Inaugura la sección de entrevistas uno de nuestros soul heros de la escena actual: Steve Guarnori. Admirado en la redacción no sólo por su talento tras los platos sino por la imagen que transmite, su actitud positiva y su eterna sonrisa, independiente y coherente en sus opiniones y claro y sincero en todas las respuestas. Tras más de treinta años involucrado en la escena, sigue disfrutando de su amor por el soul con la misma pasión y dedicación del primer día. Muestra de ello es el tiempo que se ha tomado en contestar cada una de nuestras preguntas. Aquí os dejamos con el primer capítulo. Disfrutadla porque merece la pena.

Opens the interview section one of our soul heros of the current scene: Steve Guarnori. Admired by the CSC staff not only for his talent behind the decks but the image he gives, his positive attitude and his eternal smile, independent and coherent in his views and clear and honest in all the answers. After more than thirty years involved in the scene, he continues to enjoy his love for soul music with the same passion and dedication of the first day. Proof of this is the time he took to answer each of our questions. Here you are the first chapter. Enjoy it! It’s worth every penny. 

We read on a website that your beginnings on the soul scene were a result of your preferences for the contemporary soul/funk that was played at local clubs when you were still at school? Is that right? Does it mean you liked modern soul before northern?

Initially I got into contemporary soul music that was being played on radio and clubs, so stuff like New York City, William DeVaughn, Temptations, Detroit Spinners, Harold Melvin etc. It was the 70’s and these were new releases played on Radio and the TV show ‘Top of the Pops’ so I guess it was modern! Northern had been around since the 60’s but it became very popular in 1975 – it crossed over from being an underground scene to an overground one- with several records getting in the pop charts. That’s when I first started really paying attention to it. I read about it in Blues and Soul magazine, it was different and underground, a world of mystery and I didn’t know anything about it. Then a couple of local guys in the discos where I lived in Kent, Steve Noble and Kim Styles started bringing northern records along and dancing to them, and I thought “this is good music” and I got into it. I started talking to them and they told me about Wigan Casino, and the rest is history. I think a lot of people got into northern that way – older kids at the local disco.

What was first in your case: soul music or the soul scene?

As a teenager the scene was important. There was a strong sense of belonging when you went to a soul club or a Niter, you had a common bonding with everyone there, you wore the same clothes, you had those soul patches, you liked the same music and you all danced the same. In the 70s it was more like a youth culture everyone was either into soul and / or reggae or rock music. I think when you are younger ‘belonging’ to a scene that you can identify with others is more important. And all the records were new to me, things like Yvonne Baker, Willie Hutch, Larry Hale etc. all a new experience with these unknown and interesting names. It was an exciting new world with no boundaries and seemingly no end. The music was important as well, but the comradery of the scene did make it special.

We also read on soul-source that around 1977 you were alternating local soul venues in the area of the Home Counties with trips to the Wigan Casino. Yet it seems that you soon stopped going to the Casino due to the exaggerated presence of pop/white sounds and that it was not until two years later, in 1980, when you resumed your trips up North once Soul Sam other djs were already playing modern sounds. Is that true? How do you remember those two different Casino eras you experienced?

Yes. When I first went to the Casino I was still in school so I had to save up from my Saturday job for the train fare. Like a lot of people when I first went I’d never experienced anything like it, literally looking over the balcony of the Casino and see 2,000 like minded people dancing and clapping in unison to the music you like at 2 a.m. in the morning. I thought “Wow there is nothing like this in Kent where I lived – it’s amazing”. You have to remember back then there weren’t really many nightclubs particularly in the south of England and most things closed down at 11 p.m.  Wigan did have a special place in my heart, as it was on every week and like I said there was a great sense of belonging – you know you could go up there and you’d meet soulies on the train etc. In fact the train from Crewe to Wigan was full of people going to Wigan, there’d be hundreds of them and music blaring out of cassettes in every compartment. Everyone was so friendly; we were all in the same club.

But I stopped going in 78 because of the high level of Brit pop records. One night a DJ – Keith I think it was, played Judith Durham, Peggy March and Muriel Day all together and I was not pleased. I climbed up on stage and told him I hadn’t come 180 miles to hear this rubbish and I wasn’t that polite – I had an altercation with him – that’s a nice way of putting it. He looked a bit shocked at what I said, as the dancefloor was packed and I think he thought he was doing a good job!

About the same time Randy Cozens and Ady were starting 6Ts nights in London, and these felt far more authentic. So our little group started going there. But I did go back to Wigan in 1980 – the story there was I went to an allnighter at the Bedford Nite Spot early in 1980 and Soul Sam was on. He played all these 70s things like his “Love committee” and “James Mack” and “Top Cat” cover ups, and I thought “Wow! This is fantastic”. I spoke to Sam and he said this is what they’re playing at Wigan now, so I just had to go back there. It was a great period as although the numbers attending the Casino were declining, the music was fresh and I could relate to it.

On a Sunday, did you go on to the Tiffanys alldayers in Manchester or other Sunday alldayers or did you take it easier and went back south after the Casino closed?

No, you must be joking! I never took drugs and after a night at the Casino all we were fit for was a sleep on the train back to London. We’d be on the platform at Wigan North Western waiting for the train as soon as ‘3 before 8’ had finished. It was usually a long wait because the trains were late – railways never run on time on Sundays. Either that or they’d put on a silly two coach train and there’d be like 300 soul fans all piling on.

Could you describe us how was a weekend in the days you were most involved in the scene? Did you go to several events on the same weekend?

Sometimes but I have always had to balance competing needs, girlfriends, parents, children etc at different times in my life. So I wasn’t one of those soul junkies that started off somewhere on a Friday and woke up somewhere else on a Monday morning, having spent the weekend at half a dozen soul do’s. I read somewhere that the DJ John Vincent used to wake up on a Tuesday morning in his car in a layby somewhere having been ‘on the road’ all weekend – amazing, but I couldn’t do that. I didn’t have the money for one thing. 

What Djs did you admire most in your early days? What other clubs you were a regular to? What are your best memories of your early days in the scene?

Richard Searling – he had the best tunes whether it was 60’s or 70s. Most of them came from Soul Bowl.
Ian Clark – years ahead of his time.
Soul Sam for having the balls to play different things even though I didn’t always like them
In the 80s Robin Salter.

We went mostly to Wigan because it was easy to get to on the train via London. Reading All dayers – they were good too. The best memories were really about being part of something that was vibrant, and energetic. There was so much enthusiasm. And I kept hearing new music. We also ran our own soul nights in Kent, there were only about 20 of us but we had a really good time.
A good memory was going up on the train from London on my own to Wigan and it was on Cup Final day when Liverpool and Manchester United played – 77 I think. Well there I was caught between two sets of opposing fans all heading home after the game and it started kicking off with chants going up of “We hate the Scouse”, then “We hate cockney b*stards” etc. and then they started throwing beer cans at each other! That was fun being in a carriage for two hours of that, I can tell you.
Oh and one day in 1981 I think I went to Snaith in Yorkshire after work. I got the train from London up to Goole, then got the last bus of the day to Snaith – the Highwaymans Halt or something – it was in the middle of nowhere. There were only about 20 people in that night despite a great DJ line up and at the end at 2 a.m. I was miles from anywhere with no way of getting home! In the end I got a lift back to Doncaster, then the night train back to London. When you’re young you do these mad things.

We went to loads of other places, like Yate, Bournemouth, St Ives etc. but for me Wigan was THE place for northern in the 70s.

Despite of your (apparently) preferences for the modern soul, you always were heavily involved in the activities of the London 6Ts Society. Reading your Blackbeat articles from that era one can see how you enjoyed those nights. However, looking at those early playlists full of 60s motown, r & b and club classics, when the northern soul sounds didn’t even seem to have much presence yet, couldn’t that be seen as throwback to some of you “young veterans” of the soul scene? That is, while some people in the scene went straight to the 60s newies and others went for the modern soul, how could you explain that successful going back to the 60s soul roots that happened in London? In your particular case, within the soul spectrum, that early 60s soul sounds seemed rather far away from the modern soul sounds that what you liked most.

I liked both. Basically there’s good music and bad music. I loved the 6Ts nights. They were a mix of old mods, young mods, trendies and soulheads like myself. Others like Taffy, Mick Smith, Pete Wid, Toby, Bill Scrivens and Dave Greenhill also came from the northern scene. You know Randy was really influential here. We kept writing letters about the music – remember there was no email or mobile phones back then. He’d send tapes of stuff he liked and I thought “Yes this music has something special”. He had a different set of record to what I’d heard at Wigan, things like Jock Mitchell “Not a chance in a million” and later Bobby Kline, which was one of his. My taste extended to deep soul as well so things like Bobby Patterson’s “Right place wrong time”, and Kim Tolliver’s  “Standing room only” – he put me onto those sounds via his cassettes he sent me. Randy was a real champion of the music and he sent cassettes to quite a few people it turns out -a great guy.

Had you always liked early 60s soul or in that particular time it was more a case of having a good fun with your local mates so as not having to travel up north?

No I liked the sounds. The fact that we didn’t have to travel up north was a bonus. At 6Ts things like The Diplomats “There’s still a tomorrow” and Maxine Brown 45s would get played, too slow for northern, but a good 60s record.

How was to belong to “two scenes”? Were you several people who liked both 60s and 70s soul or were you moving on your own depending on whether you were attending events up North or South?

It was fine, one gig was 60s one was modern, it wasn’t a problem for me. As time went on though, I did drift away from traditional northern a bit. That was a mistake as the last year at Wigan there were some tremendous 60s sounds played like Mr Soul, Jackey Beavers, Nurons and Appointments. A lot of people though were what I’d call “either/ors”. Some liked both, but the majority didn’t. My Jazz funk and modern soul friends thought northern was rubbish and my northern friends often thought modern and jazz funk was rubbish. My jazz funk friends weren’t too hot on some of the modern sounds being played up north. An example here would be Prince Phillip Mitchell – we got the same album when it came out, but by jazz funk friends were raving about one track and I liked “I’m so happy” which they didn’t like.

Could we speak of differences within the soul scene in the late 70s/early 80s between the South and the North of UK? Could it be said that in the North, going back to the example of the Casino’s final era, the Blackpool Mecca sessions and the Tiffanys alldayers, the soul scene was able to accept both northern and modern soul. While down South, the soul scene was on one side mainly 60s soul only fans (championed by 6TS Society) and on the other side, people into modern sounds had to go to non strictly soul events more close to the jazz funk scene. As read on the Home Counties soul-source topic, taking the example of Reading’s Top Rank Suite, weren’t the crowds that attended both rooms totally independent one of each other? Or were there also southern clubs that played both 60s & 70s soul to the same crowd.

A difficult question; I could write a book on that one! I think in the south Jazz funk was always far more dominant. In the north Jazz funk really spun out of the Mecca / Ritz in 76. I always felt guys like Mike Shaft and Richard Searling had a great feel for the music, whereas I found some of the antics going on in the southern clubs, like diving off balconies, blowing whistles – all a bit too twee for me. When I spoke to the DJ’s I didn’t get the feel that they had the same passion for the music, it was all about the “scene”. It was like the music was secondary to having a party. I never really got the jazz funk thing, and I didn’t like some of the jazzier sounds either. In the south there were some northern fans but by the late 70s it was largely based around the 6Ts club with a few outposts.

Reading Alldayers were interesting… started off as a big room full of northern, and jazz funk in the little room upstairs. Then one day Chris Hill turns up with coach loads from the Lacy Lady, and by contrast only a couple of hundred turned up in the northern room. It was obvious that the rooms were the wrong way round so to speak, as the jazz funk room was packed solid and the northern room half empty. And so it was inevitable that the jazz funkers would come down stairs and try and take over the main room – you can’t blame them they must have been dying of claustrophobia up there – it was heaving. If Chris had played a decent soul record it might have worked, but instead I think he came onto the main stage and played “Magic Fly” or something. It was never going to work, and it all got rather nasty, records broken, toys out of pram etc. At the next one the rooms were reversed with northern relegated to upstairs, and as for Jazz funk it was packed downstairs, thousands in. And from there the Jazz Funk scene exploded going on to the successful Purley alldayers, Caister etc. As they say “the rest is history”.

In the North the scene’s really split in 1976 with the Mecca and Ritz playing New York disco – again some people liked both, but I think those years 76 and 77 saw a real divide created in the types of soul and dance music. There was no going back from that point.

Wigan was interesting because people forget two things about that time. Firstly the oldest record was only 10-12 years old, and a load were less than five years old so today’s equivalent would be a scene that played music going back to say 2001 – think about that. And allied to that point they always played new releases on the northern scene. It’s been conveniently forgotten but records like Anthony White “Can’t turn you loose”, Edie Holman “Night to remember”, Silvetti, Brainstorm, Lovelites, Flaming Emeralds, and 7th Wonder were all played as new releases and were absolutely massive at Wigan. So was “A house for sale” by Millie Jackson which I’ve always thought was a good dance record.