Northern soul funks up Landmark Arts Centre, Teddington

Northern soul: Geno Washington

Northern soul: Geno Washington

First published in News by , Reporter

Northern soul evokes memories of the Wigan Casino and Manchester’s Twisted Wheel but it's time to dust off those brogues this month - Geno Washington is coming to Teddington.

For some, the scene was a bit of fun back in the day which came and went as quickly as the punks, the mods and the skinheads.

For others up and down the country, the subculture based on 1960s American soul music, northern soul is still very much alive with soulies still regularly filling their boots at all-nighters.

And for Geno, the 70-year-old man in tribute to whom Dexys Midnight Runners penned their hit, the buzz of performing live has never faded.

He says: “There is nothing like it - going out for a few drinks, chatting with the fans, it is a lot of fun.

“It’s probably got better with age, I certainly appreciate it more but then at my age every day above the ground can be considered a good one.

“The dancing at northern soul nights is intense, it is pure self-indulgence.”

He says he grew up listening to blues artists like Eric Clapton before making it in the mid-60s with his Ram Jam Band.

“When I started out, it was all about the blues but then soul came in and we made it as a soul band,” he says.

“As Otis [Redding] says, soul is really the blues anyway.

“When I get the chance to do some blues, I do - I never want to forget where I came from.”

Despite gathering a huge cult following up and down the clubs in Britain, northern soul had little to no impact on the US, where almost all of the big hits derived from.

Geno says: “Northern soul didn't mean that much in America, it was just some records who didn't make it over there.

“They would be gigging and touring and by the time the phone call came to say they were getting plays in England, they had given the game up long ago.”

But when you talk to Geno about modern music, you cannot help but notice a shift in his infectious enthusiasm.

He says: “I don’t even listen to music these days, it doesn’t mean anything anymore.

“Record companies don't know what to do with artists unless you are from the Voice or the X Factor - they want ready fills to use for a quick profit.

“It is so difficult for people just starting out to make it now but they have to believe in themselves and what they do.”

Geno, and his name, became immortalised in 1980 when Midlands-based Dexys Midnight Runners released number one single Geno, based on and inspired by the man from Indiana.

He joked he was thinking of suing the band for painting him in such a good light for all these years.

He adds: “I met Kevin Rowland when I presented him with a Q award, we get along well, I still like the song.”

Geno Washington; Teddington Landmark Arts Centre, Ferry Road, Teddington; January 24, 7.15pm; tickets £17/£15; visit landmarkartscentre.org or call 020 8977 7558 for details.

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