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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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: 40 years later the scene is bigger than everThe Independent, October 20th
It is a rainy Sunday afternoon in Birmingham and 200 or so young people pack the dance floor of the Testify Northern Soul All Dayer. To the last, they face the DJ, shuffling from side to side like a gaggle of Whirling Dervishes before clapping their...Read more
Northern Soul review – impressive evocation of the 70s dance cultThe Guardian, October 18th
There's something of the authentic period charm of Good Vibrations about photographer turned director Elaine Constantine's evocation of 70s Lancashire, where retro American records and Dexedrine-driven dancing offer a much-needed escape from the ...Read more
Northern soul attracts a new – and younger – demographic down underThe Guardian (blog), October 17th
From 1960s mods to 1980s skinheads, British subcultures have thrived to varying degrees in Australia despite many seemingly quintessentially alien on its shores. Supposedly, Joe Strummer noted with surprise the preponderance of punks and skinheads ...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: an ageless and athletic passionThe Guardian, October 17th
On Thursday, Micky P, outside the northern soul night in Wednesfield Conservative club in Wolverhampton, said: “It was different in the 60s to how it was in the 70s.” “Careful,” said his friend. “You're showing your age.” “I'm not bothered!” he yelled...Read more
Northern Soul success: A new film brings a very British club culture back to lifeExpress.co.uk, October 16th
The film tells the gritty story of two teenagers who discover northern soul through a chance meeting. There are starring debutantes in Elliot James Langridge and Josh Whitehouse, as the two main characters, who are accompanied by some great cameos from ...Read more