The reason Ian Dewhirst went to the US, as touched upon above, was to search out records to bring back home to play.He had begun to make a name for himself via appearances at Cleethorpes Pier and Samantha’s in Sheffield, not to mention the Casino, and increasingly found that if he showed interest in a record, the dealer was likely to phone other DJs, letting them know it was something Dewhirst was after, in order to up the price by getting a bidding war going.The black kids in the ’70s, generally speaking, were always forward looking when it came to their musical tastes, so old Soul 45s weren’t going to cut it.
There’s always been this pseudo-criminal fringe on the scene, attracted by the underground nature of everything else around it.
I was shocked by the first time I went to the loo at the Casino.
One book that left a strong impression on me was ‘Nightshift’ (1996) by Pete Mc Kenna, which goes right to the underbelly of the Northern scene and its seedier aspects, giving a real eye-witness insight into those times, a taste of how it actually was, pulling no punches in its description of the drug use and its casualties.
‘Northern Soul – An Illustrated History’ exposes, warts and all, the drug culture attached to the movement, which didn’t stop at taking pills – some began to inject speed for a swifter rush, whilst other enthusiasts ended up heroin addicts or, worse still, dead from overdose.
You could be gay in the Casino and no one would be any the wiser, your sexuality just wasn’t an issue, people were only interested in the important things – the music, the dancing, the drugs, the camaraderie.
Even alcohol wasn’t necessary – in fact it would more likely have spoilt the vibe had they been able to serve it, with All-Nighters falling outside of the normal licensing hours.
However, at clubs like Wigan Casino you could lose yourself in both the crowd and the moment, and dance to your heart’s content with nobody batting an eyelid.
In the mainstream clubs it was the girls who took the lead, the boys only venturing on the dancefloor either with a girlfriend or in order to make a move on a girl who’d taken their eye.
Although it was black music they were infatuated with, the Northern Soul audience was made up predominantly from the white working class.
There were some black people on the scene, but they were very much in a small minority.