When the legendary Wigan Casino closed in 1981, it was clubs in Staffordshire and the Black Country that kept the Northern Soul flame alive.
As Wigan was in its dying days, all-nighters at The Top Of The World Club in Stafford were opening and for five years set the standard playing 1960s’ records not spun on this side of the Atlantic before.
Big names played there too, including Kevin Rowland with The Killjoys before he found fame with Dexy’s Midnight Runners.
Now some of the UK’s top Northern Soul DJs are to converge on the Newport Road venue once again for a one-off, all-vinyl gig next month as the movement enjoys a UK-wide revival.
All three dance floors at The Top of the World’s former home, now the Couture nightclub, will be in action, with room for up to 1,500 people. With former Wigan Casino host Kev Roberts named as lead DJ, the event is expected to be a sell-out. Organiser Jane Bewick Green, of Little Haywood, Stafford, who was a regular at the Top Of The World as a teenager, hopes it will attract many of the original club-goers.
The 51-year-old former Graham Balfour High School student said: “My immediate memory of the place was the sticky floor. It was known then as The Grot, I don’t know why, but it was the place to go.
“It was around 1980-81 before Northern Soul hit Stafford. Human League were big and we used to make arrangements at school – these were the days before mobile phones and the internet – to meet up later at the club.
“My older friends used to go from Stafford to the famous Wigan Casino and when it closed, Stafford was one of the places Northern Soul migrated to. I really hope my event will kick-start a revival in Stafford. A new Northern Soul club has opened in Birmingham, I’d love it to come back to The Top Of The World on a regular basis.”
Rob Smith, who gigged at the club in the 1980s, is returning as one of the guest DJs. He said: “They played the undiscovered stuff and earned respect for that. It was mid-tempo stuff, not so much played in other clubs which relied on perhaps more reliable, tried and tested stuff. Stafford had the reputation as being pretty creative.”
Kev Roberts, one of the most prominent Northern Soul DJ/promoters in the country, who first hosted at Wigan in 1973, is seen as a major coup for the event. During his early club life, the Gold radio presenter MCd the Four Tops, Jackie Wilson, Supremes, Miracles, Billy Ocean and other top names.
He said: “Back in 1974, I had two residencies – the famous Wigan Casino and Top of the World. One thousand kids packed in every Monday for the weekly soul night. I even remember chatting to Rod Temperton who was in Heatwave. He went on to write Thriller for Michael Jackson. Tony Marshall was the manager and Freddie Gayle was the weekend DJ. They were happy times.”
The veteran DJ will be joined on the night by Nige Brown (Kings Hall Stoke), Sean Chapman (Prestatyn and Whitby Weekenders), Ted Massey (Kings Hall Stoke), Rob Smith (Top of the World All Nighter original) and Ozz (Wolverhampton Civic Hall).
The club’s three rooms will be opening up for the October 23 event, with the biggest room given over to Northern Soul. The other two will play Tamla Motown music from the 70s and 80s. The night will raise money for the charity Street Child’s Ebola Orphan Appeal.
Jane is appealing for photographs of the venue in its heyday. Email her at: firstname.lastname@example.org