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A quick look back at the Top Dog & Soul Town Reunion 9th April 2023.

Reunions are always a bit of a strange one, because at the time it seemed we were rebelling against the "Wigan Revival" and the "death of the soul scene" thinking.

There had been one revival before, but as this one was billed as "The Very last One" it was something I had to attend.

Although having been going to all-nighters previous to Stafford, and enjoyed Clifton Hall - Rotherham, Bradford, The Fleet and the like, there was a sense for me that things were starting to go a bit stale and stayed, with the same certain records being played in every DJ spot of the night, but then someone suggested going to the Top of The World at Stafford as they had heard good things about it.

The following weekend, after a couple of hours crammed into the back of a transit van and a handful of (well we all know), and after a small queue at the door, we paid our meagre fee, we walked in, and little did I know what was to come. I was bombarded with tunes I had never heard before, one after another. Some good and some bad, but my musical senses were tingling with excitement.

Form that night on I don't think I missed one until it's final night. Top of the World went onto shape my view of buying and collecting records and renewed my excitement in the soul scene again. It spurred me onto taking the first step to travelling to the USA searching for records with a mindset of always looking for something new.

It is true that over the years Top of The World was open it never courted a huge crowd, and the regulars for the most part were hardened collectors, but it had an air of excitement every time we attended, and the friendships forged in those years are, and have been priceless. There a few venues running at the same time, but none were seen as boundary pushing venues in quite the way Stafford was, and if you missed one, you missed another barrage of new plays.

There were over those few years, some magical nights. Popcorn Wylie on stage, and the Eddie Parker/Lorraine Chandler night was one to behold. Guy Hennigan, Chris King, and Gilly coming back from the states and treating us to “Backstreets” and “In the Pocket” Instrumental’s along with Buddy Smith and James Lately to name just a couple. Pat Brady and his description of Carl Carlton “Hey Little Girl” (Junior McCants – King) as “The Bicycle Song” after hammering it, and rightly so. Robin Salter and the sublime Terry Callier – “I Don’t Want to See Myself”, and Keb playing Little John – “Just Wait & See”, cursing and swearing to an excited dancefloor.

Yes, like with any era on the Northern Soul scene, there were some sublime records played, and some stinkers we would rather forget, but it wasn’t just about the records played but the friendships forged and never broken.

Although there were some names missing from the reunion line up, the night of the 9th of April 2023 exceeded my expectations. a packed dancefloor all night with a mixture of Top Dog & Soultown DJ’s. Seeing people, you had not seen for years, it felt like I got to speak to a lot of people for a very short time, but seeing the smiling faces of people remembering the adventure and the talk of friends past made it a very special night. One of the highlights was hearing Ion play Sandy Golden – “Your Love is Everything” as it was back then. Butch reminding us of his early DJ spots from Stafford working men’s club and beyond and showing us a taste of the future. Diane Lewis C/U, The Mello Souls and many more!!

A small generation of people that said “No! the soul scene still has a future after Wigan Casino” and fought against the odds to give me some of the best years on the soul scene, and we were “Top of The World.”

Thank You.

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