A Break From Rolling News, A Return To The Sixties and More Northern Soul

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

Postscript:

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.

Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons, “The Night” and Northern Soul

Last night I finally got round to watching the film Northern Soul which had been recorded on the machine the previous week. It was made in 2014 but was all about the dance culture that emerged in the working-class industrial towns of the North of England in the early 1970s. Instead of chart music, the DJs in the various dance halls and youth clubs of Bury, Bolton, Blackburn, Burnley and Rochdale, played American soul music from the mid ’60s. And, this wasn’t mainstream soul music familiar to these youngsters, these DJs played the more obscure records that had never even charted (e.g. Tony Clarke: Landslide, Gloria Jones: Tainted Love, The Salvadors: Stick By Me Baby) but somehow they managed to attract large crowds of young people on a weekly basis, who literally danced all night.

The film Northern Soul is what would probably be classed as a gritty drama but told the story of two lads from Lancashire who immersed themselves in this culture, working in a factory by day but playing DJ at night, and at the weekends frequenting the big all-nighters at venues such as Wigan Casino. Watching them dance, this was early break dancing, what with the spins and the athletic moves. Who knew it all started in Lancashire?

For me, the standout record in the film was The Night by Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons. I knew this song well but didn’t realise that although it was originally released in 1972, due to poor promotion, didn’t chart. It did however become a popular track on the northern soul circuit and subsequently became a hit in 1975 reaching No.7 in the UK Singles Chart. An oh so familiar tale of a boy pleading with a girl he likes to resist the advances of another – Sadly all the pleading in the world is not going to work in a case like this as we girls all seem to go through a (probably) hormonally-induced phase of being attracted to the wrong kind of boy.

The Night by Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons:

But going back to northern soul, as a great fan of chart music between 1972 and 1975, carefully recording the chart rundown every Sunday night, it had not escaped my attention that there were a fair few listings around that time attributed to bands with the word Wigan in the title – There was Wigan’s Chosen Few with Footsee in 1975 and later on that year Wigan’s Ovation with three separate chart entries. They turned up on TOTP and we witnessed this very energetic style of dancing, so different to what we were used to down the local youth club. I didn’t give it much thought at the time but in later life have been intrigued by how this movement took off to such an extent. It was hard enough getting boys to dance at all where I came from so to see a whole dance hall full of, let’s face it, very macho males showboating on the dancefloor was surprising indeed.

I will leave you with a couple of clips that kind of sum up what it was like back then – The dance halls had seen better days and life was a bit grim on the outside but when all that great American soul music was being blasted from the sound systems, life it seemed, was sweet. I am pretty sure the Frankie Valli track that has become an earworm over the last 24 hours is not representative of the music that was played back then, and there are some music bloggers like Marie from It’s All In The Grooves who are experts in the kind of ’60s soul played at these venues, but watching the film it did remind me how much I loved Frankie’s falsetto. Still touring it seems at the grand old age of 82 and tickets selling fast so if you live in the North of England and want a little reminder of your days down at the Casino, get online fast!

The Night Lyrics
(Song by Bob Gaudio/Al Ruzicka)

Beware
Of his promise
Believe
What I say
Before
I go forever
Be sure
Of what you say

So he paints a pretty picture
And he tells you that he needs you
And he covers you with flowers
And he always keeps you dreaming
If he always keeps you dreaming
You won’t have a lonely hour
If a day could last forever
You might like your ivory tower

But the night begins to turn your head around
And you know you’re gonna lose more than you found
Yeah the night begins to turn your head around

Beware
Of his promise
Believe
What I say
Before
I go forever
Be sure
Of what you say

For the words may come too easy
If you don’t believe I’m leaving
And goodbye will come too quickly
If you really think he loves you
If you really think he loves you
You would give your love so sweetly
If that day could last forever
You would fall in love completely

But the night begins to turn your head around
And you know you’re gonna lose more than you found
Yeah the night begins to turn your head around