One of the most talked about set-ups on the Rare Soul scene at the change of the millenium was without a doubt The Capitol Soul Club based at The Dome Club in North London. Its soul nights were special enough that soulies came from all over the World, let alone the UK to dance the night away…and it wasn't even an all-nighter!
The Birth of the CSC:
The CSC was formed during January 1999 by Rare Soul devotees Greg McIllinney and Alan Handscombe. The club name came simply from the fact that the guys were based in the UK's capitol city...nothing deeper. A native of the Emerald Isle who had relocated to London, 'Irish Greg' had previously been a resident DJ during the mid '90's at the 100 Club allnighters on Oxford Street in the heart of London's West End. His inclusion as a resident at that legendary club had surprised a few of the old guard at the time, being the young lad that he was, but he had all the enthusiasm in the world, the blarney on the mic (surprise, surprise) and a healthy following born of the London Mod scene...and a box of popular big tunes to keep the critics at bay. Alan was a long-time London Soul/Mod scene(s) DJ/face (still is!), with an enviable collection of Rare Soul and indeed Ska records. He cut his own furrow behind the decks and was/is never afraid to spin some left-field tunes was (still is!) certainly is inevative with his choices. They both lived in London where they attended local clubs, 'These Old Shoes' and the '100 Club', but they wanted to play and expose their own tunes and style of Rare Soul, so they looked for a venue to hold regular monthly soul nights.
The first CSC events:
Greg and Alan's initial events under the CSC name were initially at “The Bar” club in Shoreditch, North London which had a wooden dancefloor, a tiny balcony (a mini Wigan Casino!) and decent enough sound system...but was also a sauna so yes every now and then one of those customers took a wrong turning and ended up walking into the Soul night just wrapped in a towel! The first night took place on Friday 19th March 1999 along with DJ Carl Fortnum, whom they had asked to join them not just because of his brilliant record collection, but it also meant that they too could get out on the dance floor! Indeed Carl had one of THE great collections of monster Rare Soul discs in the country (still has!) and had been a regular on the Northern Soul scene from the mid-80's and had DJ'ed extensively at Morecambe and Leighton Buzzard nighters. The guest DJ for that opening night was Ion, who had always been a forward thinking DJ/collector. Alas all was not well as it turned out the club only had an 11 p.m. licence and the CSC nights were going on to 2 a.m. So, it was with a sad heart that on the 18th September 1999 with Guest DJ Jo Wallace they waved a sad goodbye to the Bar Shoreditch.
The CSC team...and then there were four:
There was already a buzz about the CSC soul nights within the London Soul and Mod scenes and the guys were determined not to let it die in the wake of the enforced closure of The Bar. As luck would have it, around this time a young promoter (not DJ!) Matt Jahans, had planned a Northern Soul event to feature Dean Courtney & Jerry Williams live on stage at another North London venue. Unfortunately (or not as the case may be!), the acts had to cancel, which left Matt with a large venue to fill, so he approached the CSC and offered them the date. All parties concerned were worried that they wouldn't be able to fill this infamous pub-rock venue in nearby Tufnell Park, with it’s much larger capacity...it could hold x400 whereas the bar was x100. This new venuw was called, "The Dome" and was (still is) situated above the infamous Boston Arms pub. As it transpired, and much to the delight and relief of the team, the inaugral night was a resounding success! Matt was immediately invited to join the team and took on the role of main club promoter and indeed club host...he enthusiastically greeted all the punters at the door and seemed to know everyone's name! He also initially set up a website for the CSC...one of the first devoted to a Northern Soul club. The CSC was now getting a lot of interest within the scene, especially amongst the fledgling internet chat-list, KTF Keep The Faith...the new 'scene grapevine'.
The CSC team...and then there were five:
After two dates at The Dome, and after dragging him out of premature DJ retirement (!), a fifth member of the team was invited onboard after his DJ guest appearance...enter David Flynn. He was (still is!) a long time collector from the tender age of 9 (!), who had attended Wigan Casino from the age of 14 and worked within the music industry for many years (including album compiling - 'Sweeter Than The Day Before', 'Sought After Soul', 'Rare Soul Uncovered' etc). His collection of unissued tracks and lesser-known gems complimented the other DJ's selections...the team was now complete.
The 'other' CSC team:
A club can not run on DJs alone, and there were many faces who helped out (sometimes paid too!) along the way and are well worthy of a mention in the club's story:
The Cloakroom staff - this room was initially at the top of the entrance stairs and was ran by Sue and Mike Hughes (yes, the man behind www.soul-source.co.uk) along with Jo Wallace deputising in their absence and indeed taking over when the cloakroom was relocated inside the record dealer's room.
The Door tax people - initially it was pay at the table at the top of the stairs ran by husband and wife team Martin and Caroline Gavin, although they weren't married at that point...we often wonder how they paid for such an extravagant wedding?! ;-) After they moved up to Scotland (did they buy a castle too?!), Tax duties were taken on by Lucy and she made the cubby hole her own (the hole in the wall at the foot of the stairs at the club's main entrance). 'Hand-stamping' and club flyering man, Hal, was also hanging around at the bottom of the stairs!
The CSC Guest DJs:
Every soul-session...as the club was not an allnighter and ran from 9:30 (sometimes 9:00) to 3:00 (sometimes 3:30 if the bouncers let us!) also featured a special guest DJ. The invited guests included in alphabetical order - Ady Croasdell, Andy Dyson, Andy Rix, Arthur Fenn, Dave Holt, Dave Rimmer, Gary Spencer, Ian Cunliffe, Jo Wallace, Kenny Burrell, Mick Smith, MickH, Nogsy, Paul Baldwin, Robo, Roger Banks, Russ Vickers, Shifty, Soulful Cris and even Keb Darge in the early days! Along with these main star-turns (and the residents) there was also an 'early-doors-warm-up-and-coming' guest DJ, usually one of the regular punters who had regularly supported the club and held aspirations of getting behind the hallowed Dome decks! This indeed was the case with both Stuart Tyler and Ady Lupton, who both became 'official substitute DJ's' for when a resident was unavailable (Ady later joined the team when both Greg and David decided to call it a day). Other early sets (and sometimes we gave them a second prime-time set too!) included in no particular order - Simon Bridger, Mark George, Martin Harland, Vic Ranger and Niamh Lynch.
The CSC music policy:
The venue advertisesd, and the DJs stuck to, the club’s full-on 60’s music policy ...100mph, mid-tempo and beat-ballads all graced the decks, just as long as they were danceable and Northern Soulful, as that is what the club set out to do…to play and dance to these kinda sounds…and yes all the CSC deejays were on the floor dancing as much as anyone! OK, OK there was also a small amount of 70’s/cross-over, but only a few mind! The split when you come down to it is roughly 20% classic 70’s oldies, 20% 80’s scene oldies, 50% under played semi-knowns and 10% Dome exclusives.
There was a very strong love of 60’s music within London, encompassing every genre within that time scale, and indeed it is from the more Mod/beat style clubs that fresh blood has been recruited, as already mentioned...and was also certainly mentioned in many of the music press at the time...the term Northern Soul was hip to drop, and even the local radio station GLR had a ten part weekly series hosted by the drummer from the indie band, Dodgy, running...some young lad called Irish Greg also gave out the Northern news each week and David Flynn guested on the final show to give his views on the future of the scene and to play some of his unissued tracks to illustrate there was life in the collecting side of things!
DOME SPINS 2001:
CURRENT FLOOR PACKERS
O1 - FRANK FOSTER - MOVIN TO DETROIT - BELL ACETATE
O2 - MAYFIELD SINGERS - DONT STOP NONE - UNISSUED MAYFIELD
O3 - JOKERS - SOUL SOUND - SKO-FIELD
O4 - ALLAN SISTERS - IM IN WITH THE DOWNTOWN CROWD - QUALITY
O5 - SOUL INC. - MY PROPOSAL - COCONUT GROOVE
O6 - SEPTEMBER JONES - GIVE ME ALL OF YOUR LOVE - UNISSUED PIED PIPER
O7 - SIDNEY BARNES - SAFETY ZONE - JOBETE ACETATE
O8 - T.C.LEE & BRICKLAYERS - UP AND DOWN THE HILL - KING
O9 - CLASSICS - SO GLAD THAT IVE FOUND YOU - YAN-G
10 - SEPTEMBER JONES - IM WITH YOU - UNISSUED PIED PIPER
O1 - HELEN TROY - BRING THAT MAN MY WAY - C/UP
O2 - C.P.LOVE - TRICKBAG - UNISSUED VIVACE
O3 - TYRONE ASHLEY - I WANT MY BABY BACK - ALT.TAKE - PHIL LA OF SOUL
O4 - DREAM TEAM - IM NOT SATISFIED - GREGORY
O5 - SWANS - NITTY GRITTY CITY - DORE
O6 - DETROIT RHYTHM SECTION - I KNOW SOMETHING - UNISSUED
O7 - DISTRICTS - ONE LOVER (JUST WONT DO) - NILE
O8 - MAYFIELD PLAYERS - DONT STOP NONE - INST. - UNISSUED MAYFIELD
O9 - DONNA LOREN - BLOWING OUT THE CANDLES - CAPITOL
10 - KENNY BERNARD & CHAPTER FIVE - ONE IN A MILLION - UNISSUED CBS UK
O1 - BENNY SPELLMAN - THIS IS FOR YOU MY LOVE - ALON
O2 - BARBARA REDD - ILL BE ALL ALONE - S.P.Q.R.
O3 - DON GARDNER - CHEATIN KIND - SEDGRICK
O4 - ESTHER GRANT - LETS MAKE THE MOST OUT OF LOVE - WILSTONE
O5 - FRED & TURBINES - BERNADINE - CENCO
O6 - JUDY FREEMAN - HOLD ON - ALT.TAKE - UNISUED RCA LP
O7 - WALTER & ADMERATIONS - MAN-OH-MAN - LA CINDY
O8 - MOUSIE & TRAPS - HOW ABOUT YOU - TODDLIN TOWN
O9 - SONNATAS - GOING DOWN THE ROAD - HOT LINE
10 - EDDIE PARKER - IM GONE - AWAKE
The CSC venue - The Dome:
It boasted an enormous wooden dance-floor, a powerful sound system with sound engineer present throughout the night (don’t forget it’s a major pub-rock venue so the acoustics are fantastic!), a large bar and a separate record dealers room (free tables for the dealers please note). It was members only with an entrance fee that remained the same be it a regular, Anniversary or Christmas Party night. It was also easy to find, easy to park right next to, and had a pub underneath it to meet up at prior to the 9.30pm kick off, not to mention the abundance of kebab, fried-chicken, fish’n’chip shops and a cab office, all still open after the doo!
The CSC on tour:
We got invited to DJ at several other soul events...a kinda 'CSC on tour' if you will! We DJ'ed en masse and took crew to the Viaduct soul club in Newton-Le-Willows, Tonys Empress Ballroom in Blackburn and the Blackpool Weekender. We had plans to do others en masse, but our joint availability kept us from committing to more.
The CSC crowd:
For some of the crowd, dancing was the priority, for others it was the tunes (and naturally for a few it’s the large bar!), but for whatever reason, the membership was well into four figures, so it was often a lock out by midnight. The crowd generated one of the best positive-up-for-it atmospheres at any Rare Soul club, ever, and that’s a key point! The floor always filled quickly (the CSC team actually talc’ed it before folk were allowed in!), they dance with a passion, applaud tracks readily, and the overall buzz was so infectious you couldn't help but get swept along with it, every time! The average age was early 30’s (plenty of 20 and 40 somethings) and most folk were there to dance and enjoy the music…right to the very end at 3am. They received every track as an equal and had no hang ups about dancing to an unknown 'first time out for this one' track. At it's height, it was easily the biggest attended soul event in London. Everyone was there to enjoy themselves with like-minded people and the best music in the World, whether they’d driven down from the Midlands and the North, across from Wales and the West Country, flown in from France, Spain, Italy or Germany.
The CSC giveaways:
The were several giveaway items handed out over the years.
a. The club logo white with black print pin-on badge...given to regular punters as a freebie until the x500 ran out.
b. The 1st Anniversary club logo black with white print pin-on badge...given out on the night only...300 only.
c. The 2nd anniversary key ring - various colours black, white, yellow and pink...given out on the night only...x300 only.
d. The 3rd anniversary key ring - various colours black, white, yellow and pink...given out on the night only...x300 only.
There were also regular tapes and CD giveaways to the first x100 through the doors...and if you are a CSC completist (!) there was also stickers and T.shirts made by Alan Barnes for when the CSC visited his club, the Viaduct!
So, why was it successful so quickly leading to folk talking about it as being one of THE Northern Soul gigs of all time?
Firstly, the old word-of-mouth Northern Soul grapevine (including the fledgling internet chat groups KTF Keep The Faith and Soul-Talk (now known as RareSoulForum) lead to people giving it a try, and most then become regulars too! Indeed, the CSC had the first website devoted to a Northern Soul club and was always a hot topic on the chat sites. There is no better promotion than a personal recommendation, and the only negative comments ever about the nights came from an ex super-star DJ and a couple of his buddies - all because he wasn't booked quick enough for his ego to handle...'nuff said.
Secondly, the main London clubs at that time all co-operated with each other complimenting each others play lists and never clashed their dates.
Thirdly, the CSC operated every other month, which meant that if you missed one you’d have a long wait to the next one! 'Scenesville' ran by DJ/Promoter Nick Brown alternated with the Dome dates at the Notre Dame Hall off Leicester Square, so there was always a top Friday night doo to go to in London once a month. Add to these the long running once a month Thursday night bash at 'These Old Shoes' and the legendary all-nighters at the 100 Club, and one’s diary was full of quality soul sessions to attend within the M25! It must also be noted that the London scene was also attracting in fresh-blood from the Brit-Pop/Mod/Scootering scenes, so all clubs enjoyed healthy attendance and vibrant atmospheres.
So, at the end of the day, it seems that the combination of a clear musical policy, the right mixture of classic, forgotten and exclusive tunes, added to a crowd with a positive approach to the scene, all mixed together at a pukka venue charging a reasonable entrance fee was a winning combination!?! There truly was no place like Dome!