over the last couple of years it’s all been pretty negative. Would love to have the radio on all day but I sadly can’t concentrate on work and listen to music. I enjoy it all too much and would just be thinking of blog posts to write!


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