Different Strokes Club Night (Monthly)
First Saturday Of The Month
Upstairs at the Old Nag’s Head, Jacksons Row/Lloyd St

Northern Soul means different things to different people; mods into imported black music in 1960s Britain; amphetamine-fuelled all-nighters at dance-clubs in 1970s northern England; strutting dance-steps and dance-floor acrobatics; elitist enthusiasm for very rare vinyl…

But what makes the scene tick in 2011?

Still driven by a shared love of old soul on vinyl, and club-dancing, the scene’s grassroots culture is crucial to its appeal, set against the backdrop of 21st century consumer/media hype. And oddly, this is where new technology plays an important part: the Northern Soul Scene, along with many other niche interest groups, is flourishing as a result of the internet. Paradoxically YouTube and Facebook have become important elements of a movement which celebrates old technology and retro sounds.

There are currently a number of Northern Soul nights in Manchester, all with slightly different flavours, reaching out to a disparate fan base via the internet. Some depend for their appeal upon a re-union/ revival approach, boasting links back to famous clubs like Twisted Wheel and Wigan Casino. But others focus purely on the music, and so have a momentum which is entirely independent of past glory days.

One such night is Different Strokes, brainchild of Steve Cato, Richard Penrith and Matty Hill. Steve has been DJing since the mid-80s when he came to Manchester from Huddersfield. He toured with Acid Jazz in the 90s and his Soul Or Nothing night has been going since 2004. He also DJs at the Radcliffe New Century Soul nights.

Steve - still from 3MW short film

Richard and Matty have been putting on Barefootin’ at The Nook in Chorlton for the past two years, having previously guested at other nights around Manchester.

Matty & Richard

I went along to Different Strokes on September 3rd and was bowled over by the warm atmosphere and diverse music… I’m not particularly a Northern Soul head but I was dancing all night. I particularly enjoyed Caroline’s (Classy B) ska set which I wasn’t expecting:

DJ Classy-B, Different Strokes, 03/09/2011

And I loved Dave Hulston’s 70s soul set too; he played loads of great tunes like this one:

Gloria Ann Taylor – Love Is A Hurting Thing

DJ Dave Hulston, Different Strokes, 03/09/2011

The two rooms upstairs at the Old Nag’s Head provide two surprisingly large and distinct spaces for dancing, with good quality wooden dancefloors:

I was thoroughly impressed with the venue, the unexpected diversity of music, the atmosphere, and the down-to-earth approach of the organisers, so I decided to find out a bit more by asking Steve, Richard and Matty some questions:

Could you give me a bit of background about the ‘Different Strokes’ night?

Steve: Me, Richard and Matty are equal partners for Different Strokes. It’s the coming together of two different nights; they had ‘Barefootin’ and I had ‘Soul or Nothing’…

Richard: Ste came up with the concept of the two nights joining forces, offering the best bits of all aspects of black music under one roof – no gimmicks, no bullshit, no elitism, snobbery or attitudes…

Matty: Me and Steve have always chatted about our love and appreciation for bands and artists which don’t fall into a certain pigeon hole, but which are still full of soul and backbone. Doing a night like this gives you the freedom to play the music that a) you would love to hear out and b) play tunes that should be played out.

Richard: No two nights are the same as we aim to get DJs in from a wide spectrum of genres under the black music umbrella.

Which different scenes would you say your DJs represent?

Steve: Northern Soul scene, Funk scene, Mod RnB scene, Skinhead Reggae scene, in the main… all god’s music under one roof! We have a great night and concept, the best in all my years of playing out since mid 80s. The range of DJs booked each month keeps it fresh…

So what’s the common thread which unites the different DJs?

Steve: The common thread is rare black ghetto music on 45s, from USA and Jamaica in the main… a celebration of the the true music from the gods!

So the music has to be on vinyl?

Steve: Oh yes indeed!

So all your DJs work only with vinyl. Are 12 inches banned?

Steve: No, not at all. 12″ and album tracks are played at times, but the main thrust is rare 45s.

Is there a cut-off date for the music that’s played at Different Strokes?

Steve: No… the main body of tunes is from 1964 to 1975 but we also play very recent tracks, for instance Charles Bradley’s ‘Golden Rule’ (2011) and Kings Go Forth ‘One Day’ (2008):

Kings Go Forth – One Day (2008)

So how did you get involved with the Northern Soul Scene, and what are your own particular music tastes?

Richard: I’ve been into black music since I was a nipper, being brought up on bastardised black music from the beat scene. But I always listened to mainstream stuff like Chuck Berry, Fats Domino, etc. You wanna dig deeper & find the roots… moving to Manchester in the late nineties… this was easy as it was everywhere. Personally I have always leaned towards the funky side of soul… tunes like:

Rhetta Hughes – You’re doing with her when it should be me

Barbara King – What I did in the street

Matty: I got into the scene when I moved to Manchester at about 18. I went to my first all-nighter at the CIS New Century Soul Nights and it just blew me away. The music, dancing, everything just really clicked. It was like I had been missing something and I had just found it. The couple of lads I met that night have become life-long friends, and I suppose that’s how special the scene is. After that all-nighter, we used to travel up and down the country going to different all-nighters and events.

A few tunes to show the diversity of what we play would be:

Joe Bataan – What Good Is A Castle Pt .2

Brian Auger’s Oblivion Express – Straight Ahead

Johnny Nash – Falling In And Out Of Love

El Anthony – We’ve Been In Love Too Long

Steve Cato: Here’s a few of tunes from the real ghetto man…

Jesse Fisher – You’re Not Loving A Beginner

Jimmy Delphs – Almost

Spencer Wiggins – Lonely Man

Steve Cato: This is my heart, my head and very being…

Syl Johnson – Concrete Reservation

So how do you square your enthusiasm for YouTube with your ‘vinyl only’ policy at the club?

Matt: I love collecting vinyl. It’s the foundation of the scene in my opinion. The group of friends I knock about with are all the same. It’s just something that has to be done.

But it must be frustrating if there’s a tune you love that you can access via YouTube but can’t find on vinyl?

Matt: No, I use YouTube to listen to tunes at home, but when you’re playing out and putting on a reputable night it has to be vinyl. I wouldn’t have it any other way. That’s the beauty of the scene. You can go to venues and hear these expensive tunes. But you can dig deeper and find tracks that are cheaper and equally as good.

Why does it matter? Is there a difference in sound quality?

Matt: The whole scene is built on finding original 45s. And it’s nice to hear the snap, crackle and pop of the records. Without this, a song is like a stuffed dog: lifeless. Having an original record has history, and value and I don’t mean in monetary terms. The challenge of finding and digging for a song is all part of it for me.

Steve: It’s about doing your own thing; always have and always will. Staying underground, but the music is there if you want it folks… Come and get some Different Strokes…

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

The next Different Strokes event is on November 5th 2011.

2 rooms of music – Underplayed 60s/ 70s Northern, Rhythm and soul, Crossover, Deep funk, Ghetto grooves, Big city ballads, Latin, 6Ts RnB & Jamaican soul…

Residents: Steve Cato, Matty Hill, Richy Penrith

Upstairs at the Old Nags Head, entrance on Jacksons Row/ Lloyd St off Deansgate Manchester – 8pm to 2am – £5 before 10pm £6 after.

Barefootin’ continues on the last Friday of every 5 week month at The Nook, Chorlton, M21.

Radcliffe New Century Soul All-nighters scheduled for September 24th 2011, 26th November 2011 and December 26th December 2011, Boxing Day at Radcliffe Civic Suite, Thomas Street, Radcliffe, Manchester M26 2UH.