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Casino: Wigan 30th Anniversary Edition Paperback – 1 Jun 2000
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'At last a totally accurate reflection of the development of rare soul at one of the most important venues the scene has ever known.' -- Richard Searling, Jazz FM, June 2000
'Mesmerising for those of us who were sadly too young to be there.' -- Lois Wilson, Mojo, April 2001
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
from Chapter One Tradition dictated that the chart position of 'Footsee' had also earned it a slot on Top Of The Pops, so McAleer recruited a troupe of the best dancers from Wigan's Casino Club, to show the nation the new dance craze. Ironically, my first introduction to Northern Soul, the music that ignored the conventional Radio One chart syndrome, was to be through Top Of The Pops and Tony Blackburn. I can see him now, all silk cravat and denim flares as he introduced the record to a breathless audience: 'There's a new dance craze up north and it's sweeping the nation'
I was captivated by the dancers; their footwork, acrobatics, spins and back-drops just blew me away, and I immediately vowed to give up Kung Fu forever and concentrate on my dancing career. Naturally, my thoughts were occupied with how to get to the Wigan Casino for one of its all-night sessions - now how was I going to manage that at fourteen-years of age?
I began to hang around with some of the older lads at my school who were 'into Northern', and from one lad, Steve Slater, who had already been to Wigan, came the ultimate accolade. One day in September, he told me that Wigan's second anniversary was coming up on the 27th, and that he had a spare ticket if I wasinterested. I was very interested indeed!
Persuading Mummy and Daddy to let me go was not as hard as I thought it would be, although I did lie about being offered a lift there and back in Steve's dad's car. When I think about it, it was a piss-poor piece of improvisation, andthey probably saw right through it.
We had decided to hitch-hike to Wigan from junction 10 of the M6 motorway, not thinking how hard it might be, nor even caring about getting home safely, the only thing on our minds was getting there and being a part of it.
Saturday, 27th September 1975. Rain. Exactly what was not required for a two-hundred-mile round trip with only our thumbs for transport. Steve and I tagged on to another group of lads who were also hitching: four older members of the Wolverhampton 'Soul Set'; Phil Jordan, 'Chunky', John Caddick and Paul Walsh. Two hours later, all four had abandoned the idea, and gone back to Wolvo for the train, a luxury not open to us for financial reasons.
So we stood hunched against the rain and waited. And waited. By some miracle, at about 10.30pm, a Volkswagen Beetle stopped and the driver offered us a lift as far as Knutsford service station, where we managed to scrounge a ride with a coach from Gloucester. We were on our way.
An hour later, the coach pulled onto a huge car park and through the rain, I could see what looked like a million people crowded in front of a huge, slightly sinister-looking building. This was my first sight of Wigan Casino. It made me forget about the rain and the cold, it seemed to light up the dark night. I remember seeing the club's neon sign: the last two letters of 'Casino' were not working, so it read: 'Casi Club'. And that's how it stayed for the next six years.
In the rugby scrum at the main doors, we talked to strangers as though they were old friends. The expectation was infectious, it buzzed through the throng as lads from towns hundreds of miles apart hugged like long-lost brothers. Faces were animated with excitement and the conversation glowed with happiness. Girls laughed loudly at some tit-bit of news, and everywhere you looked, people smiled back at you. It was wonderful.
Until we got inside the doors, that is. On producing our tickets, we were told that they were forgeries. We found ourselves ejected back out onto the pavement as the multitude poured into the club. By now, it was almost 3am and we had no money, no tickets and no chance of getting in. For good measure, the rain startedagain, and soon it became a good old Lancastrian down-pour.
Needing somewhere to shelter, we ran up the alley-way at the side of the club and ducked into a doorway. From there, we could hear the music throbbing against the club's walls from within, making us feel even lower. The best idea that we could come up with was to find someone we knew, which we eventually did. Sitting in a small corridor at the back of the main building which actually led to the club's smaller sister - Mr M's - were several others from Wolverhampton who had also fallen foul of a rip-off ticket merchant.
We sat there for a while, covering the panelled walls with graffiti, and moaning to ourselves. Suddenly, two girls came into the corridor and approached us excitedly. In an accent wider than the Grand Canyon, one of them said: 'Are you alright chuck? Can you not get in, you?' We explained about the tickets.
'Oh aye! There's loads of folk in the same boat lads. Don't worry, we'll get you in!' With that she asked for our black felt pen (the graffiti-maker)and took my arm. On my wrist she drew a series of lines and letters, then smudged them together. I thought it must have been some quaint northern custom, but Steve understood immediately.
Once outside, he stripped down to a t-shirt, so I followed suit. Then he scooped a handful of rain water out of a puddle and smeared it over his face. I copiedhim. Together with the two girls (from Burnley, as it turned out) we entered the club and showed our forged pass-out stamps to the doormen.
The same bouncer who had earlier thrown me out from the club, was standing at the foot of the large staircase which led to the main room. He had obviously seenso many faces that night that he showed no flicker of recognition.
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9 June 2011
What a great book this is ,having a similar story of the casino myself this brought back lots of memories brilliantly written and very emotional .With great accuracy in the record lists and wonderful tales it kept me gripped from start to finish.Finished the book in a matter of day as I couldn't put it down until I had finished,one of the best books I have ever read a must have for any soul fan .
5 May 2001
For anyone who went to Wigan Casino this book is a must a 1,000 memories will come rushing back to you a must for any rare soul fan.