Jimmy Savile, who died yesterday, claimed to have invented the discotheque, and I think he probably did. My Dad staggered me by explaining how Savile had a spot at Manchester’s Belle Vue during the War, playing discs between the live acts. Later, Jimmy persuaded the management to give him a whole evening just playing ‘records’, and by the early 1960s he was established there under the title of The Teen & Twenty Disc Club.
I met Jimmy Savile quite a few times when I was young, and addicted to Manchester’s Club scene in the 1964-66 period. He owned a small and pretty cruddy place in Manchester’s town centre called Beat City, and myself and chum Joey Liberman used to go there once, sometimes twice, a week. Another regular was the 16-year old George Best, whom at the time I never saw drink anything other than Coke. Joe and I used to pester Jimmy to play the latest Tamla Motown stuff from Martha & the Vandellas, Jr Walker & the Allstars, the Four Tops, and Smokey Robinson. He didn’t need much persuading, but he was also a great supporter of Merseybeat. I can still hear him now, saying, “An’ now guy n gals, the new single from the very luvvly Miss Cilla….Black….owzaboutthatthen?”
We fancied ourselves as Mods, dressed in ribbed calf-leather shoes, checked hipsters and high tab collars. Flared jacket with only the top button done up, hair done with a high parting and combed in front of both ears to create the impression of serious sideburns. The two really big clubs at the time were the Twisted Wheel (‘The Whizzer’) and the Jungfrau (‘The Frau’). We’d go to the Wheel and watch what moves the dance nutters had come up with that week, practice in front of the mirror, and then try them out Friday night at The Frau – a sweaty basement underneath Manchester Cathedral where you could see acts like the Hollies and Herman’s Hermits before they moved on to bigger things.
Sometimes we’d go to The Oasis, which wasn’t as cool, but did attract some remarkable Tamla acts to play live….including the then barely known genius ‘Little’ Stevie Wonder. As we got that bit older and dead sophisticated, Joe and I graduated to Top of the Town, a club where you couldn’t get in without wearing a tie, and jeans were banned. The birds were a bit classier, asking for brandy & babycham rather than a half of shandy. For a bloke working in the vacation months at Casket’s Warehouse in Shudehill, that was a serious outlay.
And then one day, the scene just wasn’t there any more. Some of my mates got married, and I started at University. A new, more psychedelic Beatles were emerging. We were wearing Kaftans over floral shirts, with a flower in one ear’ole. Jimmy Savile’s hair was now yellow on one side, black on the other, and shoulder-length. The records he played were about going to San Francisco and California Dreamin’, and the gals had become chicks. But the trademark Churchill cigar was ever-present.
Terrifyingly, this was more than forty years ago. That summer, I lost my virginity on a deserted beach near Southport. The record playing on my girlfriend’s tranny (transistor radio) at the time was Paper Sun by Traffic. The DJ was Jimmy Savile.
And so we say farewell then, Jimmy. You fixed it for many a boy and girl. But nothing and nobody can fix the Grim Reaper.