Significant Songs (30/31/32)

Northern Soul

I have decided to include three songs in this post. One reason is that I found it too hard to choose an example, and the other is that I would not want to publish three posts about similar songs, from the same genre. I have briefly mentioned Northern Soul previously on this blog. By the early 1970s, this small movement had grown, and had come to notice nationally. The devotees would pack venues in the north of England on Saturday nights, dancing to lesser-known soul records from America, until late the next morning. It came with a fashion style all its own, and a noticeable racial tolerance and general good humour. These clubs also served as markets, where fans could buy and exchange rare recordings to play at home. Young people would travel from all over the country, to fill places like the Wigan Casino, or the Blackpool Mecca.

Although it originated in the earlier Mod scene of the 1960s, Northern Soul aficionados did not continue with the same music from the Tamla-Motown stable, or Atlantic and Stax. They sought out smaller labels, and relatively little-known recording artists to dance to, as long as their music provided the distinctive sound that they loved. I could never claim to have been involved at that time. I was too old by then for one thing, and I would never have been comfortable in the baggy trousers and singlets favoured by the energetic dancers. For me, the attraction was simple. I knew the music. In some cases, I owned the records, and knew the recording artists’ work well. I had bought them the first time around, up to ten years earlier, when in my early teens.

It has never really gone away. Despite the closure of most of the iconic venues, the spirit lives on. In the following decades, other groups began to cover Northern Soul classics, giving them a new audience. Notable here are Soft Cell, who covered ‘Tainted Love’, and Dexy’s Midnight Runners, who included ‘Seven Days is Too Long’ on their debut album. Some of these younger fans sought out the originals, and club nights began again. There are still ‘weekenders’, held in various places around the country, and a diehard army of fans, old and young. Their motto is, ‘Keep The Faith’. It is a faith worth keeping.

Regrettably, I am unable to cut/paste links from You Tube to this post. I have no idea why, perhaps they have disabled this facility. It has always worked before. So, if you are at all interested, they are easily found there. If this continues, my posts in the music and film categories are destined to look very boring, I’m afraid.

*I have managed to get  the tracks into the comments, please see below for links.

Open The Door To Your Heart. This solid song from 1967 was recorded by Darrell Banks, and written by the talented Donnie Elbert. Banks had a very short career, as he was shot dead in 1970, aged just 32.

Seven Days is Too Long.  As mentioned, this song was covered by Kevin Rowland in 1980. I had the original single by Chuck Wood some ten years earlier. Although more commercial than some, it is rightly considered to be a Northern Soul classic.

Do I Love You (Indeed I Do). This was a Tamla Motown release from Frank Wilson in 1965, and was considered sufficiently obscure for the Northern Soul scene. It has exactly the right beat, and overall sound, to illustrate perfectly just what they all loved about this kind of music.

Significant Songs (2)

Tainted Love

When I was under 14, in 1965, I heard a really good soul song, with a driving beat. To this day, I cannot remember where, but it really got to me. I asked around at the record shops, but wasn’t able to nail it down, so couldn’t buy it. Some years later, in the early 1970’s, I heard the song again, in a London club. It was called ‘Tainted Love’, and was sung by Gloria Jones. She had just achieved recognition, as the girlfriend of Marc Bolan, front man of T-Rex. I still couldn’t find the record for sale though, and it was another couple of years, before I was able to buy the single on vinyl. By this time, it had become a firm favourite on the ‘Northern Soul’ scene, and was being played in all their premier venues, including Wigan Casino.

I plodded along quite happily with this version, until I was somewhat surprised, when a new one started to be played on the radio. Very similar to the original, but with clearer, and harder vocals, I soon learned that it was by a two-man British outfit, called Soft Cell. It was introduced to a completely new generation, and marketed along the lines of electro-pop, and glam rock, a world away from the soul roots it had emerged from. Nonetheless, it was a pretty good version, and showed me the vocal range, and obvious talent of the singer, Marc Almond. Although somewhat slower in tempo, and using synthesisers to replace instruments, I had time for this cover version, and looked out for more from the duo. They later released ‘Say Hello, Wave Goodbye’, one of my favourite torch songs ever, and Almond went on to a brilliant solo career, covering lots of famous artists, including Jaques Brel.

Unusually for me, the cover was almost more powerful than the original, and led me to an appreciation of a very different performer. The Marylin Manson cover is best ignored, and will not be featured here.

Here is a You Tube clip of Gloria Jones singing the song, with an interesting ‘Mod’ photo montage.

And here is the Soft Cell version, with Almond in full voice.


I hope you enjoy them, but will understand if they are not your ‘thing’.


Soulful sounds of my youth

Continuing what seems to be a musical theme this week, I am recalling some of the soul songs, and dance classics, of my teenage years. They are all from America on this occasion, as the main alternatives here at the time were the Mersey Sound, or belated Rock and Roll. I doubt that this selection will attract that wide an audience, or receive a great deal of appreciation, as it is all in something of a niche market. However, as a memento of the parties and clubs of my youth, it is a priceless personal souvenir.

Tell it like it is. ( 1967) The ultimate slow dance track, from the smooth voice of Mr Aaron Neville. I was not much past fifteen when this was released, and I have played it regularly ever since, for over forty-six years.

Louie Louie. Not the original 1957 version, but the 1963 release by The Kingsmen. This became a Mod classic in the UK during the early 1960’s. Covered many times since, nobody beats the early funky feel of this dance-floor essential. Despite sounding like a group of black singers, with very soulful lead vocals, they were actually all white, and appeared strangely camp, clad in cardigans, and wearing caps. Can’t beat the 60’s!

Seven Days Is Too Long. (1967) This simple soul dance hit from Chuck Wood became a big hit in the UK, on more than one occasion. It has become one of the hall of fame records for fans of so-called ‘Northern Soul’, the American records played almost exclusively in clubs in the North of England. Even at 61, I cannot keep my feet still!

Nothing Can Stop Me. (1965) Snappy suited, with a Motown look and feel, Gene Chandler got feet tapping with this one. Better known for the huge hit ‘Duke of Earl’, Chandler moved on to greater things with this track, another adopted by those Northern Soul aficionados.

Barefootin’. Again in 1965, Robert Parker ensured that dance floors were filled with this upbeat recording. The subject of a few covers over the years, this is the original, and best, from the man himself.

Cool Jerk. A year later, in 1966, The Capitols released this one-off. Almost in its own genre, it is still undoubtedly a classic; as the numerous cover versions, and inclusion in film soundtracks, can testify.

Comin’ Home Baby. This 1962 song, by Mel Torme, is not a soul song at all. It could be called Jazz, possibly even Swing. Looking back at Mel through modern eyes, he seems somewhat ridiculous. Sharp suit, bulging eyes, college-boy haircut, and snapping fingers clutching a cigarette. But he was the epitome of cool in 1962, and to my mind, this is still one of the coolest records ever made. This video is like watching a history documentary, but they are still doing this sort of crap on ‘Strictly Come Dancing’. Perhaps better to not watch him though. Close your eyes and listen.

I Get The Sweetest Feeling.  Already well known for ‘Reet Petite’, and ‘Higher and Higher’, Jackie Wilson made the journey from Doo-wop, to modern soul, throughout the 50’s and 60’s. This track is on my list for the memories it brings back to me, from 1968. His influence is self explanatory, when you recall the Van Morrison song ‘Jackie Wilson Said’, recorded in 1972.

When I’m Gone. Saving the best until last perhaps, this short love song from the wonderful Brenda Holloway sums up the early years of Tamla Motown, from 1965, and I simply love it.

There are many, many more, but this is just a snapshot of the party tunes of my youth. I enjoyed them, then and now, and I hope that you do too.