As usual in the Seventies, it seems a long time ago now, I would scan either the 'Blues & Soul' or 'Black Echoes' northern events pages for somewhere to go that weekend. It wasn't every week, that we all chose were to go at the weekends. The usual mid-week Soul night in 1978 was then held every Thursday night, at The International Club in Kempston (not far from the Soul nights of today - The Kempston Rovers). The Club was owned by two Indian blokes and they used to let the function / back room out to two great guy's by the name of Frank and Danny from Bedford who also supplied the disco gear (these two also used to spin their tunes, usually jazz/funk, Mecca tunes etc. at The Pilgrims Inn in Bedford every Sunday night). The D.J.'s of the day in our area were as enthusiastic then, as they were young and included Tommy Taylor, Stuart 'Groover' Green, Tony Warot, Hammy, Rug and Mick Smith. The crowd of the day came from much the same catchment area as today's scene ie. Bedford, St. Neots, Rushden, Northampton, Kettering, Hitchin etc. in fact a few of those still make it today - a little greyer or thinner on top - but still there drinking the pints and shining theirs soles out on the dance floor.
But this was mid-week, there were no hindrances at the weekend with the likes of Soul nights - weekends were for All-Nighters and the odd All-Dayer when they turned up. One Friday each month was almost always taken up with the Oldies All-Nighter at Wigan, so that date was almost always booked in advance. That usually left three weekends, of which two were taken up at an East Anglian Soul Club All-Nighter (then The Fleet Centre, Peterborough), so down to one weekend in a month . . . . . were do we go . . . Coalville - Sheffield - Colwyn Bay ?? It all depended on how things fell that month. Remembering, in those days we had All-Nighters on Fridays as well as the following Saturday and sometimes two events on both nights in one weekend. In those days, there were still plenty of the days youth (the 'Older' and 'Wiser' one's then called us 'Kids') making their way around without the heavy weight of marriages, mortgages, kids and car repayments etc . . . . in other words, we were free and easy and free to go were we wanted (if we could get there). The main route to All-Nighters in those days for me (if I couldn't get a lift) was by 'thumbing-it'. Looking back, we took a few risks, but nothing compared to today . . . perhaps! But we were young and by heck, we didn't care. The main thing in those days was reaching our goal and getting to the do's for opening time. The hardest part, more-so than actually getting there, was the arduous journey home in the bleak light of morning after a night of excessive dancing. Feet still aching and a definite lack of sleep, it was a tall mountain to climb.
But one Friday night on 17th November 1978, having decided that that was were I was heading, it was off to one of the Casino's mid-month Oldies. This month the theme was Torch & Mecca sounds and I was off on the road once again, just me and my thumb. As the norm. it would be bus to Kempston (I was living in Bedford at the time), then a walk down the A421, 'Nighter' bag over shoulder and arm out with my thumb vitually disjointed, trying desperate to catch the next vehicle passing to get a lift to the M1 (juction 13) a few miles further down the road. Please note that most of this road had no footpaths and was mostly of discoloured soggy grass verges. Anyone who has ever 'thumbed-it', will appreciate what I mean when I say, that fresh socks and shoes were required for the outward journey!! At the M1 jct. 13 there was hardly ever a queue of hikers so this part never took more than 20 - 30 minutes to get a lift. Once the lift was obtained I'd try to continue my ritual and make my way along to the usual stopping place - Watford Gap sevices. On arrival I'd usually have a cup of tea, top up on the chewies etc. and back to the M1 slip road. Once at the slip road, unlike at the Bedford turn, there would usually be a queue - Hippy types, Armed Forces, Transport workers, so it was like, take your turn and hope that the ones in front soon got their awaited lift rather sharpish to make way for your turn. But then once it was your turn, it was still hit and miss that someone was going your way (but that's another story). After perhaps a few lifts the signs appear for (M6) Wigan and eventually I get dropped off on the slip for Wigan. It was then a long walk into Wigan town centre (I never did get a lift from the motorway into town), turn right down Station Road from the Town centre and on to the Casino Club just around the corner.
The only one at Wigan tonight from Bedford - me - and what the heck, it was like most Nighters, you always knew someone from somewhere and if not (a rare occassion) then you'd always know someone or other sooner or later that night, the scene was just that friendly and we all had so much in common . . . . a thing you never get anywhere else!
Once inside, the place was buzzing, but unlike the usual first Friday of the month Oldies, tonight there were only 600 - 700 Souls at the most. This being the case, there was ample room for dancing. Usually you were lucky to move both feet as the floor was the most prized piece of wood in the country and was closely guarded by all who stepped on it. As for the sounds being played, it was very loosely woven around the said Torch & Mecca era so to speak and not ever having been to those hallowed venues, who was I to complain, every 'new' sound you heard was an education in Soul music. Down to some of the records spun that night and in no particular order . . . .