April 5 1968, London
After our first Soul City Records’ release (and sad to say, sales failure!), we bounce back with the UK reissue of a 1965 Top 10 R&B hit for ‘Duke Of Earl,’ Gene Chandler. Good news is that the Soul City team (Dave Godin, Robert Blackmore and myself) are now the decision makers for our future releases rather Robert and I going along simply with Dave’s choices, given how eclectic we know they could be! “Nothing Can Stop Me” is a winner!
With its upbeat ‘feel,’ it has all the ingredients that make for a great Chicago soul track: the genius of Curtis Mayfield, the song’s composer, who has emerged as one of the Windy City’s most prolific hitmakers with his group, The Impressions; and an arrangement by the renowned Riley Hampton whose name can be found on countless ’60s recordings made in Chicago by Etta James, Ramsey Lewis, Walter Jackson, Barbara Lewis, The Dells, Jerry Butler, Jackie Ross, Mitty Collier…and early Tamla hits by The Miracles.
“Nothing Can Stop Me” becomes a ‘Northern Soul’ anthem, even before the term is first used widely: the 45 (originally on Stateside in the UK in 1965) is already popular among DJs and dancers in particular in the Midlands and North of England. Dave Godin has noticed that Saturday mornings at our shop at 17 Monmouth Street are often filled with football fans who have travelled down to London from the North of England to see their teams play and stop by beforehand to buy records.
Over time, Dave sees they’re not interested in the latest US R&B chart hits, more they want to know if we have in stock the singles they’ve been dancing at places like the Wigan Casino and Manchester’s Twisted Wheel and by 1970, Dave has mentioned the term ‘Northern Soul’ in print in his ‘Blues & Soul’ magazine column, a couple of years before he’s come up with it at Soul City.
Dave has already been schooled in the ways of promoting records through his years as the founder of the Tamla Motown Appreciation Society in Britain when, as an early advocate for the records by Mary Wells, The Supremes, (Little) Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, he’s worked in tandem with UK companies like EMI. The pathway to a British chart hit lay most decidedly with getting a new release on the BBC’s primary station, which by 1967 is Radio One.
Pitching a record for play means presenting it not directly to influential show hosts – like Tony Blackburn (fortunately for us, an R&B and soul enthusiast) – but via the official ‘pluggers’ who will in turn recommend new releases to the growing cadre of popular BBC radio presenters.
Dave decides that “Nothing Can Stop Me,” our second Soul City release deserves a listen and as I recall, we make an appointment to see one of the ‘pluggers’ at the ‘Beeb’ and, lo & behold, our little label’s Gene Chandler track is getting national radio play on Radio One within a month or so after its release!
Our Soul City team is feeling indeed ‘unstoppable’ and our quest for licensing more R&B gems from American companies results in a ‘surprise’ visit that leads to some unexpected events…