In these blogs, listeners share their Northern Soul Memories. This article was contributed by John Brookes.
In the late 1960s and early 1970’s there were only three shops that sold records in Chesterfield. The first two were Hudson’s, situated in the market hall and Woolworths. Both shops offered a limited choice made up of chart material and new releases. When the record in question was a UK release by any Atlantic, Stax or Tamla Motown artist a purchase was not a problem. But frequently I would go in search of a record I had heard played by a DJ, without success.
The third record shop stood at the junction of Sheffield Road and Newbold Road on the outskirts of the town centre. It was an old shop, probably Victorian or Edwardian, that you could imagine had been a florists or green grocers in its day. It was double fronted with windows on both sides of a central door. The step into the shop had black and white tiles and looked like a chessboard. The door had a bell which gave a clank rather than a ring.
Once inside the floor was bare with floorboards exposed. The walls were painted royal blue. Around the walls were purpose made shelves which made it easy to flick through LP covers. The counter was on the right had side in front of the shelves which held the records.
The owner of the shop was Dave McPhee, a local DJ and promoter who had a role in Joe Cocker’s early career. The shop was called “Some Kinda Mushroom”. This was the domain of the hippies. Window displays showing huge cardboard cut outs of such LPs as Stonehenge by Ten Years After, with its crimson sky and rising sun and the first Mott The Hoople album with its Max Escher inspired lizards escaping from its cover.
Inside, the progressive rock bombardment continued. Posters of Roger Dean’s futuristic landscapes designed for a series of albums by Yes adorned the walls. These sat alongside other posters for such bands Blodwyn Pig, Fairport Convention, Coliseum and Family. The designer made shelves contained a comprehensive collection of LPs from bands in the same genre. The shop’s customers met the stereotype in every way. Long hair, loon pants, kaftans, beads and tie dye T shirts.
Despite this the shop had one thing that made entrance into its alternative world a necessity – a small beer crate full of imported soul singles. It was an absolute goldmine, sat on the right hand side of the counter. They were all there. I Spy For The FBI, The In Crowd, Let The Good Times Roll, Love On A Mountain Top and the rest. For the first time I realised that records issued on the UK Tamla Motown label came from 3 American labels – Motown, Tamla and Gordy. The quality of these records was amazing with the sounds leaping from the vinyl with much greater volume that those made in the UK. More to the point I now owned them.
Whilst clearly a fish out of water in the environment with my Fred Perry, Wranglers and dessert boots, for long enough, I made a Friday lunchtime or Saturday trip to the shop, building my collection. Happy days.
However over time the Northern Soul movement grew and the shop’s small stock could not keep up with the trends. The prominent DJs unearthed new sounds to gain an advantage over their peers and the UK record companies looked at their vaults and reissued their back catalogues. Blues and Soul magazine supported their endeavours.
In the end we both went our separate ways. Dave opened a bookshop in Bakewell and I found Selectadisc, one of the places that sold the latest northern soul tracks by the shed load, in a basement near to Trent Bridge in Nottingham.
Whilst I still have all the records to this day, they are badly worn and scratched. The CDs and downloads that have replaced them were not bought in such atmospheric or surreal surroundings.
So to answer Pink Floyd’s question “Do you think you can tell heaven from hell?” Yes, I always could and I still do. Every Sunday from 6pm to 8pm.
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