Notes On The Tracks
This small collection of tracks is not intended as a guide or an introduction to Northern Soul. Nor is it a connoisseur’s choice. It is simply a selection of songs currently rockin the Old Rope radio. Some I have known for years and are old faves, others are relatively new to me.
We kick off, appropriately, with ‘Dance Dance Dance’ by The Casualeers, a monster tune in the earlier days of Wigan Casino. If this catchy number from 1967 doesn’t get you on your feet you might as well click stop now.
Frankie Vallie‘s ‘You’re Ready Now’ was a big Northern hit, but the less well known ‘The Night’, with it’s fat funky bassline and brooding organ, was also popular at the Casino.
Yvonne Baker‘s ‘You Didn’t Say A Word’ was released in 1967 on the Parkway 140 label. With verses that sound like a Bond theme and a stomping chorus, it was another Casino monster sound and has the privilege of sitting at number 3 on Kev Roberts’ 500 Greatest Northern Soul Singles list.
Sue Lynne‘s ‘Don’t Pity Me’ and its mouthful of a chorus, was also popular in the main hall at Wigan.
‘Ain’t That a Shame’ kicks into gear with a slick and dirty guitar lick, followed by fat drums and a powerful vocal. It is simply brilliant. The influence of Curtis Mayfield is clear, despite marking a break in their collaboration (Mayfield had produced many of Major Lance‘s previous records). Lance’s records were popular at the Twisted Wheel in Manchester during the sixties and continued to be popular during Northern’s seventies hay day.
Bobby Paris‘ ‘I Walked Away’ may have been big in the Casino’s main hall, but ‘Night Owl’ lent it’s name to many a patch adorning the ubiquitous hold-alls. Written by Paris on his aunt’s piano at the tender age of five(!), the profits from its release kept record label Cameo Parkway afloat.
The driving beat and swirling flutes of Helen Shapiro‘s ‘Stop And You’ll Become Aware’ make it a breezy dance classic. Like the two tracks that follow it – ‘You’ve Got Your Mind On Other Things’ by Beverley Ann and Bobby Hebb‘s ‘Love, Love, Love’ – it kept the Wigan crowd on their feet.
Gerri Grainger accurately captures the bitter recurring pain of heartbreak ‘as two lovers walk on by’. ‘I Go To Pieces (Everytime)’ is an all time Old Rope favourite.
‘Without You Baby’ was the flipside to ‘Don’t Cry’ a 1963 single by The Larks. Irma Jacksontakes the lead on this doo-wop tinted upbeat Philadelphia rarity.
Never afraid to shy away from big name artists, ‘Shake Me Wake Me (When it’s Over)’ was a smash in the Casino’s second room, Mr M’s. A Motown single in 1966, this Holland-Dozier-Holland number has that unmistakable Four Tops sound. Meanwhile, in mid-sixties Manchester, Chubby Checker‘s ‘At The Discoteque’ was proving a hit on the dancefloor of the Twisted Wheel. We close in pensive mood, with another Wheel cut, the mid-paced Washed Ashore from West Coast vocal group The Platters, which reached number 56 in the US charts back in 1967. Los Angeles and Manchester were united across a dancefloor.