Northern Soul does not refer to a music genre per se. Rather, it is the phrase used to describe the late-1960s-though-1970s dance club and music scene in northern England. The kids at clubs like The Twisted Wheel and Wigan Casino would dance all night long (literally) to fast-paced 45s of Detroit and American soul.
Unlike most types of collectible vinyl records, the Northern Soul 45s that are generally worth the most today are not necessarily the ones by the best-known artists. Gloria Jones, Jackie Wilson, and the Imperials were all popular in the clubs, but when it comes to Northern Soul 45s, the more obscure the artist, song, and label, the better.
The reason for the focus on the lesser-known 45s is the scarcity of the discs that were played, and subsequently popularized, at these clubs. In some cases, each club had its own playlist, if you will, based on the prized 45s in its DJs collection. Today, serious collectors attempt to replicate not just the sound of the Northern Soul experience, but also the sound of particular clubs by searching for the 45s that were their signatures.
For example, according to former Wigan Casino DJ Kev Roberts, back in the day the most popular Northern Soul 45 at his club was an unreleased single by Frank Wilson called "Do I Love You (Indeed I Do)." Wilson, who worked for Berry Gordy at Motown, had recorded the song in 1965. Of the 250 or so demos that were pressed, only two are known to have survived. Yet this arcane track was a monster on the Wigan dance floor. In May of 2009, one of the copies sold at auction in England for £25,742.
Other collectible Northern Soul vinyl 45s include "Because of My Heart" by the Butlers with Frankie Beverly (Rouser); "No One Else Can Take Your Place" by the Inspirations (Breakthrough); "Lady in Green" by the Magnetics (Bonnie); "Show Stopper" by the Cashmeres (Hem); "Let Me Make You Happy" by Billy Woods (Sussex); and "Can’t Get Over These Memories" by Jon & the Weirdest (Tie).
One of the many interesting aspects of Northern Soul was the belated popularization of songs that had languished for years in the States only to find new life in Great Britain. The most illustrative example of this phenomenon was "Hey Girl Don't Bother Me," which was recorded by The Tams in 1964 and reached number 41 on the U.S. charts. Seven years later, in 1971, that same song charted at number one in the U.K. for three weeks, thanks exclusively to its popularity with Northern Soul enthusiasts and club DJs.
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Film review: Northern Soul is a genuine taste of mid-70s youth cultureNorthampton Chronicle & Echo, October 29th
Ok, I will put my hands up and admit that it was with some trepidation that I settled down to watch the screening of Northern Soul: The Film. My trepidation came about because of a movie about four years ago which, like this one, had a background to a ...Read more
'Northern Soul': Film ReviewHollywood Reporter, October 24th
An underdog project which jumped into the Top 10 list for UK box-office receipts last week despite its limited theatrical release and near-simultaneous launch on home entertainment formats, Northern Soul marks the directing debut of photographer turned ...Read more
Film brings Northern Soul back to EdinburghEdinburgh Evening News, October 22nd
One of last year's biggest chart hits, Happy by Pharrell Williams, also seemed to tap into the Northern Soul vibe. But Yogi says: “That was only because of Northern Soul Girl's YouTube video of herself dancing to it which also included Velvet Hammer's...Read more
Northern Soul is a surprise top 10 hit at the UK box office as the Turtles roll inThe Guardian (blog), October 21st
Turned down by countless UK distributors and presented to cinema audiences without benefit of a UK film festival platform, British indie Northern Soul has astounded the film industry with a sensational result at the weekend. Landing inside the top 10...Read more
Northern Soul review: A ropey plot but fantastic soundtrackExpress.co.uk, October 21st
In drab old 1970s Britain it's hardly surprising that the energy and exhilaration of black American soul music was enough to spark a minor revolution. Northern Soul offers a fond glance at the period and the smalltown dreamers who made Wigan the centre...Read more
Northern soul attracts a new – and younger – demographic down underThe Guardian (blog), October 17th
Veteran Melbourne northern soul DJ Vince Peach estimates the average hardcore fan turning up at Australia's National Soul Weekender – this year in Brisbane from 24 to 26 October – is in their 40s. Plenty are older: “I'm always expecting someone to have...Read more
Which Northern Soul classics get Maxine Peake, Mani and others on the ...Manchester Evening News, October 17th
NORTHERN Soul, the film, has finally hit the big screen after 10 years of hard work by its writer and director Elaine Constantine. The mark the film's release, we asked some famous faces from Manchester, themselves Northern Soul lovers, and some of...Read more
Northern Soul: Behind the scenes of the filmTelegraph.co.uk, October 6th
Northern Soul is her film: she wrote it, she is directing it, and a lot of her own money funded it. But as Antonia Thomas, the film's female lead, will say to me later, it is more than that. 'She lived and breathed it. No one will make this more...Read more