Fogland Lighthouse – Episode 18: Hey, Mr DJ

“And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.” – Friedrich Nietzsche

Presented by Jack Dean & Company, a disabled-led, artist-run non-profit telling stories about how things could be.

Content warnings: strong language, drug usage.


Mate… bruv… bruv… mate. This is such a tune mate, so much respect.  Mate, you got any Ringleaders? Any Ringleaders? You got any Maurice Williams and the Zodiac? You got any Jonny Dynamite? Nice, nice. I love Northern Soul. I said, I love Northern Soul. You ever, you ever get Nostalgic for a time you weren’t even alive? That’s how I feel about Northern Soul. It’s like Wigan Casino in ‘73 all over again. Oh mate, you don’t know about Wigan Casino? Ah, no of course, you’re working you’re working… It’s just wild though, it’s just such a story. So like, in the sixties there’s the whole mod thing, and then in the seventies people in the South of England move on to other stuff, your psychedelia, your funk, your disco, but a whole bunch of Northerners, they just don’t feel it, they just stick to the old shit. This record shop owner in London, he notices that when Northerners come down for football matches and shit they just want old soul records, so he creates a section called Northern Soul. It’s like grime and punk, its one of those quasi-pejorative terms that ends up being appropriated by the culture. It’s not like, conservatism though, these Northern Soul guys they want a specific type of shit. It’s gotta be fast, like, over 100 bpm at LEAST, like, stompy urgent, fucking, bombing down the M1 in a stolen Robin Reliant shit, and its gotta be fucking gritty, grimy, lo-fi shit, we’re talking absolute filth, crackly, abominable, just nasty… and it’s gotta be rare. Half of the stuff the DJs are playing is demos. Oh mate, I’m so fucked. I’m always fucked at weddings. Yeah, I just get in this spiral of social anxiety, which I just try and medicate with booze, but it doesn’t really work. It’s just emotionally, difficult, as well… 

So yeah, Wigan, Wigan’s where it all happens. Early seventies there’s a bunch of clubs playing this stuff  you got the Twisted Wheel in Manchester, the Golden Torch in Stoke, but the authorities close them down, because fuck the police, right? So if you want to dance all night to Northern Soul, you’ve got to go to Wigan. You ever been to Wigan bruv? You ever been to Wigan? You ever been to Wigan? Fucking shithole mate. I can say that I’m part-northern. Orwell wrote a whole book about what a shithole it was. He bases this whole essay about the necessity for a socialist revolution on the premise of how shit Wigan is. Like, we must destroy capitlaism for what they did to Wigan. But it becomes the centre of the fucking universe for Northern Soul. People are traveling literally hundreds of miles to go there on the weekend. From London, from Scotland, everywhere. This guy Russ Winstanley he’s been playing northern soul at the Rugby Club, packing that shit out. So him and some other guys take over this ballroom called Wigan Casino, no fucking idea why it’s called the Casino, it was a never a a Casino. But its yuuuuuge. 2000 capacity. So they’re taking a fucking big swing here. But it works, they sell it out every weekend, then like, several nights a week, then they open up a whole other room in the building so it’s like, 2500 a night, you can see in a documentary about it the door guy is just piling the cash in a big bundle like a fucking heist.  Four million people go through it’s doors over the decade after it opens. UThe sets are 2am to 8am, one DJ playing all the way through. How long you been DJing bruv? Cool, cool, cool, cool. I’m a theatre maker. A theatre maker. Don’t worry about it. It’s not going very well to be honest. I’m doing this podcast while I wait for funding to come in, but I dunno. It’s not really doing The Rest Is History Numbers. It’s hard to cultivate monetizable parasocial relationships when you’re just one guy getting overly gassed about a one-paragraph wikipedia article.

So these All-Nighters at the Casino, the energy is bone-kers. There’s this whole thing where the young men on the dancefloor do these wild dance moves, we’re talking flips, spins, the splits, death drops. No-one knows where they get these moves from, it might be from energetic soul performers like Jackie Wilson, who is, the fucking guy, by the way. It might be from Bruce Lee movies. Either way it’s classic peacocking, like you’re not pulling unless you can do a flawless worm. Yeah, I don’t think I’d do well at that. My style is more like the Qwop man. Qwop, it’s a video game. Never mind. They won’t dance to just anything though. If the DJ wasn’t spinning enough bangers they’d see two thousand people just leave the floor en masse. That’s got to fucking crush your spirit if you see that.

 There’s also a steady arms race to have the biggest flares, some of these guys legit look like they might sail away in a strong breeze. And they’ve all got these patches which is a whole northern thing, and the most popular one is a clenched fist with the words “keep the faith”. ‘Cos that’s what it was about bruv. Fucking solidarity. Through music. Like these working-class black people in run-down towns in the Northern US like Detroit and Chicago, have made this music that connects with working-class white people in run-down towns in Northern England. Two groups of people who’ve never met. It’s fucking beautiful. Wigan Casino doesn’t even have a bar. They’re exploiting a loophole in the byelaws that mean they can stay open all night if they don’t sell booze. And yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah there’s a lot of amphetamines about. Most people can’t do backflips from 2am to 8am non-stop without amphetamines. But that’s not the point. That’s not the point. The point is the solidarity. Like, fuck the inflation, fuck the terrorism, fuck the recession, let’s just go dance to some pacy grimy filth. It was Acid House before Acid House. Just before closing, Russ would play the Three Before 8, the same three songs every session.”Time Will Pass You By” by Tobi Legend, “Long After Tonight Is All Over” by Jimmy Radcliffe, and “I’m on My Way” by Dean Parrish. Then out into the sunlight. Then on to another club in another town for an All-dayer, or to Wigan Swimming pool for a coffee and a swim, or home, depending on your level of enthusiasm and amphetamine dosage. You got any Tobi Legend? Yeah man, of course, you’re not a jukebox, you gotta do your thing.

Mate, Time Will Pass You By. I’m fucking old. I know people who are older than me don’t like hearing that, but it’s how I feel. I’ve realised the only time I dance now is at other people’s weddings. Sometimes not even then. I’ll always get qwopping to some Northern Soul though. I can’t handle Higher and Higher by Jackie Wilson though. Still makes me cry. Yeah, it was the first dance at my wedding. It didn’t work out. Went the way of Northern Soul, shut down in its infancy. Yes, it’s song at the end of Ghostbusters. Wigan Casino closed in ‘81. The council claimed it was to build a new Civic centre there, but they never built that shit. I think they just wanted the long-haired flared-up speed-heads off their streets. Their loss. Their loss. Time Will Pass You By. And the past keeps fucking growing, a bittersweet chthonic expanse. Chthonic. Chthonic, relating to or inhabiting the underworld. Why do we all miss the past so much? The past was shit mate. Everyone worked six days a week and got cholera.  But we all pine for it. Nostalgia. From the ancient Greek words for return and pain. You want a drink? Cool, cool, cool. I’m gonna go. I’m gonna try and be in the moment. This weird fucking moment. And I’m gonna dance. Like everybody’s watching. Cheers.


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