10 Tracks You Need to Hear To Get Into Northern Soul

What is Northern Soul?

Wireless writer Tom Bamford runs through the basics of the hugely influential movement that is now all but forgotten by most university age students. Below Northern Soul DJ Dave Walsh picks his top ten tracks you need to hear to get into Northern Soul.

Northern Soul emerged in the late 1960s out of the declining British Mod Scene. ‘Northern Soul’ was a term originally coined by Journalist and Soul dilettante Dave Godin. The very same man who reportedly introduced Mick Jagger to Black American Music. (Turned out all right, didn’t it?) 

Northern Soul was invented as a way of delineating between contemporary funk sounds with the smoother Motown-influenced soul
. Godin had noticed that northern football-fans, on away-days in London were coming in to his shop to buy a very specific type of record. He noticed that they shied away from the black American chart, opting instead for the rawer, more emotive Motown influenced soul of the 60s. The majority of these records were made between 1965 and 1971, a golden period of the genre before Detroit’s subsequent implosion and Motowns emigration to Los Angeles. 

The Twisted Wheel, Wigan Casino and Stoke’s Golden Torch formed the ‘soul-ey’ trinity of all night venues where pilgrims from across the country would come to hear primarily rare American soul records. 

The Northern soul scene was characterised by virtuoso dance moves, (spins and back flips aplenty) speed, extravagant dress and Biba trousers suits.

Punters would dance tirelessly form 8pm till 8am, spurned on by a collective cognizance of the music, to forgotten and obscure 7” records. These records were carried around by obsessive (often compulsive) record collectors and brought to events as a mark of eminence and prestige. The rarer, the better. 

The Twisted Wheel set in motion the later great Manchester tradition of drug fuelled nightclubs (and nightclubs in general) that was carried on by Tony Wilson and at the ‘Hacienda’ during the late 80s. The majority of the speed taken in the soul scene of the 70s was pharmaceutical, stolen from chemists. The iconic flame was lit and combusted, setting the North of England alight in the most unlikely of manners. Northern Souls eventual decline stemmed from the emergence of punk, new wave, funk and Hip- Hop; along with Northern Souls refusal to assimilate to contemporary social and economic conditions. 

In retrospect the whole ‘Northern-soul’ scene seems to have been somewhat of an anomaly. A transient zeitgeist that rapidly spread across the North of England. A vignette of counter culture that dominated an 18-month period of soul filled worship, non-stop dancing and speed fuelled madness.

10 Top Tracks to listen to and get into Northern Soul selected by Dave Walsh: