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From all accounts it’s the real deal, capturing the essence of Northern Soul in a way that the 2010 film ‘Soulboy’ failed to do.If, as is hoped, ‘Northern Soul’ connects with a younger cinema-going audience, we’re likely to see a renaissance of this underground phenomenon that has refused to lay down and die.The Northern Soul movement has marked 2 significant anniversaries this year – the launch of the weekly All-Nighters at the scene’s most famous venue, Wigan Casino, in 1973, as well as the opening of its foundation club, Manchester’s Twisted Wheel, 10 years earlier.
It was all a mating ritual, especially when the DJs played slowies so people could get close up, whereas on the Northern Soul scene sex was way down the list of priorities.
People didn’t go to a club like Wigan Casino to tap up, as we used to say, it was a completely different kind of ritual taking place, more spiritual than carnal.
You could be gay in the Casino and no one would be any the wiser, your sexuality just wasn’t an issue, people were only interested in the important things – the music, the dancing, the drugs, the camaraderie.
Even alcohol wasn’t necessary – in fact it would more likely have spoilt the vibe had they been able to serve it, with All-Nighters falling outside of the normal licensing hours.
The black crowd were also largely anti-chemical in those days, the majority strictly herbal when it came to their highs.
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Although some old soulies play down the scene’s reliance on speed, in the form of an array of pills referred to by the street names of black bombers, dexy’s and prellies amongst others, the fact of the matter was that it was a crucial element, just as ecstasy would later be during the Rave era.The final straw was when he ended up being forced to pay over £100 for a record he was originally quoted £50 for a few days earlier.This was at a time when £100 amounted to more than a month’s wages for a lot of people.In the pre-Saturday Night Fever ’70s, the very idea of a man dancing on his own provoked scorn, and would unleash a volley of taunts labelling him a ‘puff’ or ‘queer’.It was only in 1967 that homosexuality was legalised in this country but there was still great hostility to the very idea, especially within the working class.The black kids in the ’70s, generally speaking, were always forward looking when it came to their musical tastes, so old Soul 45s weren’t going to cut it.Instead they were into the latest Funk and Dub Reggae, and later Jazz-Funk.The reason Ian Dewhirst went to the US, as touched upon above, was to search out records to bring back home to play.He had begun to make a name for himself via appearances at Cleethorpes Pier and Samantha’s in Sheffield, not to mention the Casino, and increasingly found that if he showed interest in a record, the dealer was likely to phone other DJs, letting them know it was something Dewhirst was after, in order to up the price by getting a bidding war going.Just a few months ago, BBC 2’s ‘Culture Show’ focused on the Northern Soul movement in a poignant half hour feature, where journalist and broadcaster Paul Mason, a former Casino regular, re-visited his roots, re-connecting with the scene today after more than 30 years detachment.You can view the programme, ‘Northern Soul: Keeping The Faith’ in full here: The Northern Soul scene would also have, by default, provided something of a safe a haven for gay males, especially still-closeted gay males, who couldn’t express themselves in the mainstream clubs for fear of being found out and the ridicule that would ensue.