Sunday, July 09, 2006

"Northern Soul": An Unexpected Cultural Treasure of Britain

Sitting in a Glasgewian flat, hanging with some proper Scottish friends,can and will always bring about some of the most interesting topics. It's a moment I always treasure but only in hindsight; for I never know that I'm about to learn something amazing.
Even now, I can't recall how it came about, but while deciding what funk venue to check out for the evening, I first heard of "northern soul".

What is northern soul? It's a style of music associated with dance and fashion of the working class youth culture of Britain during the late 1960s and early 1970s. In particular, the soul music in the north of England was said to be quite distinct from any other part of the country.
The music originally consisted of Motown music and similar obscure American soul recordings of Detroit and Chicago labels. Northern soul had to always have that uptempo Motown beat (for dancing).

Due to the rarity of the music, collecting associated vinyl is an expensive pasttime. Vinyl discs can go anywhere from $3000 to $30,000 each!
Apparently, the classic image is of men, dancing, not with young ladies, but alone, competitively against each other.
It reminds of similar contemporary images, much what you still see in dancehall and modern African popular music scenes in nightclubs.
The northern soul culture was influenced by the mod scene in style and fashion. Everyone dressed up like Austin Powers all the time. (lord)
When it comes to supplemental drug use, uppers must have been the thing, in order to do all that fast-pace dancing all night long. There were club badges with the icon raised black fist as a prominent symbol (hm...very interesting). The vespa was the signature mode of transportation tricked out with fancy mirrors and lights. (I gotta find a movie or archival photo book on this stuff)

According to my source of all things musical in Britain (aka Andy), northern soul music scene is still alive and well with original fans as well as some young audiences of 21st. centuy. I'll have to check out when I hear of a club I can get access easily. Check out this more recent venue poster with a raised WHITE fist. I don't even know what to say about that.

Any one know anything about this scene?


At Jul 10, 2006, 8:10:00 PM, Blogger John Schaefer said...

Hey Peggy, I don't know anything about the north, but there's a lot on London youth culture in the 1950s, which sounds pretty similar (mods, Vespas, drugs, etc.)

Since you're in the UK, maybe you can get a copy of the London Trilogy by Colin McInnes: City of Spades, Absolute Beginners, and Mr. Love and Justice.

At Jul 10, 2006, 9:59:00 PM, Anonymous acid trip said...

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At Jul 11, 2006, 11:19:00 AM, Blogger Peggy Brunache said...

Yahya, thanks for the tip on Colin McInnes. Will have to look for it after I've listened to some of this Northern Soul stuff!

At Jul 11, 2006, 11:20:00 AM, Blogger Peggy Brunache said...

Acid trip, thanks for compliment! Do come around again!

At Jul 31, 2006, 5:01:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Northern Soul is still absolutely massive (albeit underground) in the UK.
There are allnighters every weekend the length and breadth of the country with upwards of 300 people at each all dancing their socks off and searching for their next vinyl fix.

Take a look at to learn more about this truly fabulous and timeless obsession.

It's increasingly international so check out their events calendar and I'm sure you'll find a night near you.

At Aug 4, 2006, 9:15:00 AM, Blogger halrom said...

At Aug 4, 2006, 10:38:00 PM, Blogger Ian said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At Aug 4, 2006, 10:52:00 PM, Blogger Ian said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At Aug 4, 2006, 10:54:00 PM, Blogger Ian said...

I don't know if you've been told about this show on Radio Stoke,( they play lots of real northern soul records. That scooter is a Lambretta SX150 by the way, I should know I bought a new 1967 one XRA 796F.
Ian (aka ayupmeduck)


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