The Catacombs Club
Location: Temple Street, Wolverhampton
Date: 1967 - 1974
The Catacombs was an upstairs venue, based in an old lead smelting works. It was
a long, narrow venue, based around a long, bare-brick walled corridor, with arched alcoves
where the furnaces used to be and a bar on the right, and the dance floor at the far end.
It had a capacity of 500-600 and ran initially from 8-12, allnighters being introduced
in the early seventies.
The significance of the Catacombs in the history of Northern Soul cannot be understated. It was the policy of the Catacombs to discover and popularise unknown soul rarities, and if it were not for the hours that it opened, it could have easily have surpassed the Twisted Wheel as the premier venue of the early 70s. As it was, the Catacombs discovered the sounds and the Wheel and the Torch exposed them to the masses. And as if to have the final say, the Catacombs outlasted both the Wheel and the Torch, finally closing in July 1974.
The venue started playing rare soul in 1967, and the DJ at the time was Alan S (Smith)
who was relatively new to the scene. He was joined by "Farmer" Carl Dene (Carl Woodroffe). Farmer Carl had been
a collector of rare soul since 1964, regularly visiting the soul haven of the time, The
Diskery, on a regular basis; he was also credited as one of the first people to cover-up
records. Farmer Carl was responsible for breaking many famous classics, one of note being
"That Beating Rhythm" by Richard Temple. Nobody believed the record existed, assuming it
to be a cover-up, due to the "Temple" link with the Temple Street venue. As well as "I'll Do Anything" by Doris Troy, perhaps Farmer
Carl's biggest claim to fame is his ability to promote chart sucess. His exposure of
"I'm Gonna Run Away From You" by Tami Lynn caused the record to be re-released, and it
reached No.4 in the UK in May, 1971. And it didn't stop there... "Hey Girl Donít Bother Me",
by the Tams was another record championed by Farmer Carl, which was picked up on by
Peter Powell, the Radio One DJ, who brought it onto the radio. It eventually reached
When Farmer Carl left the Catacombs, Alan S was joined by "Major" Robert Crocker, and together they formulated a very sucessful partnership, travelling far and wide to locate new sounds. Together they opened a record shop, and one day, on the way to Leicester to purchase new stock, the pair were involved in a car accident, and Bob Crocker was sadly killed. Alan S was confined to hospital for 3 months.
|While Alan recuperated, Mick "Froggy" Taylor took over, as was soon joined by "Blue" Max Millward and Graham Warr. The club prospered, closing briefly in 1972 for refurbishment, but continuing on it's mission to discover bigger and better sounds. Consider the following list of records that are credited by various sources as having been launched at the Catacombs:|
It's always best to have a venue described by someone who was there. Here are some
great memories from Graham "Mif" Smith from Wolverhampton:
I still have my last Pink membership card 1973-1974. It's dated July 1973 and I was member number 89. What a place this was, the bare walls of the corridors would become wet with the condensation as everyone packed in to enjoy Blue Max and Pep's latest 'finds'. I remember placing my new cassette tape recorder in the dance floor area to tape all the sounds. Still got those tapes too, you can hear the atmosphere. I would visit the Torch too, a much bigger venue, so for me it never held the same 'feelings' as the Cats. What I remember most was the rush for the floor when one of the 'tunes' of the day were played; "Ski-ing In The Snow". "Blowing My Mind To Pieces". Such brilliant tunes. Well, I have just had birthday number 50, but get that Northern Soul on the decks and I will dance yer pants off (much to the embarrassment of my kids). Wifey and I still visit NS clubs in our area but nothing, nothing can come anywhere near those Cats days.
In 1973, Alan S left the Catacombs, to be replaced by Ian "Pep" Pereira, and Alan Day joined
the team briefly. Once the Torch closed, the Catacombs reigned supreme, until the impact
of Wigan Casino was felt. In 1974, the Catacombs closed due to the redevelopment
of the premises, going out with a bang with the hottest allnighter on record, with an attendance
of over twice the legal fire limit!
Don't forget, if you know anything more about the Catacombs, let me know!
Here's a bit of interesting stuff from Dave Krynski, by email:
Hi. Regarding your article on the Catacombs, Wolverhampton. Do you realise that the Black & White photo shown on your Hinckley Soul Club page is actually 'The Pied Bull' pub on the corner of Temple Street, and not the Catacombs Club? The club itself was actually about halfway down the street on the left hand side of the road. Little could be seen from outside, just a couple of wooden doors with 'safety glass' panels and a battered perspex sign jutting out into the road above.
I was a regular at the 'Cats', and still have tapes of the last 'niter along with various photographs/memorabilia etc. (Those used in 'The In-Crowd' book on Northern Soul are mostly mine). In fact I was at Neil Rushton's 'Catacombs Revival' night only last Saturday, mainly to say hello to Carl Dene and Blue Max! Regards, Dave K.
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