Popcorn, has it alway's been like that..?? - English


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Browsing the record sections of the eBay site, or going through vinyl traders saleslists we frequently come across these words. Nowadays Northern Soul & Mod dj's are digging in our recordboxes to rediscover gems that they have ignored some 30 years ago. Top prices are paid.
Image A lot of people will wonder what is "Popcorn", where or what does it stand for?
Well it's definitely not a lifestyle, there's no particular dress code, no specific means of transportation, there is just the sound, the clubs, the allnighters and the mid-tempo slow jive. That's about it.
It's a rather low-profile scene with a small "in-crowd", see it as a miniature "Northern Soul" scene.
Main issue of course is the music. I don't think that many people are acquainted with the genuine (original) Popcorn sound, and think of it as a mishmash of Soul, High School, Doo-Wop, Cha Cha Cha, Italo-French tunes. Lately I somewhere read that our scene was quite "dodgy". And I'm afraid, right now this is very true!

But it hasn't always been like that.
Way back in 1968 in a club named "The Groove", Freddy Cousaert started playing contemporary Soul and R&B imports from the USA. Booker T. & The MG's, The Packers, Leon Haywood, The Martini's, Billy Larkin, … were all part of the playlists. No doubt about this: "The Groove" had something special that other clubs hadn't: its music. (It was the same Freddy Cousaert who later took care of Marvin Gaye during his stay in Belgium in the early '80's)

About a year later, September 1969, a new club, "De Oude Hoeve", in Vrasene (near Sint-Niklaas), opened its doors. At first the resident dj's spun a mix of Soul evergreens (Bar-Kays, James Brown, Wilson Pickett, …) and things listed on the popcharts (CCR, CCS, Chicago, Traffic, Redbone, …).
In 1970 a new type of music hit the scene: Funk.
Within a few weeks of time the club's (new) dj's changed over to this new sound, James Lewis Fields, Simtec & Wylie, The Inclines, Chuck Bernard, … just take a "Sound of Funk" compilation and you will have a good idea of what was on the turntable.
Pretty soon this music became very successful, attracting people from all over the country. By now the club's premises were getting far too small for the increasing number of weekly visitors, and in November 1971 after a few months of (re)building it re-opened as "The Popcorn".
Gradually the funk sound was abandoned in favour of the "old" Groove sound, making a better match with the mid-tempo dance rhythm. A new scene was born!


From this stage on dj's and collectors went back to 1967 or before to find the grooves that fitted the pace. Artists and labels were thoroughly "scanned", Memphis Soul, Chicago Soul, … to find hidden gems. Ska, Jazzdance, Latin Jazz & Soul, and Instrumentals tunes were added and gave our scene its unique sound.

The "classic" (genuine) Popcorn era lasted till about the late seventies.
The "first" generation of dj's was getting older, had started family lives, and stopped working in clubs… a whole new set of dj's and collectors took over, this time the majority of them were living in the French-speaking Southern part of Belgium.
Musical taste had now become very, very broad: French-Italo, Doo-Wop, Highschool, Cha Cha Cha, … all types of music were adapted. In my opinion: this was the turning point where our scene lost its identity and credibility, turning it into a somewhat "dodgy" one. But that's a story that I leave up to some else to tell.

To have a better understanding of this phenomenon I have included a few playlists:


Playlist 1972
Blues In the Night - Johnnie Taylor - Stax
You Ain't Too Cool - Cash McCall - Thomas
Stereo Freeze - The Stereo's - Cadet
Two In The Morning - Spooner's Crowd - Cadet
Everyday I Have The Blues - Howard Tate - Verve
Devil's Gonna Get You - Buddy Lamp - Duke
Let's Go Baby - Robert Parker - Nola
Ain't Nothing You Can Do - Bobby Bland - Duke
Cadillac Jack - Andre Williams - Checker
Make Me Yours - Z.Z. Hill - Action
Mr. Soul - Bud Harper - Peacock
It's a Funky Thing - Herbie Mann - Atlantic
Thread The Needle - Clarence Carter - Fame
Spead - The Soul Partners - Bell
Funky '69 - Alvin Cash - Toddlin' Town
Dance Cleoptra - Prince Buster - Blue Beat
Jericho Chain - Roland Alphonso - Blue Beat
Twine Time - Alvin Cash - MarVLus
Afro-Twist Time - Jerry O - Shout
Hole In the Wall - The Packers - Pure Soul
Soul Cargo - Leon Haywood - Fat Fish
Dead End Street - Lou Rawls - Capitol
Sideman - Lonnie Smith - Columbia

Playlist 1975
I'd Think It Over - Sam Fletcher - Tollie
Whirlwind - Corki Ray - Brent
Chills And Fever - Freddie Houston - Old Town
You've Been Talkin' 'Bout Me Baby - Ray Terrace - Tower
Boston Monkey - The Hustlers - Musicor
Heartless Lover - Dick Baker - Kit Kat
La Tanya - Jay Abbott - Bombay
Jazz Ska - Roland Alphonso - Rio
The Toughest - The Vietnam All Stars - Rio
Let My Heart And Soul Be Free - Tan Geers - Okeh
Come On Baby - Marie Knight - Okeh
Bonita - Illinois Jacquet - Argo
Nursery Rhymes - Deon Jackson - Atlantic
Speak Up - Sammy Lowe - Newport
She'll Be Gone - Betty O'Brien - Liberty
The Tingle - Jackie Weaver - Chess
The Chiller - Googie Rene' Combo - Class
Bossa Baby - Googie Rene' Combo - Class
Nobody But You - Little Bob - La Louisianne
Gotta Right To Cry - Otis Leavill - Lucky
East Side - Hank Jacobs - Call Me