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Soul man is still in the groove after 40 years

PUBLISHED: 14:38 15 December 2010

DJ Steve Copeman

DJ Steve Copeman

Archant

He is Mr Soul - a man who brings back the good times for generations of fans of soul and Motown music in Norwich and across Norfolk.

Steve Copeman, now approaching his 58th birthday, has been a DJ for 40 years, and says: “Once this music gets into your blood, you can’t get enough of it.”

The story starts in the summer of 1969 when Steve Copeman and Paul Athow had left Hewett School and were desperate to start working in the city as soul and Motown DJs.

Not having a clue, they set out and did the rounds of clubs and pubs and were told to “come back when your’re older”. But they kept on badgering people and by the following year, 1970, they had found work at some city pubs including the Firs, The Cottage and the old Ipswich Tavern – and they were paid the princely sum of 50p each. They certainly weren’t in it for the money – but for the pure love of the music. In Norwich and Norfolk of those days there was one man behind the entertainment scene who everybody respected and liked – the late, great Howard Platt.

“Many pleas to the man himself were ignored until we eventually wore him down and he gave us a try out at the Gala Ballroom at the top of St Stephen’s,” said Steve. The soul nights were a hit and this led to regular work at the Melody Rooms (now the Talk) on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays – and an increase in pay to £1.50 each and £2.50 on bank holidays.

In 1970, Mungo Jerry was top of the pops for seven weeks with In the Summertime and Simon & Garfunkel had released Bridge Over Troubled Waters, but Steve and Paul didn’t want to play that kind of music – they were into The Four Tops, The Temptations, Chairman of the Board, Sam & Dave, Wilson Pickett, Marvin Gaye and the like.

As time went by, Steve moved on to love rare soul and Motown which is known under a collective umbrella as Northern Soul.

Turn the clock forward to 2010. Steve and Paul are still in touch, but Paul has long retired from spinning 45s, while Steve is still working as a DJ and still loving every minute of it. The 60s and 70s records he still buys remain firm favourites and some of the rarer ones make a fortune at auction.

“Northern Soul events are still held in Norwich, all over this country and the rest of the world. Even the USA has started to put on events and play the music it created,” said Steve.

And Norwich has one of the longest running Northern Soul clubs in existence. The brilliant Backstreet Soul Club has been running for more than 25 years. And is one of the best in the country. Will Northern Soul be around in another 40 years? “I wouldn’t bet against it,” said Steve.

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