He’s written a piece on the BBC website, all about ‘the sound that defined his youth‘.
It seems to me that he’s a bit of a dilettante.
The piece is wrong in lots of ways. For instance, there is no such thing, as far as I know, as a northern soul ‘revival night’. There are just northern soul nights. You only revive something which is dead or dying, and northern soul has been going strong since the late 1960s. The 100 Club all-nighters, which I attended quasi-religiously as a teenager, are still packed, 35 years later.
But most egregiously, it is wrong in the list of records which he would ‘play if they gave me control of the decks for an hour’ at one of these ‘Northern Soul revival nights’.
It’s hard to put it in book terms, but it’s like writing a piece – a serious piece – for the BBC about your top 20 authors, and including Lee Child and Dan Brown.
Sure, you may have read them once, on holiday, along with 90% of the population – but you aren’t going to admit it publicly, and you certainly don’t want to re-read them in case you missed something first time around.
The main raison d’être for northern soul’s existence was and remains the discovery (and playing) of previously unheard records. Some people are still doing this – amazingly, there are still tracks out there which were recorded in 1965 but have yet to be unearthed.
But every single one of the records Paul Mason chooses was played in the 1970s, and is now what is known in the trade as ‘played out’ – DJs have played them a million times before, literally, and no-one wants to hear them again, ever*.
Not that I go to northern soul all-nighters any more, but I would be astonished if Chuck Wood’s Seven Days Too Long (Paul Mason manages to get the title wrong – as he does with others) was even allowed into the building.
I don’t exclude the possibility that some canny promoter somewhere will invite Paul Mason along to play a set, based on this list, but I wouldn’t think he’ll get a very positive reaction.
The annoying thing is that if they had allowed someone like Adrian Croasdell – promoter of the long-running 6Ts all-nighters at the 100 Club London – to write this piece, it could have been interesting. As it is, it’s as though they had asked Croasdell to write their economics coverage. (He might be better at that, too.)
A chum emails me with this piece from VICE Magazine, in which Paul Mason reveals how ‘I left the original scene in around 1979 because the music – and the fashion – seemed stuck in a timewarp even then.’
And then he gives us his favourite 21 records… which would have been big in 1979. He doesn’t seem to do irony!
Okeh, Ric-Tic, Mala and Cameo Parkway are not ‘obscure labels’. Mala was owned by Columbia Pictures. CamPark were a major. Ric-Tic was big enough for Berry Gordy to pay a million dollars in 1967/68 to buy out their artists. Okeh had been around since 1918 and was a subsidiary of Columbia Records, whose artists included such obscure names as The Byrds, Barbara Streisand and Simon and Garfunkel. (Okeh’s own roster included unknowns including Louis Armstrong, Burl Ives and Duke Ellington.)
And Bronchipax was not ‘poor man’s speed’. Bronchipax was pharmaceutically pure; poor man’s speed was powder cooked up in some bloke’s garage and was swallowed wrapped in a piece of loo roll to avoid mouth ulcers.
MP Tom Watson is apparently now an expert, too, advising journalists (incorrectly) that it’s the ‘Manchester Twisted Wheel’, as opposed to merely The Twisted Wheel, and retweeting Paul Mason’s spotify playlist for all he’s worth. When MPs start proclaiming their love for something, it’s time to get out.
Here’s one, specially for Tom:
*OK, to be fair Mel Britt, Yvonne Baker and The Seven Souls are timeless.
I Still Love You remains a very good tune:
But if you’re looking for well-known but still rare records, it’s just not as good as Johnny Rodgers and the Nu Tones’ Make A Change…
…or Magnetics’ Count The Days…
…or The Prophets’ If I Had (One Gold Piece):