The Origins of Northern Soul - Part 2

Trying to define 'the origins' of Northern Soul for the uninitiated - Part 2

There’s something we have to do before we can move on, and that is to understand the beginnings of Northern Soul "when it was actually beginning". We can't, for instance, look at Northern Soul today or the Mod Scene today and understand the beginnings of either from today's point of view; neither have anything in common with their respective humble beginnings.

In Part 1, you read how Northern Soul grew from the British Mod Scene of the 50's and early 60's. I personally can't agree with this argument 100 percent for several resons:

1 - Northern Soul was thriving long before it was called Northern Soul and without any association to the "London" or southern Mod Scene; quote from Dave Godin - "northern football fans who were in London to follow their team were coming into the store to buy records, but they weren't interested in the latest developments in the black American chart".
2 - That means they were not following the style of music the Mod Scene was at that time. Sure, there were similarities perhaps with for example the Tamla Motown label. Even with perhaps the odd 45.
3 - The Mod Scene (in the beginning) was about three basic parts: a) Italian fashion, Italian scooters and a blend of blues, jazz, RnB and African-American music. It wasn't until the late 60's when skinheads, ska and other changes to the culture began to happen. The music scene in the northwest of England didn't follow such styles or fashion.
4 - As the Mod Scene in the south of England, predominantly London, began to fade through the drug scene and the closure of dance halls etc, for those that were left to carry the torch (so to speak), their attention was caught by the music scene "already" happening and established in the northwest such as Manchester's Twisted Wheel. The music being played in the Manchester club "The Twisted Wheel" held similarities (RnB, American Soul) initially but developed itself during the 60's into something far removed from the Mod Scene, which continued itself in new directions.

The 2010 released film "Soulboy" site has a condensed history page that reads as follows:

A History of Northern Soul

In the North of England during the 1960's, a music and dance scene, which was later labeled 'Northern Soul', emerged out of the British Mod scene and developed through communities of soul fans who frequented clubs such as The Twisted Wheel in Manchester (1963-1971), Blackpool Mecca (1965-1970), Catacombs, Wolverhampton (1967-1974) and Wigan Casino (1973-1981).

The Twisted Wheel is most commonly associated with the beginnings of the Northern Soul scene. From 1963, all night parties were promoted at the venue on Saturday nights. Roger Eagle, a DJ and collector of imported American Soul, Jazz and Rhythm and Blues, was booked around this time and so began the clubs reputation as the place to go to hear the latest music of this genre. The music gradually became less eclectic (less popular and available) and moved heavily towards the fast paced soul favoured by those who flocked to the wheel to dance.  The Twisted Wheel closed in 1971, however the scene continued as by the late 60's a number of new venues were holding soul allnighters due to the popularity of the music, dancing and lifestyle which emerged from the Wheel. As the favoured beat became more uptempo by the early 1970's, Northern Soul dancing became more athletic, somewhat resembling the later dance styles of disco and break dancing. Featuring spins, flips, and backdrops. The clubs attracted visitors from all over the country as fans travelled far and wide to hear their favourite music.

The music, which defined this scene, is a type of mid-tempo and up-tempo heavy-beat soul music (mainly of African American origin). As stated by Dave Haslam in Adventures on the Wheels of Steel:

"club crowds in the North had become hooked on the Motown sound, demanding uptempo beat driven stompers ... there was also growing awareness of other small labels and forgotten artists ... The obscurities and the commercial failures - this was the reservoir of music Northern Soul fed upon over the next decades."

The dancers had an appetite for new sounds and DJs met the need by acquiring more and more obscure and rare tracks. As only a few versions of these tracks exist, prices for original vinyl can go into the thousands of pounds.  As expressed by Bill Brewster and Frank Broughton in Last Night a DJ Saved My Life:

"The History of the Disc Jockey 'the notoriety of DJs on the Northern Soul scene was enhanced by the possession of rare records, but exclusivity was not enough on its own, and the records had to conform to a certain musical style and gain acceptance on the dance floor."

Due to being played in the Northern Soul clubs many underplayed, rare and forgotten tracks from the 1960's were reissued by their original labels and became UK top 50 hits in the 1970's. Some classic soul tracks that you will hear on the radio today are there because the Northern Soul's scene made them hits.

Northern Soul has an important legacy in British music and culture. In Last Night a DJ Saved My Life, Brewster and Broughton celebrate Northern Soul as "the first rave culture' and 'a vitally important step in the creation of today's club culture and the evolution of the DJ." KTF decks Along with laying the groundwork for a whole new DJ and dance culture, the Northern Soul scene is still going strong today. Promoters, DJs and fans involved in the scene in the 60's and 70's are still promoting and attending events today. Along the way young fans have continually discovered the scene allowing new generations of promoters and DJs to emerge who shall be instrumental in passing on the legacy of Northern Soul to future generations.

The above is indebted to the info provided on the Northern Soul wikipedia page.


The above sounds like a nice and concise background introduction to the origins of Northern Soul. But up to now, all I'm hearing from are people stating things that they were not involved in! As in people who are either music journalists, writers (spelt researchers) or directors making films who are too young to know. A part of this blogs reason for being is to get the real story, so that the "correct" history and facts can be recorded.


I'm searching for playlists that can reflect what the DJ's were playing in the North and South through the same time period (early 60's, mid 60's and late 60's pre Wigan Casino) to see what similarities there were, if any. Email me if you have such info please including club names, DJ's etc. (therhythmandbluesofsoul at

On with the Saga

The following information I've found again seems quite conflicting at times, such as Roger Eagle himself stating he played little if any Motown (a requirement of the Mod Scene) at the Twisted Wheel, while people who went to the Wheel recall going for the Motown played there. You'll also see the term "Soul Mod" that defines a variation of the traditional Mod Scene of the time in that, the music began to follow soul and dropped blues and jazz for example. This being one of the reasons Roger Eagle left the Twisted Wheel.

In reading up about Roger Eagle, I've come to recognise that he was not a Mod or anything else, when it comes to trying to fit him into a music genre stereotype box. As you'll see, he simply developed a love of Jazz, Blues, RnB and 60's Soul and the means to play it to people, and developed some amazing contacts in the U.S.A. that sent him full artist catalogues and pre-release 45's, as well as access to some of the biggest names we still revere today.

In fact, hopefully I'll be able to show how a combination of events created a following of a mixed group of people (Mod's included), that in turn developed into Northern Soul. Let's begin with some background info on Rodger Eagle through some interviews he gave as can be found here, here and here

The following is short interview done in 1985 with Rodger Eagle that was published by a small Manchester fanzine called "The Cat".

Back in ’64 in Manchester, the clued-in dudes would be seen every Saturday sweating the night away at the Twisted Wheel club to the latest American black music supplied by their favourite DJ – Roger Eagle.
Over twenty years on, the Twisted Wheel is no more but Mr. Eagle is back in Manchester spinning R&B every Thursday night (9-12) at his club "The International".
In this short interview Roger Eagle tries to help us revive those Twisted Wheel days ...
How did you come to be DJ-ing at the Twisted Wheel ?

I walked in there one afternoon when it was the "Left Wing Coffee Bar" with a pile of Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley imports on Chess and Checker and this guy asked me if I knew anything about Rhythm’n’Blues.

Naturally I said yes, so he asked me if I wanted to DJ. I’d never DJ-ed before but I thought I’d take a shot at it and that’s how it started.

How did you cope DJ-ing for the first time ?

I didn’t really know what to do, I just put records on and I never used to say much.

But the people who used to come down were really fanatical about sounds so if it was a good record they would know what it was within seconds, it was that kind of crowd.

Were you involved with the mod scene at that time ?

I suppose I was the dj the mods would listen to if they were going to clubs because the Wheel was the allnighter scene in Manchester. I wasn’t a mod myself but I thought it was fascinating that English kids were getting into American black music.

We started bringing the artists over and it was amazing to see people such as Howlin’ Wolf, Otis Redding, Rufus Thomas, Muddy Waters etc... getting the same sort of reception that normally only big pop stars got.

The only thing I don’t like about the mod scene is that some people are very narrow in their tastes, we were very broadly based when we started at the Wheel.

It gradually narrowed down to Northern Soul which I think was a mistake.

Did you have live bands at the Wheel ?
chuck berry john lee hooker

Yeah, we used to get American artists over to play, people such as Chuck Berry, Screamin' Jay Hawkins, T-Bone Walker, John Lee Hooker.

Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf didn’t play but they did some live stuff for the local TV station.

We had loads of them down there all the time, Jimmy Reed used to sell out the place.

sonny boy williamson II

When Sonny Boy Williamson came over he freaked over English girls wearing mini skirts. He was wandering around looking up all the girls saying 'Heaven Hath Come Down'.

He was probably the greatest harmonica player of them all, maybe even better than Little Walter, which is saying a lot.

How did you know Guy Stevens ?

We knew each other, we knew what we were doing, he used to send up records.

He came up once with Inez and Charlie Foxx. He gave me a Don & Dewey single 'Stretchin' Out' and he mailed me an album by Frank Frost & the Nighthawks which was out on Sam Phillips "Phillips International".

I used to go to the Scene club in Ham Yard before it was the Scene but I moved up to Manchester when the R&B thing started.

Where did you get your records at the time ?

Mostly I used to get them from American record companies or from a specialist import shop. I used to get records sent from the Stax label, Stan Axton the owner used to send me records.


I used to get records sent from Tamla Motown, Atlantic, Dual, Duke, Sunset, Songbird, Backbeat and all those kind of labels.

Roughly, what would be the Twisted Wheel top ten in 1964 ?

The favourite record of all time at the Wheel was 'It Keeps Raining' – Fats Domino. That was probably the most played record, then you would go to something like 'Walking The Dog' – Rufus Thomas.

Then you could go to any one of a dozen Muddy Waters records, probably something fairly obvious such as 'Tiger In Your Tank'. The next on the list would be 'That’s What I Want To Know' – James Carr, then one of Bobby Blue Bland’s 'Turn On Your Lovelight'.

Then would come 'Amen' by the Reverend Robinson and 'Long Distance' by Garnell Cooper and the Kinfolks which was one the rare unknown ones that we played a lot.

You could pick on any one of a dozen records by Booker T & The MG’s, probably one of the more up-tempo ones such as 'Can’t Be Still' or something like that.

There was always plenty of records from the Stax label in the top ten and also there was quite a lot of Tamla Motown floating around in there as well.

But there was not quite so much Tamla Motown as people like to think. I didn’t play that much Motown or Spector stuff just because it was so widely available and the chart stuff.

I was playing gospel stuff, but after 4 years at the Wheel it was down to that one fast Northern Soul dance beat which I thought was very boring and that’s why I left in mid '67.

So Roger wasn't a Mod and so didn't follow that scene or its fashion etc. He just got into Blues, Jazz, RnB (after leaving London to go to Manchester before the scene took off) and was able to get hold of the music easier than other people could, and stayed clear of the music in these genre's that was becoming more widely known through media channels like the Mod TV program Ready, Steady, Go. He says he didn't play much Motown as shown in his 1964 top 10 above.

Like I said at the beginning of Part 2, try looking at this as though you are in the year 1964/5/6/7. Your parents went through the 2nd World War and life has changed drastically between what they had and what you face. You've got Rock and Roll, Rockers, Teddy Boys, The Beatles, Beatnik, Hippies, Mods and drugs and an increasing influx of people from the West Indies and Jamaica (beginning in the late 40's); to name but a few. And there in a Manchester club called the Twisted Wheel is a guy called Roger Eagle who manages to be able to play the music he has come to know and love, to an ever increasing appreciative crowd, as well as building up an amazing collection of vinyl, and also being able to bring over from America what we can only now call "Legends" to play live.

But let's take a look at another interview Roger made in 1999 by "The New Breed" shortly before he died. This interview was originally published in Issue 2 of the Mod 'lifestyle' fanzine The New Breed (which I'm unable to find). Note that this fanzine is for Mods and so the questions/answers relate accordingly.

Rodger Eagle 1


"The Godfather of British Soul"

On 4th May 1999, legendary Soul and R&B DJ Roger Eagle passed away after a long period of illness. Roger earned the 'legendary' tag by being the first DJ at Manchester's original mod soul and R&B club, The Twisted Wheel back in 1963, which rivaled London's Scene Club as the place for the in-crowd to be seen. Roger later found fame running Eric's club in Liverpool in the days of the city's post-punk explosion, and later helped numerous Manchester musicians on their way (Mick Hucknall being but one). Over the years he developed a more eclectic taste in music (selecting what seems best of various styles or ideas), but Roger never lost enthusiasm for his first love; Black American music from the 50's and 60's.

The New Breed carried out this interview at Roger's home in North Wales in February 1999 and because of his poor health, decided to conduct the interview in stages over a period of time. This is a complete transcript of the first interview, because sadly we didn't make a second as Roger's health progressively worsened over the months. This is Roger Eagle's last interview. At the time we never expected it to be a Tribute.

TNB : When and how did you first become interested in Soul and R&B music?
ray charles chuck willis
fats domino
lavern baker arthur alexander
RE : Well I was originally a Rock'n'Roll kid until I heard Ray Charles. The 'In Person' and 'Live At Newport' LPs from around 1958/59 really converted me. Rock'n'Roll died in 1958. Ray Charles was the first to see the possibilities of mixing different types of music. He mixed R&B, Rock'n'Roll and even country. There were other acts at the time that were a great influence. Fats Domino, a lot of the R&B releases on London Records. Gary US Bond's 'New Orleans'. Arthur Alexander. LaVern Baker. Chuck Willis' 'The Sultan of Stroll' that was a very, very important LP. I love Chuck Willis.
How did you pursue your interest in this (at the time) very obscure music?
There were various coffee bars in Manchester, like The Cona Coffee Bar (in Tib Lane near Albert Square) where you could take in your own records to play. You would take your own in and also listen to other people's and pick it up from there. There were a few like minded people around and you would bump into them or meet them in places like The Town Hall pub.
Sam & Dave 45
As for getting hold of the records, you could get hold of some but it wasn't long before I was importing records directly from the States. I must thank two guys - Roger Fairhurst and Mike Bocock who taught me how to import records from the States. I was getting hold of records from the US even before they had been released there! Tracks like 'You Don't Know Like I Know' by Sam and Dave. I was the first person to play that record in Britain. It even got to such a stage that I was involved in writing sleeve notes on a Bobby Bland LP for Duke Records in theUS.
bobby bland 45
How did you first become involved with the Twisted Wheel?
Before I got the job at The Twisted Wheel, my only DJ experience was taping tracks on one of these reel-to-reel recorders and taking them along to parties to play. One day I received a parcel from the US that contained all of the Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley back catalogue LPs. I took them down to The Left Wing Coffee Bar, just to have a look at them. I was approached by the Abadi Brothers who said 'we're buying this place and turning into a night club - do you know anything about R&B?' so I said 'Yes' and they offered me the DJ job there and then.
To be honest, the Abadis didn't really have an appreciation for the type of music that was popular at the club. They just saw it as a way to get the numbers coming through the door. Only once did they insist that I played a pop record. I argued against it but to prove a point I played it and emptied the dance floor. After that they never interfered again on the music side.
I wasn't a particularly high profile DJ. I didn't have the ambition and I certainly didn't have the patter. I was happy playing the music that I loved. I would play six or seven hours solid single-handedly - with just an hour or so's break for the band - for £3 a night. I was happy playing the music that I loved but with hindsight I would have appreciated a little more money.
Seven hours of record playing is a long time and there weren't that many Soul and R&B records available at the time so I had to mix in Rock'n'Roll tracks to fill out the time. In fact Carl Perkins was a particular favorite amongst The Wheel crowd. He even played live at the club. In the very early days, when the club first started, we relied very much on word of mouth recommendations. We had the likes of Roger and Mike and their mates from Bolton, we had people coming over from Liverpool and all over the place. I guess it was the start of the whole scene where people are willing to travel to hear the music that they want to hear.
The Wheel was a big scene in the North West, how much did you know about what was happening in other parts of the country?
The only other club anywhere that was playing anything like what I was playing at The Wheel was The Scene Club in London. I used to get on well with Guy Stevens and we used to exchange records. Like I said, I was getting hold of some records before their release even in the States, things like Stax and so on. We weren't consciously trying to create a movement or anything like that. We just liked to have a club that played the right kind of music.
Obviously the music that you played and crowds that you attracted were very much part of Mod culture. Did you class yourself as a Mod? Did that side of things appeal to you?
No, not really. You could say that I tipped my hat towards the things that were happening. But it was the music that came first and was paramount above everything else to me. Of course I dressed in the styles of the day. I was smart but I wasn't at the sharp end style-wise. My money went on vinyl and importing new records. I left the clothes obsession to the kids coming to the club.
Did you set out to make The Wheel a Mod club?
No, as I said before, it just grew and happened. You knew what was going on though. The punters were generally sharp but some were way ahead. I couldn't keep up with them ! I got respect through the records that I was playing. That to me was enough.
Although many people often forget it, The Wheel did have a bit of a reputation for the quality of live acts that played there, many of which were White kids influenced by the kind of music that you were playing.
Twisted Wheel Flyer1
Yes, we had the lot. I used to be friendly with Steve Winwood. He would come round to my place and listen to records when The Spencer Davis Group played the club. Georgie Fame did some good things - very King Pleasure influenced. The important thing is to take the influence and then add a twist and take it on further. It's important to remember that there is a big big difference between Club Groups and Pop Groups. Eric Clapton was a good friend at that time. I remember one Sunday morning after he had played at the club, he brought a good-looking young Mod girl round to my place and she got completely pissed off because all he wanted to do was listen to Freddy King records.
In 1965, the 'original' Twisted Wheel in Brazennose Street closed down and a 'second' Wheel opened in Whitworth Street. Legend has it that the original crowd didn't move on to the new club. Is that true?
Twisted Wheel Flyer11
No, that's not true. The music policy at the new club was just the same. I moved over with the club, I spent roughly two years at the first Wheel and a year at the second, roughly.
During 1966, you left The Wheel. Why?
Well, I left because they wouldn't pay me a decent wage. After three years hard graft for maybe £3 a night I asked for a fiver and they said they couldn't afford it. I was also getting bored with the music and there were a lot of pills going on. Kids were in trouble with the pills and all they wanted was that kind of fast tempo soul dance. So, I was very restricted with what I could play and I thought, 'I'm not getting paid enough money to do this - I ain't going to do it no more'. So I left and immediately got paid a decent wage by Debbie Fogel at The Blue Note Club. I got a fiver a night for four nights, besides doing other things.
I was able to play the kind of music that I liked. The range of music. Whereas the pill freaks only wanted the same dance beat - which is what makes it so boring. Its okay you know there were some decent sounds but they made it so boring. You're trying to talk to kids who are off their heads all night on pills and its really hard. And the Abadis didn't want to pay me what I felt I was worth.
So you just completely disassociated from them?
Gone. Yeah. I was a black music fanatic and I had respect for what I was dealing with - I don't think they did.
And then you started the Stax club. Was that after the Blue Note?
Yeah, briefly. It was at the The Three Coins in Fountain Street. The music policy was similar. It was R'n'B and Soul. But you see I was trying to play funk. Early funk. In fact, 'Funky Broadway' by Dyke & The Blazers was probably the last record I played at The Wheel. It was just starting to change and they didn't want it. They didn't want it to change. It just split. I was progressing to funk, very early funk but they didn't want to go with it.
So when you started the Stax Club, presumably you were pulling in a different audience to the one that you had had at The Wheel?
I don't know really. They were just people around town. Pill freaks that just popped in and out. You can't look at it with hindsight, at the time it wasn't 'oh we're going to start a movement!' . It was just the place to be. It was the place for The In Crowd...for a while.
And then you moved completely at a tangent to the Magic Village Club?
I just started getting into rock. It was a completely different track. Things like Captain Beefheart, John Mayall, The Nice and so on.
That's just about taken us through your 'Soul Years' but there's just one last question. It's about a story that's become almost an urban myth - and we wondered whether you could clear it up once and for all. It's about the time that The Rolling Stones came down to The Wheel after playing a gig in Manchester...
Yeah. I'll tell you exactly what happened. The Stones came down to the club and they were standing in the coffee bar having a cup of coffee. The kids were standing round them - just looking at them. Not talking to them - just looking. And I played all of the original tracks off their first album, which had just come out....'I'm A King Bee' by Slim Harpo, 'Walkin' The Dog' by Rufus Thomas, Arthur Alexander... They knew exactly what I was doing... I played them in exactly the same order as the LP. It was just me saying, there’s a North/South thing. I'm a Southerner by birth - but a Northerner by emotion. I prefer the North. I'm not saying I don't like Southerners, but they tend to be so temporary down there. To me if something's solid then its worth looking after. Whereas they're into it and out of it. Which is really not the Northern style.
I actually got on OK with The Stones. Brian Jones bought a copy of R&B Scene [Roger's own magazine form the early/mid-60's] from me when I was in London. Mick Jaggger once bummed a cig off me. That sums up The Stones for me. But joking aside, I'm one of the DJ's that publicised the music, but when The Stones went to The States they got Howlin' Wolf onto primetime national television. Fucking Hell. That's the thing to do. I admire them for doing that.
I'd be playing tunes in the club and those guys would be listening. You know Rod Stewart and those guys. Pete Stringfellow used to come over and write down the name of every tune that I played. I didn't really know what was going on. I wasn't sharp enough business-wise to realise what I had going. I'm not bitter about it because I am absolutely totally committed to the music. It means so much to me.
I recently met this black American guy who came over to see me. He's at University in The States and he's doing a thesis on Northern British Appreciation of Black American Music. He'd been to see everybody on the Northern Scene...all the Northern DJ's and so on they all said 'go and see Roger Eagle - he started it all'. Eventually he turned up here with a camera and I blew his head off completely. I started playing him tunes... he went away with a cassette - with what you would probably think are fairly obvious tunes on it. His mind was completely wrecked. This guy's in his 40's, maybe 50's and he's a serious man ....and he's never heard Ray Charles! I said, if you want to talk about Northern Soul there's plenty of people better placed than I am to tell you ...but if you want the history about white Northern English appreciation of Black American music you talk to me! I'll straighten it out for you. I did.

Note: I've tried to track down this thesis - does anyone know of it or have a copy of it? Would love to read it if you have

I said: this is where it started in the 50's. When it was exciting. I don't want to know about white artists ripping off black artists ...that's bollocks. Everybody covered everyone else! Nat King Cole - one of the most successful black entertainers of all time - he would cover white show tunes, pop tunes, blues tunes - across all boundaries. He didn't care. Ray Charles was one of the first black artists to see the possibilities. I said to this guy 'have you ever heard "I'm Moving On" by Ray Charles? As far as I know it's one of the first cases of a black artist covering a Country & Western song - a Hank Snow tune'. I had to put it on tape...he'd never heard it. I love the train rhythm through the track building up towards the end. As far as I'm concerned a tune this strong ought to be played. I bet you've heard it so many times without really clocking just how strong a track it is. It's a head record. Atlantic were starting to experiment with different instrumentation. Moving away from the basic drum, bass, guitar, sax and piano. They put a distorted pedal steel guitar on it. It's one of my all time favourite records.
Ray Charles is the only artist I've never managed to meet. I was at the Free Trade Hall and he walked right past me. His bodyguards - New Yorkers in pork pie hats and shades - said 'Yeah you can talk to Ray..... in London. Make an appointment son'. I said 'No I want to talk to him here.....'. It's a shame. It was about '63/'64 he had a huge, huge band.....but he'd lost it by then. You know I talk to people about Ray Charles and they immediately think 'Take These Chains From My Heart' and they say 'Ray Charles??'. He was a genius.

I understand that Roger wrote a monthly magazine called "The R&B Scene". If anyone at all has copies of any issues that they could scan and create pdf files of them and email them to me here, I'd greatly appreciate your effort and would like to enter them into the library here at The Rhythm and Blues of Soul. Based on Roger's knowledge and connections with so many incredible artists, I'm sure it would help to give people today (and tomorrow) a real insight into the scene during the 60's.

The final entry in Part 2,

is a piece written by a Manchester "Soul Mod" recounting his personal experiences in the early 60's

sonny boy williamson II- Help Me 45

I think it must have been Christmas Eve 1963 when I took out a girl friend (she was called Janice, from Blackley Manchester). We went to see Sonny Boy Williamson at the Twisted Wheel. He was great. Dressed in a bowler hat and amazing black and white tuxedo with tails (one side black the other white!) Yes! He did play 'Help Me'.

sonny boy williamson II

He was backed by the Spencer Davis Group and I remember the awe and respect he got from them especially from Stevie Winwood. He played dozens of different harmonicas, some right inside his mouth and to the disgust of my girl friend, he played a tiny harmonica in his nose! She became a fan later though. Unbelievably when he finished his set, I got the opportunity to buy him a coffee.

It was Alexis Korner (and Blues Incorporated) that led the British Blues boom which later led on to the RnB boom all supported by the Mod movement. (Quite a few Rockers liked this music too as rock and roll originated from the same roots.)

It moved towards groups digging up USA soul tracks like Georgie Fame and The Blue Flames, Geno Washington and the Ram Jam Band, Chris Farlow and the Thunderbirds, The Steam Packet, Cyril Davis and the All Stars, Herbie Goins and The Night Timers, Jimmy James and the Vagabonds, Zoot Money and the Big Roll band.

I had been to the 'Wheel' often before that night with Sonny Boy, but by that time it was becoming a Mod dominated location.

NS Mods - a way of life

The Manchester Mods were probably unique, yes, they followed the London trends, often a little later, being provincial, but a growing core of them idolised soul music, alongside being fans of the UK Mod groups.

Every Friday night Ready Steady Go would have soul artists, or play soul records; it was a TV show that few Mods would miss. RSG often had the Beatles and the Who and The Stones on the show.

The trouble with the Rolling Stones as far as the 'Wheelers' (the Manchester Soul Mods) were concerned was that the Stones copied the original artists, and the originals were always the greatest (Dobbie Gray). Original recordings were to become the ONLY versions acceptable. This started the rare record scene off.

Also the Beatles turned off Mods because they copied so much Tamla Motown stuff.... only later did a real appreciation of the Beatles and the Stones emerge when the chauvinism had dissipated somewhat! The Small Faces and The Who were appreciated as at least they were doing their own original material. Liverpool was the place, the port for incoming sailors with lots of RnB and Blues records, these soon found their way to Manchester.

The USA Air Force base at Butonwood, Warrington, brought lots of Black GI’s and their record collections to the area.

Mods and Rockers were fighting each other at holiday resorts (this was about the time of the Mod riots in Clacton, covered in the press, and in the film Quadraphenia). Manchester not to be outdone had its own small riots. They started outside the Twisted Wheel to the annoyance of the owners (The Adabi Brothers) so were moved up the street into Albert Square, or to outside the Oasis or the Jungfrau Clubs, just for excitement. The police dealt with them by sending mounted police down the streets chasing Mods all over the city.

I remember one night after leaving the 'old Wheel'; we began to be harassed for no apparent reason by the police, they kept moving us on around, on and on. Eventually lots of other ‘Mod’ types outpouring from other clubs, the Oasis and the like were shepherded together with us. Then everyone broke out into a run, a riot…… racing down the centre of the streets stopping traffic…. Up Market Street and into Piccadilly. I raced along round a major store, windows all lit up with female mannequins inside.

Behind me a friend called Denis crashed straight through the window. It was a good job the police were following us he remarked some months later after being discharged from hospital, having nearly died from glass inflicted wounds when he shot straight into the window, lacerating his neck. The police halted chasing us and saved his life! And our criminality record.

"Are you a Mod?"

No one admitted to being a Mod, that would have been unacceptable. Usually those that said they where, were not. Those that knew did not say.

The whole Mod movement was understated internally. But vigorously self expressive to the outside world. No one was the leader. The Mod movement was self generating and given purpose from within. Mods had ideals. Clothes, the look of certain things - more than an outside influenced fashion. RnB, Soul music and dancing were paramount, with girls and scooters next in line. The whole movement needed no outside endorsements.

Mods cared little for what anyone else thought about them, except for other Mods that is. Changing rapidly, it was very intense, you had to be totally committed to be a Mod. You had to constantly be planning to go to Parties but never organise one. Being evangelical about black music was a badge of office. Being a Soul Mod could never be faked.

Fashions and styles changed at a meteoric pace; fashions, styles were either 'out' or 'in'. You might be out and think you were in when most of the in crowd deemed you to be out! But if you had ever been in you could catch up, if you'd never been in you were always out.

Mod style took over everything; the way you walked, the way you hunched your shoulders. They way in which you buttoned up your suit jacket. The way your top pocket handkerchief was folded. We were deeper in mysterious signs than the Freemasons. The look of the girls you were seen with. The way that the thumbs stuck out of hands in the trouser pockets, which they usually were. It was a total life style.

Mods lived, breathed and slept Mod.

Work was tolerated - a way to get money - to be in.

You worked for the weekend.

The weekend was the all nighter.

wheel nighter flyer

Pills featured in our weekend lives: Black and Greens, no not a chain of gentleman's outfitters, but Amphetemine or Drinamyl capsules (Purple Hearts), Yellows, Green and Clears, Blue's, Black Bombers, Black and White Minstrels, Benzedrine and all the rest of grannies heart tablets did the same...

After a night at the Old Wheel, many Mods from Manchester headed out on their scooters to Bolton. The Boneyard was the venue near to the railway station, an upstairs club. This was a change from the cellar dives we were used too. The Boneyard was a nickname for reasons that time has now forgotten. Was it to do with the black magic of the blues? The clubs real name was the Caroline Lounge named after the pirate radio ship Radio Caroline... on 199. It was a very soulful place with heavy playing of the Impressions, lots of Sue recordings, the Mad Lads, it was the first place I heard 'Candy' by the Astors (written by Steve Cropper) and of course lots of early Motown.

In those days, Manchester's Soul Mods used to meet in two main places; outside the Old Shambles (speakers Corner) Sinclairs Oyster Bar, which was on a fairly busy road in those days. The Cona Cafe and outside the Wimpy Bar in Piccadilly. Transactions, sales of soul 45's, exchanges of money for pills would take place here.

Fashions and styles changed rapidly, for a couple of weeks people would be wearing see through plastic rain coats, then it all changed to bright coloured jackets, bought as white coats from the Army and Navy stores and then hand dyed into bright colours.

Mods lived fashion, Fred Perry three button shirts were always 'in', worn alone with Levis or with suit jackets. Cycling vests and shoes, Levi jeans, Parkers, black sun glasses, even the city gent look was in. Suites. Cufflinks, Braces on our trousers, Brogue shoes. Military ties. Umbrellas, the whole shooting match. Later came the gangster look with the Elliot Ness and Frank Nitty hats. Bags, bowling bags and airline bags became the rage. They where needed for holding a change of clothes after the All Nighters. Long leather coats - always ' in' probably because of the cost (about £40).

But most of all, "Smart" was the dress code, and it lasted right through the entire Manchester Soul Mod scene. Right through from 64 to 69 when it was just the remnants of the old Mod scene but essential as a Manchester Soul activist!

The Impressions early LP covers showed three very smartly dressed guys, in silver mohair suits. This was certainly an influence upon the Northern Mod scene. Suits with 13", then 15" and then 17" side vents. Then came centre vents, even centre pleats. Who is the coolest guy…..sang Mohair Sam.

Top pockets had handkerchiefs, silk ones were the only thing to make the grade. Searches for military and paisley patterned ties took hours, but they had to be found otherwise you could be 'OUT'. They were the kings, the cool jerks, the 'In Crowd'. They had Scooters LI 150 GT 200 Cento Lambtretta, Vespa's. Mirrors, Chrome side panels, long aerials with fox tails on top, British Union Flags, G I Parkers, and sun glasses. Short hair back combed for the men. The girls with white lipstick, black eyes, long false lashes, Mary Quante hair cuts, Op Art dresses.


salford soul mods

The Mods were the essence of Wheel - the Wheel was the essence of Soul.

Mods were in fact mysterious; an underground movement, without leaders or organisation, they were spontaneous.

They looked nice, smart and clean, and chewed Wrigley's Spearmint Gum.

A Mod's Night Out

"HiYa, man, are you goin?"


"Got any stuff man?"

"Nah, but I know a guy, commin' along later, he's a friend of mine, coming from Warrington he can fix us up. I'm gonna get blocked to night man."

"I' m going to Victoria station now, do yer wanna come along?"

Two scooters roll almost uncontrollably towards the centre of the road then come under control as they straighten up and stream off rapidly down Market Street. Aerials trailing back, gleaming of chrome, with the flashing street lights captured repeatedly, in the dozen or so mirrors festooned around the front handlebars.

The police raided Manchester's Victoria station as it had developed a reputation for amphetamine drug dealing. The police raid surrounded us all. Those dressed smartly in suits and with short hair where rapidly disassociated from the general rabble, and eliminated. How we laughed as we walked away taking our stash and washing down the pills with coca cola. Heading for the Twisted Wheel. Leaving the police searching the scruffs!

Mods had to be seen to be right. Dressed right. Looks were everything, being ' in' and cool was central to everything. This was the very first youth culture that invented itself. Today these things are determined by the record industry, the fashion industry and most of all by the advertising industry.

At the Wheel

"Hiyaaa, I'm Dave where you from", Dave shouted out over the sound of the Impressions wailing out 'You’ve Been Cheetin'.

"I'm John from Stoke."

"Hey I'm from Blackburn. And this pal of mine is from Stockport, he is called Dave too!".

"Hello, I'm just going to put my handbag in the middle. I'm Jeanette from Middleton and this is Jean from Failsworth. Have you got scooters?"

All the guys in a circle dancing together ignoring the girls. Feeling the sound, the beat, the soul. The intoxication of music and the charge of amphetamine coursing up the spine in rivers of glowing shivers.

Dave from Stockport asked Paul from Stretford if he new Alex from London? Alex from London asked if anyone had been to the 100 Club. But even he said the 'Wheel' was the best. By now about twenty girls, their handbags were in the centre of a circle with the boys in silver and blue and grey suits with 23" centre vents or 25" twin side vents, were dancing about them. Short hair cuts, very short. Handkerchiefs in the top pockets. Chewing Gum. Snapping fingers, up down dancing around.

'Night Train, All Aboard the Night Train….Miami …Florida…' James Brown, sounding out a Soul favourite. Then the Four Tops....'Reach Out'.. I'll be there..... Then: Mitch Ryder....Break Out ….Everybody faster, faster and revolving like swirling Dervishes...this is the All nighter. Its T W I N E T I M E yelled Alvin Cash.

That Sunday Morning feeling... or long after last night was all over, at the Wheel All Nighter. The weary Mods would refresh themselves at the Salvation Army street café after a night of feverish dancing, talking, and pill popping. A little coffee, a few Dexies, Green and Clears or half a dozen little yellow amphetamines. Then troop along to a morning session at the Stax Club, followed by an afternoon of dancing at Rowntrees (Stakis) and then a solid RnB and Stax soul drive at the Blue Note Club Sunday evening bash.

Eventually late Sunday we would go home to try to sleep, often with something like 'Oh Carolina' by The Folks Brothers (Blue Beat ) echoing around our minds all night! But this was not really about drugs it was about being able to stay up and dance all night and dance all of the next day too .....

Few if any of that generation today would advocate the use of any drugs. The Youth of today flock to Raves, Ibiza is the holiday “E” location and young people dance till dawn to a techno beat. Our thing was the music, it was all about Soul Music. It was all about being a Northern Soul Mod.


Well, I'll be the first to hold my hand up and say I was somewhat wrong. There was a southern Mod influence in Manchester afterall, and they were present at The Wheel during the 60's. The thing that I like about this though is the term "Soul Mod". It seems to fit the progression from the idea of Mod becoming Northern Soul. To me, it's as though the Manchester Mods took parts of the Mod scene and developed them to their own tune. If you search any Mod site, the one thing that they all have in common is their Mod code: "Once a Mod, Always a Mod!" I've known some "die-hard" Mods but through all the years of being in the Northern scene, there's not that many and they stand out because of their code as in their dress etc. I have though known more "Soul Mods", that for me, follow the pattern of forming a scooter club, wearing Parka's, going on scooter runs but their music is Northern Soul.

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