6Ts - Northern Soul's Southern Home

6Ts Rhythm & Soul Society: In The Beginning

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Nostalgia can hurt.

I've just been watching "A Hard Day's Night" with my 16 year old daughter for the first time since I saw it at Derby Gaumont in 1964. It's brought back the thrills and possibilities of life that it revealed to me as an eleven year old boy; but it's also left a dull pain in my soul. Whether it's regret at being unable to relive those vital times, or the mistakes and missed chances that have passed since then, I can't tell; but it's a bittersweet sensation.

This then is an appropriate time to review the 6T'S CD and re-live the first years of my and Randy Cozens' soul club: the "Hard Day's Night" of my life.

For once it's the club and the people in it that take the spotlight in the sleeve notes. My apologies to Chuck, Maxine and Brother James, but I'm sure they'll understand. It's the story of how classic, vintage, soul music really took off in London and how a generation of Northern Soul fans rediscovered their roots and broadened their appreciation of black American music.

In the late 70s Northern Soul was overly concerned with stompers and rarity and had neglected its soul and mod beginnings. A tough London roofer, who had been an original mod, and a long-haired college kid from Market Harborough, in the Midlands, was the unlikely combination of personalities that really got the scene moving. Prior to that there had been sporadic dances for the 50 or so southern stalwart, soul record collectors but Randy and I, with the 6T'S, proved to be the right geezers at the right time with the best music.

The first night was in Covent Garden on 17 August 1979 and the joyous, sweaty and soul-sated sell-out crowd told us that Rhythm & Soul was the way to go. The music was a mixture of mod classics, early Motown, jazz instrumental grooves and some tough, danceable R&B. Virtually all of it was on 45, was black American and heralded from 1963-1966. The DJs all had great collections, really knew their stuff and were as enthusiastic as the dancers who they would join when their sets were over.

However the club was soon forced to move on to West Hampstead where it stayed for just over a year, and then wandered around the West End for occasional dances, before settling on the 100 Club in Oxford Street, where it remains even now. That's 25 years since its inception, making it the longest running club night anywhere, ever.

Many of the attendees were mod revivalists, which gave the 6T'S crowd the youngest average age on the soul scene; another proud boast we've maintained to this day. They had become interested in the music through groups like the Jam, Chords, Secret Affair and Purple Hearts and at first picked up on those groups' antecedents, the Who, Small Faces and Action. By 1979 they were eager and ready to learn more of the original music that inspired the first mods. Similarly for Northerners like myself, who had gone from Motown, Stax/Atlantic and Geno Washington straight into JJ Barnes, Major Lance and the Sequins, having Randy there as a font of knowledge and inspiration on how things had really been back in 1964 was a godsend.

So artists like Bobby Bland, Arthur Alexander, Carolyn Crawford and Irma Thomas were re-appraised and their wonderful recorded gems were revealed to us. Hitherto unknown hip jazz instrumentals by Mongo Santamaria, Jimmy McGriff and Hank Jacobs were incorporated into the mix and some mean blues from Hank Ballard, Lowell Fulson and Little Walter helped put the Rhythm into the club name. There was even the odd foray into the 50s for party time, mid tempo, black rockers from Huey Smith, Nina Simone and Etta James. Ever concerned at moving things forward and creating our own sounds, Randy programmed Theola Kilgore's take on Chain Gang, Tutti Hill's fabulous floater He's A Lover and the quirky Pearl and Dean sounding jazz/soul/MOR of Bert Keyes' Do-Do Do Bah-Ah! Well it was one big party and a large degree of fun was compulsory.

The booklet tells the history, shows the faces and tries to capture some of the excitement of those heady days. What they can't purvey is the intensity of passions the music and the crowd produced and experienced, and the wonderful individuals who came together to have such memorable, soulful moments. That's a job for nostalgia.

If you want to look at the 2005 version go to www.6ts.info and even get your old loafers out again.

Having been dragged up on Motown and all things Northern, it really was refreshing to hear this stuff   similar but different. The memories are a little fuzzy now but I can still remember the place being packed, the bar couldn't cope, and I ended buying two beers at a time: crazy nights that I will remember with fondness.

Incidentally, a few months later I was at the Fleet all-nighter in Peterborough and Keb Darge came over and set about persuading me to go to a new Northern all-nighter in London; he told me it was being run by the same guys who put on West Hampstead. With a wry smile on my face I diplomatically turned him down - exclaiming that a Northern night in London, especially an all-nighter, would be an unmitigated disaster. He appeared oblivious to the fact that southerners just didn't like Northern Soul. Of course he was actually trying to drum up a bit of enthusiasm for the first 100 Club nighter. He wouldn't listen and it all ended in tears: laugh out loud. 

Track listing

  • 01
    All About My Girl - Jimmy McGriff
  • 02
    Shoes - Bobby Bland
  • 03
    Workin' For My Baby - Gary "US" Bonds
  • 04
    Zig Zag Lightning - Little Johnny Taylor
  • 05
    What Are You Trying To Do - Irma Thomas
  • 06
    Forget About Me - Carolyn Crawford
  • 07
    Do-Do Do Bah-Ah - Bert Keyes
  • 08
    The Wallflower - Etta James & the Peaches
  • 09
    Opportunity - The Jewels
  • 10
    Chain Gang (The Sound Of My Man) - Theola Kilgore
  • 11
    When I'm Gone - Brenda Holloway
  • 12
    Girl (Why You Wanna Make Me Blue) - The Temptations
  • 13
    Yeh, Yeh! (Single version) - Mongo Santamaria
  • 14
    Don't You Just Know It - Huey "Piano" Smith & the Clowns
  • 15
    Tell Me What You're Gonna Do - James Brown & The Famous Flames
  • 16
    The Hoochi Coochi Coo - Hank Ballard & the Midnighters
  • 17
    Tune Up - Junior Walker & the All Stars
  • 18
    My Aching Back - Lowell Fulson
  • 19
    It's Me - Johnny Copeland
  • 20
    One Little Lie - Danny White
  • 21
    Chica Boo - The Googie Rene Combo
  • 22
    Since I Found You - Maxine Brown
  • 23
    He's A Lover - Tutti Hill
  • 24
    Two Stupid Feet - Chuck Jackson
  • 25
    Oh Lord, What Are You Doing To Me - Big Maybelle

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Out-takes from upcoming film directed by acclaimed photographer Elaine Constantine. "This is Love" asks her young cast to name their favourite Northern Soul record. What's yours?