SOUL FOOD – THE BROAD CHURCH OF NORTHERN SOUL
This podcast accompanies a blog piece ‘Northern Renaissance’, which simultaneously went online. Below is an excerpt; you can read the full piece here:
As I hope this piece will illustrate, Northern Soul back in the 70’s was a much broader church than many might imagine. Whilst the stompers were central to the scene, especially when Wigan Casino was at its peak, not everything ran at breakneck pace as is often suggested, the movement encompassed a whole spectrum of styles and tempos. The scene was notoriously very snobbish about its music, dropping a previously loved record like a hot potato because it had subsequently achieved commercial success, although it was this fervent elitism that played a major part in its success and longevity. It’s also the reason why a track many might consider to be as Northern as they come, like Jackie Wilson’s ‘(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher And Higher’ (a Detroit artist doing an uptempo dance track with Funk Brothers backing) isn’t Northern Soul according to those at the cutting-edge of the scene, despite the fact it was a big favourite in the Soul clubs following its 1967 release. It’s sin was that it became a UK hit in 1969, just before the Northern scene got into its stride, so, along with a whole heap of Tamla Motown tunes that are Northern in everything but their failure to connect with the masses, it was banished to the realm of pop. This is why another famous Jackie Wilson track, ‘I Get The Sweetest Feeling’, this time a 1968 recording, which, on the surface, given it’s much mellower vibe, is far less stereotypically Northern than ‘Higher And Higher’, is, in contrast, considered a bone fide Northern classic – the reason being that ‘I Get The Sweetest Feeling’ didn’t become a hit until 1972, having broken out of the Northern scene, then in full swing.
So, with the various aspects considered, I’ve put together an epic 3 hour 20 minute podcast selection of records that I hope will reflect Northern Soul in its wider context, from the nailed on classics to those with more nominal status. What can’t be disputed is that each and every track included has been played, at least somewhere at one point or another, under the Northern Soul banner. There are 70 tracks in all, with just 2 artists with more than 1 inclusion, the aforementioned Jackie Wilson and the great, but tragic songstress Linda Jones (3, if you count Frankie Valli, here both solo and with the Four Seasons). The idea to put this together grew out of a CD compilation I made for myself back in the 00’s to listen to whilst I was driving, which I called ‘Soul Food’, and the intention is for it to act as solid introduction for those wanting to hear what Northern Soul was all about, in all its diverse glory, whilst I’d like to think it will also evoke fond memories for those who were there at the time. The fact I wasn’t a part of the scene has hopefully allowed me to approach this selection in a more objective way than someone embroiled within it, who may not be able to resist the inclination to pack it with tracks nobody else, apart from other ultra-obsessives may know, or who might want to brush a few of the inclusions under the ‘you had to be there at the time’, carpet. Consider this, if you will, a beginners guide, of which I love all of the selections, each in its own way - just wonderful wonderful uplifting music.
Greg Wilson – November 2013