Six years ago, Simon Price of the Guardian, picked his top ten Northern Soul tracks. Here are the ones he picked. What do you think?

Northern Soul, a vibrant and elusive subculture that emerged in the dancehalls of northern England in the late 1960s, holds an enigmatic allure that defies conventional music ranking lists. It thrives on the rare, the obscure, and the undiscovered, making it a challenge to compile a definitive list of its greatest hits.

The Unpredictable Beauty of Northern Soul

Northern Soul is not about mainstream popularity or chart-topping success; instead, it celebrates hidden gems and cherished finds. While DJs like Kev Roberts and enthusiasts have attempted to create lists like the “Northern Soul Top 500,” the heart of this genre lies in individual journeys through its vast and diverse musical landscape.

Dobie Gray’s Timeless Anthem – “Out on the Floor”

In 1966, Dobie Gray, a versatile and accomplished artist, recorded the timeless anthem “Out on the Floor.” This celebration of nocturnal kicks seemed to presage the exhilarating amphetamine-fueled thrill of all-nighters that became synonymous with Northern Soul. The song’s fairy-dust twinkle, coupled with its infectious piano topline, earned it the status of a perfect anthem for the movement.

Yvonne Baker – You Didn’t Say a Word: Unraveling the James Bond Connection

“You Didn’t Say a Word” by Yvonne Baker, a song often known as the “James Bond song” due to its resemblance to the 007 gun-barrel theme, is a prime example of how Northern Soul treasures were discovered. Baker’s soulful vocals, coupled with Joe Renzetti’s distinctive arrangement, made this B-side a sought-after gem within the scene, a testament to northern soul’s culture of unearthing musical treasures.

The Tomangoes – I Really Love You: The Motown Connection

The Tomangoes’ “I Really Love You” highlights the influence of Motown’s success on the northern soul scene. As Motown’s hits spread, numerous smaller labels across the United States tried to emulate the Hitsville sound. The Tomangoes’ sole single, engineered by Dr. Edward Wolfrum, exemplifies the genre’s ability to elevate lesser-known artists and recordings.

The Fascinations – Girls Are Out to Get You: From Obscurity to Hit Single

Northern Soul’s magic lay in its ability to transform little-known oldies into hit singles. The Fascinations, a girl group, experienced this transformation with “Girls Are Out to Get You.” Although it had little impact initially, the song’s euphoric energy and concise punch made it a favorite on the dance floor, propelling it into the UK Top 40 after a re-release.

Mike Post Coalition – Afternoon of the Rhino: Novelty Northern Soul

While the term “failed Motown” doesn’t fully encompass Northern Soul, there is a grain of truth in the description. “Afternoon of the Rhino” by Mike Post Coalition is a prime example of “novelty northern,” where danceability mattered more than a song’s origin. This daft instrumental tune, with its brassy orchestral urgency, became a favourite among the scene’s most enthusiastic dancers.

Terry Callier – Ordinary Joe: A Soulful Message

Terry Callier’s “Ordinary Joe” beautifully illustrates the philosophical quality that transcends genre in many Northern Soul tracks. With its inspirational and life-affirming message, this 1972 single was a fitting choice for a BBC sports department to soothe the nation’s spirits after a football tournament loss. Its gentle arrangement makes it a timeless addition to any soul all-nighter.

Tobi Legend – Time Will Pass You By: Embracing the Fleeting Nature of Life

“Time Will Pass You By” by Tobi Legend (nee Lark) reflects on the transient nature of existence, urging listeners to embrace the present fully. Its poignant lyrics and soulful delivery touched the hearts of northern soul enthusiasts, and it became one of the iconic “Three Before Eight” tracks played at the end of all-nighters.

Wayne Gibson – Under My Thumb: Accidental Soul Success

Wayne Gibson’s “Under My Thumb” is a fascinating example of accidental soul. Originally a cover of The Rolling Stones’ hit, the song gained new life in the northern soul scene when DJs recognized its dance floor potential. This discovery breathed new life into the song and ensured its place as one of the scene’s classics.

Eloise Laws – Love Factory: Modern Soul Making Its Mark

Ian Levine’s DJ role at the Blackpool Mecca led to the introduction of “modern soul” tracks in the northern soul scene. One of his notable finds was “Love Factory” by Eloise Laws, a dynamic track with flamboyant melodrama and an empowering message. Despite its immense potential, it remained an underrated gem.

Seven Dwarfs – Stop Girl: The Thrill of the Hunt Continues

One of the most exciting aspects of Northern Soul is the thrill of discovering new tracks. “Stop Girl” by Seven Dwarfs is a recent find that perfectly captures the genre’s essence. With its exhilarating guitar riff and energetic vibe, this Pennsylvania garage band’s track would be categorised as “freakbeat” today.

Conclusion: Embracing the Allure of Northern Soul

Northern Soul’s magnetism lies in its discovery of forgotten treasures and its focus on the love of music and dance. As we traverse through the vast landscape of this unique subculture, we realise that the joy is not only in unearthing classics but also in finding our own “Stop Girl” – that special track that resonates deeply with us. So, whether you are a seasoned enthusiast or a newcomer, dive into the world of northern soul, and experience the euphoria of its timeless melodies and the excitement of the hunt for musical wonders.0