G4E1 – Origins of Northern Soul & Disco – The Beginning

G4E1 – Origins of Northern Soul & Disco – The Beginning

Welcome pop pickers to an ambitious series of articles covering 6 genres, each with 6 episodes. To give a bit of variation, the next episode of each genre will be published 6 weeks after the previous episode.

This is based on stuff like what I like, there will be various bands and artists to try and cheer you up and kick-start your weekend.  Hopefully for many of you, to bring back some fond memories and get your foot tapping.

This week is the origins of Northern Soul and Disco.  This is what we heard at the Youth Club in the early 1970’s through to the late 1980’s, when most nights were party nights, men were men and girls were girls and you met on the dance floor.  Happier times.

Thank you to Wiki and Top of the Pops.

The Tunes:

Just before the arrival of Disco music, came Northern Soul.  Northern Soul itself came out of the Motown sound.

Courtesy Wiki:

Northern soul is a music and dance movement that emerged in Northern England and the English Midlands in the late 1960s from the British mod scene, 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) or American soul music from northern cities such as Detroit, Chicago and others.

The northern soul movement generally eschews Motown or Motown-influenced music that has had significant mainstream commercial success. The recordings most prized by enthusiasts of the genre are usually by lesser-known artists, released only in limited numbers, often by American labels such as Vee-Jay RecordsChess RecordsBrunswick RecordsRic-TicGordy RecordsGolden World Records (Detroit), Mirwood Records (Los Angeles), Shout Records and Okeh.

Northern soul is associated with particular dance styles and fashions that grew out of the underground rhythm and soul scene of the late 1960s at venues such as the Twisted Wheel in Manchester. This scene and the associated dances and fashions quickly spread to other UK dancehalls and nightclubs like the Wigan Casino,  Blackpool Mecca (the Highland Room), and Golden Torch (Stoke-on-Trent).

As the favoured beat became more up-tempo and frantic in the early 1970s, northern soul dancing became more athletic, somewhat resembling the later dance styles of disco and break dancing. Featuring spins, flips, karate kicks and backdrops, club dancing styles were often inspired by the stage performances of touring American soul acts such as Little Anthony and the Imperials and Jackie Wilson.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, popular northern soul records generally dated from the mid-1960s. This meant that the movement was sustained (and “new” recordings added to playlists) by prominent DJs discovering rare and previously overlooked records. Later, certain clubs and DJs began to move away from the 1960s Motown sound and began to play newer releases with a more contemporary sound.

Now then, many of you may never have heard of some of the artist, nor the songs, but I guarantee a foot stomping time.  Enjoy, please:

The featured song must be the classic Gloria Jones – Tainted Love.  Covered by a few artists, and the Marc Almond Soft Cell version is probably the best known.  In my view a better sound than the original, with better instruments and production.  However, the Gloria Jones original gets the casting vote as it was IIRC the first tune I danced at the youth club to.  Also, the first time I copped a feel, but that’s another story!

For a brief period the immortal Frank Valli (who is 87 now and still performing) was with Motown, He appears in the Motown, Northern Soul, and Disco sections..  Here is a classic Northern Soul song:

Frankie Valli – You’re Ready Now (1966)

Pointer Sisters – Send Him Back ( Northern Soul Dancer ).  Some images of what hitting the dance floor was about.

This is proper dancing: Soul Brothers Six a Go Go : Some Kind of Wonderful

Do you like good music, yeh, yeh, then here is Arthur Conley – Sweet Soul Music from 1968.

Chuck Wood – Seven Days is Too Long  – Northern Soul Dancing – Oh to be able to dance like this again!

I cannot remember this one from the time but found it on You Tube.  An interesting note on this:  The song “Big Bird” (featuring Booker T. Jones on organ, Steve Cropper on guitar, and Donald “Duck” Dunn on bass) was written while Floyd waited in a London airport for a plane back to the United States for Otis Redding’s funeral.

Eddie Floyd – Big Bird

I finish this episode with another immortal, Tina Turner:

Ike & Tina Turner – Somebody Somewhere Needs You.

Singalong, enjoy and be happy!

Links to Origins Series:

Genre 1 Episode 1 – Motown – The Beginning Genre 1 Episode 2 – Motown Genre 1 Episode 3 – Motown
Genre 1 Episode 4 – Motown Genre 1 Episode 5 – Motown Genre 1 Episode 6 – Motown
Genre 2 Episode 1 –

Glam Rock – The Beginning


Genre 2 Episode 2 –

Glam Rock

Genre 2 Episode 3 –

Glam Rock

Genre 2 Episode 4 –

Glam Rock

Genre 2 Episode 5 –

Glam Rock

Genre 2 Episode 6 –

Glam Rock

Genre 3 Episode 1 – The Singers


Genre 4 Episode 1 – Northern Soul and Disco


Genre 5 Episode 1 –


Genre 6 Episode 1 –



Featured image: “The Soul Partners – Oval Ball Club, Wilkinson St, Leigh, Lancs” by John Harwood is licensed under CC BY 2.0 .

© Phil the ex test manager 2023