Northern Soul, Anglozine are on the fence with this one on the one hand its rare soul music because no one wanted to buy/listen to it in the 1960's- so why should we. There are folklorish tales of U.S record companies selling shellac vinyl records to be used as ballast on ships- so poor were the sales of some of these soul tunes. Today there are some 7" records changing hands for hundreds and the super rare for thousands of pounds and they sound - meh!
These merchant ships left the U.S and docked at British ports in the north of the UK. Handfuls of these ballast records were 'borrowed' by dockers and seamen and taken home and eventually played out to adoring soul fans at clubs and pubs up north. Obviously the scene for those involved is deeper than this but this is just an intro to the The Observer article, keep your Wig-on Casino.
On the other hand, a handful of out and out northern soul tracks sound superb. Over the past few years 'Northern' classics have featured heavily on TV commercials, reviving them once more on the airwaves and plonked back in the public domain. There is undoubtedly in these core of classics an uplifting feel good vibe, which in 1970/80's northern UK was a welcome relief. The crux of it is we'd much rather hear northern soul played in public spaces than most of the contemporary drivel we hear.
Just to clarify one point here though, mods don't solely listen to northern soul- if at all. The same way they don't wear bowling shoes and parkas all day every bloody day.
So called Northern soul and south of the Watford Gap on the M1, it was called Rare Groove or just soul. The name came about as the likes of the Wigan Casino and Torch in Stoke were undoubtedly instrumental in the build up of the scene nationwide.
Soul nights were the vast majority of the time 'All Nighters' whereby they'd start at around 10pm and last until the break of dawn. There was no alcohol served at the bar just tea, coffee, soft drinks for cooling down and for a number of the dancers fluid for necking speed.
The dancing is incredible thats for sure, the often watched Elaine Constantine clip shows some athletic dance moves and this paved the way for the fashion set to saunter onto the floor. This in turn lead the likes of: Gucci et al to feature Northern Soul campaigns and films.
The 1984 article highlights a point we've often grumbled about. Some of the Northern Soul moves look a lot like breakdance. The biggest influence on music and Lino flooring sales in 1984 were films: Breakdance and Beat Street. These films coupled with the Electro tape cassette series and Fame on the British TV got ginger haired teenagers body and zit popping up and down the country.
Another 'Soulie' point of view here chez Anglozine is, bathroom products - toiletries. To explain in the article and its no secret men folk would smother their legs in Vaseline like an English Chanel swimmer. Why you do? so that the baggy trousers Oxford Bags in all but name would rise up your legs with ease when leaping in the air in a Soul move.
This gripe is extended to talcum powder which was rife in the 1980s no Christmas present hoard was complete for a teenage boy without a soap/talc boxset (Insignia, Imperial, and easily our favourite Hai Karate brand) from your grandmother if you were lucky one from each grannie.
Northern Soul dances usually took place in large clubs or halls with wooden floors the ideal dance surface. To get the floor even more slippy for gliding moves Soulie's would sprinkle talcum powder on the floor.
Have you ever tried to get talcum powder out of mohair?
At a night on the Isle of Wight a double decade ago there was a sign in the lobby warning 'No talcum powder' not your usual notice board it must be said. Clubs didn't like talcum powder as it was akin to black ice and in the late 1990's injury lawyers were now common place in the UK so the clubs tried to keep the stuff out of their establishments. Bouncers would look out for bags of the wrong sort of white powder.
The Imperial Leather brand used to make a travel size can of talcum powder and it became an odd signifier for the scene with the text of Imperial Leather being appropriated for northern soul do's flyers and the likes. The travel sized can was easy to conceal and would be drug muled into nights.
After the final song of the night in Anglozine Mr X made his way back to his rickety sea view bed & breakfast in Ryde Isle of Wight. He ceremoniously took off his recently made first bespoke mohair suit only to discover the hem of the back of the jacket and back of the legs covered in talcum powder- that wouldn't budge.
Feeling a bit woozy from the nights imbibing and the 4 plus hour scooter ride to get to the weekender he decided to hang it on the chair at the end of his single bed and sort it out in the morning. A few zeds later he was awoken by the reek of the hotel ghost, a Victorian prostitute his semi conscious brain had named Miss Yardley.
Mr X realised it was in fact not a perfumed Victorian 'lady of the night' ghost but his talc desecrated bespoke mohair suit. He took the suit and hung it on the back of the bathroom door and firmly pulled it to in a vacuum sealed motion- so he could get finally get some sleep. A scent free sleep was had and the suit was saved back in the metropolis a few days later.
Here we have The Observer magazine from 11th November 1984 article on the scene Soul Mates.............
Keep the faith as that lot say