ROBERT Brown shares extracts from his new book, Not Just Northern Soul:

“MY best friend Smiley summed it up: “Living for the weekend.” It was all we knew and everything else just got in the way.

It’s Saturday, November 4, 1978. I’ve got my Oxford bags on, Polyvelt shoes, a cap-sleeved T-shirt and a Harrington to keep out the chill. The Oxford bags with 40-inch bottoms cost me four weeks of paper round money.

I told the old man I’m sleeping at Jibbo’s and he said he’s sleeping at mine. We meet up with Smiley and the crew is complete. We hop on the 640 bus, the last one at 11pm - 14-year-olds going to their first all nighter.

At Queens Hall, we’re in the queue and can hear Surprise Party For Baby booming out. There’s a good 50 people in front of us, the nerves are kicking in. Will we pass for 18-year-olds? Finally get to the front and pay the 10 bob in.

They’re all grown men and women inside, it’s intimidating. There are plenty of seats as most folks are up dancing so we find a spot a couple of rows back from the front. Wow, the music! I’ve only heard it on a tape recorder before, recorded from Wigan by Jibbo’s older brother, Kyle.

The floor is vibrating up and down as we’re sat mesmerised watching Vernon spin and Mick Francis doing his tricks. The DJ puts Friday Night on followed by Compared To What and I feel like I’m floating. We stick it out until 6am then head off for the first bus back. It’s the first time I’ve heard Janice and I keep trying to replay it in my head.

This was the beginning of a lifetime love affair with everything Northern Soul.”

Robert Brown’s new book, Not Just Northern Soul, is an affectionate, nostalgic look back at the music movement that shaped his life.

It begins in his childhood at Saltaire Primary School then Nab Wood middle school in the 1970s:

“Fashion and music were from the sublime to the ridiculous; cheesy chart stuff, heavy rock, punk, New Romantic. We took it upon ourselves to be different, to stand out, and to try and attract the girls.

Jibbo had an older brother called Kyle, a Soulboy, he was a cool dude, different, dapper, we looked up to him, and admired his taste in clothes and music. So we formed our very own Soulboy crew - me, Jibbo, Murrey, Smiley and Burky.

For school we wore Oxford bags and leather brogues. Then Kyle returns from a night at Wigan Casino and tells us polyvelts have overtaken our brogues in the fashion stakes. I plead with my mum for a pair, the biggest problem being that the adult sizes are almost twice the price of kids’ ones and I’m now a size seven. I manage to persuade her to buy me a size five-and-a-half and half cripple myself for weeks stretching them out. These soles were absolutely made for dancing.

Evenings revolved around Saltaire youth club or Anita’s café. Looking back, these few years shaped who you would become.

Most of the music played was either rock and roll, reggae, a bit of chart stuff and a few soul tracks. It was enough to cut our teeth on in the early days.

In the final year of school we used to go to Vicky Hall on a Friday evening with DJ Scraggy from Pennine Radio spinning the tunes. What a dance hall that was, he used to play perhaps a dozen or so soul tracks for us, great practice for showing our moves.

One evening, looking good in my Oxford bags and cream cardigan, I’m doing my moves on the dancefloor and feeling pretty cool and confident. Out On The Floor comes on and I’m flipping and doing my trademark tricks on the floor, the track finishes and I go sit next to a lad called Kitchen, next thing I feel an almighty sting and I think he’s stubbed a cig out on top of my hand and slashed my hand right through the vein with a Stanley knife. My cream cardie is now claret, soaked through.

A good mix of us Soulies, scooter boys and the reggae boys from Wrose went to Anita’s cafe, it played a big part in turning me from boy to man, with the scooter lads taking us under their wing. Shipley scooter club, the Yorkshire Road Runners and the Top Cats were pretty cool dressers, lots of attitude and they shared our love of Northern Soul and Motown.

Because my dad had a newsagents, in Saltaire, I had my own paper round and earned the princely sum of five quid a week, which meant I could buy a pair of new Oxford bags once a month, and also the odd record here and there.

I had Oxford bags in brown, grey, maroon, black and also in denim and corduroy. We used to buy them off the peg, that meant that my mum had to take them up.

Our local soul outings consist of Jolly’s on a Friday evening and The Talk of Yorkshire all dayers near Laisterdyke held on Sundays. Every other month or so would also include visits to the Rider club in Halifax, Annabella’s, Queens Hall, and until it sadly got burnt down Gatsby’s all nighters in Bradford.

Of all the venues in the early days, Queens Hall remained the holy grail, it was just so atmospheric. We’d practice and fine tune our moves at the other venues, then unleash them on the floor here.

Jollys was where we learned our trade so to speak. We had to take our own vinyl for the DJ to play. My own collection, which is not huge but nonetheless rare and quality, has moved with me wherever I’ve laid my hat, and is a legacy for my children.

If you can dance on your bedroom carpet you can dance on anything. I remember making mine threadbare in front of the mirror, you could even see the floorboards in certain patches!The one track that really sticks fast in my memory is playing Captain Of My Ship on repeat, practicing my stomping moves over and over again.

Mum was allowed to wash my Oxford bags in the twin tub, but no way was she allowed to press them. I used to get the ironing board out, get a water bottle, wet down a king-size handkerchief and meticulously place the press line to perfection. We all know they just wouldn’t hang right otherwise.”

Robert’s book goes on to explore his ‘second generation’ of Northern Soul, when in his early thirties he discovered local DJ Tony Banks, who had a regular soul night at Bradford’s Midland Hotel: “People we hadn’t seen since the original early years began turning up, and Tony now started booking local soul DJs to help him out.”

Robert’s book is a must-read for anyone who shares his love of Northern Soul, or for who was growing up at that time.

In it he pays tribute to the Northern Soul venues he went to, including the Ritz at Brighouse, Railway Club in Skipton, and the Beehive and The Tyke in Bradford.

Robert decided to write the book when his daughter, Ellie, asked him to. “I guess the year of Covid gave me the downtime to finally achieve it,” he says. “I miss Bradford and it was truly inspiring to re-visit it, through writing this book, and the special memories from years gone by.”

Now based in Portugal, Robert is still Keeping the Faith, and remains a passionate Northern Soul fan. “I’m planning to run some soul all-dayers in central Portugal in 2021, and perhaps a weekender once travel restrictions are over,” he says.

l Not Just Northern Soul by Robert Brown is available on Amazon and in paperback.