Yesterday I walked past the site where The Golden Torch club (known usually as The Torch) used to stand. It is probably Tunstall’s most famous landmark and now a car park/yard to a building company. It was of course the place along with The Wigan Casino where Northern Soul made its mark in the late 60’s to early 70’s before it was closed by the magistrates because of the drug and noise problems.
I was not a ‘soul boy’ and only went maybe five times, a bit out of place but I had no problems there, though it could get pretty rough in the streets around, luckily I was always with my older brother and his friends. I had long hair and was usually scruffy, though made sure I dressed up as everyone did to go. It was the music that drew me. Even though I mainly listened to bands like King Crimson, Taste, Black Sabbath, Colosseum and singers like Dylan and James Taylor; I also loved soul music.
At The Torch they played some of the more commercial stuff from the Tamla and Atlantic labels, but the main sounds were from music collected by the DJ’s of singers and groups who would have been obscure even in the American cities they came from. The music was never heard anywhere else, no radio station played these songs. For those who don’t know the music this was one of my favourites!
It was a place for dancing where males could dance on their own, and those who had the ability (not me) could show off their skills with spins and jumps, it was a quite amazing self-developed culture. There were plenty of beautiful young women, who weren’t there to meet me, but I was there for the music (or so I told myself).
There were people who would go with boxes of 45’s, set up at a table and sell the rare music which was almost impossible to buy in record stores. They could cost a small fortune. The drugs were mainly those to keep you going for hours, especially at the All-Nighter sessions (I never went to one of those), mainly tabs of all sorts, I never took any there, I was just happy to get served beer as I was only 16-17. It was a white working class culture, the mainly black American music fitting the same economic and emotional issues. So style was important, it was a sort of development from the Mod culture of the early 60’s, certainly not the skinhead style. I was the don’t care scruffy art student style which was much more middle class!
There are so few pictures around of the fashions, the events, the place from that early period. The whole ‘scene’ at that time seems not to have been outside what the London based music press wrote about and photographed, perhaps that was part of its strength, it was a peoples movement. Later huge events took place in places like Wigan and Blackpool which were well documented. Luckily the music is now more accessible.
As I turned from the landmark sign I noticed how the light was gleaming off the wet cobbles of the old back street opposite and took these pictures.