I want to time travel, right now. To drop in to an event, a gig, a scene like a stone in a well, and immerse myself. Bathe in the moment, and only come up for air when sated. Given the choice, the full gamut of happenings, I’d pick a Northern Soul event hands down. A real one. In the North of England. Forty years ago. I have saturated my brain with footage from the epicentres of this beautiful, wonderful dance form, but always want more. I have drunk in the music, pondered the so- called ‘origins’ of it, and even sought out rare soul 45’s in a bid to understand it. Ultimately though, I think that the true joy of Northern Soul is that it is indefinable. No one person dances in exactly the same way. Everybody seems to interpret the off-beat rhythms differently. Yet people tap in to something. There seems to be a joyful sharing of music, and a deeply felt world view. An embracing. I yearn to be a part of that, and to actually dance, to express what I feel about the music.
Of its many seductive allures, I think it is the diversity of the sound and movement and dancers that lures me in the most. There is something wonderfully anarchic about a phenomenon that champions the unsung heroes of the age. The devotees to music that slogged away at day jobs in Industrial behemoths like Michigan only to transform themselves in to Soul men and women at night, recording in small, independent studios. I love it that young men and women from the North of England crossed the world to search for new, rare tracks never heard in the UK, returning with a treasure trove to share with other devotees. What better motto can there be than ‘Keep The Faith’, raising a fist at a world that forces conformity and mediocrity on a daily basis. It is a fierce and beautiful bastion of freedom.
Whether I am youtubing the footwork masters in Wigan Casino footage or a swiftly captured clip from a modern all-nighter, it is people’s expressions that I love. Afficionado’s take on a dreamlike, ecstatic look, and it is a joy to behold. Be they swishing along serenely with that heady concoction of heart-rending lyrics and brassy beats or kung-fu kicking across the floor, a transformation seems to descend on the dancers. There is a deep sense of solidarity in a shared passion, and yet each dancer spins their own web, nimbly side-stepping in to spaces to allow others to feel the music. I love Northern Soul, and I can only hope that one day I will have the courage to go to an event, and experience that thrill as a dancer, as well as a spectator.
Copyright Tom Tide 2016