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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A moment that changed me – discovering Chaka Khan and rejecting cock rockThe Guardian, May 21st
I cannot imagine what might have happened to me, a working-class white girl from a monocultural northern town, if I had never been led to soul and funk music, and away from cardboard guitars and heavy metal rockers with cucumbers down their leather ...Read more
Russ hosts globe's biggest Northern Soul eventWigan Today, May 15th
I've got the Velvelettes who did stuff like It Was Really Saying Something which Bananarama copied and had a hit with, and Needle in a Haystack and another five or six songs that were big on the Northern Soul scene. “The Countours will be there, who...Read more
DFDS and Jumpin' Hot Club team up for a Northern and Modern Soul WeekendChronicleLive, May 7th
Headlining the Northern Room will be northern DJ Dave Evison. He has been a northern soul DJ since the 1960s and is one of the few DJs who played at The Torch Club, Newton Aycliffe Youth Centre and Wigan Casino, it was at Wigan where he enjoyed his ...Read more
Channel 4 News' Paul Mason keeps the faith with northern soul rundownThe Guardian (blog), May 7th
But Mason is equally well known as a music fan – he wrote a feature for the Observer last year recounting his experiences going to northern soul all-nighters at the Wigan Casino. So what better way to keep spirits up on election day – and avoid...Read more
A Northern Soul Time Capsule 1968-2014 Yousif Nur , May 7th, 2015 09:54The Quietus, May 7th
In the last year, there's been lots of speculation as to whether a Northern Soul revival was on the cards. Those on the scene itself would scoff at such a claim, as it never really went away – just forced underground, away from public conscience as...Read more
Northern Soul: Laura Donnelly's breakout yearIrish Independent, May 3rd
She went out for a couple of years with Snow Patrol bassist Nathan Connolly - for a while they were one of Northern Ireland's ultimate celebrity couples. But she confirms to me that the relationship has been over "for some time" and she has a new love...Read more
Are you ready for a takeover?Garstang Today, April 30th
Three days of classic and current Northern Soul take over Blackpool Tower Ballroom this weekend. And running alongside the top DJ line-up is a photographic exhibition at Blackpool's HMV store in Bank Hey Street. Soul fans can take a break from the...Read more
Northern soul bank holiday family funExeter Express and Echo, April 28th
Bringing some daytime dance and music fun to the bank holiday weekend is northern soul event in aid of charity. Suitable for all ages, local and national DJs will be playing a great mix of northern soul classics at the White Ensign Club in South Street...Read more