Sunday, 29 May 2016

Northern Soul

    It was always hard for me to fit in. I was different. I was the plain, bespectacled geeky girl sitting alone in class, eager to learn and irritated by some joker disrupting the lesson. I would be embarrassed by someone disrespecting a teacher and feel that something essential was being taken away from me, out of my control. This was my experience of Secondary Modern Education in the 1960s. It took a lifetime for me to recover emotionally from failing my eleven plus. Luckily I had a supportive extended family, a couple of like-minded friends and a love for music which always lifted my spirits.

    I’ve mentioned before about growing up in pubs and being drip-fed the popular choices on the juke box filtering up through my bedroom floor. By the time I was fifteen, I was firmly established as a prog-rock chick. I’d seen Ginger Baker’s Airforce  and Atomic Rooster in concert, a bit heavy but more my thing than Motown was. At the local youth club, a group of schoolboy musicians copied the Rolling Stones and the Moody Blues all night, much to my immense pleasure. In another room, the mods were skipping about to ‘Hey Girl, Don’t Bother Me’.

    I was whisked out of what had become my comfort zone for a short time when Dad’s job took us to a needy pub in another town. I won’t name and shame because I hated every minute at the time. I can look back now with almost fondness and happy to have had the experience. At the school, where ‘mod’ was the only acceptable way of life, I was destined to be outcast. I was the new girl with a strange accent, a mix of my native Manchester with a hint of Blackpool, that’s all. My attire of jeans and denim jacket with a lacy blouse and love beads was frowned upon and I was called ‘hippy’. In an effort to try to blend in, if not fit in, I borrowed a Ben Sherman shirt and allowed a girl I had become friends with to feather-cut my hair. It was still long, in a Suzy Quatro way and I could live with it, even though my dad went mad. All this for the monthly dance at the Town Hall and as expected, it was Northern Soul. I did my best. I even taught myself  to dance a hoppity skippity thing, but it was no good, I was a square peg in a round hole. ‘To thine own self be true’. I wasn’t going to do it again, and I didn’t, until Sunday night at the Blackpool Mecca some months later.

    The good thing about living in this relocation was that it only took two hours to London on the train. I had family in Roehampton and I loved to go to stay. I was there during May half term that year. Summer had arrived early. My aunt took me to a hairdressers, probably my dad’s suggestion, and then to Carnaby Street where she bought me a long, floaty dress with a delicate flowery print.  I remember humming ‘Hot down summer in the city’ and feeling on top of the world because I’d just been told we were moving back to Blackpool in early July. Hooray!.

    I’d only been away for three months and that was three months of keeping in touch with friends by letter and phone calls, but so much had changed when I came back and another time of adjustment had to take place for me. I was going back to my old school, staying on for GCEs. Many of my classmates had left school at fifteen, as you could back then. They had started going to the Mecca on Sunday nights. It was more grown up than youth club. So I went, doing my skippy dance in my long dress to Northern Soul music. I wasn’t converted.

    I’m still a prog-rock chick, a senior one.  It’s amazing though just how many Tamla Motown songs I know all the words to. It’s that juke box.

    Thank you for reading. Have a good Bank Holiday.  Pam Winning.