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Break Out The Talc! - Its Northern Soul Time

By Kevin Cain

 

Growing up a Soul Boy and being the pretentious brat of a fifteen year old Soul DJ in mid-70’s Liverpool, slabs of 7 inch plastic Northern Soul records were constantly on my decks at school dances and community halls.I had just missed the heyday of the Northern Soul movement mid 60’s, and the famous venues of the Wigan Casino, Blackpool Mecca, Twisted Wheel and the Golden Torch, but the music was still very much in vogue.

It still baffles me how on earth this most individual style of black American soul music ever became so popular and of all places in Northern England. The mill towns and factory places seemed an awfully long way from Detroit or Chicago but the fact was Ric-Tic records along with London, Chess and the rest were flooding into clubs and venues in Wigan, Blackpool, Wolverhampton and Manchester. The whole movement was not about the DJ’s, but all about the sound and the more obscure a track was (cover up), the more it packed the dance floors.

The music was little known in America, never mind England. Mostly recorded on small labels by unheard of artists but for some inexplicable reason the kids of Northern England loved it and along with the Northern Soul movement came many new fads and traditions.The “all nighter” was born, anthems were invented, it was the precursor to “dance weekenders” and new fashions and new ways to dance were invented. Throwing talcum powder on the dance floor, stripping your shirt off and gyrating to the fast pace of the rhythms, almost to exhaustion was all part of the ritual of attending a Northern Soul night. Often a vast amount of amphetamines were being consumed just to take the dancers into early morning.

Being into Northern Soul was like being a member of a private club, only those who really got what the music meant and adored the artists were allowed in. It didn’t matter if you were black or white, from Liverpool or Manchester, if you were in the elite club then you were accepted. Northern Soul crossed all the boundaries that existed in 60’s Britain. It was a way to rebel through music and to be part of a scene that nobody else quite understood, friends met in the Casino or at the Pier and would become friends for life.

It is a testament to the movement and music that today Northern Soul is still loved across the globe. Jimmy Radcliffe, Frank Wilson, Irma Thomas, Darrell Banks, Bobby Patterson, Bobby Sheen, Jack Montgomery and all the other legendary artists, still blast out from pounding sound systems in halls, hotels, soul weekenders, and function rooms all over the globe, anywhere the elite club has a presence.

Perhaps some of the dance moves are not as energetic and the participants might not last the whole night through but the music will endure and live on forever. As long as there is a dance floor, a deck for vinyl, and perhaps the odd can of talc, Northern Soul will never die.

The lyrics from the anthem by Jimmy Radcliffe sort of sums the whole thing up:-

Let me tell you

Long after tonight is all over

Long after it's all gone

I'll be yours

For ever and a day and

Yours, come anything that may

You'll always be just everything to me

 

Long Live Northern Soul !