Category Archives: Soul

Not the Best Thing that Ever Happened …

Book: Skagboys

Author: Irvine Welsh

Music: You’re the Best Thing

Artist: The Style Council

Sometime back in the late 1980s or early 1990s, under duress from a good friend at the time, I swapped my copy of The Style Council’s Greatest Hits for something else. I don’t even remember what I got in exchange, I just know it wasm’t as good as the album I gave up. It was on cassette, by the way. Unlike with many other albums, I had not bought it on vinyl and did not buy it on CD or as an MP3. I can, of course, just stream it for virtually nothing these days but I still wish I hadn’t so easily given into his wheedling.

 


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“It’s a Beautiful Day” Chucka Chung Chucka Chung

Book: Skagboys

Author: Irvine Welsh

Music: What’s Wrong With Me Baby?

Artist: The Invitations

There are four guys who wander through subway cars in NYC singing close harmonies. Having listened to The Invitations’ What’s Wrong With Me Baby? I’m convinced that these are they. They sound just the same. Though any time I see them they’re singing This Little Light of Mine rather than some heart-wrenching Northern Soul classic. Of course it can’t be them because if it were, they’d be barely ambulatory. If they were even still living. Thoughts of buskers singing the same song every day transports me back to the late 80s and early 90s when I would transfer from the D train to the 7 train at 42nd St. / Bryant Park. From the D train you had to walk around the corner through a tiled passageway (still do, though it’s far more salubrious these days) a few hundred yards long before reaching the 7 train end of the station. Every morning there would be an old black guy at the second corner playing guitar and singing. It seemed to me like I heard exactly the same line every morning  … “It’s a beautiful day” followed by some chopped chords on the guitar. I can’t go through that station any more without hearing it in my head … “It’s a beautiful day” chucka chung chucka chung. He probably sang more than that one line but it struck me as a very efficient means of busking in a location such as the one he populated. At morning rush hour  in that location at that station, the chances of anyone stopping to enjoy the performance were minuscule. So you had their ear – thousands of ears every morning – for probably 15 seconds at most as they dashed between hundreds of potential destinations throughout the boroughs. Why waste time and energy learning dozens of songs? Just play the same line continuously, day after day. Even if someone (like me) notices, what’s the worst that could happen? It’s not like they can complain and ask for their money back.


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I Wish I Really Loved Northern Soul …

Book: Skagboys

Author: Irvine Welsh

Music: I Love My Baby

Artist: International G.T.O.s

Another Northern Soul one. Sheesh. This section of the book seems to have been related in real time. Yes … well … hmmm. They all kinda sound the same. Not too many left though.


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Cluuuub Tamanguuuu

Book: Skagboys

Author: Irvine Welsh

Music: I Really Love You

Artist: The Tomangoes

It’s coincidental that yesterday’s post featured a Northern Soul classic that inspired a memory of a nightclub I attended in my teenage years in Ireland. This song by The Tomangoes sparks another Irish nightclub-related recollection. That was related to the late 80s but this one is from earlier, probably the 70s or very early 80s. RTE Radio ran ads for Club Tamango’ in Portmarnock in Dublin. The way the guy said it … “Cluuuub Tamanguuuuu,where the gang goes.” It all sounded impossibly exotic to someone for whom a small, rural market town was home.


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Well Past Midnight at the Oasis

Book: Skagboys

Author: Irvine Welsh

Music: I’m On My Way

Artist: Dean Parrish

Another Northern Soul classic. This constant flow can be explained by the fact that all of these songs are mentioned in a short passage of Skagboys in which the characters attend a Northern Soul bash in Manchester, I think. Wikipedia tells me that this particular track “became famous for being the last record that was played at Northern Soul all-nighters at the Wigan Casino.”

For a couple of years in the late 80s on most weekends I would go to a gigantic nightclub—The Oasis—in the middle of nowhere in rural Ireland. Partway along the road from Carrickmacross in Co. Monaghan to Kingscourt in Co. Cavan, several thousand people would gather, particularly on Saturday nights, for a helluva good time. Sometimes when I think about it I find it scarcely credible that such crowds flocked to there for years. There are many, many tales I could tell about that but maybe they’ll emerge somewhere down the line.

It’s closed now but the last song they played at the end of every night back in those days was Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York.” There would be much Rockettes-style kicking and, for the most part, bonhomie before the multitudes would head out into the Irish night. Head out into the night to find a lift home if they didn’t have one, catch the bus back if they’d come on one, fight, stop fights, buy chips and burgers, hook up with some girl or boy, puke, chat some more, find a party somewhere to keep the crack going, or disappear into the night.


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What Shall I Do If I Never Have Another Hit Record?

Book: Skagboys

Author: Irvine Welsh

Music: What Shall I Do?

Artist: Frankie and the Classicals

It’s clear that my knowledge of Northern Soul is tragic since this is my hat-trick of songs I never heard before. There’s a slight whiff of Alvin and the Chipmunks meets ABC-era Michael Jackson about this one. When I was reading about the song and the band (Frankie seems to be a woman in this instance) there appears to be nothing else from the band but this song. A one-hit wonder? I was reminded of a slot on RTE Radio 2 back in the early 80s – I think it was on Marty Whelan’s nighttime show – called ‘One-Hit Wonders from the Wilderness of Rock and Roll.’ Having had a very successful record, it must be a very unpleasant realization when you don’t follow it up with another. And it can’t be immediate. Two, maybe three records later, it must become obvious. Harsh. And then you have some DJ or radio producer dancing on the grave of your commercial music career. Harsh.


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Snow Job

Book: Skagboys

Author: Irvine Welsh

Music: Skiing in the Snow

Artist: The Invitations

This is another Northern Soul classic which I’d never heard before. Aaaaannnd, that’s it for this one …


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