The story of Northern Soul is one of practically total immersion, dedication and devotion, where the plain concept of the ‘night out’ was elevated to sacramental dimensions. Where devotees pushed their bodies, their finances and sometimes their minds to brutal and unforgiving extremes. For those who went through that involvement every test of faith or endurance was worth bearing.
- From Northern Soul: An Illustrated History.
‘It was a drugs scene, it was a clothes scene. It was about dancing. It came out of this thing. It was about pills that made you go fast. To go fast to make the scene happen.’ - Chris Brick
In the late 1960s, a form of dance music took a feverish hold on the UK, finding its heart in the north of England. The music of 1960s-70s black American soul singers combined with distinctive dance styles and plenty of amphetamines to create what became known as Northern Soul – a scene based around all night, alcohol-free club nights, arranged by the fans themselves – setting the blueprint for future club culture. Northern Soul tapped into a yearning for individual expression in northern teenagers, and exploded into a cultural phenomenon that influenced a generation of DJs, songwriters and designers for decades to come.
Acclaimed photographer and director Elaine Constantine has brought the movement to life in her film Northern Soul – and that film was the starting point for this book, Northern Soul: An Illustrated History.
However, what started out as a project largely comprising of Constantine’s stunning on-set photography, featuring her young, talented cast and highly authentic production, has turned into a unique illustrated history of Northern Soul. In its final form, the beautiful new photography holds the book together thematically, but its real depth lies in the material from the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s that Elaine and Gareth have researched and pulled together.
Of course, no book can claim to represent everything about a culture. But Northern Soul: An Illustrated History concentrates on individuals’ personal stories from that heady era, as well as being crammed full of truly atmospheric contemporaneous photography – not from press photographers, but from the kids themselves. Be it snaps of soul fans in car parks, hitching a lift or mucking around in photo booths, the combination of real people plus real (and often very dramatic) stories – not to mention the complete absence of label scans and DJ’s top tens – means that the book stands out as a very different proposition from anything yet published on Northern Soul.
We would like to think that above all, this book attempts to give you a feel for what it was really like to be there at the time.