Seeing that Shredded Wheat advert on telly that is built around a lifelong follower of what to some of us is the a lifelong music passion, Northern Soul, it made me realise how in today’s mass media world how nothing (unless it’s illegal, devoutly uncommercial or totally crap) remains underground.
Northern Soul was a movement that was limited to a few dozen clubs (mainly in the North West & North Midlands of England) over a period of a decade or so from the turn of the 70s. The Wikipedia page is not a bad starting point I started to go to Wigan Casino in 1974 and Blackpool Mecca a year later. I met my wife Gerardine at Angels in Burnley on the famous Wednesday Soul Night.
It was truly an underground scene, mainly working class teenagers (with more boys than girls attending most soul nights) travelling to the same clubs. You would see the same faces wherever you went. I would guess that there were less than 10,000 people into the scene (ie less than would go and watch Blackburn Rovers on a Saturday!) The only way to find out about the scene was by word of mouth, by subscribing to pretty obscure magazines like Black Echoes and Blue and Soul or by late night shows on local radio stations.
In 2015 this once underground music scene based around tracks recorded by mainly black American artists around 50 years ago is “overground”. In 2014, Elaine Constantine’s labour of love film. Northern Soul was a surprise hit, and there are records selling for tens of thousands of pounds (and pretty average ones at that in my opinion!) and the BBC got in on the act with a great documentary.
I love the fact that the musical movement that I genuinely believe is the greatest ever is reaching wider and younger audiences and that when we hold our Soul Casino events as part of Vintage, we get dance floors packed with a diverse crowd.
It is technology and social media that has allowed Northern Soul to have its time in the wider public eye. You Tube is a wonderful tool to listen to the music, the brilliant Discogs makes it easy to track down the vinyl, and the internet has allowed communities to build and to bring enough people together to make events pay for themselves.
The purists who prefer things kept to themselves can moan all they like, but I love the fact soul music, the soundtrack of my life, is there for everyone to enjoy and I can go out dancing with people of all ages, some who are on the same voyage of discovery as Gerardine and I were 40 years ago.
– Wayne Hemingway