Friday, August 31, 2012

Mod Up! A Brief Intro to Northern Soul

I'm baaaack! Hope you didn't miss me too much. Today's post is inspired by Juliet, Naked, who is not an "easy" girlfriend of mine but a Nick Hornby novel. It was an ok read, mostly the first half, but what really got me interested was its mention of Northern Soul. Northern Soul is something that often pops up in reviews or interviews of British pop bands, often those associated with the Mod scene such as The Jam or Dexy's Midnight Runners. So I finally decided to find out more about this scene.

According to the wikipedia entry, Northern Soul is basically old American soul music from the 60s that happened to be favored by residents of Northern England. And the more obscure, the better. Now that's something EasyTV can get behind! So we're not talking about Motown big names such as the Supremes, but artists from lesser-known labels. So here's a little selection to give you an idea:

First, to get you interested, here's a song I'm sure you know, and that you probably thought (as I did) that it was an original: Tainted Love. Well, here's the original:

It's not as sleazy sounding as the Soft Cell version, but it's very danceable with its fast rhythm. Mark Almond must have heard this at a Northern Soul dance party, maybe in Wigan, maybe in Blackpool, maybe in Manchester, who knows.

Now one fun aspect of Northern Soul is the dance moves. A nice combination of spins and kicks that might remind one of hip-hop at times. Here's an illustration, to the tune of one of the most popular Northern Soul songs (but still one that's under the radar, because otherwise it wouldn't qualify as Northern Soul anymore now, would it? Such is the curse of a music genre that is defined by its obscurity). The dancing starts at 0:15

Juliet, Naked name-drops a few other artists from that era. One of them, Dobie Gray (who passed away recently), is the author of a Northern Soul "classic" (according to a character in the book) called Out on the Floor:

I'll be honest with you, this music isn't exactly my cup of tea, but I'm glad I finally found out what it was all about. Now if you happened to like this, here's a top 500 Northern Soul list you could use as a starting point. Enjoy!

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