-- Paul B Allen III: October 12, 2019


I was introduced to Northern Soul a little over a year ago by a beloved friend who had the unique experience of enjoying the Northern Soul scene during its heyday in the 1970s. I was completely captivated by what I learned, heard and saw. 

But what is Northern Soul? 

I don’t believe in reinventing the wheel. So, here is a succinct definition of Northern Soul by Wikipedia: 

“Northern soul is a music and dance movement that emerged in Northern England and the English Midlands in the late 1960s… based on a particular style of black American soul music, especially from the mid-1960s, with a heavy beat and fast tempo (100 bpm and above).[1][2] … The music style most associated with Northern Sout is the heavy, syncopated beat and fast tempo of mid-1960s Motown Records, which was usually combined with soulful vocals. These types of records, which suited the athletic dancing that was prevalent, became known on the scene as stompers.” 

Northern Soul embraced lesser-known songs and artists, not just from Motown. They didn’t want songs that were super major hits. They loved hearing the undiscovered music, the “B-sides” and the like. 

One of those “stompers” mentioned above was performed by a friend of mine, Mr. Al Wilson from San Bernardino, California, where I grew up. Though he had a number 1 hit song in the USA (“Show and Tell”), he was a greatly underrated vocalist here, but was tremendously appreciated by the Northern Soul folk, as attested to by the fact that he is credited as having the #4 best single record in the history of the Northern Soul movement with his song called “The Snake.” 

Enjoy the music and dancing you will see on these historic and rare videos featuring “The Snake” and some of the other top 10 songs of all time in the Northern Soul Movement. 

Also included is the very first “Chart Hit” of a song from a Northern Soul record label called Soul City Records. That hit was by “The Duke of Earl” “Rainbow 65” vocal star, Mr. Gene Chandler! The name of his Northern Soul classic hit is “Nothing Can Stop Me.” 

One other video that I have added is by a group on Motown called the Elgins. If anyone remembers the movie The Temptations you may recall the scene where the group went to audition for Motown and they said their group name was the Elgins. The secretary/receptionist then, Martha Reeves (in the movie) gave them a smirk and asked, “Like the watch?” They changed their name on the spot. 

If Berry Gordy also had misgivings about the name initially, he changed his mind because he later christened a different group with that name which appears on their Northern Soul hit song “Heaven in Your Arms.” I added this song too because the Andantes are singing the background vocals and they are rocking this track This will be one of the best examples you will ever hear of that phenomenal group doing what they did better than anyone else.

You may vaguely remember some of these songs when you hear them. I know I did. But again, most of these songs were not hits in America and so didn’t get much radio play. But not so for the Northern Soul folks. These songs were the soundtracks of their lives, and they are all great songs by great artists. 

Al Wilson – “The Snake” 
Gene Chandler – “Nothing Can Stop Me” 
The Elgins – “Heaven in Your Arms” 
Yvonne Baker – “You Didn’t Say A Word” 
Dobie Gray – “Out on the Floor” 
Jimmy Radcliffe – “Long After Tonight Is All Over”
Frank Wilson – “Do I Love You (Indeed I Do)