Northern Soul is a music movement that arose in the late 1960’s, mainly in Northern England, the Midlands, and also Scotland. Northern Soul grew out of the British Mod movement, and has it’s roots in a style of music that is fast tempo with a heavy beat, mostly what was known as Black American Soul music, or Motown. It is associated with particular fashion and music styles that came out of the Twisted Wheel club in Manchester, but then spread to other dance halls in England, for example Catacombs in Wolverhampton, Wigan Casino, or the Highland Rooms at the Blackpool Mecca.
Due to most of Northern Soul’s followers coming from the 1960’s Mod movement, the fashions associated with the early Northern Soul scene were that of Mods – Ben Sherman shirts, skinny fit jeans, and brogues. It had it’s own style items too though, not associated with Mods, such as American style bowling shirts, and then later on due to the energetic dance styles, high-waisted loose trousers were worn with loose vests and shirts. Sew on badges depicting individual social club memberships were also popular to wear.
Types of music that are often used to describe Northern Soul are those with a fast beat like the mid 1960’s Motown Records, along with soulful voices on vocals. The best records were known at the time as ‘stompers’ as they would lend themselves to the dance style of the movement, which was fairly energetic. Examples of ‘stomper’ tunes would be Gloria Jones with Tainted Love, or The Four Tops with I Can’t Help Myself. Northern Soul records were actually quite rare and difficult to come by, leaving certain tracks to be popularised by specific DJs at the time, and these individual recordings would become associated with the venue in which they were known to be played. Slower types of songs, that weren’t as easy and popular to dance energetically to were usually played at end end of the night, sometimes in a trio.
The Northern Soul scene grew somewhat and developed through the seventies, and more modern records were released during this time, many crossing over into Disco. Many of the songs even had commercial success, and the scene lasted in some form or another into the early 1980s. Northern Soul had a strong connection to DJ culture, as well as the individual records, the this paved the way in itself for newer music movements.