Way back in 1982 a callow northern youth would visit Ted Carroll’s Rock On record stall on Golborne Road in West London. He used to buy the 60s soul singles that the old vinyl merchant had plundered from warehouses and old shop stock on his travels. This interest in a music that was not particularly cherished in London at that time led to Ted asking this son of Market Harborough to stick together 15 singles from Los Angeles’ Kent and Modern labels and come up with an LP. That would satisfy all those pesky young mods who pestered Ted for some “soul like what all the original mods used to lissen to”. Pinching the title from a popular Popcorn single of the time, the soul brother, we’ll call him Horace, came up with “For Dancers Only” a selection of Northern Soul stompers, girl group floaters, male vocal harmonies and low down Rhythm & Blues.
Horace was then asked to rattle off a follow-up, when his first attempt flew out of the shops like shale off a shovel. That was the imaginatively named “For Dancers Also” and with sleevenotes full of wit of that calibre, allied to a crusading enthusiasm and passion for the music, the public were hooked. A deep soul LP came next, followed by a collection of 60s soul classics, an LP of pure Northern Soul dancers, 70s soul sounds and many more sides of soul music’s polyhedron.
Thirty years on, we are still coming up with black music compilations from the 60s and 70s that soul fans continue to support and enjoy. These days the CD notes tell you more about the artists than the colour of DJ and LP sleeve designer Ian Clark’s odd socks. We have grown in knowledge and inquisitiveness and have almost run out of bad jokes.
Getting eventual access to all the major record labels has given us music from the Okeh, Chess, RCA, Atlantic and even the mighty Tamla Motown. This has meant our supply of sounds from this golden era is virtually limitless. Hugely influential independent labels like Stax, Goldwax, Fame, Westbound, Carnival, Mirwood, King, Scepter/Wand and others have learned to trust our integrity and have thrown open their doors saying “go ahead tell it like it was”. Smaller indies such as Sounds Of Memphis, Dave Hamilton’s Detroit productions and GWP have come up with iceberg sized vaults lying under the water level and have delivered superb soul music that had frequently unheard since its creation.
Then there are the series like Mod Jazz, Modern Masterpieces, Northern’s Classiest, New Breed R&B et al that just keep on coming. Chasing one lead will bring us a handful of tracks that we didn’t even know about and the label owner’s ex-partner will sometimes chip in with half a dozen tunes too. We’ve got solo CDs from acts as big as the Impressions, James Carr, Candi Staton and the Staples Singers all the way through runaway successes such as Doris Duke, Sam Dees, Spencer Wiggins, who were previously only known by the cognoscenti, on to O.C. Tolbert, Jackie Day, the Minits and Vernon Garrett who weren’t that well known on their blocks.
The continued penchant for vinyl has left us with a handful of bendy LPs and a growing 45s discography that will soon be enough to fill a DJs box: what a great set would be played from it too. Then there’s yer actual downloads, T shirts and beer-mats; further evidence of world domination.
In the pipeline is a brilliant set of 60s Detroit soul productions from the legendary Pied Piper outfit, further Fame, more Motown, a new trawl of King, Kent Harris’ R&B and soul productions, Darrow Fletcher’s separate 60s and 70s CDs and deals that I dream of even as I type.