WOLVERHAMPTON 

 CATACOMBS 

 THE END 

 

 WOLVERHAMPTON CATACOMBS 

 NORTHERN SOUL 

 

   

"TITTER YE NOT"

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

 

This guy got a new car radio 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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the catacombs wolverhampton northern soul 1967-1974
wolverhampton catacombs classic back flip on the dance floor
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 co-loured 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 haveit 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 Rollerdrome'.

 

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 favorite 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 "Bluies" 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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