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 Inside Out - West Midlands: Monday October 4, 2004


Spinning record
A soul revival is taking off in the Midlands

It all started in 1960s Hitsville, USA - the birthplace of Motown. The soul explosion took off around the world, but then everything went quiet and it seemed as though it had dropped off the radar. Inside Out meets the fans who are keeping the music alive.

Cast your minds back to the 1970s, when music lovers everywhere worshipped at the altar of the famous Wigan Casino and when the northern soul scene was born.

Inside Out's Ashley Blake meets the northern soul kings, for whom it's not just music - it's a way of life.

Soul brother

Merv Parnell
Merv Parnell at a local soul night

Meet Merv Parnell, a hairdresser from Ledbury. He's been a fan of the northern soul scene since he was 11-years-old, when he heard his first ever soul tune.

And at 16 he began hitching rides from Gloucester to visit the famous Wigan Casino and meet up with hundreds of other soul lovers from across the country.

Now, as he approaches the big 5-0, he's enjoying the latest soul revival.

"I go to work every morning and put a tune on - it's the first thing I do! It sets a course for the rest of the day.

"Every Friday, every Saturday, I go to a soul night somewhere, it doesn't matter where.

"It goes beyond the music - it plays a major role in your life."

According to Merv, it's all about the dancing, something which he loves as much as the music itself.

"You hear a tune you love and in the first few beats you're 18 again."
Merv Parnell

In fact, he loves it so much he's entered a competition at a local soul club, but narrowly misses out on first prize. Still, it's not the winning, but the music that really counts.

"It doesn't matter whether you're by yourself or in a room with a thousand people, when you're listening to the tunes you love it's heaven."

A fan for life

From the fanatics to the collectors, northern soul is spreading.

Dave Evison owns 15,000 records at his home near Stoke-on-Trent.

They're worth hundreds of thousands of pounds, but to Dave, they're priceless.

Dave Evison
Dave spends hours in his record library

He's been a northern soul DJ since the 1960s, and has played at famous clubs like the legendary Wigan Casino, where he enjoyed his greatest claim to fame.

"The honour was bestowed upon me to play the last ever record at Wigan Casino.

"It was called 'I'm On My Way' by Dean Parrish. I said I'd never play it again and I didn't.

"That is probably my most famous moment ever on the northern soul scene."

It's a real accolade - the Wigan Casino has gone down in history as one of the most famous soul clubs of all time.

It's a soul thing

Having begun life as a Victorian theatre, the club once boasted a membership of over 10,000 people before it was closed in December 1981, and later burnt to the ground in a freak accident.

But its legacy remains, and Dave is adamant that the northern soul scene is still going strong.

"Some people collect stamps, for me it's always been records. I'm a vinyl junkie."
Dave Evison

"The format has never changed in 35 years - fashion changes, but the northern soul scene is just as exciting every week."

"I love 7 inch singles with all their crackles and hisses, it's a collector's dream. It's been my entire life really."

Getting into the scene

And for the sceptics among you, Dave's sure that northern soul has something to offer everyone, even the new wave of music lovers who are starting to realise the allure of the golden oldies.

"If you're prepared to come on to the scene and say 'hey, I'm not here to take the mick, I'm here to enjoy the music' you'll be welcomed with open arms."

Lee Worthington
Lee Worthington loves the northern soul lifestyle

One such newcomer is Lee Worthington, a self-confessed mod who got into northern soul six years ago and has since embraced it as part of his lifestyle.

"If younger people knew about it and started going it'd take off, otherwise it'll die off with the older crowd.

"I love it, it's the only music for me."

And with ambassadors like the ones we've just met, it seems as though the scene will live on in the hearts and 'soles' of music-lovers everywhere.

See also ...


On the rest of the web
Wigan Casino
Northern Soul UK

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Readers' Comments

We are not adding any new comments to this page but you can still read some of the comments previously submitted by readers.

Susan Dixon
Fantastic to see a feature on Northern Soul on prime time TV. Well done Inside Out!

Karan Morris
more articles like this please, these are brilliant nights for us of a certain age. just look in the express & star every thursday to see the events every week.

John May
Northern Soul is a very complicated underground music scene, only truly understood by the people who give there weekends up travelling around the country to the 100's of events take place each week. It is very difficult to get across to the uninitiated what it is truly all about. It is best left well alone by the media.

Julie Doyle
Norther soul is still by far the best music ever, I still play my records everyday, so sad when wigan closed ...

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