Northern Soul: Wigan Casino nightclub 'rained sweat' but was THE place to be 50yrs ago
The Wigan Casino nightclub, which had its first Northern Soul night 50 years ago this weekend, was an instant cultural phenomenon - and a surprising influence on music
It was a place where soul music found new life... and young Northernersfound new inspiration.
The Wigan Casino nightclub, which had its first Northern Soul night 50 years ago this weekend, was an instant cultural phenomenon. As 4,000 soul music fans from all over the world gathered at Blackpool’s Winter Gardens to mark the anniversary, a DJ from the club’s heyday recalled those heady nights.
Richard Searling, now in his early 70s, said: “The two huge wide doors would have a queue forming right the way back down the road, with 500 to 1,000 people waiting to get in. As soon as those doors opened, there would be a flood of people, the wall of sound would hit you. That smell of condensation, of Brut, of sweat... it was absolutely amazing.”
Dancers paid 75p to get in to the first Northern Soul all-nighter on September 23, 1973. Bosses originally began the fun at 2am but later softened to a midnight start. Many of the tunes played were chart flops from across the Pond. It seems that Wigan Casino’s clientele found something in them that US listeners had missed.
Dancers at the club in 1975 (
Original and athletically demanding dance moves emerged as fans from far and wide responded to the high-energy tunes. Searling says: “It was just such joyous, uplifting music, with lyrics that we could relate to in our lives.” He and fellow DJs revitalised the tunes in Northern towns – such as Gloria Jones’s Tainted Love, which took off in Wigan despite being ignored in the US.
Searling says he found the tune in a warehouse of rejected tunes in Philadelphia. It had been the B-side of a flopped 1965 single. Once resurrected, it took off – and even became a No1 for Soft Cell when they covered it in 1981. In 1998 Edwin Starr spoke of his own Wigan Casino memories.
Club’s music inspired new and more athletic dance moves (
The US singer-songwriter said: “I looked up and it looked like it was raining inside of the building from just the pure condensation of sweat from people dancing. I said ‘boy, this is my kind of place’.” But the hedonistic nights came to an end in 1981. The final night was December 6 – the local council had plans to extend its Civic Centre nearby.
The site is these days the Grand Arcade shopping centre. A Casino Cafe is the only nod to the glory days. But a Northern Soul exhibition now at the Museum of Wigan Life reminds fans of the phenomenon too. It includes a very rare demo copy of Do I Love You by Frank Wilson. Eleanor Whitehead, the museum’s Lead Officer, said: “With Wigan it was right place, right time. “It was a scene that was beginning to become quite big.”……