Soul Men , I Thank You – BBC Stax Prom

In a life blessed with a forty year marriage, two fine sons with two lovely daughters in law and three beautiful grandchildren there are only a few regrets: the road trip not taken to the USA in 1974, the Porsche 356C left unrescued as it eroded on a Cheetham Hill garage forecourt in the late Seventies and the Anglesey cottage with dramatic views of the Irish Sea not bought in the Nineties,

Perhaps there was one other: the Stax Volt Review not seen at the Manchester Palace Theatre in 1967. I hadn’t yet turned 14 when Otis Redding, Sam and Dave, Eddie Floyd and Booker T came to town but I had already developed a passion for the music of black America. Though my paper boy wage would have stretched to the price of a ticket, there was no way this 13 year old grammar school boy would have got parental approval to attend this concert on a school night.

By December of 1967 Otis was dead following a plane crash and the remaining fantastic artists of the Stax label never again toured in Europe as a review. My first live concert was a year after this one, at the same Palace Theatre featuring the far more mundane Scaffold and The Hollies.

In those days, teenagers with a taste for more eclectic music such as Soul and Tamla Motown had few opportunities to hear it. Radio One, which launched in September 1967 as a response to the pirate stations such as Radio Caroline, had relatively little black music content. The highlight was a Saturday lunchtime hour hosted by Emperor Rosko, who was both an ex pirate radio jock and an American ! Rosko’s playlists would hold up today.

Apart from this, Radio Luxembourg, dance halls and record shops were the only places to hear any Atlantic, Stax and Tamla music. In the days of three TV channels, no videos and of course no Internet, smart phones or Spotify word of mouth was very important. You would have to buy the music on vinyl or make reel to reel tapes from the radio’s meagre output. With limited funds, those few precious 45rpm singles would be played over and over, the limited content of the label pored over and committed to memory. We knew the song titles, composers, producers, the song length, release date and even the catalogue numbers. All blue Stax UK releases were of a six digit length beginning with 601, an odd choice as there were less than fifty singles released.

Fifty years on and who of us back then would have believed that the Proms in the Royal Albert Hall would devote an evening to pay tribute to this marvellous music. Underpinned by Jools Holland and his Rhythm and Blues Orchestra, supplemented by the legendary Steve Cropper on guitar and Booker T playing his Hammond organ, Eddie Floyd, William Bell and Sam Moore ( half of Sam and Dave ) were back with us. Apart from the dapper William Bell whose voice has retained all its powers, the octogenarians Floyd and Moore needed vocal support from Tom Jones, Beverley Knight and James Morrison but their presence was still immense and they could both still pull off some moves.

Ignore the two clowns on the right – sneaked in after too much Ganja at the Notting Hill Carnival

An hour or so passed far too quickly as my teenage soundtrack played through in the unlikely setting of the Albert Hall. Ruby Turner showed her quality as she mastered the Staple Singers’ “ I’ll take you there”, Beverley Knight faced the difficult task of emulating Carla Thomas, Judy Clay and others and the outstanding James Morrison made the hairs on your neck stand up with his rendition of Otis Redding’s “ Try a little Tenderness”. This last was so good, you could see Booker T Jones smile his total approval across to Steve Cropper. Otis was back in the Hall.

To echo and paraphrase the lyrics of another fifty year old pop masterpiece, “ A Day in the Life”. I now know how much Soul it takes to fill the Albert Hall. I also now have another regret in my life that I never got to this show either.

You can still see this on Iplayer! Dont leave it 50 years.

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3 Responses to Soul Men , I Thank You – BBC Stax Prom

  1. Politically correct says:

    “Sneaked in after too much ganja”

  2. David Haughton says:

    A great and well researched trip down memory lane for those of us of a certain age. You didn’t mention the Twisted Wheel where I went with my friends in the mid sixties. Our parents allowed us to got to Manchester on the train from Glossop, perhaps not knowing what went on there in those packed dingy cellars. But the music was what we now call Northern Soul.

    • Moorendman says:

      Thanks for your comment. There was so much more I could have written about those days:The Blue Note Club, Takis, Top of the Town, Sloopy’s ……Northern Soul it really was.

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