Motown. '60s R&B. Hundreds of undeniably brilliant songs that we all know inside and out (even if we don't know it - the shit is drilled into our subconscious). But one day I was working with an English dude with a penchant for talking about his rockabilly band and he played some shit that blew my mind...it was like those soul songs I had heard a thousand times but it was raw and the beat was insistent, almost demanding a dance party. "Northern Soul" came the response when I asked what we were listening to, with an implied (and justified) disgust at my ignorance. I asked my pal Tim about this new (to me) discovery since he is from England also, and he was much more nurturing, and excited to share the glorious world of all night dance parties and impeccable fashion and endless searching for unheard records with an eager neophyte....in this case, me. This mix tape was the result:
On its face, Northern Soul has virtually everything in common with the popular soul, Motown and R&B jams of the late '60s, but to dismiss the genre as an extension of the popular sounds of the day would be like equating RANCID to IRON LUNG or saying that THE CLASH hold the same spot in history as LOST CHERREES. Northern Soul was all about finding the unknown gem, unearthing the unheard would-be classic. The legendary singles were records scooped up by English DJs on record finding missions to the US, scouring the country for copies of short run independent press dance floor creamers. Their searches paid off in the form of essential tracks that would have been all but forgotten - many of the biggest Northern Soul hits were songs from the mid '60s that went virtually undiscovered until years after their release. English DJs catered to clubs packed with sharp dressed teenagers jacked to the nines on amphetamines ready to dance all night long to the latest unheard deep cut - not at all unlike a room full of sweaty punks eagerly waiting for the next song from the the band that no one has heard so that they can tell everyone tomorrow what they missed out on last night. The whole scene seems perfectly in tune with the world of punk record collectors, and the music is fukkn excellent, so I consider myself a fan (not an expert, just a fan). While I have delved deeper since, this tape was my real introduction to a world of songs that were never hits, but were revered by music fans and early morning dance maniacs. Songs like "Shoes, "Pain Stain" and "That's How Much I Love You" are certified bangers, earnest DIY numbers filled with legitimate floorshaking bass and more soul than any new millennium motherfucker should be allowed to expect. This is our world, 20 years earlier...seeking the shit no one else has heard, turning your friends on the to jams, and getting totally annihilated and rocking out till the sun comes up. Yeah...it's like punk but with sharper outfits and better beats. Standout artists: BOBBY BLAND, SOUL CITY, MARVELETTES, LITTLE ANTHONY & THE IMPERIALS, HOLLY ST. JAMES and SIDNEY BARNES...but seriously, all of this shit is brilliant. Cheers to Tim...I hope you have all these 45s, but even if you just taped a modern day KTel "Beginners Guide to Northern Soul," you still opened my eyes. Now lets suck down a pile of pharmaceutical speed and start dancing - it is the weekend after all...right?