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The Northern Soul Scene

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Nominated for the 2020 Association for Recorded Sound Collections Awards for Excellence in Historical Recorded Sound Research

The northern soul scene is a dance-based music culture that originated in the English North and Midlands in the early 1970s. It still thrives today with a mix of sixty-year-olds and several generations of new converts, and its celebration of 1960s soul has an international following.

This co-produced book brings together newly commissioned essays together with pivotal earlier articles that have defined the field so far. These chapters are interspersed with key journalistic articles, evocative photographs, and interviews with the directors of northern soul-themed films. This anthology is the first to provide a wide variety of perspectives on the history and contemporary nature of the scene, and creates a forum for vibrant dialogue and debate amongst academic researchers, students and those immersed in the scene. Representations of the scene from different media, and different historical locations, are juxtaposed to construct a rich and diverse statement about the music, people, places and practices that constitute the northern soul scene in the UK and beyond.

Published: Feb 22, 2019


Section Chapter Authors
Acknowledgements Sarah Raine, Tim Wall, Nicola Smith
Introduction Tim Wall, Sarah Raine, Nicola Smith
Musical Bookmark 1
Portrait of Tom Page William Ellis
Chapter 1
Long After Tonight is All Over Stuart Cosgrove
Chapter 2
Welcome to Dreamsville: A History and Geography of Northern Soul Joanne Hollows, Katie Milestone
Chapter 3
Out on the Floor: The Politics of Dancing on the Northern Soul Scene Tim Wall
Chapter 4
Beyond the Master Narrative of Youth: Researching Ageing Popular Music Scenes Nicola Smith
Musical Bookmark 2
Portrait of Sean Chapman William Ellis
Chapter 5
Acquiring Rights and Righting Wrongs? Ady Croasdell
Chapter 6
ReMarking Old Records, Making New Meaning: Debating the Questionable Home of Northern Soul Nicola Smith
Musical Bookmark 3
Portrait of Emily Jane William Ellis
Chapter 7
Dave Godin and the Politics of the British Soul Community Joe Street
Chapter 8
Myths on/of the Northern Soul Scene Sarah Raine, Tim Wall
Musical Bookmark 4
Portrait of John Manship William Ellis
Chapter 9
Soul Survivors John Barrett
Dossier of Photographs One
Photographic Dossier (1) John Barrett
Chapter 10
Searching for the Subcultural Heart of Northern Soul: From Pillheads to Shredded Wheat Andrew Wilson
Chapter 11
Soul Boy, Soul Girl: Reflections on Gender and Northern Soul Katie Milestone
Musical Bookmark 5
Portrait of Sammy Dee William Ellis
Chapter 12
Life with Soul is Better, Much Better Dani Herranz
Dossier of Photographs Two
Photographic Dossier (2) Bethany Kane
Chapter 13
Interviews with Tony Palmer, Elaine Constantine, and Liam Quinn Tim Wall
Musical Bookmark 6
Portrait of Harriet Dalkin William Ellis
Chapter 14
Nostalgia, Symbolic Knowledge and Generational Conflict Lucy Gibson
Chapter 15
The Voice of Participants on the Scene Mark Duffett, Sarah Raine, Tim Wall
Dossier of Photographs Three
Photographic Dossier (3) Richard Oughton
Chapter 16
I'm Still Looking for Unknowns All the Time: The Forward (E)motion of Northern Soul Dancing Paul Sadot
Musical Bookmark 7
Portrait of Kev Roberts William Ellis
Chapter 17
Groove Me: Dancing to the Discs of Northern Soul David Sanjek†
Musical Bookmark 8
Portrait of Jenny Wilkes William Ellis
Critical Reflection Tim Wall
End Matter
Index Sarah Raine, Tim Wall, Nicola Smith


Like northern soul itself, this collection is crisp and clean in parts, gritty and a bit uncomfortable in others, and has its own identifiable rhythm. Like the scene it represents collective, collaborative, and co-produced work. The book’s ambition is a powerful one: to illuminate not only northern soul, but also popular music culture and the form of edited collections more generally. It is a perfect textual match for the scene itself, with lessons and ramifications far beyond northern soul... If we want to understand how an academic field is made up of insiders, we will learn a lot from this examination of what it takes to be insiders, how we police boundaries, and how the stories that we tell each other stabilise and legitimise our academic work.
Professor Lucy Robinson, University of Sussex

As a young rare soul DJ, this edited collection comprehensively explores what it actually means to be a part of the Northern Soul scene. With input from the 6Ts soul icon Ady Croasdell, this book gives an excellent insight to the contemporary soul scene that forms my secret life.
Tom Paige, rare soul DJ

This title is some kind of a revelation, as it easily combines academic research with interviews and fans’ stories on a large scale, leading to massive amounts of data. This approach to theoretical or cultural study of music in popular culture will not always work out so well, but here it can present a very readable and informative work.
It is also remarkable that all three editors are highly involved into the topic of the book. And not just as researchers, but in various ways, as DJ, record collector or as in all three cases Northern Soul fans and dancers. A very lucky coincidence indeed. And it absolutely makes a difference. Recommended reading through and through.
Dr. Alexander Ebert,

The power of audience participation is further demonstrated by the sheer diversity of perspectives, forms of engagements and mixed-age generations that emerge from the pages of this collection; it is in the lived experience of the dance events and in their immediate contexts, that Northern Soul acquires its multiple meanings. The recognition of a plurality of scenes over historical time and geographical distance is the achievement of this collection, enabled through a rich mix of academic, journalistic, and personal accounts. The notion of a single Northern Soul scene, as the title seems to imply, can therefore not be sustained. A simple encyclopaedic narrative has not only been avoided but also laid to rest, instead opening the doors to a multitude of fragments that inform a range of understandings of Northern Soul. The collection thereby offers an example of how to address diversity in (popular) music scenes. Keep the faith, to recite the Northern Soul slogan, and listen to a plurality of hearing.
Popular Music