Nigel Flood is a life­long North­ern Soul and reg­gae devo­tee. I spoke to him about the bur­geon­ing soul scene in the north. For 20 years he has joined in to DJ at all-day­ers and all-nighters, and has Dj’d for Paul Weller. 

North­ern pride. Love of soul. The move­ment named by Dave Godin, own­er of a Lon­don record shop who picked up on a grow­ing dis­crep­an­cy in musi­cal tastes of north­ern kids ver­sus their south­ern coun­ter­parts. It all start­ed in the 1960s, after those ear­ly post-war years, as a new breed of teenagers were dip­ping their toes in the new music scene, devel­op­ing a cul­tur­al iden­ti­ty with their clothes, sport, and music, find­ing sol­i­dar­i­ty in being part of a tribe.

Where did you grow up and how did you get into the music scene?
I grew up in Chester. I would go to youth clubs, around 1966/67, and lis­tened to the Motown hits of the day. We would go to the Chester Red­if­fu­sion record shop and buy a sin­gle a week with our pock­et mon­ey, one would buy the Mar­vin Gaye, one the Mar­velettes, one the Four Tops… they’d come out on a week­ly basis. They would be 6 shillings and 3 pence. We grew up on the back of the Mod thing, we didn’t have much Jamaican music, but we would hear the songs that hit the charts, Al Capone, The Guns of Navarone and those skin­heady tunes… Prince Buster. I went to local youth clubs where you’d dance and we’d take our Tam­la Motown, all British releas­es. We went to a youth dis­co called Green Gin­ger in Chester, Quaint­ways dance hall. It split into rival fac­tions, us from Chester, scouse kids from Ellesmere Port, and kids into rock music, and there’d be trou­ble over that. We hat­ed peo­ple into rock music, our group was into scoot­ers by this time – Lam­bret­tas, not Vespas.

What about your teen years?
We start­ed going to Man Unit­ed from about 14. We’d start the day in Spin Inn record shop, on Cross St, run by Gary Laine. Walked in there first time, heard Bob­by Tay­lor and the Van­cou­vers, Oh I’ve been Blessed, (VIP label) and it blew me away. This was the moment I dis­cov­ered what were called “Imports” in those days. I could only afford one record, but I stayed in the shop all day. I think I still have that record, it’s a bit bat­tered but it’s still played today. Every week­end I’d go to the Spinn Inn, I became friend­ly with the guys and they would look after me. So I built up my knowl­edge from there.

Was that the begin­ning of the movement?
No. We were behind Lon­don. We nev­er referred to it as North­ern Soul. Dave Godin coined North­ern Soul. To us, it was just music, soul. We did­n’t con­sid­er any oth­er music, though stuff with the R&B influ­ence like the Small Faces, Rolling Stones was ok , but not the hip­py stuff!! Yes and Ten Years After, they all turned us right off.

IMG_4344When did things start to change?
We went out local­ly to clubs. The old­er lads, our old­er broth­ers, prop­er old Mods, were talk­ing about clubs like the Twist­ed Wheel. It was THE place to go and peo­ple would trav­el from as far as London.

But then In late 60s, ear­ly 70s, soul music start­ed to change. You’d had that Chica­go four to the floor stuff. Then came the funki­er tunes: James Brown, Vic­ki Ander­son, the JB’s, Maceo Park­er, the south start­ed get­ting into the new sound. The north stayed true to its roots, they didn’t want it to end. So, because they weren’t mak­ing the old stuff any more, and because there was this mas­sive trea­sure trove of Amer­i­can music, peo­ple start­ed going out to the US and hunt­ing down rare records. They would come back and say there’s a fuck­ing world of it out there, a galac­tic moth­er­lode of music. Peo­ple would go take risks with them­selves to bring back stuff from Detroit, Chica­go, LA Oak­land. To be fair there was always a rare soul scene in Lon­don but the funky sound was bigger.

What was your next move?
By end of ’73 I was out every week­end at all-nighters and it got too wear­ing. I got a job in the oil indus­try, and that took me away from the scene. I sold my soul col­lec­tion in the mid ’70s. When I came back to Lon­don, in the 1980s the prices had shot up, peo­ple were pay­ing hun­dreds of pounds for records.

I’d lived in Not­ting Hill mid 1970s, and got to real­ly like Jamaican music, which you would hear on the street. So when I came back, I start­ed col­lect­ing Jamaican records, you could pick up reg­gae, ska, rock steady quite cheap­ly in those days. The music I play now is Jamaican music from that mid 80s time. It’s expen­sive now though. £5,000 grand for soul for a top tune. £1,000 is common.

Tell me about the gig you were doing on Sat­ur­day and the scene now.
Yes­ter­day, was the Soul­gate All­day­er in mem­o­ry of my old mate Randy Coz­ens, who with Ady Croas­dall formed the 6T’s soul club in about 1975. I shared a flat with Ady in 1976, and that’s how I got to know Randy. He’s a very fun­ny old mod who taught me a lot about soul, he had a fan­tas­tic knowl­edge of it. The all­day­er is run by Randy’s two sons, held on his birth­day, and I’ve been doing it for about 20 years. It used to be at the Ris­ing Sun, now it’s at the Fish­mon­ger’s Arms, South­gate. I do an hour. Nobody gets paid, it is all for Macmil­lan can­cer char­i­ty. You do get a mix of younger peo­ple, which is nice. It’s a live­ly crowd and peo­ple trav­el from all over the country.

Do you think there’s a revival?
No. It’s not a revival, the 60s all­nighters in Lon­don are instru­men­tal of keep­ing it alive. In Lon­don you get a mix of nation­al­i­ties going, Japan­ese, Ital­ians, Ger­mans – a lot are younger which is nice.

What do you call yourself?
Well just my name real­ly. But if I’m going to call myself any­thing, it’s Mr Flood­’s Par­ty, being as my name is Nigel Flood. There was this great record called Com­pared to What? by Mr Flood’s Par­ty, it got played at the Torch all­nighter in Stoke on Trent in the ear­ly ’70s. Peo­ple found out it wasn’t a black group at all, it was a white semi psy­che­del­ic band. But I’m known more for the revival reg­gae stuff.

What about reggae?
My taste in Jamaican music is guid­ed by my ear­li­er love of soul music. Not many peo­ple know the titles of them. It’s a Jama­cian tra­di­tion, they did­n’t want oth­er sound sys­tems to know what they were, or copy their style of music, so they blanked out the titles on the records.

Cox­sone Dodd is the man behind Stu­dio One, he’s the impor­tant name. He built a trav­el­ling sound sys­tem, set up a wire fence, speak­ers up, makeshift bar, charge gate mon­ey. That’s how peo­ple got to hear the music. Peo­ple couldn’t afford records, this is how they got their fix of music. Cox­sone was a good importer, but he’d peel off the labels so no one knew what it was.

Some­times a record would be pressed just for a sound sys­tem, 500 copies maybe. They were exclu­sive then, let alone now. A lot of the Jama­cian stuff is real­ly real­ly rare, ephemer­al. They would only press a few hun­dred to see if it a hit or if it flopped. They are worth a lot now. This one is But your my baby, the oth­er side Mad World by Slim & Delroy.

Tell me some oth­ers you play
A date with the Rain, Eddie Kendricks, lead singer in The Temp­ta­tions. Anoth­er I play is Can I change my mind? by Alton Ellis (Stu­dio One), it’s the Jamaican ver­sion although the US orig­i­nal was by Tyrone Davis. The Jamaicans would hear the US soul music and think: we can do this.
I tend to go for the ones influ­enced by the soul music. I know the ones that will be pop­u­lar with a soul crowd.

Last ques­tion, what’s the one you were just talk­ing about before the interview?
The Ter­mites singing It takes two to make love.

** Dis­claimer ** pho­tos are my own and have not been select­ed or approved by Nigel Flood

5 thoughts on “The life and Northern Soul of the party: interview with Nigel Flood, DJ and Northern Soul devotee

  1. Loved your com­ment ‘Randy was a fun­ny old mod’ he was much more than that to me … missed terribly.

    1. thanks for your com­ment – I was glad to do this inter­view as I love North­ern Soul – it was all around me when grow­ing up in Man­ches­ter but I was just that bit too young to get involved. They have start­ed some North­ern Soul nights at Earl Haig Hall. Must find out what hap­pened to that film…

    2. Hey Karen, here I am, only 4 years late…I think the “fun­ny old” bit was maybe lost in the tran­scrip­tion but oth­er­wise Olivia got it right. Randy was much more than that to me too and I’m meet­ing both his sons Paul & Tel tonight BTW.

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