“It's easy for the casual observer to think that Northern Soul is the Motown Sound: and to a certain extent that's true”. So comments Tim Brown in Kingsley Abbott's book 'Calling Out Around The World – A Motown Reader'. And to those of us that grew up with the emerging power of this music and became observers of a 1970s club scene given the title 'Northern Soul', this is easy to relate to. There is some evidence that dj's worked hard to exclude 'Motown' tracks from the scene during this period and only utilised 'ultra rare' soul in their playlists. However there is equally evidence that the 'punters' at club events wanted to dance to the Motown Sound and of many dedicated nights where the playlist featured exclusively Motown tracks.
Tim Brown goes on....”By the late 60s Motown had moved on creatively to a funkier sound........much to the disaproval of mods and club-goers in the North of England who yearned for the earlier 'classic' sound. When they delved a little deeper, these enterprising DJ's and collectors found they were already sitting on a treasure trove of obscure soul goodies some on Motown-related labels, but the vast majority consisting of failed competition to Gordy's empire”. Perhaps these are best described as 'Motown copyists'. But throughout the 70s the Wigan Casino built its reputation on the raft of newly discovered 'rare soul' 45s that became their anthem’s.
What resulted was “a successful attempt to prolong the dance floor life of a scene reliant on undiscovered 60s obscurities”. This approach was once again a focus in the late 90s as 'Togetherness' magazine published its Northern Soul Top 40 containing only 4 Motown tracks with all being rarer sides. Whilst not everyone who grew up with this 70s scene will agree with Tim's statement that......“Despite all of these subtleties and nuances, however the classic Motown “on-the-fours” rhythm remains the archetypal Northern sound”. …...there is clear evidence that it remains dominant today and should do so.
Whilst the Northern Soul Top 500 compiled by Kev Roberts contains a mere 3% of tracks by Motown artists the 1998 Togetherness Top 40 chart contains a wopping 10% ( just 4 tracks) but we would suggest this should be more like 30% based on a period not focused merely on the 70s club scene.
The Official You Tube Top 500 Northern Soul Playlist reflects Kev Roberts book of the same name and whilst it offers a very diverse listening/ watching pattern does the list and the viewing numbers really reflect the true interest in Northern Soul today? …....or is it motivated by commercial objectives and the dj reputation derived from the 70s club scene. Obviously the numbers of views are dependant on the length of time songs have been available as videos. Whilst the Top 500 is obviously a key reference in finding the music of the club scene of the 1970s it is not indicative of the broader spectrum of interest in the scene.......just check out the numbers of views in the Top 50 tracks.
Today as we are able to access all of the Northern Soul tracks we recall via You Tube(YT) you might have thought that perhaps the 70s sounds would have dominated?.......Examining some of these track plays on YT we can see figures for the 'views' over the last few years on video posts of the most popular songs from Wigan Casino.
What (Judy Street )- 940,000 plus
Do I Love You - 648,000 plus
Out On The Floor - 229,000 plus (and 514,000 for the Ian Levine remake)
and of course the Wigan Casino famous 3 before 8(last 3 records played at 8 am)
Long after Tonight - 348,000 plus
Time Will Pass You By - 360,000 plus
I'm On My Way - 556,000 plus
but checking stats on others is showing some surprises as to the most popular
Tainted Love – Gloria Jones (2,638,000 plus)
The Snake – Al Wilson (869,000 plus)
But we believe that perhaps Motown still rules as some searching shows the most popular group on Motown still grabs the tops spot in a YT 'real' Northern Soul playlist.
Ain't Too Proud To Beg – The Temptations (5,742,0000 plus)
Treat Her Like a Lady – (3,557,000 plus)
More re Motown's influence and place at the core of Northern Soul soon. With views from some long term collectors.