I’ve been getting back into Northern Soul recently. Back in the mid – 1980’s. I used to attend Northern Soul all-nighters at the 100 Club in London’s Oxford St and Wendy Mays ‘Locomotion’ nights at the now defunct Town & Country club in Kentish Town, north London.
Fast forward 30 odd years and I happened to mention to my mate Marc Scott that I was hearing quite a lot of ‘Northern’ influences in some of the new music I was hearing. Tunes like Morcheeba’s ‘Everyone loves a Loser He cheerfully informed me that he had LOADS of Northern Soul on MP3 and would be happy to share it with me – RESULT! True to his word, the next day a courier arrives with about 60 albums of music on a DVD. I immediately set about spending my evening working my way through them while checking out the many websites and YouTube videos dedicated to this enduring genre of music.
I was surprised to find there is a thriving Northern Soul scene in Tokyo of all places!
I was first introduced to Northern Soul by a friend of mine from Belfast called Norman Crowthers who mysteriously showed up one day as the ‘new boy’ at the Burtons store we used to work at in Epsom, Surrey.
At that time I was big into the thriving London Latin Jazz scene and jazz dancing, a very athletic style of dance and also used to enjoy 50′s jiving as well, so Northern soul offered me and my mates a new dance skill to quickly master, due the the energetic dance moves involved. We quickly set about becoming accomplished at this new dance – We really enjoyed the music and the vibe. There really is nothing quite like a Northern Soul dancefloor in full flow, with many dancers gliding around so gracefully. It truly is a sight to behold and you really need to see it to understand.
In the end, we pulled away from the scene as we found it a bit too full of people who still thought it was good to look like a Skinhead or a Mod from when we were at school, whereas, we preferred sharp suits & ties – it was 1986 at this time and that was the fashion. We also found the scene a bit like a religious cult in that all Northern Soulers seemed to be of the opinion that Northern Soul was the ONLY good music and this was something we just couldn’t be dealing with as at that time we were enjoying the very lively London scene that encompassed ALL types of underground music including 50′s Jive, Latin Jazz, Funk, Soul, Acid Jazz, Rare Grooves as well as the thriving Hip-Hop scene and it was just way too much to ask for us to stop doing that – not for anyone.
We did have a great time confusing the hell out of those Northern Soulers by showing up to their nights in our sharp 50′s suits, flat-top haircuts and looking every bit the 50′s hipster before throwing down some Northern Soul crossed with Jazz Dance moves on the dancefloor.
Having worked my way through Marcs collection and dug out some classic gems, I must say that Northern Soul music has definitely stood the test of time and the scene is actually bigger than ever with people as old as your dad and as young as your youngest cousin enjoying the tunes.
You can listen to a DJ mix of the top 10 tunes HERE and I encourage you to watch some of the many documentaries and even films that have been made on the topic.
Regrettably, like Disco, the scene ate itself due to a combination of commercialisation, government restrictions & a finite number of records available as it was a scene deeply rooted in the past, which inevitably meant that eventually they would run of out of rare tunes to unearth.
However without Northern Soul there would have been no rave scene – Northern Soulers definitely pioneered the concept of staying out all weekend and dancing in a then very conservative England.
It was nice to be have been part of it.