Wednesday, January 8, 2014

The Perfect Northern Soul Primer (Video)

In November, NPR celebrated northern soul on the fortieth anniversary of the first northern soul party in Liverpool. I'd never heard the term northern soul before, but when I dug into it, I actually realized I'd been listening to some northern soul records all along. Northern soul refers to artists like Bettye Swan who were plenty talented but never blew up enough to be a, say, Diana Ross.

The genre has such an interesting history. In the mid-1970s, thousands and thousands of white kids were willing to spend their last dollar to go a party or buy a record of obscure soul music from the United States. All of it is laid out in this great 30-minute mini documentary from the BBC Culture Show. Financial journalist Paul Mason returns to his youth as a "soul boy" to dig into the phenomenon. There's some really poignant stuff here about what this subculture means: "There's something weirdly romantic about unknown black kids from no-hope towns in America making these records that then communicate across space and time with white kids from equally no-hope towns in Britain." Watch the doc and let me know what you think.

Are there northern soul parties where you live? I know of at least one in New York.

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