#766: 1966, Tony Galla, In Love

by Ray_North on September 25, 2013

Exactly forty years ago to this very night, Wigan Casino had its first all-nighter. It was a seminal music event. For the next eight years, Northern Soul dominated much of the underground music scene in the North West. Up here Northern Soul was bigger than punk, bigger than New Wave, bigger than Disco, bigger than everything.

In its heyday of 1978, Billboard Magazine voted The Wigan Casino the best disco in the World, greater even than New Yorks Studio 54 – Wigan Casino! And why? Because it was a place were people went to dance. The dancing was the most important thing – there was no great desire to sell records, there was no great desire to promote records or bands, there was no political or cultural wave that was intended to change the world – there was just dancing.

In my class there was a boy called Franny Haselgrave, Franny’s brother went up to Wigan Casino – he taught Franny how to do the dances; we used to go round to his house and Franny would play his brothers’ Northern Soul records and dance. No one could dance like Franny. I’m not sure I got it then – I was already into guitars and music which had a political edge, a masculine feel – dancing would become important later, the concept of being liberated by music and how crucial that is, would come later.

I’m not sure if Franny ever played Tony Galla, but this was a classic at Wigan Casino. Tony Galla, a bit soul, a bit tamla a bit funk – certainly a rare sound from an artist who would never make it big. It would have been brought over to the UK and played at the Northern Soul clubs. It would have been played on that first night in September 1973 – and no one would have given a monkey’s that it was a song that was first released seven years earlier – because all that mattered was that you could dance to it.

Wigan Casino was closed down in 1981 – a row over it’s licence and a suggestion of illicit drugs being sold on the premises was its downfall, it’s now a shopping arcade. Of course it is.

We salute it.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Geoff Elliott September 26, 2013 at 9:09 am

I’ve fond memories of Northern Soul and the school discos we had where a good proportion of the music played was Northern Soul with groups, mostly teenage lads, giving it their all with dolphin dives and other moves aplenty. Popular with all the hard knock kids from the local estates who congregated at smoker’s corner at school every day. Like you though I was more interested in guitars.

A final point. I hope you’re saluting Wigan Casino and not the doubtless charm free shopping centre which has replaced it.


Ray_North September 26, 2013 at 9:12 am

Absolutely Geoff – Wigan casino like our own Winter Gardens – sadly missed. There are too many arcades and not enough dance halls!


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