If you are reading this, chances are you have a ‘Northern Soul’, in one way or another. The Northern Soul I want to talk about is the underground dance and music movement that started in the late 60s. As a lifelong lover of Northern Soul I have been eagerly awaiting the release of the Northern Soul film, which finally comes to our screens on October 17th. The film is directed by Elaine Constantine who is a photographer and filmmaker known for her colourful and upbeat imagery of British youth culture. I’m sure with the music and dancing, it won’t disappoint.
I read an article in a magazine that states the ‘Northern Soul and Mod’ culture is enjoying a revival. This made me laugh, it’s never needed a revival because it has still been as strong as ever. I have loads of mod mates young and old. I still get asked about Northern Soul music and its origins. This surprises me, especially when it is a Northerner, after all we invented it.
This genre of music and dance emerged in the North of England in the late 60’s from the MOD scene. The music, mainly black American soul music, but with a faster tempo. The majority of Northern Soul records have failed to make it into the mainstream and in that lies the beauty of its success. The records are rarer and not commercialised making them more appealing and prized by enthusiasts. The Northern Soul dance style, is also unique or was back in the early years, ranging from the more sedate spins to back drops and kicks.
The term Northern Soul was a shortened sales term used by staff at the Soul City record shop in Covent Garden. The shops manager then Dave Godin noticed that football fans from the North following their teams would come to the shop on match days. They weren’t interested in regular black American chart music he said they wanted the more modern funkier sounds. He told staff to refer to this music as ‘Northern Soul’ to these customers.
My own introduction to Northern Soul came at the tender age of 12. I was already a Mod. (yes at 12) My friend Karen had an older sister Yvonne (17), who was a huge Northern Soul fan. She used to go to Wigan casino when she had the bus fare and would tell us all about it. She taught us how to dance the Northern Soul way and the first record she played for us was Needle In A Haystack. We loved hearing her stories and listening to these amazing records.
From the Twisted Wheel in Manchester to Wigan Casino and all the other famous Northern Soul dance halls, the history is amazing. If we thought it was on the verge of extinction well, they have never been more wrong it’s producing new waves of fans generations on.
The spirit of Northern Soul lives on. So I hope you enjoy the 5 songs I have picked to play. They are a few of my favourite and remember always to…..Keep the Faith #KTF
THE VELVELETTES – NEEDLE IN A HAYSTACK
The Velvelettes a female group from Detroit Michigan, USA. They signed to Motown in the 60s and got their big break in 1964 with this song. Their other big hit was ‘He Was Really Saying Something’ which was recorded by Bananarama in the 80s.
This song has a special place in my heart because it was where it all started for me. Yvonne and her mates were great dancers. We used to practice in the kitchen on the lino and I still think apart from a dance floor the kitchen still is the best place to practice those spins…slower spins now though!!!
THE PRECISIONS – IF THIS IS LOVE
The Precisions from Detroit, Michigan recorded and performed in the 60s. Their breakthrough single ‘If This Is Love’ reached No26 in the R&B chart.
I love this song it’s one of my favourite Northern Soul records. The tambourine intro to the main, up tempo section is classic Northern Soul.
LUTHER INGRAM – IF IT’S ALL THE SAME TO YOU BABE
Luther Ingram for Jackson, Tennessee was a singer and song writer. His most successful record was (If Loving You Is Wrong) I Don’t Want To Be Right. If it’s All the Same To You Babe was released in 1972.
This record is one of my top 10 Northern Soul favourites. I love Ingram’s voice. The harmonies and great lyrics, are sooo very good. Think I will take a spinin the kitchen.
EDDIE HOLMAN – I SURRENDER
Eddie Holman from Norfolk, Virginia was a singer best known for his 1970 hit song ‘Hey There Lonely Girl’. Holman graduated from Cheyney State University with a degree in music. A British journalist once wrote ‘Eddie Holman’s voice is an astonishing precision instrument, which can leap octaves with speed and bend notes into shapes, he has earned his place in soul history’. I Surrender was released in 1969 and wasn’t a mainstream hit.
This is another top 10 of mine and my kids. I love Holman’s distinctive voice and the changes he can make with it. Great record, great soul sound.
MAMIE GALORE – IT AIN’T NECESSARY
Mamie Davis was born in Mississippi 1940 and has quite an impressive C.V. Starting out in shoe business with Herman Scott & The Swinging King, before touring with Ike & Tina Turner in the 60s. her first release was an R&B record ‘Special Agent 34-24-38’ from which she was given the name ‘Mamie Galore’ to tie in with the novelty James Bond appeal of the title. ‘It Ain’t Necessary’ was released in 1966.
Mamie’s voice is very distinctive, quite high pitched in places. This record had great harmonies and an almost gospel sound to it. See what you think
If you’re interested in Northern Soul this documentary is worth checking out.
and before I go thanks for the comments last week, and the recommendations I do check them all out.
Keep On, Keepin’ On …. x
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