Building Secrets: 6 Whitworth Street – The Birthplace of Northern Soul

The story of the fabled Twisted Wheel Club...

Take a trip down to 6 Whitworth Street today and you’ll find yourself stood in front of a relatively new building that houses Motel One – a hotel chain that proudly proclaim in their widow that they offer “Rooms from £69”. Pretty reasonable.

But this part of town was once home to a club, a club that was made famous throughout the land as one of the birthplaces of Northern Soul – Twisted Wheel.

Open from 1963 right up to 1971, people would flock from all over the country to listen to the rare and imported US soul records while dancing on the talcum powder-ridden floors.

In fact, the club itself didn’t actually start on Whitworth Street, it was in fact founded by brothers Jack. Phillip and Ivor Abadi as a blues and soul live music dance club over on Brazennose Street – that little bit between Deansgate and Albert Square.

In 1965 it was re-located to Whitworth Street and that’s where it became legend, known mostly for its Saturday all-nighters, where you could listen to the latest soul records that had been imported straight from the United States.

Many of the records played at Twisted Wheel were rare even in the US, some of them had only been released in only one state or city, or records that had been released by much smaller, independent record labels over there which quickly disappeared into obscurity against the likes of Motown and Decca.

But these records found a home here in Manchester, as people from all over the region and further afield would descend upon the small warren of rooms on a weekend and dance the until 7.30am on a Sunday morning to them.

Each week are around 2am on the Saturday night they’d also wheel out live soul artists to perform, and over the years they had an impressive roster of singers including Ike and Tina Turner, Jimmy Riffin and Edwin Starr, to name a few.

The club closed its doors in the early 70’s because of a bylaw which prevented premises from staying open more than two hours into the following day. It paved the way for the Golden Torch in Stoke and Wigan Pier Casino as the headquarters of Northern Soul.

The club then became Placemate 7 offering different music throughout the different rooms. It then became Follies and finally Legends before closing for good. The premises were then sold and demolition pencilled in for 2013. The final event took place on Sunday 30th December 2012, with around 1000 soul fans descending on the club one last time.

Focusing on the history of the club and its impact on the UK’s music landscape, a new book written by Rob Mckeever, Northern Soul Enthusiast and chronologer, is set to be released in mid-September.

6 Whitworth Street, Manchester – The Birthplace of Northern Soul’ investigates the origins of the music scene and the essential role that one club played in a movement that emanated from the North West, spread across the world, while still retaining that original Northern Feel.

So keep a look out for that when it comes out – should be a good read. In the meantime, get on Spotify, get plugged into a Northern Soul playlist, pop some talc on the floor and dance around like a goon for 9 hours. You’ll feel like a kid again – trust me.

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