The Wheel

These buildings are gone now… knocked down during 2013 to make way for yet another hotel.

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(Apparently Manchester needs lots of hotels to accommodate visitors who want to see old buildings which are due to be knocked down to make way for new hotels.)

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This wasn’t the original Twisted Wheel, though.

The first incarnation of the club was on Brazenose Street, off Albert Square, close to the thriving Oasis Club.

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The first Twisted Wheel opened in 1963, but closed two years later amid a police crackdown on city centre music venues. Subsequently, the owners, the Abadi brothers, moved across town to 6 Whitworth Street where the club re-opened in September 1965.

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I took some photos of 6 Whitworth Street in summer 2012, at an event promoting “Sit Down! Listen To This!”, Bill Sykes’ book exploring the life and legacy of the late Roger Eagle, Twisted Wheel DJ from 1963-66.

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In the book Roger explains:
“Ninety nine point nine nine per cent of it was black music and that was the difference. The other clubs were very pop orientated, stuff that was in the charts.”

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Ivor Abadi: “We.. got a lot of records from the US Air Force bases in England… Manchester also had Jamaican music shops. So we had this mix of Jamaican-style music, soul, and blues to produce a new overall sound.”

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Roger Eagle: “The first two years were fun but into the third it became boring quite frankly because the music became too similar all the time, it was just a fast dance beat to keep people dancing all night. They were blocked out their heads on ‘Blues’ or whatever they were taking… all they were interested in was dancing… it’s just boring you know.”

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The Twisted Wheel closed down in 1971.

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I first heard about its existence around 1978, when various of my teachers waxed lyrical about having gone there, like it had been some kind of golden age! I thought the name was very intriguing… once heard, never forgotten… although already the place sounded like ancient history to me, being mentioned in the same breath as Georgie Best.

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During the early 1980s, 6 Whitworth Street was called Placemate 7, and contained no clues to suggest the venue’s previous glory days. The name ‘Placemate 7′ seemed so 1970s… tacky and out-of-date, like a faded provincial hairdressers… or worse.

I dimly recall an underwhelming maze of dark rooms playing different genres of music, similar to the arrangement described at Pips, but without much atmosphere or focus. I just remember wandering around feeling bored.

Post-1988, the venue became The State and was briefly fashionable. I remember queuing for ages to get into an airless, frantic, boiling building full of heaving bodies and wondering “Why am I doing this?”

More recently known as Legends, the venue hosted monthly Northern Soul revival nights, from around 2000 onwards, called ‘The Twisted Wheel Club’. This flyer is from 2011:

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When the planned demolition was announced, many ‘Wheelers’ joined the protest against the council’s development plans, but to no avail.

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Although I had no special fondness for the building myself, I do feel saddened and frustrated that yet another part of Manchester’s music history has been bulldozed for no good reason.

And I think the Northern Soul fans were right: the venue did have a future as a tourist attraction, a social hub, and a precious link with the past for a particular generation of people older than myself. If only the venue had been allowed to thrive, as it surely would have done in a more sympathetic environment.

Instead, the powers that be, which trumpet Manchester’s cultural credentials at every opportunity, displayed absolutely no understanding of the city’s rich musical and emotional legacy… for the umpteenth time. What is the point of building more hotels, while simultaneously flattening the very sites that will attract visitors in the first place?

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3 Comments

  1. REDMANTHINKS

    “What is the point of building more hotels, while simultaneously flattening the very sites that will attract visitors in the first place?” and THERE in one sentence is the problem. Thanks for the post. V. Interesting.

  2. Now it’s the Sir Ralph Abercromby’s (historically connected with the Peterloo Massacre) turn. Soon to be demolished to make way for a hotel, apartments and, err, new bars – that this area of Manchester so sadly lacks! And never mind about those hotel tourists having fewer & fewer historical places to see, how long before fads change and politicians call for the reintroduction of ‘city centre’ police stations once again too??

  3. Ron Townsley

    I used to go to the Wheel in 1968.The music and atmosphere I will never forget. I loved Northern Soul then and still do now. That club changed my life forever. I was instantly hooked.

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