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.
When 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”
Loved your comment ‘Randy was a funny old mod’ he was much more than that to me … missed terribly.
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…
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.
Does anyone remember the blue beat club?