My first time?
I must have been six, seven or eight, a young Soul virgin, when I first popped the question. Or rather the question was popped to me, by someone who just didn’t ‘get it’:
“So why do you prefer The Jackson 5 to The Osmonds?” he asked. Like there was any contest.
“Because… because, well… I just prefer their music,” I think I said, something like that; and maybe a lot more, all frustrated. I do remember falling out with him soon afterwards, perhaps the same day; in my world you either ‘got it’ or you didn’t – “Tell him I don’t want to come out and play, Mum, ’too busy playin’ me Jackson 5 records…”
The very fact that he’d asked such a silly question was indicative enough.
Michael Jackson meant it, you see, and that’s why I felt it; he was honest – I just knew he was, in every three minutes’ worth! And since when had Donny Osmond ever meant anything, been honest? I mean, really, come on…
‘Because they’re more soulful,’ is how I would like to have replied, to that future ex-friend friend of mine. And although he’d have been none-the-wiser, it would have at least saved my wasted breath… But, ever the wannabe teacher, preacher, a tryer, that was also me, if with the shortest of patience – I eventually learned it was better to have no patience at all, when it came to the inexplicable, the non-negotiable…
There’s a Collins definition on the site’s homepage – you can click on the word above, just don’t forget to come back.
Not a bad definition.
But of course, dictionaries are very limited, aren’t they. I don’t remember who, but somebody once said that they, dictionaries, are mere cemeteries for words. I like that…
Cemeteries for words.
What’s meant by that line, I think, isn’t only that language is never still, and is forever evolving, making semantic shifts and all that, but that each word has a unique meaning per each unique context. And for that unique context, no matter the number of people involved, each of us will derive our own meaning, for a million reasons. Each reason is, again, unique. Because each one of us, also, is unique…
I’m not here looking to give my own definition of soulful, I can’t, really – and if you understand that, then maybe such a word has a similar effect on you, too; you must let me know… I’m just talking about how the word has affected my life.
During that period, when I was seven, eight or nine, and was kicking an old ball around an older school playground, I took a break and leaned against the railings separating us from the girls. I heard a couple of angels – Carol Woodhouse and Julie Mills; both were two years older than me, real women, and beautifully brown-eyed with it. They were just behind me, singing. And doing some improvised dance to Michael’s Stop The Love You Save
Yes, they were angels – certainly for that moment. T’was a humbling experience. Life changing. Earth shattering.
It was around then – 69ish – a hot summer, I witnessed for the very first time a large group of Skinheads, in Skegness, while Motown, like bells, echoed from the fairground. These, my formative years…
Around the, also, I heard my magical Motown otherwise described as ‘Soul music’ – oh, I got that one! But who’d come up with it? I needed to meet him/her…
Life changing. Earth shattering. soulful
Incidentally, have any of you ever heard Sam Cooke define soul music. Incidentally again, if you’ve just taken time to listen to Arthur Connelly’s take on it, he describes James Brown as being ‘the king of them all’ – actually, he describes him as being ‘the king of the all, YOW!’ That’s really important, that end bit – ‘YOW!’ Because if you get just how important that end bit is, then maybe we’re riding on the same horse. The irony here, however, for me, is that James Brown was never the king of Soul music. Why? Because his stuff simply didn’t have enough of that indefinable word going for it. For me, it wasn’t so…:
I blame that one on those uninitiated, uncomprehending journalists of the time. But when I think of the likes of Curtis Mayfield…
Wow! And YOW!
But back to Sam Cooke’s definition. Take a listen and you’ll notice he doesn’t use words. He knows there aren’t any; the meaning is felt. Besides, he really did have the voice of an angel.
Wow! And YOW!
It was that angel, Sam, I heard echoingly beguilingly – nope, beguilingly doesn’t cut it either – from a jukebox in the fairground on Hunstanton’s promenade: A Change Is Gonna Come. Early sunny evening. I was twelve, I think. Life altering. Earth shattering.
Next stop Wigan’s Casino Club.
All I’m going to say about that place, the place I merely existed for midweek, but where I lived, really lived, at the weekend – only those who ever attended the Casino Club will understand what I mean by that – all I’m going to say is… well, what is there to say? And I’m not being nostalgic in the slightest. I knew at the time. And I’ll always know.
To walk down that corridor at midnight, along to Bunny Sigler’s Follow Your Heart.
Again, that echo – oh, I followed it alright, YOW, just too daan soulful!!
And if I said I’m writing this section with a tiny tear in my eye, would you believe me? You don’t get over something like that. You learn to live with it…
In 1994 – thirteen years after The Casino Club’s closure – I was studying for a BA Hons degree in French Language and Literature at the University of Sheffield – it’d been a long road of recovery; my education had been ‘misspent’ in Wigan. One particular day, I got talking to a student, in one of the campus bars. Lovely lad, I’ll never forget him, he just listened. And I poured my heart out. For the first time; I’d never before wanted to talk about it, had thought it wasn’t healthy to, but now it just came out…
The Casino Club.
‘’Sounds like Paradise Lost,’ he said. ‘Write a book about it.’ I blame him for planting that particular seed. Bless him.
Anyhow, when an old girlfriend turned up, with her dad’s car, well, that was it.
‘I want to go to Wigan,’ I said.
I sat in Wigan-Wallgate train station for I don’t know how long – she sat and waited with me, quietly, while I listened to those echoes.
I did the walk down Station Road – I wanted to grab shoppers along the way; ‘Do any of you remember? Any of you?’ And, ‘Look at him, he probably wasn’t even born!’
And there, the cinema on the corner – now to turn that corner, the butterflies reborn, here we go!
Yes. So it was true. Wigan Casino was no more. But I was sure that, while ever I kept it all locked away, it would always be there.
I sat on the old wall opposite. I can’t remember what the little building over the road was doing at the time – some job centre? Some bus company used it? I was there, but in four dimensions… I heard ol’ Bunny Sigler again…
Funny, when I went over the road – I thought I should – someone caught me gawping into space.
‘Don’t tell me,’ she said. ‘You used to do Wigan Casino. Don’t worry, you’re not the first.’
Whatever held me up, I’ll never know. However I kept from falling to my knees, and pleading with her to tell me who that first person was – ‘We need to talk, where’s he from!?’
That was a soulful experience – thank God for the internet, eh!
It was during that period also that another friend I also lost touch with explained to me that, what I was then doing – studying French, building up my Nouvelle Vague film collection on video, reading certain books – wasn’t at all some way of subconsciously filling a great void. It simply made part of that same soulful journey. I was evolving.
And I think she was right. T’was a humbling experience. Life changing. Earth shattering.
And you, the reader, either get that, or you don’t.
If you think you do, then come and tell me about it.
Your literary soulful friend.