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Stafford,

Top Of The World.

As many may recall, there was a lot of controvesy regarding Stafford, reproduced below is the original venue report from Martin Scragg which started it all off. Soul Sam's reply to this venue report produced a flurry of letter writing which seemed to go on for several years.

Stafford - Top Of The World, Saturday 26th February, 1983.

Stafford is the closest allnighter to where I live, so I can usually spend a nice relaxed evening before I set off on 'The Great Adventure'. But as soon as I got into Tony Cartlidge's car I knew the relaxation was over - Tomo was there ! So was Martin Meyler, and Crewe's finest chicken plucker, Carol Harkins. Look out Stafford, heer we come ! We arrived just after 12.00 and get straight in for the usual 2.50 (any membership is valid even though the allnighters are run by the Top Dog Soul Club). Before I forget as from next time (19th March) the doors will open at 11.00 giving us an extra hour in the company of the country's top DJs.

Keith was on as we strode into the room. Keith is one of the Top Dogs who organise Stafford: despite that the nighters run fairly smoothly. Keith played pretty much the same as he played at Leicester, with the exception of The Magnetics, and John & The Wierdest, which he said he'd left at home because he was taping them. I hope he didn't mean Emi-discing them ! More about eith later: at 1.00 am with a capacity crowd fighting to get to the bar in order to be ripped off at top Tiff's prices, Ady Pountain climbed into the DJ box to play a mixture of '60s, '70s' and '80s (but mainly '70s), ranging from Mecca Monsters ('I Can See Him Loving You' - The Anderson Brothers) to recent raves ('Never Had A Love So Good' - Charles Johnson). One record which he played twice which surprised me, was a track by GQ, a big disco hit for them in 1979 on Arista called 'Make My Dream A Reality'. An odd choice to say the least, but it didn't stop me from picking it up in the local record shop cut out box for 10p the following week. Dave Bell (Notice he has the same initials as another famous photographer: coincidence ?) was busy selling beautiful framed photographs of the artists from the recent Ric-Tic Revue. They come at 4.00 each and there's five artists to choose from - excellent vale, and believe it or not, not one penny of that money finds it's way into either Chris King's or Terry Samson's pockets. Stu Petrie was selling a large part of his collection, and was managing to hold back the tears quite well. I went into debt with him for a copy of the rarer Larry Allen issue of 'Can't We Talk It Over' (Green Dolphin). Also spotted in the crowd was Andy Myatt, not looking a day over 30, Andy has put me onto more good sounds than all the DJ's I know put together, for which I am eternally grateful.

As usual the upstairs part of Top Of The World (the top of the top of the world ?), became available to usat about 2.20. On the decks downstairs from 2.00 to 3.00 was the figure of Mr dave Alcock, one of many local collectors who occasionally finds himself "in the limelight" at Stafford. Principally regarded as a UK label collector, Dave mixed in a fair few imports like 'Tomorrow Is A Brand New Day' - Norman Ricketts (It), also released as Nooney Rickett, anyone know why ?: 'Nothing Can Compare To You' - The Velvet Satins (General American): 'I'm Gonna Swoop Down On You' - Lorenzo Manley (Original Sound): and some of his nice British stuff, like 'Fireman' - Vala Reegan (Atlantic). On the subject of British releases, I noticed a glaring howler in New Blackbeat No. 2, where Steve Guarnori reviewed a reissue of 'You Turned My Bitter Into Sweet' - Mary Love, saying "so hard to find on Stateside now". I'd have said it was bloody impossible.

It was about 2.20 when I trudged upstairs. Richard Searling was busy destroying the whole meaning of the term "Rare Soul" by playing a brand new (early January) US 12" by Maxine Singleton - 'You Can't Run Away From Love' (Connection), a record which is currently popular in most disco's / night clubs around the country. Where do we draw the line ? Should new releases be played, new releases which are indistinguishable from records that are currently on Jazz Funk DJ's, even pop DJ's playlists ? Richard obviously thinks so, at least 30% of his spot consisted of records released in the last three or four months. Here, I think we are witnessing a DJ who doesn't really know which direction he's heading, but will soon give up '60s DJing entirely, for the more lucrative world of contemporary releases. Other records Richard played included 'Take It To The Limit' Norman Conners and Adaritha (Arista): 'Touching In The Dark' - Walter Jackson (Kelli Arts), a new spin at Stafford and a new release: 'Nothing Can Hold Us Back' - Jerry Knight (A & M LP), another new release, not the obvious choice from the album ('I'm Down For That' is far more uptempo), Jerry still sounds like an older Michael Jackson: 'You Can't Hide Your Love From Me' - David Joseph (UK Island), number 30 in the UK pop charts at the time of typing this; 'I'll Be Around' - Doug Parkinson & The Southern Star Band (Australian Fine), some DJs are playing the Detroit Spinners original version which has just been reissued, and which Neil Neale informs me was one of the top records at a recent Jazz Funk venue: 'Step In The Light' - Sunfire (Warner Brothers LP), now available in the UK on the 3.99 LP 'Streetsounds Vol 2': 'I Just Want This Feeling To Last' - Marlena Shaw (South Bay); 'Let Me Be The One' - Webster Lewis (Epic), the title track of his 1981 album; 'Touch My Love' - Webster Lewis (Epic), from his 1978 album 'On The Town', difficult to get hold of nowadays; and a track called 'Right Smack Dab In The Middle' by Janice McLean, a new one to me, the lady is from New York. Sixties fans looked set to miss out on some of Richard's one -off '60s items, but he didn't let us down, even if he did only play five items and didn't even bother to introduce most of them: 'Your Love Is Slipping Away' - Maurice McAllister (c/u), ooh this is nice; 'Baby Don't You Do It' - Leon Wright & The Elbejays 9c/u), and this is even nicer, originally played by Gary R. if I'm not mistaken, getting on for two years ago. The beat is tricky, but very catchy, and has the same sort of properties that made Tee Fletcher such a popular sound; 'I'm Coming Over' - Johnny Honeycutt (Triode), can he keep this quality up ? I ask myself. Yes ! 'Love Slipped Through My Fingers' - Herman Hitson (Unreleased acetate); and his '60s spot went out in fine style with thump thump bang crash scream 'That's The Way It's Gonna Be' - James Lewis & The Case Of Tyme (c/u). Saxie Russell eat your heart out.

At 3.30 we were treated to the suave sophistication of the 'Rare soul Scene', Dave Thorley, complete with elegant titfer. His first track was 'Independant Woman' - Jan Jones (Daywood), now why can't records like this be fitted in at nighters without there being constant bickering about it's qualifications. It's rare, it's Soul, it's good. What more do you want ? And the same can be said for some of Gary's records, like Bobby Smith and The magnificent 7. Date doesn't matter one jot, it's quality that is the key factor. Anyway, Dave played 15 '70s tracks and 5 '60s, again not what I've come to expect from Stafford. In fact, in the main room there were more '60s records played than '70s / '80s throughout the night, but the '70s / '80s took up more time (obviously because most '60s records are under three minutes long). It would be unfair to say Dave played a bad spot, becaiuse he played several class records, like 'Please Don't Send Him Away' - Garfield Fleming (Becket), a tear jerking plea from the very Teddy Pendergrass styled Mr Fleming; 'All Play And No Work' - The British Unemplyed, or was it 'All Work And No Play' - Vivilore Jordan (Task)?; plus his usual faves (but not necessarily mine) like High Frequency and the Fantastic Shakers. He also played 'I Did It Again' - Jesse Henderson (LH), not quite as good as Bobby Cutchins original version, though there isn't really that much difference (about 5 inches !); 'I've Gotta Make You Believe In Me' - BJB (Tee Ti); 'Want to Want - Quickst Way Out (c/u); and an oldie from 1976 'When You Dropped Your Guard' - The Nights (Little Star). On the '60s front we has 'Wheer I'm Not Wanted - Eddie Holman (Harthon unreleased); 'You're On Top Girl' - Johnny Cole & The Mondells (c/u), which got Dave Evison trying for his first cardiac arrest on the dance floor; 'Like My Love For You' - The Four Tracks (Mandingo), is this or is this not a cream record; 'It Takes A Lot Of Love' - The Detroit Hitmen (must be a c/u); and one I'd not heard before, but which I'm told is a master tape called 'Rate race' which sounds like Smokey Robinson and is the same as Geno or Gino washington. Lost ? Me too !; dave also spun 'Outside Looking In' - Carlis Munroe (Westbound), a thumping 1979 released track that, a few days later, I managed to find on a demo 12" for less than the price of a pint.

"Over to Martin, or Soul Sam as he's better known", were Dave Thorley's parting words. Soul Sam is also known by other names but we won't go into that, 'cos Tomo's in enough trouble. This is the point where I go astray, not having heard Sam's spot for some time, and anyway trying to keep up with Sam's playlist is like trying to read braille with a hook (I hope there's no blind people reading this !). It's probably best if I just list his records with a few comments, and the few labels I know; 'Falling In Love' - Perpetual Motion ; 'Joy' - The Band AKA (Bouvier 12"), a surprising play from Sam because I always thought he stood for obscure modern soul. Two days later this entered the UK pop charts; 'Love Is A Serious Business' - Alfie Davidson (Mercury), this is the ruined 12" remix; 'Mend This Broken Heart' - Larry Houston, the only record Sam played twice in his spot, a very nice intro, and a record which Sam introduced as "Going out to all the real Soul fans". How soon will DJs like Sam realise that politics and music don't mix - they just cause ill feeling and rifts; 'My Kind Of Girl' - Mandrill (Arista); 'Playing Your Games' - Flight, sounding like a faster 'So Many Sides Of You'; 'Getting Ready For The Get Down' - ZZ & Co (Columbus), Sam's 'oldie' pick of the nighht, and a good choice; 'Beauty's Only Skin Deep' - The Flamimg Emeralds, the old Temptations Gordy recording; 'Just Like That' - Sir Wales Wallace (c/u), great vocals, check out 'Somebody I Know' on BRC by the real Wales Wallace; 'Magic' Melvin Britt (Montage), didn't like this at all; 'I'm Under Your Spell' - Merlin & The Magicians (c/u), much better, played by both Richard and Sam over the last 12 months; 'I'll Make It On My Own' - Charles Johnson (c/u); 'You Can Be A Star' - Luther Davis, his old James Bynum c/u; 'Over And Over' - J W McGee; 'Your Love Keeps Me Dancing' - Ike Strong (Mabel), loved by some, loathed by others; ' Dance Your Blues Away' - Art Neville (Cookie); 'Doin' It Cause It Feels Good' - Chuck Strong (Invasion), invasion of the strong's definitely; 'Gonna Make The World A Better Place' - Patches, introduced as the best new releaseof the past two years, and in such a convincing way that, no doubt, 50% of the kids believed him. Hmm, perhaps politics really is Sam's vocation; 'I'm So Happy' - Prince Phillip Mitchell (Atlantic; and finishing with 'She's So Good' - Mixed Feelings. I'm pretty certain he played his Tyrone Davis c/u, 'A Changed Man', during his spot as well, but for some reason I never wrote it down. I have to say that I was not as impressed as I thought I would have been with Sam's records. A fair percentage sounded very samey in the backings, and not many get more than 3 stars on the 5 star points system that I used. I suppose the same could be argued against '60s records having the same beat, but I think it's true to say that far more Sixties records have something special about them that makes them instantly recognisable to the dancer. It's one of the most important things for a record to have - a very memorable intro, and a catchy intro that will pull the dancers on to the floor, and prick up the ear of the record buyer. The use of sound effects (Saxie Russell, The Sweets, Curtis etc.) in an intro help a record tremendously. In late 1974 Sam argued bitterly against the use of these sound effects, in print, in Black Music. 'You Can Be A Star' - Luther Davis uses the same little "pow" sound effects that made Curtis so recognisable (and Anita Ward such a big hit in the charts). I remember thinking as he played it - "this is very un-Sam."

All through Sam's last record, Gary Rushbrooke was waiting patiently by the decks, looking totally out of place next to Soul Sam, Colin Curtis and Neil Allen. As he watched the record (Mixed Feelings) going round on the turntable, if I described his expression as being of an unimpressed nature I would be under exaggerating. During Sam's spot, people had been going up for requests, and from the expression on Sam's face it was obvious that they had been asking for '60s. No danger of them being turned around by gary. gary began his spot very predictably. It just had to be The Vondells; in fact most people were already heading for the floor before he announced it. From then on it was pure '60s, both oldies and new discoveries, the emphasis being on the latter, as it should be. Here's what Gary played: 'Hey Girl' - The Vondells (Airtown Custom); 'One Way Love' - Tommy Dodson (Uptown); 'I Want To Feel I'm Wanted' - Frank Beverley & The Butlers (Fairmount): 'Look At Me' - Delettes - (Blue Rock); 'Where Do I Go' - Jeff Dell (Atco); 'Just Like You Did Me' - Yvonne Vernee (Sonbert); 'If I Told You' - The Casinos (Del-Val); 'I'm Not Gonna Lose You' - Chryslers With The Monarchs Band (Jo Jody); 'Me & You' - The Fantastics (Sound Stage 7); 'Walk On Into My Heart' - Bobbie Smith (American Arts); 'You Don't Know Where Your Interest Lies' - Dana Valery (Columbia); 'By Yourself' - Jay D Martin (Tower); 'I Don' Wanna Lose Your Love' - The Bellboys (Jamar); 'When I'm With My Baby' - The Magnetics (Sable); 'When I Make My Baby Cry' - The Magnificent 7 (Dial), slow to midtempo, superb, and introduced as Frank Dell and The Magnificent 7, though I don't think Gary has covered it up; 'Because Of My Heart' - Frank Beverley & The Butlers (Fairmount); 'You're The One' - The Twilights (Aqua); 'Baby You Need Me' - The Specials (Satch), not to be confused with those nutters from Coventry, but in case they were, Gary called it Arthur Wright & The Specials. Reviewed in SOS no. 4 by Martin Meyler, this was played by Gary especially for him; 'Playing The Part Of A Fool' - The Embers (c/u), the only c/u Gary played at Stafford, in fact I can only think of this and the Simms Twins that he's got covered up at the moment; 'Just Stand There' - The Naturals (Path); 'Look Into My Heart' - Ree Flores (M&H); 'Stick By Me Baby' - The Salvadors (Wise World); 'Double Cookin' - Checkerboard Squares (Villa); 'Ever Again' - Bernie Williams (Bell); 'Like One' - Jean Carter (Decca); 'You Don't Love Me' - The Epitome Of Sound (Sandbag). Well, That's a complete playlist there from Sam and Gary, one totally '70s / '80s, the other totally '60s, but I'm not going to tell you which ! All we need now is a DJ to get them in the right proportions, ie about 80% '60s.

Well, Keith Minshull got the proportions right, but played a few too many oldies, considering that downstairs was open exclusively for oldies. Not that Keith's to blame since he got them dancing anyway. Keith's been open to a lot of criticism in the past, some of which he deserved (Tim Tam, Jackie Trent). Unlike Russ, who deserves all the criticism he can get, Keith has now set himself well on the road to becoming one of the top Newies jocks, and with his emphasis on '60s, but not to the total exclusion of '70s / '80s, he has hit on the right formula, in my opinion for a really good DJ. His major drawback is that he rarely finds his own discoveries, and when he does he lacks the faith in them to break them at his venues, prefering to spend huge sums of money on already massive sounds. Keith kicked his spot off with the instrumental version of 'Eddie's My Name', one of those unissued studio acetates that crops up every now and then, and sends collectors into the doldrums; 'Suspicion' - The Originals ; 'He's The Boy I Love' - Lilian Dupree (c/u); 'Sugar's Never Been As Sweet As You' - Patti Gilson & The Tonettes (c/u), those last three are of course some of the Detroit items that Keith purchased from Mr Withers. While on the subject of these Detroit tracks, another half dozen or so have appeared in the country, from the same source. One has already been snapped up by Richard Searling (in exchange for his Chessmen c/u no less !), and is another version of Jimmy McFarland's 'Lonely Lover', recorded this time by the same artist who recorded 'It's Killing Me'; 'Please Keep Away From Me - Elbie Parker (Veep); 'You Left Me' - The Admirations (Peaches); 'I Can't Be A Fool For You' - Danny Owens (Manhatten); 'Sleepless Nights' - Paris (Doc); 'Isn't It Just A Shame' - Kenny Wells (New Voice), nice one Keith; plus several he played at Leicester. Oldies Keith played (but which weren't even released when Keith started DJing !!) included The Majestics, Brice Coafield, Howard Guyton, The Seven Souls, Kenny Carlton, and 'South Like West' - Johnny Guitar Watson (Okeh). His '70s items were 'It Takes Heart' - Greg Perry (Alpha); 'The Thought Of Loving You' - Pierre Hunt (c/u); 'All Of My Life' - Lamar Thomas (c/u); 'Independent Woman' - Jan Jones (Daywood). Finishing with '(Love) You Just Can't Walk Away' - Dean Courtney (MGM) and 'It's All Over' - Charles Mann (ABC), Keith brought to a close a good if not spectacular Stafford allnighter.

I didn't spend much time downstairs in the oldies room, but the DJs were, with a couple of the sounds I heard them play : Nick Marshall (3am - 4am) 'Just Be Sincere' - Jackie Wilson (Brunswick); 'That Beatin' Rhythm' - Richard Temple (Mirwood); Budgie, a cheep DJ ? Groan ! (4am to 5am): 'No Part Time Love For Me' - Martha Starr (Thelma); 'I've Got What You Need' - Oscar Perry & The Love Generators (Peri Tone); Dave Greet (5am to 6am); 'Quit Twistin' My Arm' - Stanley Mitchell (Dynamo); 'Satisfy Me Baby' - The Sweets (Soultown);Craig (6am to 7am); 'Love Is Getting Stronger' - Jason Knight (UK Pye); 'What's The Use Of Me Trying' - Tangeers (Okeh); and Esh (7am to 8am); 'Oh My Darlin' - Jackie Lee (Mirwood), and 'I've Lost You' - Jackie Wilson (Brunswick).

Still my favourite allnighter at the moment; Coming soon are Harold Melvin & The Bluenotes and the Drifters, the former unfortunately minus the great Teddy Pendergrass (as they have been since 1976), the latter fortunately having the one and only Ben E King back in their line up. See you there.

Martin Scragg

Originally published in 'Midnight Express' issue 4.

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