WOLVERHAMPTON 

 CATACOMBS 

 THE END 

 

 WOLVERHAMPTON CATACOMBS 

 NORTHERN SOUL 

 

   

"TITTER YE NOT"

******************

 

This guy got a new car radio fitted, you shout-soul it plays-soul.

 

you shout-rock it plays-rock.

 

he was driving down the street one day and 3 kids ran out in front of him and he shouted fucking kids and the radio played

 

GARY GLITTER.

  ******************

 

What's the temperature in Motown right now?

 

Three degrees, four tops.

  ******************

 

It is with regret that I have to report that in the 1970s.

 

I was abused by the OSMOND BROTHERS.

 

I had to fucking listen to

them for nearly a decade.

 

*******************

 

Wolverhampton Catacombs T-Shirt
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northern soul wolverhampton keep the faith

1/1

 Wolverhampton Catacombs - By Nige Carter 

 

The beat can be heard, faintly through out the summer night

air, even from 'The Pied Bull pub on the corner of temple

street. On A Wave of excitement barely contained, we hurry

towards a sign of purple & white which juts out from a

building halfway down the road, " CATACOMBS CLUB "

it reads, (the Perspex broken in its metal frame). Through the

wooden outer doors with their grimy glass panels, and up two

flights of stairs we go, passing graffiti homage to "The Torch" (complete with crudely

drawn logo). At the first floor the beat gets louder still as we pass through another door

into the club itself. To the right is an area to quickly deposit coats, then paying admission

at the kiosk (my pink membership card newly encased in plastic after discovery of it's

predecessor's sweaty demise!), we enter Wolverhampton's own heaven of Rare Soul.

 

The eerie sound of SAXIE RUSSELL'S intro to  Psychedelic Soul  echoing down the long

corridors of The Catacomb's will stay in my memory for a long time. A Hot sticky summer

night in 1973 will find us here again, home from home. Along painted black walls on high

backed, black wooden benches the exhausted sit a while to recover and, perhaps chat

about 'Sounds' - the common denominator of the North - swapping tales of rare disc's

heard and dreamt of through the arches and nearer to the dance-floor, a larger crowd

gathers, for 'The Cats is first and foremost a place to dance, and here, under low, dark

rafters frosted with condensation, dimly lit by the glow from the DJ booth, and a few

coloured light-bulbs, they dance well.

Couples sit outside on the fire escape stairs, made (bizarrly) from timber, while a few

characters down in the yard dance 'al fresco', clapping and yelling along with the music.

Back at the bar, guys buying pint pots of orange squash abandon them on the nearest flat

surface as another favorite record is spun  DOBIE GRAY , SUPERLATIVES, BOB RELF, MOSES SMITH, NOLAN CHANCE,

GLORIES, CINDY SCOTT,  SWEET THINGS... lost Soul for lost souls.

 

PEP, MAX, GRAHAM WARR, and BASIL have it covered. The sounds come on strong & fast DOTTIE CAMBRIDGE, OTIS SMITH, HESITATIONS, LOU JOHNSON, VELOURS ... all are received by whoops of recognition and outbreaks of communal clapping in just the right places!

 

 Who cares what time it is  ? - the windows are painted over and the outside world is

forgotten. Time to dance is all that's needed here. Words seem inadequate to describe

the mood. there's a happy feeling afoot - an atmosphere of determined " good times "

and one hell of a soulful vibe crackles around the corridors like a banshee. Later, when

it's over, I Wring out my cotton shirt onto the pavement outside and the sounds of soul

vibrate in my ears all the way home. I can still hear them thirty years later, cause 'The

Cats' was a great scene and an unforgettable part of my own Soul experience. My own

Cat's experience.

 

Saturday would always start with an afternoon drink in Wolverhampton's ' The Tavern in 

 the Town ' the pub by the famous man on the horse. A few years later we would go to

the 'Octopus' by the Civic Hall where we could hear the sounds at saturday lunchtime.

We would stay for A while (til 3 pm), when we would proceed to Lipton's Cafe where the

giant escalator needed to be negotiated before tea, cakes, & deals could be done.

 

A quick tour of the shops for a new pair of shoes, shirt, trousers, or a bottle of  Brut , then

catch the bus home for a quick bath, and change. Full of butterflies in anticipation of the

night ahead. I would leave home at about 8.30 pm with my mates on the 98 bus from

Low Hill to town. 'Our Group' headed down to Temple Street, notorious in itself for the

'Gang' on the other side of the street popular site 'The Roller drome'.

 

Into the small doorway under the broken purple & white sign, a short wait on the two

flights of stone stairs, to the entrance at the top. First past the cloakroom, then past the

 doorman  to pay in. The music, echoing down the corridors in the early, more emptier

time of the evening. We pick up some drinks from the bar, and make our way down the

low arched brick tunnels to the dance-floor. The area was already full of people dancing

in their favourite spots. we put our drinks onto a table and hit the floor.

 

There were guy's cartwheeling, another ran up the wall and then flipped backwards onto the floor, all the others doing their own thing, spinning, kicking, all very individual, but all with a common beating rhythm. There were guy's back dropping, girls spinning, and some couples doing their own set dances to their best tracks. The floor area was skirted by an 'L shaped stage', on which some dancers would bob and dance in unision making sure they didn't jump too high by the even lower roof. It was simply out of this world, in a word ' MINDBLOWING '.

 

This is where I wanted to be, the whole place and atmosphere gave out such a buzz, and the 'crowd would introduce themselves and you would become a great friend (Brother) who they trusted whatever. There was a second tunnel running parallel to the first from the dancefloor to the 'gents' and the two tunnels were joined by narrow archways, the archway nearest the dance-floor housed the DJ's.

 FRANK WILSON DO I LOVE YOU 

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                                                                By the time 11 pm had arrived the place was a hot teeming mass of high energy - so                                                                  hot and crowded the exit door would be opened, and some would head down the                                                                        wooden stairs to dance in the courtyard to try to cool down! The place would                                                                              become so hot condensation would drip down the black washed walls as if the 'Cat'                                                                    itself was sweating'. I  remember on the final All- nighter the heat and condensation                                                                    was so bad the paint would peel off the walls if you touched them, and the bouncing                                                                  from the floor caused the water droplets formed on the ceiling would be shook off                                                                      and it was like dancing in the rain. As the club filled up and due to the lack of space                                                                    on the floor the dance routines became a bit more simple. Sometimes when we

                                                                went, when it was quiet (wed nights) we would all try to dance like somebody who                                                                      had a dance we admired and try to do things to modify our own  style of dance ,                                                                          something I still enjoy today.

                                                                   

                                                                But alas this is all now a distant memory, but I hope these words (although                                                                                  impossible) go some way to explaining what a thrill, and exciting experience it was, an unforgettable, and  a brilliant place The Catacombs was when it was Buzzing.....Never to be forgotten Nige.

 

History of the Cat's. It was July 13th 1974 that saw the closing of the Catacombs. Situated in a semi-derelict building in Temple street Wolverhampton the venue became a focal point for lovers of the Rhythm 'n' soul sound. The place was unforgettable, the most amazing atmospheric and ideal location imaginable. Powerful beats echoing down bare brick tunnels like trains rushing down a mine-shaft, the home of underground dance.

 

The music of young black America, ignored or copied by British artists on first release, was finally getting the recognition it deserved. Made for dancing, it quickly became the choice for another 60's innovation 'the discotheque. Night clubs installed record turntables and young entrepreneurs brought portable equipment and took the show on the road. The  Disc Jockey's 

of the day quickly realised that a great number of dance tunes had already been released in the UK, in the hope of repeating their stateside success. The search had begun, in earnest for yesterdays commercial flops, to play alongside the best new releases.

 

We who found and 'played it first' was king. A club owner with the insight decided in 1967 to get a few such 'kings' together under one roof.. that roof covered the Catacombs.

 

Virtually always the first to play the dance hits of the day, it became a magnet for the followers nationwide. There were several successions to the DJ throne over the years, but the object was always the same:

                                                                                                                                              quality soul music that makes you want to move. Slow or fast, sweet or gritty, vocal or instrumental. Unreleased imports and studio masters and studio masters of immense rarity and value inevitably became necessary to keep the venue in front - a place it stayed until closure in 1974. The legacy left to music and dance by the Catacombs should not be forgotten. It was not tainted by the commercialism of

the record industry and led a scene devoted to the  promotion of obscure artists, songwriters and musicians  who produced

musical works of merit and originality. Many such artists have gone on to become major stars, following this initial exposure.

 

The first DJ of note to play at the venue was on Alan 'S' Smith, who was

promptly usurped by the area's then biggest name 'Farmer' Carl Dene.

Alan 'S' was soon joined by '  Major' Robert Crocker  - a combination

which soon proved too powerful for the management to resist. The

boundless enthusiasm and energy of this pair traveling far and wide in

search of 'the sound' kept the venue well ahead. It was on such a foray

that 'Bob Crocker met his untimely death, leaving a shaken Alan 'S' to

continue on his own. He was subsequently joined by 'Blue Max' and (for

a short spell) Froggy.

 

The Catacombs closed briefly in 1972 for refitting by new owners Astra

Entertainment and it emerged with a lick of paint, and an extended dance

floor, but the same inimitable atmosphere. Resident DJ's were Alan 'S',

and Blue Max, with support from 'Pep', and Graham Warr. By this time,

unreleased American imports were the order of the day and the tempo

was the heartbeat. A specific format, albeit with broad parameters, had

now been created and the tag ' Northern ' dubiously added. This

specialision led to a split from the burgeoning nightclub scene, whilst remaining popular in hotels and youth clubs. Pep was formally added to the Dj roster in 1973, and Alan 'S' was replaced by Alan Day (from Burton on Trent) for a short while, leaving just Pep & Blue Max on the grid to the final lap. The club closed on a high note with the hottest All-Nighter on record and an attendance with double the legal limit. There were many live artists and celebrity appearances, including - Jackie Lee, Fontella Bass, and Mike Raven. The Catacombs achieved a surprising level of success, stature and notoriety considering it's modest size and early closing time of 12.30 am. This, in the main contributed to it's downfall by rendering it vulnerable to competition from All-night dances like at the Wheel, Torch, and Wigan, to which it finally succumbed. 

 

Bill Macnamara "Cats" was/is probably my all-time ever second most favorite N/S venue. When you were inside it was hard to remember that you had actually gone upstairs to get there rather than down. The atmosphere was what did it for me, very "personal" was Cats, stuffy, sweaty and in summer unbearably hot but always a brilliant night. Ten "Blues" and dance till it closed, Christ! no wonder I only weighed 9st wet through!!!

 

On several occasions we needed to "borrow" a motor to get there, this was done via a very accommodating car hire

company in Hitchin. The door to their office had a large glass panel and a letter box at low level. Punters returning cars/vans would simply post the keys through the letterbox for collection by the staff on Monday mornings. On Saturday nights there were plenty to choose from. Using a length of wire we would "fish" for keys through the letterbox and then go in search of the motors bearing the reg number on the key tag, these were parked in a secluded car park at the rear of the shop. We'd

usually take two or three sets of keys and pick the most inauspicious motor so as not to arouse too much suspicion from the Old Bill, and post the others back. Memorize the details on the hire docs in case we were stopped and orff we jolly well went. :))

 

We usually got the motor back on Sunday afternoons with an extra 200 or so extra miles on the clock I guess there must have been loads of real heated arguments about finishing mileage between hirer and staff in the office later in the week that served to cause the hire company to review their return arrangements. That and the speeding ticket we picked up outside Brum one Sunday morning when my mate gave the legit hirers name and address then left the "producer" and the ticket in with the hire docs in the glove compartment. :))) Happy Days Bill.

northern soul the movie if you were there you'll know if you weren't you'll wish you had been

                                                                                                 Northern Soul:

                                                                                                                        Keeping The Faith. 

 

                                                                                                 This is a story of a youth culture that changed a generation and                                                                                                   influenced songwriters, producers, DJs and designers for                                                                                                             decades to come. This is the story of Northern Soul.

 

                                                                                                 The film tells the tale of two Northern boys whose worlds are                                                                                                       changed forever when they discover black American soul                                                                                                             music.

 

                                                                                                 Northern Soul was phenomenally popular with British youths in                                                                                                   the 1970s, taking the North of the country by storm. Northern                                                                                                       Soul the film intends to appeal to those generations of fans                                                                                                         while attracting a modern audience who can relate to youth                                                                                                         culture from another era. If you were there, you’ll know. If you                                                                                                     weren’t there, you’ll wish you had been.

 

                                                                                                 The story of Northern Soul is one of practically total immersion,                                                                                                  dedication and devotion, where the plain concept of the ‘night                                                                                                     out’ was elevated to sacramental dimensions. Where devotees                                                                                                   pushed their bodies, their finances and sometimes their minds                                                                                                     to brutal and unforgiving extremes. For those who went

                                                                                                 through that involvement every test of faith or endurance was                                                                                                     worth bearing.

 

                                – From Northern Soul:

                                                                                                         An Illustrated History.

 

                                                         Northern Soul Film was originally only meant to be playing in 5 screens 

                                                         across the UK but due to high demand it got a blanket release of over 160                                                                       screens. 

 

                                                        I'd heard a lot of Motown and Stax when I was a kid, but the more well-known end                                                          of it. On Jam tours, we had a DJ called Ady Croasdell who ran a '60s club. He

                                                        turned me on to underground stuff and what people call northern soul It just                                                                    blew my mind. Paul Weller

 

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