Meeting at the Wimpy
Saturday night in Manchester, 1967: the Soul Mods
needed to take their Amphetamines – the ‘Gear’– and
gather at the Wimpy bar before going to the Twisted
Wheel All-nighter. Pill pushers needed to have their
supplies ready. The story is narrated by Dave. There
were numerous Daves
who were Soul Mods in the city;
‘You ain’t been nowhere till you’ve been in with the
buildings were black, everywhere you looked, all the
buildings on every street - black. When it rained,
it would come tipping down. Consequently the rain
provided an additional tone and turned the buildings
into a mixture of wet-look blacks and greys of all
shades. If you looked closely, a dirty black mist
floated on the water outlined with an inner
greyness, a wet sliding paisley pattern with
disgorged black sooty edges moving like amoeba
riding on the water’s surface and sliding down the
walls. Drizzling rain collected, then poured out of
high roof gutters and down the black bricks, making
the walls shine; rivers that flowed vertically down,
eventually to sharply change direction and pour
across the street. Wide, flat, single-dimension
rivers that rushed over the blackened grey
pavements, running around white chewing gum islands
and onwards into the black tarmac road, where the
rain turned into rivulets, racing off to find a
tumbling gutter of rushing dirty water with floating
dog ends, all gushing into a swollen grid.
I doubted anyone noticed these things because it was simply the way
things were. Things we see often fade into our
unconscious; being so obvious they get downgraded to
an almost invisible background to our daily lives. I
was noticing these things, and acutely so, because I
had slipped into a different mode of consciousness
brought about by consumption of a handful of pills.
They adjusted my perception; I was becoming more
awake than wide-awake. It was one of the first
noticeable signs of their effect.
Manchester was black due to the years of industrial revolution;
decade upon decade of soot had coated all the bricks
and stonework. As a result the walls of the
buildings, if you bothered to look, were black sooty
velvet when dry and a wet-look black leather effect
in the rain. Hundreds of mill chimneys joined
thousands upon thousands of rooftop chimneys from
row upon row of terraced houses all belching out
black, white and grey smoke.
The opening titles of the TV Soap Opera from Manchester had got it
right: ‘Coronation Street’. It was a black and white
film set. Films were made about the North, some set
in Manchester. Films like ‘Billy Liar’, where Julie
Christie looked like she was walking across
Piccadilly Gardens, but it was actually Bradford. ‘A
Taste Of Honey’ with Rita Tushingham and Dora Bryan
on the bus passing blackened statues in Albert
Square, St Ann’s Square and Piccadilly. Later there
was ‘Charlie Bubbles’, although this was in colour;
it showed the demolition of row after row of the old
Manchester terraced housing, with swinging balls of
steel hung from cranes crashing into the walls, the
entire scene becoming enveloped in dust.
A common sight was half the street in ruins, while the other half
was perfectly intact and being cared for; painted
red, brick by brick; here and there a red Geranium
in a pot and all the steps yellow donkey-stoned.
Mums running, hanging the washing out to dry after
the dust had cleared, from around the last
demolished house opposite: clearing and emerging like a ghostly apparition from
the smog generated by the collapsed house it now
became possible to see lady’s hanging out their
washing on the once obscured back street. Manchester
Mums with their hair in rollers inside a turban
scarf – they would wear their patterned pinafore
overalls, and keep up their standards in the midst
of the intermittent grey dust storms set off by
demolition and dampened down by the rain showers
Manchester was famous for.
It seemed depressing; it looked like it was ‘Grim Up North’, but it
was far from that. The soul of the city was the
underground Mod Soul scene, ironically with its
black American music. Soul was black – well, mainly
black; our city was black, and so was the music that
the clubs blared out in dark underground cellars.
However, the music and ‘our’ scene gave us a set of
colourful, bright and enthusiastic reasons for Mod
Mancunians to get excited about their city.
After riding down town and parking my scooter outside the Wimpy Bar
near Piccadilly, I walked through the drizzling rain
just to stretch my legs. And as I walked, I
remembered other days and times past.
Thursday nights we would go training and racing on
the Fallowfield Cycling track; it was a velodrome,
known to us as the Toast Rack due to the shape of
the roof profile on an adjacent building. Reg Harris
was still racing, but that night he just gave the
prizes out. I was no prize-winner – I’d crashed out,
falling through the bunch on the highest part of the
A few Blueys
sorted out the pain and after the prize ceremony we
planned to go dancing at the Twisted Wheel. Our
cycling club, the Prestwich Olympic, was joined by
our mates from the Manchester Domino, and others
from the Manchester Wheelers. In the end about fifty
of us went down to the club in Brazennose Street
just off Albert Square where the majestic Town Hall
towered above us in all its blackened Gothic glory.
We chained all our
bikes together outside the double white doors and
went dancing in the club. This was the Twisted
Wheel, it was 1963, and it was known as a Beat club.
We streamed downstairs to dance in our cotton racing vest tops and
cut-off padded gloves. Our frayed-end bell-bottom
denim jeans had been recently released from our
metal cycling clips, and we were clinking about in
our cycling shoes with the metal pedal grips
underneath. If you could have heard the metal plates
under our shoes tapping the concrete floor it would
have been like a tap dance, but no one could; the
speakers had drowned it out with Howlin’ Wolf’s
Lightning’. That had been when the Wheel was in its
early music mixture stage of Beat, Pop, Folk music,
Jazz and Blues, especially Blues, with Alexis Korner
soon to become the resident band.
That was only a
few years before at the ‘old Wheel’, but since then
everything had changed. Cycling had faded as a core
activity on my agenda of things I was really driven
to do, replaced with the fervent All-nighter scene
that had developed rapidly. The drugs would fit with
cycling, but there wasn’t much time left to train at
the level of commitment it required. And the ‘new
Wheel’ scene at Whitworth Street was, incredibly,
perhaps even better than that fantastic last year of
1965, at Brazennose Street – well, almost.
Although the Mod
scene probably finished in London by the middle of
1964, it continued in Manchester, and in ‘66
fashions had stabilised on smart suits with
everything. The American Army Parkas we wore when
riding scooters only hid this fact. Smart was the
dress code, and the way you did the smallest of
things – like how your handkerchief was folded and
placed in your suit jacket top pocket. The fact that
you only fastened the top button of your Mohair
threads denoted who you were, but only to those that
knew the code. To the rest you became invisible –
but smart invisible.
I looked around outside the Wimpy to see who was around, who was
going, as the memory of those old cycling days
faded. The rain was washing my scooter; it glinted
with the reflection of passing bus headlights,
traffic lights and the multicoloured wet-look neon
signs mirrored from the surrounding buildings.
The mirrors on my scooter reflected back the same multicoloured
signs inside the raindrops as they hit, then they
drizzled down and streaked the side panels with wet
coloured streamers of rainwater. The chrome side
panels held off most of the rain, almost pushing it
away as if by some anti-magnetic force. I let such
thoughts fade – it was just the Brasso polish I had
‘Duraglited’ onto them before coming down here from
Today was Saturday 14th of October, 1967. It was a
special event tonight at the All-nighter, the
biggest night there since the ‘Original’ Drifters
had appeared at the end of April. The year had begun
in a fantastic way for Manchester Soul Mods, with
The Spellbinders on at our favourite All-nighter
club, soon followed by Otis, and the Stax Tour at
the Palace Theatre on Oxford Road. To celebrate the
appearance tonight of De Walt (better known as
Junior Walker), lots of us had promised to dig out
our scooters for the occasion. By the end of 1966
scooters and the Mod scene had faded out in London,
but not so much in Manchester where we had our own
private Soul thing going.
The growling, unmistakable sound of high powered scooters ended in
a slowing down, put- put-put-put noise as two
immaculate GT 200s pulled up alongside my 250cc
Durkopf. The guys got off, brushing water from their
full-length leather overcoats. One leather was
green, the other guy’s was dark purple, and double
breasted. Only one Mod in Manchester had a purple
coat like that; Sid from Langley. Sid was a tough
guy. He was a scaffolder and bricklayer by day, and
a pill pusher by night.
No one was inside the Wimpy; at least none of our lot. Others were
irrelevant. We knew who we were and we could
recognise each other at a glance. Mods had a certain
look. If you were one, you knew it but you never let
on. You never claimed to be a Mod. To say you were a
Mod would immediately bring ridicule, and quick as
you might have said it you’d be ‘out’. Such a status
was earned and never openly claimed.
We rarely went
inside the Wimpy; if we did it was for a coffee or a
coke. No one in their right mind would have a
hamburger before an All-nighter at the Wheel, unless
you wanted to throw up on the dance floor. Some
people threw up anyway, but as a result of all the
dancing mixing their stomach bile with a concoction
of pills and stomach acid. Bennys, Green and Clears,
Black Bombers, Blueys and Dexys, and the saliva from
constantly chewing Wrigley’s gum, all shaken and
stirred by continuous dancing; it was a mix that
could easily make you sick enough to vomit.
I was already partly ‘blocked’ or ‘coming up’; that was the
descriptive phrase everyone used. Shivers like
energy waves were going all through my body,
especially up and down my spine. I wanted to move,
to dance, to talk. Dancing or talking incessantly
was what these pills did to you, and you could do it
all night. You became ‘blocked’
after taking your ‘gear’, and after around twenty
minutes had passed by, all
of a sudden your perception changed; it was like
coming up in a lift, but the lift was in your head.
Adrenalin energy would pulse out from your stomach,
all body aches and pains would just vanish. You felt
a compulsion to move about, to dance, to speak. You
couldn’t keep still, often moving in jerks,
uncontrollable repetitive movements - things did
speed up! Thoughts were rapid, speech too – and
Speed appeared to affect the blokes more than the
girls, with certain almost unmentionable side
have you seen Angelo?” said Sid, looking sternly
into my eyes as he unbuttoned his full-length
leather, revealing his grey shiny Mohair suit below.
“Are you going?”
“Definitely,” I answered, “it’s Junior Walker!”
“Get me a hot chocolate,” shouted Terry as he struggled to pull
back his white GT 200 onto its stand. Terry was
Sid’s sidekick; he was always in his shadow.
“Wimp,” breathed Sid under his breath, and he wasn’t referring to
the hamburger bar. Then Sid gave Terry’s scooter a
push from the front to get it on its stand.
Sid and I entered
the Wimpy, with steam rising from our coats; mine
was a parka with my grandma’s fox stole sewn across
the shoulders. Long dead glass eyes stared out from
my right shoulder.
We sat down and waited for the waitress; Terry then joined us.
“Have you seen Angelo?” he said frantically as he
sat down. “He’s got a load of our gear, and we need
it for tonight.”
“Calm down,” said Sid, “he’s probably hiding it in a stash
somewhere. He will be along, soon.” He turned, and
mumbled into my ear: “He better be...”
I could see Terry
was exhibiting the far away paranoid look that some
members of our fraternity exhibited; it was due to
being too many days in a row on Amphetamines. His
lips were sore, very red and with a black outline
highlighting them, tracing a sharp dark silhouette
all around them, and his eyes were large like a
‘bush baby’s’ staring vacantly, unfocussed, around
the room as he spoke.
“The bastard better had, he was at the match today. Georgie was
fantastic with three goals, and that shitty Man City
were total crap;
Francis Lee, Colin Bell - what a set of twats! And Summerbee!
Summerbee, Summerbeeeee; who the fucking hell
is he?” he sang, churning out the current
anti-City theme that everyone sang in the Stretford
“Did you go, Dave?” Sid asked me.
“Yeah,” I said, “fuckin’ brilliant! We should win the league again
“Fantastic, fan-bloody-tastic! You know Best is great, the
greatest, but he needs Dennis. Without Dennis the
entire team would be shit. If he doesn’t score, he’s
the one who passes it to George for him to hit the
back of the net.” Sid made this statement glassy
We all sat silently then, reviewing the match; our eyes were open
with blank stares as the rain ran down the outside
of the windows. As we stared through them, we were
seeing the footie earlier that day at Old Trafford
superimposed on them, mentally lost in the visions
of the game. We were brought back to the present
moment with another raging outburst from Terry.
“Where the fuck is that twatting bastard with our gear?” he said,
just as the waitress arrived at our table. She up
picked the round imitation-tomato plastic ketchup
‘bottle’ and gave it a wipe, ignoring the abrasive
“Two coffees and one hot chocolate please,” we said in a chorus.
Terry pretended to spray her with machine gun
bullets from an imaginary Elliot Ness-style machine
gun and shouted, “Al Capone’s Guns Don’t HHHArgue…..”
trying to imitate Prince Buster. Then he started
singing “Dum Dum Dum Dum Da Da Da Da,”
clicking his fingers, swinging around on his seat.
“The fucker’s totally blocked,” said Sid.
Terry shouted, “Joke,” and proceeded to tell it without pausing: “A
Chinese couple get divorced. She goes back to
Peking… he goes back to WAN - KING… do you get it?”
Sid ignored Terry’s antics, and began to give me an explanation
about their missing gear:
“We got 400 Green and Clears from your friend Angelo,” he said,
putting a menacing tone on the word ‘friend’. After
slightly stuttering a bit, he carried on. “And we
swapped them for cash in the bogs at the back of the
Stretford End. He’s training to be the shop manager
in a pharmacists. It’s great gear, and straight out
the bottle, so to speak.”
After a pause, he
frowned. “Funny name that, ‘Angelo’. He comes from
Middleton, from a long line of Italian Ice-cream
makers. There’s an Ice cream shop there in the
woods, Alkrington Woods. Dave, you know him don’t
you? Wasn’t he one of your cycling mates from years
“Maybe,” I said, “Does he wear a green Tonic Mohair with a 23-inch
centre vent?” I was purposely forgetting to tell
them that I went to school with Angelo.
“That’s him,” retorted Sid, with a look that I took to mean he
wasn’t having any of my vague reply.
“So why are you saying he’s got your stash?” I asked.
This seemed to upset Sid no end and he answered with an increased
stutter: “B-b-b-because…. because, because…fucking
because, we gave him most of it back again for safe
keeping, to bring it here tonight. So right now at
this very moment in time he has our gear and, and,
and our cash.”
He stuttered again and then went on in a tirade. “That bastard
Sergeant, what’s his fucking name? …Oh yeah, fucking
Plummer – he’s after us, he frisks us on sight these
days… so we took what we needed at the match. Then
gave him, Angelo, back the rest and, and,” – Sid
began stuttering once more – “A-a-a-and our fucking
cash, for safe keeping! He said he would meet us
here half an hour ago, fucking bastarding rain. It
took ages to get here and now we’re soaked and
“And late,” said Terry, stating the obvious.
“Why did you give him back the money?” I asked.
“Because, Sergeant drugs-‘el-supremo’-what’s-his-face would have
something on us if he pulled us and nabbed us with
just too much cash for a Saturday night out.” Sid
spat out the words in disgust.
“Right,” I said, nodding.
“He stops and searches us every time he sees us,” Sid said
repeating himself angrily.
Back with us after staring vacantly all around the other tables,
Terry then changed the subject completely, as is the
way of the blocked.
“I’m going to get
some skin-tight leather gloves,” he said. “You know
the type with all them little holes in them, driving
gloves they’re called.” Terry then opened up his
hands spreading out the fingers wide. “Look at my
hands. You can almost see through my knuckles,
they’re so fucking white.”
“Shut up,” Sid growled at Terry, “Just shut the fuck up. You’re
always rambling on about shit.”
“So have you seen the fucker?” Sid asked again, turning to me.
“Who?” I replied.
Sid was getting fierce. His neck was turning red, the blue veins
bulging: “FUCKING Angelo, you cunt,” he shouted over
the table, attempting to put his face straight into
A menacing atmosphere was generated. I rapidly decided on
submitting no further methods of diversion.
“No, I only just got here, just before you came,” I said.
“Maybe he’s in the Shakespeare or the Town Hall or some other
fuckin’ pub,” Terry interjected. “Maybe we need
Agent Double O Soul, or Secret fucking Agents on the
case,” he smirked, “or let’s send out an SOS…” Terry
went rambling on… blocked uptight. “I bet he came on
time and now he’s gone in the Dive Bar at the other
end of the Street.” His eyes brightened a bit.
“Let’s go down there,” he said.
“Don’t be fucking stupid, that’s where all those fucking City
bastards beat the shit out of us…. and twice! I’m
not going over there tonight,” said Sid, turning
from me to face Terry, glaring at him, their noses
I asked what had happened, and my question seemed to break the air
“It was two weeks ago – we’d sold out all our gear in the
Shakespeare. Then after, we legged it to the Town
Hall Tavern and stayed for a half, when some City
cunts started on us. So we left and went down the
Dive Bar, and the bastards showed up there later! We
ended up being dragged out of the place, punched and
“We got away and ran all the way back through the streets with the
bastards trailing us to the Town Hall Tavern. We
went past and hid in a doorway - in the doorway of
the Old Cona. You remember the Cona Café – first
time we saw you and your pal the other Dave? It was
in there.” Disjointed sentences were the hallmark of
His remark triggered a forgotten memory: I remembered Saturday
afternoons drinking cappuccinos listening to Roger
Eagle telling us about his latest imports and all of
us admitting to liking Bob Dylan’s ‘Times They Are A
Changing’ as it came on the Juke Box in the Cona
Café on Tib Street.
Sid ended his tale saying, “Thank Christ the bastards went back
into the pub so we could get away.”
“If the City mob have taken over the Dive Bar then Angelo will be
somewhere else; maybe he’s in Tommy Ducks,” I said.
“Look at my fucking new brogues,” said Terry.
And we all did,
even the waitress; she had arrived with our drinks.
We all got out
some change from our pockets and individually paid
“Yeah, they are shitty,” I agreed with Sid, and told him to wipe
them on the hand towel roller in the bogs. Moments
later, off he went.
“He’s becoming an arsehole,” said Sid. “He’s getting blocked up all
week, not just weekends, how he keeps going at work,
working as a hod carrier is beyond me: the feeble
twat doesn’t look like he could climb a ladder
holding on with both hands, never mind with a hod of
bricks. It must be the fucking ‘gear’ that’s
fuelling the bastard up there!”
“So you are going then?” I drawled with my speech slurring
as another shuddering jolt from the pills ran
“Yeah,” Sid replied. “I’m buzzin!” He followed on and asked the
I replied automatically, initially saying, “Yeah.” Then as I
realised the momentous event ahead I became more
animated; “Without a doubt… I only go for the music,
and the birds and the dancing and tonight… Junior
“The Music that’s
gooooood,” Sid said, gazing into his drink – he was
on his way up.
We both were ‘coming up’ and feeling that feeling.
“And the deals… I love the deals; that helps the income. We’re on
bastarding piece work, and if that twat falls
behind…” He pointed at the toilet door that Terry
had just disappeared through, to clean his shoes.
Sid continued after being distracted for a moment with a ‘coming up
rush’ and said “On the bricks we lose out; we’re a
team… but then there’s the supplementary income…”
“Shoplifting!” shouted Terry as he returned.
“No – dealing, you cunt,” Sid shouted at Terry. He then continued:
“And there’ll be none of that tonight if that twat Angelo doesn’t
show up.” Sid was now shouting and all signs of his
previous stammer had disappeared.
The sinister atmosphere was returning. Silence interrupted us, and
again we all looked out of the window where outside
about twenty or so Mods had materialised. We hadn’t
noticed them until now due to being engrossed in our
“So how did you get your stuff for tonight?” I asked them as it was
obvious they were under the influence.
“We took a few at the match,” replied Sid, “and then we stopped in
Cannon Street, just as Monica from Langley was
getting off the 121. She gave us enough to get us
“For now,” interrupted Terry, indicating he was anticipating a
fuller recharge sometime soon.
“Angelo - what a fuckin’ stupid name,” said Sid, bringing the
conversation back to where I wished it wasn’t.
“Poof name,” said Terry.
“Yeah, poof bastard,” agreed Sid.
I thought it wise not to mention that I knew Angelo and that he was
no ‘poof’. His name was Italian, and lots of
Italians went to our school. It was due to Angelo
that I had become a cycling fan; it was he who told
me all the stories about his cycling hero Fausto
Coppi. Our school was Roman Catholic, so all the
Italians from North Manchester sent their kids
hero-worshipped Jacques Anquetil the French cyclist,
and had haircuts that matched his; cut short all
over, very short at the front and longer towards the
back, the sides the same - all combed backwards for
streamlining on a bike! Later this style was
developed longer and longer with a back-combed
elevated top; it became very popular, influenced by
the Small Faces.
It was a good practice to take your stuff before going into the
Wheel, as the plain clothes drug squad sometimes
raided the toilets in the club. I usually took my
gear on the bus; I didn’t even need a drink. I could
easily swallow twenty pills without a drink –
practice makes perfect.
This time I took the pills on the scooter, opening my mouth and
drinking in the rain to wash them down.
One of the effects
of taking the pills, or the ‘gear’ as we
affectionately called them, was that they made
everyone very, very friendly. Well, they were
prescribed as anti-depressants, but they could
sometimes do the opposite with certain types, and
Terry and Sid’s bemoaning of Angelo was exhibiting
this type of paranoia. I
could see that hanging around with these two could
be dangerous, so I swigged at my drink, told them I
just saw my girlfriend outside, said ‘Tarrah’ and
* * *
girls all tried to look like Dusty Springfield, or
Mary Quant, or Julie Driscoll. Twiggy, Patti Boyd,
Rita Tushingham, or even Amanda Barrie. A full set
of such almost ‘look-a-likes’ or ‘Dolly Birds’ were
now gathered outside the Wimpy, sheltering from the
rain underneath the concrete overhang. And so was
Doreen. I was in love with Doreen – she was a Julie
Outside the Wimpy a large crowd of people who were all getting
together to go down to the All-nighter had formed.
The Wimpy was a well known Saturday night gathering
place for us to meet up.
As I walked over towards Doreen, a soaking wet Mod said, “Hiya, I’m
Pete from Blackpool, have you seen Fred from
Stockport? I’ve got this record for him, it’s ‘Sixty
Minutes Of Your Love’ by Homer Banks; Fucking rare,
man, on the Minit label.”
But before I could respond, Dave Leyton came up and danced around
me singing, “Get on up… Da Da Darrrr Da
Dat Da… Hey… You over there… Get on up now…
We’re gonna dance, dance, dance, and boogaloo… AND
Spinning round on the last note of the song by the Esquires, he
ended up with his face right next to mine, his
wide-eyed dilated pupils fixed on me.
“Hiya,” he said
his face all flushed red and beaming, holding his
fixed stare through his glasses right into my eyes.
“And that reminds
me,” he said, “Please – I’m saying it nicely – have
you got my record that you nicked on Thursday in the
“What?” I said, looking towards Doreen, who was talking with two
guys I hadn’t seen before.
“You know what,” Said Dave ‘L’.
Dave ‘L’ or ‘DL’ was his nickname. There were just too many Daves
around, so he’d acquired a nickname to distinguish
him from other less, notable Daves. In fact his
full nickname was Dave ‘Rubber Legs’ Leyton. He was
indeed an accomplished dancer and had just
demonstrated his talent out here in the street.
“Yes, my ‘Boogaloo Party’ by the Flamingos,” he said,
emphasising the ‘my’ as he went on: “It’s mine, it’s
rare, it’s on the Philips label, the Blue Label,
number BF 1786. It’s got my DL sticker on it inside
a little white circle, and you or your pal Angelo
nicked it.” His delivery was faultless and
It had been nicked but it wasn’t me – it was Angelo who’d done the
evil deed. DL had come into the Blue Note during the
week and raved about his latest find, ‘The Boogaloo
Party’. He’d pulled it out of his airline bag to
show it, when someone grabbed it for a laugh and
passed it overhead to the next person. Soon it had
gone from hand to hand overhead, over the tables,
then traversing the dance floor a couple of times
with everyone laughing. It was all light hearted
until it was snatched by Angelo, where it
disappeared down the front of his trousers. Angelo
was an accomplished record shoplifter. DL must have
blinked as Angelo stuffed the 45 away at lighting
speed, leaving him bemused and hopeful of its
return, which had never happened.
Just then I was rescued by someone who had met DL at last
Saturday’s All-nighter and couldn’t remember Dave’s
name. He addressed DL and said, “Aren’t you Dave…
I laughed and said, “Its Dave ‘L’ or ‘DL’ to you.”
I was glad to change the track of DL’s conversation with me.
“L, what is that for?” said the bloke.
“Legs, rubber legs. Dave Legs; Rubber Legs Leyton,” I spurted out,
I was struggling to change DL’s intention to corner me about the
‘Boogaloo Party’, so I adopted a somewhat stupefied
change of course to the conversation.
“Anyway did you know that Mr what’s his name… another ‘L’… what’s
his fucking name… you know… oh fuck, what’s his
name? Something like… ‘L’ you know him, he did
pictures, paintings: matchstick men and women…
outside mills, and chimneys…” I chuntered on hoping
to divert DL’s attention.
“And cats and fucking dogs,” said DL. He was sharp, and homing in
on my nonsense.
“So what?” he said, as I saw that he had put the name to my
blocked-up brain’s search for it.
I got the name just as he did. I said with a puzzled frown, “Oh
“Well, what about the fucker?” chorused the wet Mod from Blackpool
“Well, he used to be my grandmother’s Rent Collector, Mr Lowry. He
does pictures of Manchester, some of them in the
fucking rain!” I told them. I was hoping that my
changing the subject would throw him off the scent
of his ‘Boogaloo Party’.
Often the pills we took would make you struggle for a word or a
name. Many times you heard people trying to remember
something or other, often giving up and the
conversation heading off at a complete tangent.
“So what’s that got to do with my ‘Boogaloo Party’?” DL
shouted as we began to wander together up and down
and around the gathering crowd.
“Nothing, nothing, nothing at all,” I said. I was going to tell him
that my grandmother had been offered one of Lowry’s
drawings and that she had given it back to the man
with advice about making his figures look a bit more
realistic, and that he should try harder. However
just as soon as this memory popped into my head, I
dismissed it. Instead I clicked the fingers on both
hands and continued:
“It’s Junior Walker. I hope he does ‘Cleo’s Mood’, it’s my most
favourite track of his, it’s great, it’s moody… it’s
fucking moody and fucking great. Imagine that
thundering out live in the Wheel!”
At this break in the conversation the Mod from Blackpool waved
around his Homer Banks single asking if anyone had
seen Fred, but he got no answer. At the same time,
the gathering realised it was 11:30 and like a flock
of spooked starlings without any one starting it
off, all at once everyone moved off together. The
rain had eased up and those at the front of the
troupe began to sing, “Let’s go, Let’s go…”
At the front it was ‘Lets Go (Pony)’ by the Routers that they were
chanting, whilst us at the back turned it around
into ‘Lets Go Baby Where The Action Is’ (the ‘B’
side of Barefootin’ by Robert Parker). We all took
off through Piccadilly, down London Road, past the
Army and Navy and then Mazell’s second hand record
shop, past the Indian restaurant down the hill to
the Wheel; The New Wheel on Whitworth street. We
called it the New Wheel in deference to the one
before, the first Wheel that was on the corner of an
alley with Brazennose Street, just off Albert
We began to skip and dance, we were all: ‘Dancing in the Street’.
Our ‘gang’ used to do this often, clicking fingers,
jumping up and swinging around lampposts, just like
the Jets and the Sharks in West Side Story; except
we were Manchester Soul Mods – cooler, smarter,
hipper, switched on to black music and ‘blocked up’!
One of the
Impressions LP covers showed three very smartly
dressed guys, in silver shining lightweight Tonic
Mohair suits. This was certainly an influence upon
the Northern Mod scene. Shiny Tonic Mohair suits
with 13", then 15", and then 17" side vents. Then
came centre vents, and even, in one period, centre
pleats. ‘Who is the coolest guy…..’ sang
Charlie Rich….. It was Mohair Sam and we wore the
Tonic Mohair: we were the Kings, we were the Cool
Jerks, we were the Soul addicted Mods.
Top pockets had
handkerchiefs, and only silk ones made the grade.
Ticket pockets were an essential feature of our
suits. Searches for military and paisley patterned
ties took hours, but they had to be found otherwise
you could be 'out'. Silk ties, even flat bottom
knitted ties, silk handkerchiefs, tight fitting
leather driving gloves had to be obtained, even if
it meant shoplifting them; we had to be in with the
dance shoes: flat ones for blokes, and red four-inch
high heels for girls. Long leather coats were always
‘in’ probably because of the cost. Winter in the
North dictated that long warm overcoats were needed,
and so a new fashion started for Crombies, and for
hats and long, long, university scarves epitomised
by Rod the Mod, the Scottish singer in the Steam
DL danced around me; had he been black he would have been a dead
ringer for David Ruffin of the Temptations, and they
both wore exactly the same specs. This was no
accident on DL’s part, as he idolised the
Temptations. He even said he could never forgive
Otis for doing a version of ‘My Girl’.
I managed to get
away from him, but he was approaching once again.
‘Bollocks,’ I thought as he went on and on about his
missing record, but then as his fifteen or so Green
and Clears fully kicked in, his mind went onto a
“I got ‘Secret
Agents’, an import on Mirwood 5513 by the Olympics,
it’s great, it’s fantastic; it’s just fucking
brilliant.” He started to sing it – “Honey West
and old I Spy are working together for the FBI…
But I’m missing my ‘Boogaloo Party’.” And all
to the exact rhythm of Secret Agents. You couldn’t
help but smile at him.
DL was one of
those guys who knew every record, its catalogue
number, the ‘B’ side, the producer, the USA
originating record label, etc. He would buy or
shoplift Tamla Motown records and their previous
Stateside label releases to get them all in numeric
and sequential order, searching for them all over
the place. His intention was to have them all, and
in strictly catalogued numerical order. He was
always asking for early Oriel, Fontana and Stateside
and Motown singles, often by number, not by artist
or record title. He learned to do this as it helped
when requesting 45’s in record shops, and it
impressed the proprietors. Sometimes they thought he
was the company Sales Rep! Well, he did dress far
smarter than they did. He was a walking card index
system, invaluable as a resource to DJs who were
seeking to find rare tracks.
A guy from Warrington joined us and immediately burst out with
comments from his last visit to the Wheel. “Did you
see Graham Bond last week, the other week or
whenever it was? My fuckin’ memory is packing up
man, I’m sure he did a few Ike and Tina Turner
songs? Or was it the DJ that played ‘A Fool In
Love’, and a great version of that Darrel Banks
track ‘Somebody Somewhere Needs You’, dead good
songs they are.”
On hearing this DL began singing, ‘He’s such a good man but he
treats you like a fool…’ The lyrics echoed
inside my head as I watched the same two blokes from
outside the Wimpy walking along in front with
The lyrics seemed to fit my changing mood and I sang them out with
venom in a duet with DL: ‘Fool in love… When he
treats you like a fool when he’s such a good man…’
The track was from the Ike and Tina Turner Review.
People passing by on the pavement would shake their
heads and mutter “Nutters”, as they pulled up their
coat collars and scurried past.
DL picked up on my jealous mood, realising I was singing whilst
watching Doreen in front. Probably motivated by his
frustration with my avoidance about his missing 45,
he started sticking the knife in, singing: “You’re
her puppet, you’re her puppet.” He was singing
contrary words to the song by James and Bobby
Purify, and acting out being a puppet with arms
outstretched, wobbling along like Pinocchio.
We could remember most of the lyrics to our favourite Soul songs;
they were drummed into us on a weekly basis. Music
would replay over and over continuously inside your
mind when you were blocked. Sometimes the entire
repertoire of an All-nighter would play back in the
hours of the following days inside your head. It
wasn’t too bad during the day, but would almost
drive you crazy at night when attempting to get some
Sometimes I would think how strange it was that I had no power to
stop this continuous replay. Many times I would
command it to stop, but after several intense
efforts it just moved on to the next track, like a
Dansette record player on auto. When the songs
eventually died out I just lay there trying to
sleep, every noise irritating beyond belief, every
twitch generating a reciprocal itch at some other
body location, like acupuncture gone mad. Then just
as warm cosy sleep arrived, the alarm would ring for
Doreen stopped in front, turning around and waiting for me to catch
up. The two guys carried on. She began dancing…
skipping… “I’ll always love you… Baby… I’ll
always love you…” She was singing the track by
the Detroit Spinners… and she was spinning around
me, then she just danced away. She left a strange
after-image inside my mind’s eye of her Mary Quant
hair gliding past in slow motion. This after-image
was left together with a dim brooding feeling –
Would she? Always? Who are those two blokes? Love
sickness had got a hold on me!
We joined the back of the queue; it was strung out around the
block, around the White Heart pub and up London
Road. People tended to be in groups – they came from
all over Manchester and the surrounding towns, and
many from far off exotic places like Huddersfield.
In fact they came from all over the UK; there were
groups from Connah’s Quay North Wales, from
Scotland, even London.
I noticed Doreen had been ‘let in’ the queue further up the line by
those same two blokes. Anger was growing.
The people in
front of us were from Oldham, and those in front of
them were from Sheffield. They shouted back to us
that they went to the Mojo Club. DL told them to
“fuck off” and said to them that “it must be crap or
else you’d be there” and that “this was the Wheel
the one and only.” We both said this in a jovial
friendly manner; everyone was really everyone’s
friend at an All-nighter. However, joking aside, we
were sort of serious about the remark. To us, only
the Wheel was worthwhile. The Wheel was the
greatest, and the only other place that was great
for music, but not for All-nighters, was the Blue
Note. It was the music that mattered to us the most.
A group joined behind us from Blackpool; they too were singing, all
of them singing, and really soulfully: ‘People
Get Ready….. for the train to Jordan.’ They were
clicking fingers, chewing gum, (we called it ‘Spoggy’)
twirling around, just dancing and blocked up in the
queue, singing that great Impressions’ song.
As we got closer we could hear the thumping sound from below,
inside the club…. ‘Neighbour, neighbour… Don’t
worry how I treat my wife…’ sung by Jimmy
Hughes. Then ‘Determination’ by the Contours.
Louder, louder and LOUDER as we got nearer. Looking
at the Fire Station across the street, someone was
shouting ‘Fire, Fire’, like ‘Liar, Liar,
Town crier…’ putting their own lyrics to the
With excitement mounting we reached the door. The Adabi Brothers,
the owners of the Wheel were both at the door,
looking at our round Wheel membership cards and
taking our twenty five shilling pre-paid tickets; we
often came down mid-week to get them. We passed the
door anticipating going down the steps, down into
the Wheel. We had one hand holding the other elbow
moving our arms from side to side, the thumb in our
mouths, playing a dummy Saxophone, imitating Junior
Walker. Daft we were. Blocked we were. Pill Heads
we were, exactly as Roger Eagle the original Wheel
DJ described us.
Ivor on the door rolled his eyes at us impatiently as we constantly
and agitatedly moved from leg to leg sideways,
swinging our shoulders dancing on the spot, waiting
for his new-style ticket scrutiny. Anyway, these
were real tickets not like the fakes we had used for
the Drifters several months or so ago. It was our
mate Roland who did the printing of the fakes. He
did it to get some extra funds, but did some free
extras for us too. Everyone helped each other out,
we were all the best of pals. Manchester Soul Mods
Through the sound system Jimmy Smith was mumbling away trying to
get his ‘Mojo Working’ as I was putting my cloakroom
ticket in my top pocket behind my showy pink silk
handkerchief. After queuing in the cloakroom line
inside the club for around half an hour, it was then
that I realised with shock and shouted out loud:
“Shit, my Scooter! I left it outside the fucking Wimpy!”
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