Abstinence, dark mornings, cold toes – February doesn’t offer much in the way of comfort. To help you through the next four weeks we’ve put together ten tracks to move your feet and feed your Northern Soul.
Frank Wilson: Do I love you (indeed I do)
How could we start with anything else? An absolute classic with a remarkable backstory. Wilson recorded the track for Berry Gordy in 1965. He subsequently moved into writing and production for Motown acts and all but two copies of the record were destroyed. One of them found their way to England was hailed as an instant classic by the Northern Soul fraternity and simultaneously became the rarest record on the scene. Eventually released in the UK in 1979, an original copy was sold for over £25,000 in 2009. Whether or not it’s worth this sort of money is irrelevant, this is the sound of pure joy.
Chuck Wood: Seven days too long
Rare, non-commercial and non-Motown: the classic definition of a Northern soul track. Not much is known about Chuck Wood – aka the soul howler – other than this iconic number. The beauty of Northern Soul records are their joyous energy and this one never stops. Dexy’s Midnight Runners did a fine cover version on their debut album, Searching for the young soul rebels in 1980.
Marvin Gaye: This love starved heart of mine
Another example of a great track that was embraced by northern dancefloors despite not officially seeing the light of day until three decades after being recorded. A lesser-known Marvin Gaye track – if there is such a thing – but one that still feels remarkably fresh and there’s no mistaking those vocals. Written by the blue-eyed Lewis Sisters (known as the Singing Schoolteachers) in 1965 it’s testament to the surfeit of good material the studio was producing that it remained in the vaults for so long.
The Vel-Vets: I got to find me somebody
A typically rare release and one of the biggest songs on the Northern Soul scene. Written by LA songwriter Marcene ‘Dimples’ Harris when she was only 19, the energy and enthusiasm in this classic soul track makes it impossible not to dance too.
Gladys Knight and the Pips: Walk a mile in my shoes
Another Lewis sisters number, this is Gladys Knight before disco and her debut release for Motown. This is just jam-packed with emotion and the Lewis Sisters deserve far more credit for their song-writing. They got to meet Gladys sometime after the record was released at the Whiskey A Go-Go nightclub “we thought she would drop dead when she saw we were white.” An underrated classic.
Tony Clarke: Landslide
Recorded for Chicago’s legendary Chess Records, Landslide starts as it means to go on with the massive opening drum roll swiftly followed by the brass section. Tony Clarke’s vocals pack more heartache in this two minutes and eleven seconds than all the Coldplay recordings put together.
Chris Clark: Love gone bad
Another exemplary Holland-Dozier-Holland track. Optimistically labelled as Motown’s answer to Dusty Springfield, Chris Clark was a six-foot blonde teenager who didn’t look like a typical Motown artist and sadly never reached the success of her label-mates despite this gem of a track which was her lone entry in the charts.
“I never tried to sound black,” Clark has said, “my soulfulness came from my tone.”
Four Tops: Bernadette
Full of energy from the first bars, this is a flawless piece of Motown genius. From the false ending to the impassioned longing that characterises Levi Stubb’s insistent vocals, Bernadette is guaranteed to lift your spirits.
Yvonne Baker: You didn`t say a word
Effortless and atmospheric, this 007-Motown mash-up is two and a half minutes of 1960’s Philadelphia soul perfection from the girl harmonies to the horn arrangements. Made for practising your smoothest moves on the dance floor.
Martha & the Vandellas – Nowhere to run to
One of the all-time greatest intros, this is three minutes of driving soul that never lets up. Motown dream-team Holland Dozier Holland and the Funk Brothers went all out when they put together this track. Snow chains were used as percussion alongside the tambourine and drums to create the Vandellas’ signature harder sound, filling the floor at many a Northern Soul night.