The Story of Jazz-Funk - transcript

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Hello, and welcome to another episode of the state of the arts podcast. This is a really special episode, not least because we're going to share it on the radio waves. This discussion kicks off a new digital exhibition series from the state of the arts, in which we're going to explore various music scenes from the north of England that have had a huge impact, but have been historically overlooked, with starting with the Jazz Funk scene of the late 70s and early 80s that gripped the north of England and attracted diverse audiences of 1000s, who'd be up all night dancing to a particular high tempo intelligent genre of funk music. Despite his popularity at the time, not a lot has been written about the Jazz Funk years, and ensuing scenes, like rave in Manchester are much better documented and celebrated. But without Jazz Funk before it, the scenes would never have been so big.And to help us better understand this, this moment in music history, we've enlisted three of the key DJs that carried the scene. We've got Colin Curtis, Mike shaft and Greg Wilson, who kindly guided us through the details of the Jazz Funk era. From the origins of the scene to some of the key record stores and clubs and radio stations that posted the Jazz Funk sound, we talked about all the factors that made this scene. So significant. This conversation was recorded at reformed radio station in Manchester.And we're delighted that reform could host us and play us out on the radio afterwards. We hope you enjoy the discussion and the trace, and that you get a bit more of an appreciation of the jazz punk scene, and why it was such a huge moment in the history of British music

thanks a lot, guys. Very excited to have this chat. Obviously, you guys, you know, know more about this subject than everyone.And it usually makes sense to start at the beginning when we talk about these kinds of things. But maybe we should start before the beginning.And look at the period before the 1980s and get a sense of what Manchester was like what clubbing was like in Manchester what party was like in the UK as well. Colin, I know you were involved in the Northern Soul scene in the 70s. So you want to paint a bit of a picture of what it was like in the world just before Jazz Funk landed?

Colin Curtis 2:48

While I moved into shall we say what what what became later known as Northern Soul scene it was it was just a bunch of enthusiastic underground people and Manchester's connection was the twisted wheel.The twisted wheel provided the soundtrack really for our lives during that period, that the music was coming out the 60s What had moved on from what was termed back then is r&b Not to be confused with the r&b in the 90s. But 60s r&b and then the solid foundation of Tumblr Motown actually created lots of copycats, copycat labels copycats, artists all overAmerica, most of which were were failures in terms of chart hits on billboards, and great success inAmerica. 60s was still very much about live bands and clubs. DJs were still secondary. But this background of music that was evolving from the twisted wheel at this time just took us by storm.And we were we were hooked and remained top to bottom music ever since.

Will Baldwin-Pask 3:57

And that period of then in the 70s Just before we get into the 80s which I guess is depicted as the Jazz Funk era, what what was going out like, you know, what was the crowds like him? Where were they sort of going in which was it just Manchester was?

Colin Curtis 4:14

No, I mean at this time. I mean, I signed to Mecca in 1967 to do a regular DJ on the main floor, and then I would go downstairs and play soul on the Thursday And then they gave me a Sunday night as well for soul. So on a Sunday, I'm getting four or 500 people in a plane.Again, what is nadelman celban at the time was was just an underground scene in Manchester, really, by this time, you know, the black music scene from my perspective was was kind of established and so that would take us through to the mid 70s.And then we bring in Manchester Ritz Manchester. It's that time again, similar artists were Gloria Barnes who was accompanied by Marc Bolan at that point Yeah, so the the Northern Soul all day is started probably around 74 in Manchester at the Ritz pulling in, you know, maybe 1000 people, or in excess. But as the music changed that became probably the most catalytic place in the north. This combination of people who were into Northern Soul and people who were getting into what became a game after the event, just so you know, we've got 14 1500 people, and it was like almost a changing of the guards when the DJ changed from Northern Soul to what would be termed jazz funk.And we went from the, the baggy trousers and the Tshirts, to Hawaiian shirts and plastic sandals, and whistles. It was a, it really was a puree of excitement and change. Not not not all accepted by everybody. Of course.

Will Baldwin-Pask 5:57

Mike, you came into it through having radio and DJ sets, right? So you were a really integral figure with the Picadilly radio station and your show was really popular. Could you talk a little bit about how you kind of got involved with DJing and being in the scene at that time, and also what you were doing to promote the style of music?

Mike Shaft 6:20

Well, my story is very different to Collins, I'll hold my hands up there. I came to this country in 68. And attended school here and then started work in the post office.And when I was going out, there was a club, it was a bar, not a club. Next to the Palace Theatre, I can't remember the name of it.And we'd go there at 11 o'clock, they threw us out, which was fine.And one day, one night, all the guys said we're going to explosion and never even heard of explosion. So I said, Oh yeah, how come along, we get there.An explosion is a club downstairs, you walk in, it's totally dark.And it is rammed I would say 90% Black people.And the music is just awesome. James Brown, the J bees, that kind of stuff.And the groove is just you know that all night.And it was wonderful.And I love that played that to myself. I remember I was living in Wally range at the time. On a Sunday morning, I put the speakers on the on the balcony and play to the whole street and anybody else who wanted to hear it.The guy opposite hated me, because he usually got in in about three, four o'clock in the morning after he'd been potty And then there's me at eight o'clock, whipping it up. So it was a it was a very interesting time.There were some great record shops that one of the best was Robinson's records. Correct, which brought in by the truckloads, all of theseAmerican artists.And you'd see Stevie Wonder and whoever else all they're really reasonably priced.And I started my collection there. Eventually, of course, the record shops turned into spinning.And that was just amazing. No other word for it.At tiny shop.The whole of the shop was probably this size six days on it was full. Yeah, yeah.Yeah. I noticed the space between the wall behind the tail. That's it and, you know, two or three people serving and then just a little bit more for the punters.And they'd be queuing outside on a Saturday it

Colin Curtis 8:36

was it was a meeting place on a Saturday. It was it was a feeding frenzy. Once I started stocking input, and they started stocking inputs actually in 1970 around that time that early I first came across the shop around that time and I found found it because at that time opposite spinning was was this fantastic cake shop and it was almost equally interesting to me at the time. I have no idea why but that it was the cake shop that drew me back there as early as 1970. But it's quite funny because not Northern Soul got its name, you know, simply because it was played in the north of England not because it was from NorthAmerica or North Detroit. It was it was geographically it was played in the north of England.And Jazz Funk had no name I think in the early days, in fact, I came to Manchester 78 But John Grant and I used to sit there and and we'd put songs first of all don't put just no don't over they'll come if you put jazz to put soul and and you know, we will kind of feel in a way round. So and if we move on a little bit to we're starting to play house music at that time. Is it garage? Is it warehouse? Is it shared? What is it? You know?And you're all all that and Greg's got his own story of innovation. But all these things were happening in Manchester stir, but not because they didn't happen anywhere else.They absolutely did. But Manchester was a unique story.

Greg Wilson 10:08

Can I just jump in here and what Colin was saying about the Mecca and everything costs and it would probably add context to this is that the difference between the Blackpool Macker Wigan casino which is obviously the hallowed Northern Soul venue, the Mecca opened normal club hours closed at two o'clock.The casino opened at two o'clock and run till eight in the morning. So there was this even this last hour of the Mecca. When a lot of people were heading over to the casino we're calling and Ian Levine were more experimental. But the big difference was what they did at the Mecca. Were basically like seeing as heretics for it was they began to play contemporary music as opposed to 60s oldies.And that's changed. So by 76 in the Macker, you will be playing a lot of what was then termed NewYork disco.

Colin Curtis 11:02

If you want to pick on a crucial record and ask the biggest one because yeah, that was Gil Scott Heron changed everything.Absolutely. I think I think Mike's is your musically different story, but equally interested in an equally pointed mic could be the last person to say this, but Mike's radio show was the most important radio show that's ever happened to pop music in Manchester.That is a fine. I mean, you came in afterAndy Peebles, your which was, at the time considered to be big shoes to fill.Andy Peebles, Robbie Vincent, all these names were thrown around. But you came in at that point.And you own that show?

Mike Shaft 11:43

Well, let me tell you, I mean, it goes further back for me, because when they said they announced that it was going to be a radio station in Manchester. My letter went in straightaway. I just wanted that job. I didn't get it. Colin Walters wrote me back and said thanks very much every secretary data, but we don't need a black music G DJ.And on the first Friday, the station launched on the Monday.And the first Friday, I think it was was the first solo show. So I'm there, seven, eight o'clock, whatever time it was.Andy Peebles comes on, and is magnificent.And I knew then, I would never work at Piccadilly, whileAndy Peebles was there. I just knew it. His show was excellent.

Will Baldwin-Pask 12:28

Was it very smooth soul, or was it?

Mike Shaft 12:30

Well, he loved Bobby Womack, for instance.And that quality, it's it's didn't do a lot of Northern Soul didn't do a lot of funk. He was just, it was middle of the road. But then, along comes me.And the peoples was great. But I spoke to him, some must be a couple of years ago.And he says,You know what, the difference between you and me is Mike, I would never have played one nation under a groove by Funkadelic. Right. He says, once he heard that on the radio, he knew people would forget about it, people.

Will Baldwin-Pask 13:07

So that's something I really want to sort of dig into this kind of transition in the type of funk and the type of soul and the type of jazz that's being heard at this time.

Greg Wilson 13:19

I mean, what Mike did what you know, the difference between what he was doing and what people's was doing? was Mike brought what was happening in the clubs, onto the radio, it was very much a club based show, although you still did a lot of soulful stuff as well.And, and that, you know, it's almost like the forerunner to Kiss FM and all these things. Later. It was like one show once a week, but absolutely essential.

Mike Shaft 13:48

But I was playing this stuff every night in the club. Yes. So I wasn't going to suddenly become somebody else.This is what I was playing.And in the end, I got all the people who are going to the clubs to listen to the show, but I just love the music. That's my stance. I love the music, and the stuff that had been played in explosion, which was all that black music James Brown man, James Brown, and the JBS were the ones and they made music that I could dance to that I could scream to.And I just got the crowd dancing to that stuff.And then it came along came the Commodores with BrickHouse massive Bambara you mentioned mashing up my brass construction. Oh, my goodness.

Colin Curtis 14:29

Well, I mean, I mean that that was the change. I mean, when you talk I've mentioned at Blackpool Mecca, the old days and also the old days that we did the Manchester Ritz. We went from your booking people like Edwin Starr and Jr. Walker To suddenly booking we had brass construction live at Blackpool Mecca.The same time they were number one album all over the world.And then we moved on with Sylvester we brought PlayersAssociation. Oh yes, we had RoyAyers. He had really as in fact was 17 I think it was January 79.And it snowed that day. We had to drag RoyAyers off when in fact at one point we thought we're gonna have to turn the electricity off to brick to get him off. Yeah, he wouldn't stop it was incredible all day. But

Greg Wilson 15:14

can I just go back a second to that brass construction album because the influence that album, people don't realise how massive I mean I think blues and soul call it the greatest song garb of all time at that it was just huge.And also with regards to the oncoming jazz fonecare and the and the British jazz funk. I mean, both high tension and light of the world. Whoa, well influenced by that brass console high

Colin Curtis 15:40

tension blade at Manchester rich at that time, we had a hunch or attention at Manchester Ritz and like to the world at Blackpool Mecca. Yeah, there were massively inputs.

Mike Shaft 15:50

The mix of people is the other thing, which needs talking about, because this music was supported by people of all colour, all colours.And they came and they danced and they partied and those who smoked weed, smoked weed, and then they went home.

Will Baldwin-Pask 16:07

And this was uniquely this uniquely distinguished Jazz Funk from everything else that was going on at the time.

Mike Shaft 16:14

Absolutely. Because if you go back to rafters, for instance, sorry, not rafters to explosion, it was mainly a black club. If you went to any of the Northern Soul clubs, it was white.

Colin Curtis 16:25

You're right, I think when I came to rafters in 78, by 79, I would say the demographic of the crowd had probably changed to 60 to 70%. Black, as opposed to white because initially, a lot of the macro macro people followed me down, come through the Northern Soul scene.And so until the was the was that connection? Some people stayed, some people didn't. But generally, you're right. It was all creeds. I think it the Jazz Funk thing became all encompassing, because also, as well as the club's through yourself through Robbie Vincent, they can access this.And in those days, there wasn't 1000 radio shows playing this music. Everybody recorded Robbie Vincent, everybody's recording Mike Terry lane, because that that was the source of information for a lot of people. If you came to the club, then yes, but if you didn't come to the clubs, the information was still available.

Will Baldwin-Pask 17:24

It'd be good to play one of the tracks who's mentioned I think we saw the Gil Scott Heron tune is in there somewhere.Are there any other songs that people are, you know, think of really appropriate given what we've already said about that early, early years of jazz funk?

Mike Shaft 17:39

One of the tracks I remember when it started to change, and I've never heard anything this good. I don't know if I've heard anything this good since I came down one night to rafters, and you guys will play throwing lots of film about remember a thing. Thanks for Never forget that.And on comes, come with me by tournament, Tanya Marie.And I thought this scene is going to happen.

Will Baldwin-Pask 18:07

Actually, one thing I really wanted to pick up was you guys referenced legend earlier, I know there's going to be lots of different places and venues that were special for this time. But legend seems to recurrently come up with something that was particularly important to making this scene as as memorable as it was great. You were at Wigan working, we compare and then you moved across to legend you probably be best place to sort of tell us about what legend was as a club. What made it special in terms of the audience in terms of the space? Why was it so important?

Okay. Well, I mean, firstly, you know, my entry points, like Mike and Colin have given different entry points was different again, I was in Merseyside. My aspiration was to be a black music specialist. But I started off in normal clubs.And like everybody else has to pay my apprenticeship to play the chart hits, But bit by bit, and managed to kind of impose my own personality. I eventually went out to work in I worked in Europe in 78 on monthly contracts, and I went out again in 1982, Germany And it was while I was there that I landed the job. We compare through a friend of mine that I've met two years earlier in Norway, who was the resident though at the time and he was taken over legend in Manchester.And so they needed a resident for Wigan Pier.And I managed to get that job on his recommendation and over the pier was an amazing club. It was just so ahead of its time, the lighting the sound system. It was just a different level to what was was going on and so had the residency there four nights a week, the Tuesday night was the jazz fun night. So it was probably pulling in about four or 500 people. The club was about 1000 You could cram in about 1000 into it. I bought it. It was, you know, the jazz spunk audience in the northwest. You know, there was a lot of white kids in areas like St. Helens, Wigan, you know, witnessed these areas that had gravitated towards this music and one of the things about jazz funk as well. We were talking before about the Mecca and the Mecca play in what was called New York disco these trucks that were coming out and we were just getting an idea of this New York thing that was going on mixing hadn't come into it, its own at the time that would that will come into play later. So you know, it was a time where we were kind of working out and the disco thing was massive.And in in 70, late 70s Everything was 78 Saturday Night Fever landed. But it was so big, that all of a sudden, everyone was into this goes to a disco dancing classes starting off it just became crass and commercialised.And I think with what would have been happening on the underground at the time and these Jazz Bass funk records. Reuters, Donald Byrd, Lonnie Liston Smith, Gil Scott Heron, these things were coming out. So I think, the DJs that we're always looking for newer music, they will move in away from disco because it was getting a bit of a bad terminology to prove Saturday Night Fever, and this jazz funk sound. To more authentic, this was this was the cooler edge of things if you want to call it that.And so that's where I was kind of gravitating. But London. The pier gave me theTuesday night. I also took over the Wednesday at legend.They'd started it was the same company to own the two clubs. They started their Jazz from nine a Wednesday.And I eventually went in there in late 80 wants to try save the night because it was it had been strong. John Grant, the DJ would call in at work there for a time. But then he left and he'd started a night with Mike. That was blues and soul Piccadilly radio promoted called the main events on a Tuesday night in Manchester placement seven.And that had really dented into Legends audience and it was dropping and dropping. So by the time I got there, they will probably put in over 300 a week, and now it was below 100.And it was dying, and they just give me the chat, you know, can you salvage it?And it took a while, you know, I mean that we gradually built it and things took off and it became what it was. So, you know, legend was on the cusp of what was the Jazz Funk scene, but then moving into what became electro funk that became the predominant music. I mean, I kind of date the Jazz Funk hero, probably 70 670-777-8282 Maybe, I think by the time 82 Or come along, it was it was struggling to retain the quality of music. And that's around the time when Colin went into Berlin and small club took a Tuesday night there. That holds that was more than jazz downside has changed.

Yeah, I mean, it was the first time that I know you and was there. But I mean, once I got there I played for the rest of the night. It was the first time I've done four and five hours sets.And it was the first time I tried to encompass everything. The reason it did so much damage, I think because there was so many influential people who came here as well as Mike.And this one night. The bouncer came down to me. He said I've got someone at the door says, You said he can come in. I said, Well, who is it? He said, I don't know. But he looks about 12. I said Well, that'll be Giles. I said so you borrow money. Charles Peterson this was appeared in in that club for the first time, because his best friend was at Manchester University.And I didn't know this at the time, but what his best friend, he would come up to me most nights at Berlin with a piece of paper. What was that one? What was the one?And then the next day bring in Giles and tell him what's playing. But Giles had appeared for the first time in person.And I think what he took away and what what he says historically he took away from that was this combination of all the styles of museums being available, but the money spent on Wigan pier and legend was astronomical on sound system and lighting stuff we'd never seen before any well,

Mike Shaft 24:25

back then the only place anybody knew had that stuff was studio 54 In a no that's right in New York, right.And that's when I walked into Wigan pier the first time I was blown away. I'd come from clubs, dark, dingy, always downstairs and you walk into this place and it was like wow, the lighting our mind you

Will Baldwin-Pask 24:49

guys describe a bit what it looks like and who's there and what they're doing and you know, clearly dancing is a huge part of this moment. Right

Mike Shaft 24:56

on the balcony was a cool place to be because you just you over Look the dance floor. So you saw everything that was going on there and people would then go down, you know, I wonder if we could do that, you know, and in the end, pile on the dance floor, and your favourite track will come on at some point in time.

Colin Curtis 25:13

And the DJ was in the front and a huge frog,

Greg Wilson 25:15 and fibreglass frog.

Will Baldwin-Pask 25:17

And this is a, this is a time when dancing is actually a very important performative part of going out, right? It's amazing.And

Greg Wilson 25:27 for these kids, it was essential. I mean, to the extent whereby you could have a kid with no prospects, no money, life looks bad for them walk in the streets on my side, but as they walk down the streets, or the people not at them, and they're nodding at them, because they can dance. So

there's somebody. So the level of intensity of the doubt, it's not like anything. Now, when we talk about dancing. It was really serious and it

Colin Curtis 25:54

but it was an extension of what I saw at Birmingham with with with maybe 1015 dancers, the extension became individuality remained in place, the enthusiasm and passion remained in place. And this became, I remember talking to some kid, I think it was probably on the way back from from a night at Wigan pier. He wants you to lift back to keel services.And then he said he get back to Birmingham from there. But he I said, Well, what are you thinking to do with your life?And well, I'll just be dancing all my life. That that was it that in a nutshell, that was what was important. I mean, when you I mean, what you played as well, but I mean, I played the repercussion festival recently in Manchester.And you know, lots of young kids are young enough to be my grandchildren really.And, you know, it was just everybody standing there with a telephone. Dancing is not the most important, shaking about a bit and waving your arms a bit and thinking you're on the telly and on the ballroom, whatever. But I'm not taking anything away from these people. It's just a completely different approach.And your

Greg Wilson 27:03

example is when rave eventually happened with RCA.And in 88, the house music crowd was already in place.And it was a predominantly black crowd that brought that music into the house. The end, people like Guy Called Gerald and foot patrol, the famous kind of crew, they brought that style into the hacienda. But when we get the footage, post at eight, where the black kids, they're not gone. And the reason they're not there is because when they went to the house, and it wasn't RAM packed, and it's a big place, they had loads of dancing space, they loved the fact that they have dancing space. So when it becomes packed, and everyone's crammed in, and doing big fish, little fish, and it's just hand movements and moving their hips. There's no floor space, these guys want to use the legs and go.And that is when the black crowd gravitated away from the hacienda. So that lineage was lost. When the the people who were documenting Ray first came in, a lot of them weren't previously into dance music, they might have been a little windy or stuff or and they taken a pill.And now this dance music was great.And they saw this brand new scene.And they thought that they it had been brought back from a booth or something.And the whole connection with the black scene, which was directed direct lineage to that Hacienda moment was lost. Yeah.And so many things that were written without that in and this complete disconnect. So at bases rave was all about, you know, what had been brought into play by that black music underground beforehand, what had been brought into the Hassey. I started working there in 1983, which brought the crowd from legend across.Although it didn't ultimately work at that moment in time. They kept the Friday night on that became nude night with my picker And that was what eventually blew up.And it was this kind of trajectory out of the blacks. I mean, that's what people think, again with the hacienda, you know, 88 explodes, but they had a big night with nude from 86 onwards.And

Colin Curtis 29:09

let's not forget that you and Clark, your black DJ, DJ Hacienda and I think you know, he was part of the attraction for those kids going there as well, because you and was picking up what was happening obviously in Berlin, exactly.All around you. He was very musically aware.

But the perfect example there is client and MBO dirty took the Italian track, which went massive at legend and HarryTaylor when I used to go in spin, and obviously, that he dealt with the gay side of the shop that apart from the black music side was a huge kind of buying loads of Euro tracks for the DJs on the gay scene and everything. But Harry was a word that I was getting into this new electronic sound.And he pulled things out for me. He pulled out this client and MBO on an Italian label called Zanza.And that just blew up were massive at legend. Dan Hewan picked a copy of I think he has copies on Siamese. It's on a different label. It's on dear Tony originally, but he played that at the hacienda.And one night, New Order in there.And they heard it and they asked if they could borrow it.And they were working on a track, which was Blue Monday and became a template for Blue Monday, you know.

Mike Shaft 0:00

Going back to the radio, all these scenes were going on in Manchester in Wigan in Liverpool, and all this is going on in the clubs and I'm thinking to myself, I've got to get this on the radio. Now, I'm not interested in electro music. But I know somebody who is. So we get, we get Greg in, we got calling in to do his jazz break. Dave Everson came in and did know.And so, yes, I'm quite happy to give 50 minutes of my show to any because I know there were people listening who were interested in that, and, and the jazz folk tuned in religiously. So that jazz break, that was their 15 minutes of reverse fame.You know,

Greg Wilson 0:41

again, you know, points out we've kind of touched on it with things but although it was say at one point, we call it jazz funk. What I was doing later, we called it electro funk. It wasn't just one way Yeah, it wasn't all jazz spoon to his soul trucks. That was kind of what would now turn bougie tracks played. Jazz Funk was the predominant strain like electro funk. So even at the peak of electro when I was playing it in 83, I was still a legend I was still doing to jazz brakes tonight. Yes, there was enough jazz dancers coming down. So three,

Colin Curtis 1:14

you saw that? I mean, I don't I don't think you correct me if I'm wrong. But I don't think jazz was part of your itinerary when you came into it, to the extent that that I took it. But it was great for me to come to legend and to come to Wigan, and see you're doing that and seeing the reaction that that got that. But that was it. I mean, it it got to a point.And both these guys have experienced this as well.The most essential part of any club night is the trust between the DJ and the dancers at this point.And these guys produce and I always want, I think, well, if this working to this level, let's push let's push let's push

Will Baldwin-Pask 1:57

we've we've touched on that kind of sound as its as its veering away from that more recognisable Jazz Funk sound might be good to play some songs that kind of indicate it.And I mean,

Greg Wilson 2:06

there's a track here. I mean, obviously the whole British Jazz Funk thing came alive. You know, there was just so much in high tension like the world, this whole British Jazz Funk scene emerged. Now, this one really important track from originally released in 1980. But then a different version came out in 81, which was a British release.At the time it was played as a jazz funk track. That's how we saw

it.And it was theTW funk masters Lamoni. It was a guy called Tony Williams who was a radio DJ on radio London playing reggae.And he decided that he was a club DJ also we worked on on food butts on Carnaby Street. He wanted to make rappers alive was own, he wanted to make a rap record.And he brought into play Dennis Browns money in my pocket as a reference.And he made this strange record called love money, which was amazing.And the other side, the the main site was called money, no love, which to my knowledge is the first example of a British rap record. But it was all Jamaicans that were making. So they're all reggae musicians. So it was a hybrid track itself, and it was massive on our scene, but it was an underground track. It was you know, nobody outside of the scene knew it. But years later, I realised that it was a hugely important track in New York. It was played by Lavon manku saw these but Francois Kevorkian, I did a panel with him at the ICAin London, about editing and everything we were talking and I mentioned this truck.And then he was talking about how he got into dub. I thought it was going to say the Scratch Perry King told me the whole thing.And he was like, love money TW for masters. He said what you've just been talking about

Will Baldwin-Pask 4:02

touching on the spin end, but it'd be good to dive into like, what exactly was it like going into the spinning? I know that you were going

Mike Shaft 4:08

those days, man you had to your best friend had to be the guy behind that counter

Greg Wilson 4:12

And another thing that you know, you couldn't just be a jazz funk DJ specialist. You couldn't just turn up and say I am by all the records even. There was a whole apprenticeship almost that you have to go through to to get into Yeah, to get on the all day as a star You know that there was a hole. So you know, this was a very specialist cost spend of things there was loads and loads of DJs who wouldn't look to have been

Mike Shaft 4:38

if Kevin took a dislike to you at spin. You didn't get the best

Greg Wilson 4:44

chance when he did that with me. Yeah, I'll tell you what truck it wasArthur LMG got the floor. He held it back for me.And I didn't know anything about it like the first week somebody comes in let you in on a Wednesday butArthurAdams you got the floor. I don't know him. Oh, it was massive last night.And so I'm like, I've got to get that. So I'm on the phone the next day. We had them in but they've gone out we'll have them in at the weekend. It didn't come, okay, didn't come it didn't get a copy And the next week,

Colin Curtis 5:10

to be fair, that wasn't entirely dead took care of that, because it was a small label thing that has actually come from a different distributor And nobody knew that until until golf. Ian Fleming suffered the same fate. I mean,

Greg Wilson 5:22

so what happened? What made it took over the edge for me was the next Wednesday I'm in Legend took him biggest track that you're playing on Tuesday night. I haven't got a copy of it. Because I've been to spin we haven't had it through yet.And so some of that comes up. Can you play author and you've got I haven't got it? Oh, I've got a copy in the car. Wow And I will. So I went in, I just went straight to Gary Lane. I spoke to Terry London first because they were buying records as well from the pier. So they will spend 200 quid a week I was spending my money.And I went to Gary said this car up and I cannot have not have the biggest truck on the two.And he totally agrees you're

Colin Curtis 5:57

selling records for the shop. I mean, he says that's, that's that's what these were these, these were the weekly lists that we produce it rafters, the trucks that we were playing. But if you went into spinning on a Monday, yep, somebody be standing with the list.And it was like a Chinese restaurant, I need a 711Yes, Dean, and 14 wood chips.And we would reference in the right tips at the bottom. And then there'd be like a top 10All these.And any information about old days would go on at the bottom as well. But this became the menu to buy red and

Mike Shaft 6:31

I went to the shop, because I got this tape fromAmerica had this one bad habit on, I didn't have the truck. I go to the shop. I say, Kevin, I want you to order me this truck, this album from the States, and I advise you to buy every copy You can because this is going to be massive. Yeah.And they must have sold hundreds.

Will Baldwin-Pask 6:54

I've heard that the spinning was you know where you guys or where one would find out everything that they needed to about what was coming in but out and then you would go and request more.

Greg Wilson 7:06

You got to take into account its job site spin in we're very red. We're a few in the country You know in London that was like Contempo on by blues and sell like group record city sounds but these were imports specialist Gary laying around the shop have been around since

Colin Curtis 7:22 they were way before any of those other shops where they were pulling in

Greg Wilson 7:26 any thoughts from the 60s.And then the shop opened up. So

Will Baldwin-Pask 7:31 can you guys describe the space a bit? So it's a record store somewhere in Manchester. Where was it?

Colin Curtis 7:36

I'm crushing. It was the bat it was literally two steps down.As you went down the two steps or three steps to get into the shop. On the left hand side was a club called talk of the town

Mike Shaft 7:48

which went on to

Colin Curtis 7:50

release the deed which also became how it became what would become playpen.

Mike Shaft 7:55

It wasn't like it was

Greg Wilson 7:59

30s I know that

Colin Curtis 7:59

Smarty Smarties are Sunday because Smarties on a Sunday night was I remember Frank Werth into the England portfolio coming into me with an under his arm. He said, I came last week he said I heard you playing some gadgets. I brought you some art pepper This is yeah, I said never mind that just concentrate on scoring goals. In as well. I will take the purpose. Thank you. So so this club was right next to spinner was spinning. Literally, if there were six or eight people in the shop, it was four And there's Mike says this was the space for customers. That was the counter which was quite high. There was two racks of albums there. There was some albums behind you on this. So it really was six or eight people in the shop. Everybody else at the top of the steps was like a congregation of people who were coming to you to learn their shoes and because of these influential clubs that we've all been involved in other DJs would come in from Bolton or from any of your great certainly Greater Manchester area through Mike Show as well to come in to buy records spinning.

Greg Wilson 9:06

And these are imports that weren't available in other shops. That's

Colin Curtis 9:08

right.There was no no I mean, my my my round would be if I came up here with whatever money I got to spend I would start in spinnin records.And you got people behind the counter characters really like cupboard was like our retail and your big characters and you know you needed to keep on the right side of ammos you say but then I would go to Virgin I would go to HMV and then I would go to the most magical shop that's ever been in Manchester for records and that was Robinson so I mean this, this shop was on two floors.And they had sold they had jazz out everything. In fact I bought seven quartetTrebbiano albums from there in one hit. When I first heard that train was to IBM, and this is in the Berlin years but before that, if you went in all the records are in dividers, I remember because I started playing Royi as the running away album lifeline out album Palmetto. So that will be what about 77 yet, but then to find out Virgo read to find out about red, black and green, and of course spinning was a new music shop so they weren't in there. But in Robinson is the Royer section was 20 Records deep and and on the dividers on the cardboard divide is the date the records are come in the date copies had sold, it was it was a computer system, handwritten,

Will Baldwin-Pask 10:26

where you guys almost like marketing tools for these stores. Because after you played either a club night or radio show, people would find out what the track was.

Greg Wilson 10:37

Tell me worked out with with spinning really, you know, ultimately, if spinning only got a few copies in Mike shaft after Hub One because if you played it on the radio, they stood just to sell a load of copies.Yeah. calling it the other few Colin Curtis after Hub One because of the gigs that he was doing. Eventually, I came into that and they bagged up these records for us. So we had first dibs on them. Before they went on a kind of more more general sale.And so there was so it was a pecking order within spinnin. Even you know, like who got the records.

Mike Shaft 11:14

But can I can I say they also sold us some crap? Well, they

Greg Wilson 11:17 tried to put it

Mike Shaft 11:19 in the back Mikey must have this you must.

Colin Curtis 11:22

When you go home as well. There would always be records in your bag that you'd actually refused. When you listened on the deck.And you said no leave that gallery wouldn't be behind the scenes sticking them in your bag.Anyway,

Will Baldwin-Pask 11:33

I was just gonna ask I know there's there's probably no way of quantifying this. But commercially, if you're taking, you know, trucks from from the US and then bring them here or wherever you're getting the imports.And then loads of people are buying them like you must be boosting the scene. Long term because more people are going to be

Greg Wilson 11:53 breaking records.

Mike Shaft 11:56

Right?This is one of the things that I hated about the scene cover ups. You know what a cover up this.

Will Baldwin-Pask 12:02

This is when you don't reveal who the artist

Mike Shaft 12:06

exactly. I don't know how much money artists missed out on because of cover rooms, and a few DJ some of whom was still around now, who should be ashamed of themselves. When I was on the radio, even now when I'm on the radio, and I'm on the radio every day. Right? I say the track and I say the album.And I say the artists, because if people hear it and they like it, they go and buy it.And eventually some money goes back to the artist. These cover ups were appalling. NEVER forgive DJs

Colin Curtis 12:37

what you're saying about the about being the conduit really, you know, almost a salesperson, whether it was a radio, I mean, there was Mike, there was Rami Vincent that you had huge power on the radio in terms of selling music.And in all our areas whether it was me whether it was Greg, you whether it was some of the other top DJs from up and down the country genre. It was it was very much you're the salesperson you were and therefore because imports were still a fairly new thing for a lot of record shops.As Greg said earlier as well, only a handful a record shops existed that sold imports. So your people whether it was bluebird in London, whether it was group in London, up here it was spinning in Birmingham, it was it was grand war, it was just essential. This was the only place you could get and so you should sell hundreds of copies of a record on input that would not get counted for the national charts, although some of them would national charted on some of the figures that were sold is that it was a massive,

Greg Wilson 13:42

I mean, I've seen where it was the clip promotions people in London departments were watching very closely what the DJs on this scene, the front scene was play into either licence in tracks for British release or if it fell under one of the one of the labels. So you know, we were the first port of call I mean these records were coming in fromAmerica. So spin in was first point of contact there might be other shops knocking about there was a shop in Liverpool who share buttons that sold inputs, but what they were doing buying their inputs from spinning. So they were second degree spin and you had to be there

Colin Curtis 14:17

because we could because they were going to I've just I've just been reminded in my own head of probably one of the biggest records and Mike would have been part of this as well. This album still goes for over three or four two pounds as an original book nightlife by Blair, okay, which became an anthem because of the combination of be played on the radio and in the clubs.And what Mike did with radio tracks that he's talked about before on a slower tempo is people accepted them in clubs after they'd be broken on the radio because they that yes, they were able to play those will blend nightlife stood out because it was the classic jazz folk album that has remained But red piece for all these years, but that was also caught up. In those early weeks. I mean, we got I think spindle had four to five copies.And then there was a big gap before any more turned up.And eventually, I think if I went through these charts meticulously, it was number one for about nine or 10 weeks, it had that level of impact for a track that was on the download.And that opened the door for Jones girls, it opened the door for so many other downtempo tracks.

Will Baldwin-Pask 15:28

Can I just ask quickly, guys, I mean, as DJs you know, you've got lots of different responsibilities.Are you aware of all of those responsibilities as well, in terms of you know, you're you're trying to give people make people have a good time.As you said, someone you brought you into legend to help salvage the club?Are you aware of also the commercial benefit and the Reach benefits you're having for the artists that you're playing? Like?Are you thinking of all of these different roles and responsibilities you have in what I imagined fair was like, the most fun job? Yeah, I just

Greg Wilson 15:59

think we were all like wanting to play great music as quickly as we could, you know, this is why there was no cover ups on this scene, because there was always next week, I remember let's stay in

again, going back to the timepiece and something that really impressed me, man, I'm 16 Watching him and he's this huge, kind of larger than life figure. It's it's an all nighter, all the DJs from Liverpool are there they're all round is boob and the ball got little that taken.And he's so gracious and tell them everything.And the reason being is he knows next week, he's gonna have a load more Cheers.

Colin Curtis 16:32

I think, you know, the just from curious era, rather spawned more great tunes every week than any other era, great tunes that have stood the test of time. So the classic tunes, whether it be the jazz side of it, the soul side of it, or the funk side of it, if so much has been based on that 1977 283 is incredible.And even now, when you go out and buy edits, and edits and edits, and Edison records on 12, so many of them are going back to that period.Another one would be Ronnie Harris six months now, another writs monster,

Mike Shaft 17:06

but the thing is Colin, that if we didn't we, the DJs didn't have the knowledge to pick out those tracks. It would not have happened not in the same way no, absolutely would not have happened. It was an album comes out.And there may be one track on it. Jun Yamaguchi, okay

Colin Curtis 17:27

That was the Walmart truck.

Mike Shaft 17:29

Right?Absolutely. One track featuring Bobby woman on vocals on an obscure pounds you paid for a Japanese important those days, 20 pounds.

Colin Curtis 17:40

That was two weeks wages.

Mike Shaft 17:42

Adjusted for inflation, you have to have it. But don't

Colin Curtis 17:44 don't forget also, with with DJs there is an egotistical side as well in the sense that you what Gregg says is right.You want to play good music. But you also want to create your own aura, your own sound, you know, you sometimes not intentionally, yeah, what you do do that,

Will Baldwin-Pask 18:00 or just want to pick on that because it's a it's an interesting point that this, this this moment, this musical moment, jazz funk. you've alluded to Mike, where you've got a diverse demographic audience, which is, you know, not typical of music at the time, and maybe not even like a lot of music scene since since really And then you've also got the majority of the input being from black artists as well. What do you think has been the impact since of this moment, when there's a lot ofAfrican American artists and black British artists producing music that's being driven into a scene, and then black British audiences are enjoying it, and maybe it didn't last for decades, but there must have been some long term impacts and consequences of having such a sort of unique moment, contextually, musically, when Jazz Funk was happening.

I mean, just one kind of continued on like through what we were saying before the jazz down scene, you're kind of honed in and became more specialist again. So at the all day is the second room will be a jazz room, and all the best answers would kind of go into that.And out of that came, you know, the next phase was huge. Charles Peterson and Paul Murphy, you know, these DJs in London as well, alongside what Colin was doing, and acid jazz comes out of that you know, so it really kind of carried on right through into the 90s in one way or another

it's as you say, it's all those people have been touched by the jazz from Kira and therefore their decisions musically is still made on a lot of of that particular grounding. I mean jazz in particular. But if you think that your mic talked about the James Brown which was your was a north and south thing really but Mike proved that it wasn't a thing. But also in came the British bands. We've talked about how attention but one of the huge British bands was atmosphere of course, that combined and you know all those things.And then on the back of that, by the time I'm at Berlin, I'm bringing in Fela Kuti, I'm bringing in theAfrican sound, and also the Brazilian Sam bringing in ED Lincoln. So all these things went into that pot that then people like Giles have said off with, I mean, Giles, is probably the single figure that has been able to turn that into into a world audience. I mean, you're what he's achieved.And his vision, absolute phenomenal. Some of it was accidental somewhere. But I mean, I think you know, that that certainly helped. It opened up all the genres. But when you take all those genres, I think they're all transferable back to, to a lot of this intelligent music that was made between sort of mid late 70s.And the 80s.The integration and the intelligence of the music through this period, I think, is definitely as as we set off, Mike about the edits that are made today, so many often go back to that whether sampling of course, became a massive part, when you're 45 kingdom, which he Chad Jackson, who you work with, and Kenny dope became a big advocate of that.And now you've seen DJs nowadays, like, like Darren Jones, who's who's bringing in that rare aspect of, of 12 inch singles again, bringing in, you know, like, like a different vibe or read Greg, people like that were and of course, Joey neagra himself, Dave Lee, and Corollas if you come across them, you know, I mean, this isn't at the moment, hasn't been attracting massive audiences. But I've noticed, no doubt and has been infiltrated into festivals that are starting to have an impact.

Will Baldwin-Pask 21:37

I was going to say you, you mentioned, I mean, you've just reeled off a load of examples of the contemporary reiterations of this sound. I mean, if you listen to like a lot of contemporary jazz bands, they are clearly like leaning on a lot of that height that that that tempo driven, really interesting rhythmic, Jazz Funk style,

Colin Curtis 21:57

thinking terms in terms of black music, and what what we've seen, particularly with club music is, is if you think back to the 60s and 70s, record, companies were putting in huge amounts of money into certain acts, and there was huge amounts of money going into development of music.And, and then all of a sudden, DJs were the people making music and musicians were almost a secondary thought. And I think what we are starting to see now is more musicians coming back. I mean, if you look at the current, in the last four or five years, the current British jazz explosion, again, with with with some fantastic artists, and Garcia, I mean, I play a, you know, a jazz fusion show on Sunday, which is a

combination of jazz, dance and fusion, I'm trying to keep in as many bits to that as I can. I also do separate soul shows and separate house shows. But I think that artists, certainly over the last few years have started to come back the musicianship are starting to come back in as opposed to be just been DJ made music.

Will Baldwin-Pask 22:56

And you guys have obviously contributed to that you've got your own careers and done your own things. But you've all played a role in that musical trajectory and bringing, bringing that that really jazz funky sound into Britain and influencing with the people that you have in all the sub genres that you have done. Do you feel aware of that? Like, do you guys feel? Well, yes, yes.

Greg Wilson 23:20

Yes. I mean, people can't just say sometimes, you know, you know, when you hear people say, I had no idea at the time that this would be so important. I remember it legend on a Wednesday salutely No, no, this is this is not happening everywhere. This is no, it was this is a special thing going on. You know, all my life. I mean, a lot.Alot of the reason that I go into the documents tip side, and the history side is this wasn't being documented.And these kids that went to these nights, they were the best of them all day They were having such difficulties in their day to day life. But they brought this spirit into the clubs.And, you know, they travel

Mike Shaft 24:02

me just mentioned this here, because I think one of the key things in those days is that crowds followed DJs. Right. So my crowd when people came from the Northeast, and saw what I was doing next week, that'd be a coach load coming down. Yep.And then they booked me to go and do their gig up there.And it just spread across the country like that. I wasn't the only person who was doing it. When the old days started. It was mad. There were coaches coming from everywhere to clouds to the ones we had in Blackpool.And it's just, it was wonderful. The Blackpool days.

Greg Wilson 24:48

was basically it pulled all the main DJs who had the main club nights throughout the NorthAmerica. I mean when we talk about the north, it was the north and Midlands and then the southern Same was almost separate, although they were coming from a similar direction.And you know, the all day a scene was about bringing in all these DJs. So you knew that if you brought in Colin Curtis that the coaches from these places coming down, I'd be bringing my coach from Wigan and Manchester shaft he was such a big name on the radio anyway, you know. So that's how it worked, you know that.And these were most Sundays, and pretty much every bank holiday Mondays on was an all day or somewhere and it was the line of was the main DJs the biggest pulling DJs on your scene because that's what they needed to do.And what was wonderful about it was it it cross pollinated the scenes so you'd have people coming in from Nottingham, Sheffield, Manchester, Leeds all coming together.And then they find out about each of those clubs.And so you'd see people supporting the end, Wigan casino I'm sorry, Wigan pier on aTuesday You know, after I've been there 1280 months, the crowd became increasingly black, withdrawing from Huddersfield, Sheffield, Manchester, you know, BirminghamTuesday night in Wigan. I mean, now, when I think back, it's remarkable. We can work with a very small black population. There were hundreds of black cars on a Tuesday night in Wigan, and what must have been a mad thing.And, you know, I've told this story many times, but it's a good example of how dedicated this scene was and what this scene was about. But I met some of

the guys used to come up from Birmingham once and they said the first thing that happened as they got into the car park, Wigan casino, they ciphered petrol from another car They only had enough money to get down to the club and get in, but they have to be there.And so they did Nick the petrol from another car to get back. They pay the 50 Por whatever it was to get in the club, and they've made the night out.And it was the same people I also

Will Baldwin-Pask 27:02

cost of petrol to go to a gig now you might as well

Greg Wilson 27:06

when I did my mixes for shaft a show on Piccadilly, obviously the kind of listening radio, you know, radius.There were Birmingham kids that would come and drive to Knutsford services, sit in the car, not split services, and listen to that show And drive home.

Colin Curtis 27:24

I think I think that that's, that's almost unique to the UK, because you're the underground scenes in the UK that have come out of black music, which is, you know, going back to the 60s and 70s stuff with the Northern Soul. But then you've got the red groove scene, you've got the funk scene, you know, the jazz scene.Alot of other countries like Japan and Italy have kind of copied off that because playing these out, I mean, I played a record recently in by Japanese band called Indigo jam unit in the boiler room session at the festival, that we did repercussions are noticed on the YouTube comments, somebody actually put. I never thought in my lifetime that I would get an indigo unit record on a boiler room set.And I think those barriers are still breakable down.And I think I think and I'm not saying that the DJs today aren't on it. Of course, of course, a lot of them are on it. But I think now you've got so many DJs nowadays 1000s and 1000s of DJs. Back then it was everybody's a DJ. Now it was a handful of people who were controlling the scene, not abdomen, controlling fashion. But those people, as Greg has said, and as Mike said, coaches would come, people would turn up because your name was on the poster. Not necessarily to individually listen to you, but because that was a quality control the key

Will Baldwin-Pask 28:44

community figures and let

Mike Shaft 28:46

me just mention this the other day, no more than a week ago. I'm lying in bed. Don't ask me why. into my mind comes this song. Do you get enough love by Shirley Jones? I forgot this went to my record collection.And there it is. That is one of the finest pieces of music ever made. It's not a disco track. It's something that you put on on a Sunday nights in your own house. Or luckily for me, and I know how lucky I was because of it. That's the kind of stuff that I played on a Sunday mixed in with the Jazz Funk mixed in with the funk mixed in with everything else. People knew they would hear tracks that would live a lifetime.

Will Baldwin-Pask 29:33

What a fantastic note to end on from Mike there. I hope you enjoyed listening. I hope you've learned something about the Jazz Funk era and why it was such a significant moment in history British music. Like I said, this kicks off a digital exhibition series where we'll be looking at even more scenes

from the north that have had a huge impact on British musical history. So stay tuned for more from the state of the arts.And remember you can head to our website and our social Media

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