The notes for this CD came in at a whopping 16,000 words (half a book I’m told), but they were easier to write than a studied piece on a record label. When writing musical history there are a heck of a lot of facts to research and you can spend an hour getting a troublesome sentence verified. In this case, as the organiser of 20 Northern Soul Weekenders held in the noble town of Cleethorpes, I merely had to Google myself.
Having said that, the celebrations that go on at the events do include some imbibing – but nothing serious for me until the Sunday, the final night. If the place burns down then, well, that’s show business. The pool’s just outside to avoid any singeing and I can guarantee my records would be swimming alongside me to avoid the flames. I did have to make a public appeal on the Soul Source website to see who could remember what happened at the third and fourth weekenders, but I eventually recalled them myself with a bit of nudging. There are a million smaller facts probably lost in the ether, but the noteworthy ones about the acts are indelibly burned into my mind.
Some of the highs were bringing Maxine Brown out of retirement to sing her full repertoire to her European fans, having Dean Parrish perform ‘I’m On My Way’ to 1,000 people who had grown up with it as a key musical moment in their lives and presenting a demure lady called Little Ann, all the way from Detroit to Cleggy, to headline the bill for soul fans who knew her full repertoire that had remained unissued in its place of birth. Drama came from a jet-lagged Bettye Lavette getting the pip with two devout Christian ladies, Sidney Barnes temporarily turning mute on me and Hoagy Lands losing his clothes, composure and marbles. The bizarre was represented by a chance encounter with H.B. Barnum and its wonderful repercussions, meeting Tony Middleton and Jake LaMotta in NYC and watching a man with a back seizure perform a backdrop. Other hilarity included Spencer Wiggins not wanting to sing the song I had brought him to the UK to perform and my latest act putting the date in her diary 12 months later than I had hoped for.
The number of acts that have performed at Cleethorpes exceeds the number of tracks we could get on a CD and musical omissions from the Velvelettes, Derek Martin, Carl Carlton and others are no reflection on their talents; their stories are covered in the booklet.
Some of the recordings here have appeared on other Kent CDs, but in most cases the audio has been substantially improved. For example, Maxine Brown’s ‘Let Me Give You My Lovin’’ is mastered from a recently located multi-track and boasts an extra nine seconds, all previous issues of the 45 mix having been from disc dubs, and Tommy Hunt’s ‘The Pretty Part Of You’ is a totally different version to the one we debuted in the 80s, with altered lyrics and female backing vocals added.
Jesse Davis’ ‘Gonna Hang On In There Girl’ and Marva Holiday’s ‘It’s Written All Over My Face’, both penned by Cleethorpes participant Sherlie Matthews, sound magnificent from newly discovered master tapes.
Willie Tee’s ‘I’m Only A Man’, Little Ann’s ‘Who Are You Trying To Fool’ and Doris Troy’s ‘Face Up To The Truth’ serve to remind us what great talents have been lost to the soul world and how lucky we were to see them sing the songs live on the North East Lincs coast.
By Ady Croasdell