Summer 1968, London
Soul City, the record shop I co-own with Dave Godin and Robert Blackmore, is continuing to make inroads as is our record label. Saturdays are our busiest day with customers from the North of England – visiting London for football matches in the afternoon – stopping into the shop to buy the latest US imported singles, the more obscure the better. The world of ‘Northern Soul’ as it will become known has much of its genesis with the eager DJs and collectors vying for the uptempo 45s, often on small independent labels, that are part of our regular shipments from Mr. Shapiro, our Florida-based exporter. Since the one female member of our team, my friend Helen Ball has left, my sister Sylvia, having left school, has joined the staff at Soul City. Undoubtedly her interest in soul music has been almost unavoidable given how much of it she’s heard in the preceding years when we’re living above the fish-and-chip shop my father managed in Kilburn, N.W. London. Sylvia’s also been involved with the Nina Simone Appreciation Society and she’s a welcome addition to the Soul City crew: Dave Godin in particular likes her outgoing manner and although I might have had some reservations about us working together – given that as brother and sister we had had our fair share of sibling squabbles, we seem to get along well once she’s joined the Soul City brigade.
We’re moving right along with our Soul City releases and Dave continues his mission to ensure that the original versions of R&B singles that have either never been released in Britain or have been deleted from the catalogues of the British licensees are available once more. Case in point is SC 105 which is “Go Now,” recorded by Bessie Banks in 1964 and initially issued by Pye Records on the Red Bird label that same year. As was often the case, British pop groups and singers were on the lookout for American R&B songs they could cover and certainly, between 1964-1966, there were more than a few ‘chart’ battles between US originals and UK cover versions – think Dionne Warwick vs. Cilla Black with “Anyone Who Had A Heart,” Lou Johnson vs. Adam Faith with “Message To Martha” and Irma Thomas vs. The Rolling Stones with “Time Is On My Side.”
Denny Laine, the lead singer and guitarist with a Birmingham-based group The Moody Blues heard Bessie’s version of “Go Now” and recorded their own take on the song months later in 1964, closely following Bessie’s vocals and the original production by the famous US team of producers/songwriters Jerry Leiber & Mike Stoller, almost note-for-note although with a slight change of pace. The group’s version became a No. 1 UK chart topper and a Top 10 US pop hit upon its release while Bessie’s original made very little impact on either side of the Atlantic, save for the ardent R&B lovers in the UK who savoured Bessie’s recording for a few years until it was deleted from the Pye Records’ catalogue.
Having tracked Bessie Banks down in May 1966 for a cover story for the 2nd issue of the magazine “Rhythm & Soul USA,” Dave Godin’s passion for the original recording manifests in the summer of 1968 when our Soul City label licenses it and we gloriously release Bessie’s version (with none other than Dee Dee Warwick and likely her aunt Cissy Houston with members of what will be The Sweet Inspirations on backing vocals), much to the delight of the our growing group of ‘soul citizens’! As the writing on our Soul City label sleeve and the disc itself proclaim we’re releasing ‘Soul As Deep As You Like And Then Some’ and while our sales are moderate, Dave, Robert, Sylvia and I are continuing on our mission to shine a light on exceptional recordings by under-the-radar American R&B and soul artists….