The place that originated Northern Soul!
You can take a Soul Mod out of the ‘Wheel’ but you can’t take the ‘Wheel’ out of an old Manchester Soul Mod.
Affectionately called the ‘Wheel‘ it was the only original Soul Club still operating in Manchester at its original location. However this has been curtailed in 2014 by a vote by city councillors to demolish it and replace it with a German Hotel. What drives these types to destroy the cities music heritage I wonder; Hhhhmmmm? And they have previous on such matters as they voted to have a hotel built over and inside the shell innards they knocked down of the FREE TRADE HALL. This was a historic public building partly financed by public contributions a venue that in the recent past held one of the early Sex Pistols performances and in the 1960’s; that concert (the Judas concert) that saw Bob Dylan emerging as an electric band backed folk singer.
DJ Pete Roberts and operator of the current manifestation of the Club in its original setting in the city said “that the city council where allowing it to be demolished to make way for a new hotel’. Its the only remaining icon of Blues and Soul venues from the 1960’s and must be worth saving for future generations… maybe a music museum?” But to no avail: See the last time at the wheel> Long After Tonight.
There were in fact two Twisted Wheel locations:
The first Twisted Wheel was in the old premises of a late 50’s beatnik coffee house that had a large cellar beneath. It was called the Left Wing Club; lots of goatee bearded blokes with duffel coats and with Jazz playing on a record player. The location was on an alley corner in Brazennose Street off Manchester’s Albert Square, where the City’s Town Hall stands.
Two brothers Jack & Ivor Abadi took over the premises in late 1962 and opened up the underground cellar in 63′. They put in some cartwheels and bicycle wheels into the walls with back lights and a wheel mesh covering the DJ area. They put in two stages and opened it as a club for teenagers; mostly because they had no alcoholic drinks license. It opened for business with a local group called the Karl Denver Trio headlining on Saturday 27th of January 1963. A full listing of all live performances at the Twisted Wheel can be found on the Manchester Soul Website: Twisted Wheel Performances 1963 – 1971.
Even though they kept several of the jazz records to play, soon the ‘Wheel’ was attracting lots of teenagers and young adults and many were gravitating to the new youth movement in England – The MODS. The old records left around were mostly Jimmy Smith LP’s and several of these tracks became very popular: e.g. “The Cat” & “Walk On The Wild Side”. The club soon became THE MOD club in the city and its clientèle followed the unwritten rules of Mod culture with rapidly changing styles and certain ‘IN’ crowd signals only known to ‘members’ within this stylish sub-culture.
The way you back combed your hair, the way you buttoned your jacket, the shoes you wore, etc it was an endless stream of such things in late 63′ & 64′. By 65′ it had fizzled out in London: its birthplace (mostly at the Scene Club in Ham Yard). However, in Manchester it evolved into MODS who kept the smart suited style and adopted Soul music and some other related musical influences: evolving into SOUL MODS.
The ‘Wheel’ went through several distinct periods and styles: first pop, reflecting the U.K. pop music, the Beatles, were huge. The local groups: The Hollies, Herman’s Hermits, Wayne Fontana and others appeared as live acts. The music was often songs from the USA, early Soul, R&B and Blues. There was a Blues boom in England in 1964 and Alexis Korner became the Clubs resident band. Others appearing were the Spencer Davis Group, Zoot Money and Georgie Fame and the Blue Flames. The music played by the clubs DJ’s was Blues, Soul, R&B, Surf, Some Jazz (Jimmy Smith).
Sonny Boy Williamson appeared at Christmas (Boxing Day) in 1963. His recoding “Help Me” was a huge hit at that time, enthusiastically promoted by Roger who had the great harmonica man staying at his flat. The entire strange story about Sonny Boy in Manchester is told in the book about Roger: Sit Down! Listen To This!
All the English groups including the Beatles and of course the Rolling Stones were doing versions of State-side material; r&b, Blues and Soul: Georgie Fame had a complete repertoire of songs from Soul artists, Jamaican Ska, and Jazz, they still sound as great versions with their own unique quality. Here is a website about Roger by his pal: ‘Paddy’ Colman.
SOUL-DIRECTIONS is a website concerned with the music of those times: All about Soul – Classic sixties Soul, Northern Soul, Manchester Soul Mods, oddities, curiosities and more.
Original Vinyl SOUL records: 45’s that’s what they were called because the record player spun them around 45 times a minute.
A Book about The Twisted Wheel:
The MANCHESTER WHEELERS
The insider story of the Manchester Soul Mods, their music, and their drugs and their clubs: The Twisted Wheel. A tale about a Soul music deejay that lost his girl and almost lost his mind. The story of the Manchester Wheelers is not about a bicycling club, its all about American Soul music in a Northern English town in the sixties; a gritty Northern Quadrophenia that charts the Genesis of what has now become the phenomenon of ‘Northern Soul’. And it all began in MANCHESTER.
“A group joined behind us from Blackpool; they too were singing, all of them singing, and really soulfully: ‘People Get Ready,. for the train to Jordan.’ They were clicking fingers, chewing gum, (we called it ‘Spoggy’) twirling around, just dancing and blocked up in the queue, singing that great Impressions’ song. As we got closer we could hear the thumping sound from below, inside the club. ‘Neighbour, neighbour Don’t worry how I treat my wife’ sung by Jimmy Hughes. Then ‘Determination’ by the Contours. Louder, louder and LOUDER as we got nearer. Looking at the Fire Station across the street, someone was shouting ‘Fire, Fire’, like ‘Liar, Liar, Town crier’ putting their own lyrics to the Castaways’ tune.
With excitement mounting we reached the door. The Adabi Brothers, the owners of the Wheel were both at the door, looking at our round Wheel membership cards and taking our twenty five shilling pre-paid tickets; we often came down mid-week to get them. We passed the door anticipating going down the steps, down into the Wheel. We had one hand holding the other elbow moving our arms from side to side, the thumb in our mouths, playing a dummy Saxophone, imitating Junior Walker. Daft we were. Blocked we were. Pill Heads we were, exactly as Roger Eagle the original Wheel DJ described us.
Ivor on the door rolled his eyes at us impatiently as we constantly and agitatedly moved from leg to leg sideways, swinging our shoulders dancing on the spot, waiting for his new-style ticket scrutiny. Anyway, these were real tickets not like the fakes we had used for the Drifters several months or so ago. It was our mate Roland who did the printing of the fakes. He did it to get some extra funds, but did some free extras for us too. Everyone helped each other out, we were all the best of pals. Manchester Soul Mods stuck together.” Music from The Manchester Wheelers
The ONE & ONLY Book about the ORIGINAL SOUL MODS at the Twisted Wheel telling the inside stories is – The Manchester Wheelers; however another great book about the Wheel:
And that’s Screaming Jay Hawkins on the cover, who Roger Eagle miraculously got to appear at the club in 1965.
More about that old Manchester Mod scene, The Twisted Wheel and the music of the period @ MANCHESTER SOUL.
The ‘UNOFFICIAL’ Twisted Wheel website run by real FANS: Still going after all these years. Thanks to John & Pete: Keeping The Faith and Re-inventing: The ‘WHEEL’! Link here to see what’s happening.
Cycling Mods: lots of Mods in the sixties were into racing cycling, some of this is covered in the book The Manchester Wheelers as a pun on that name. Cycling tops were a Mod fashion accessory in the Mods wardrobe.
Did you know that Bradley Wiggins the 2012 Tour de France winner is a Soul music loving Mod? Yes he is; and you can find out more at: WIGO The ACE FACE.