It being the end of the week, Steve emailed staff with the Feelgood Friday tunes – three upbeat three minute songs. The sound of Northern Soul music filled the corridor past the humanities classrooms before 7.30 a.m.
The similarity of bars from one song to the Trammps’ record HoldbacktheNight prompted me to go next door to Steve’s room. “Do they play The Trammps at Northern Soul nights?”
“Some DJs might, but they wouldn’t get played very often.”
What might find favour among Northern Soul fans seems often an arbitrary matter. Were The Trammps too commercial? Did the music lack the tempo required for those who would spend all night dancing? Sometimes it would seem impossible to guess what would be popular perhaps it would just depend upon who was in a particular place on a particular night.
A Detroit Spinners song began. “The Spinners,” said Steve, “called the Detroit Spinners because of Motown’s association with the city.”
Steve is definite in his preference for the music that came out of Detroit, particularly that of Tamla Motown, over that which came out of Memphis on Stax records, and over the sound of Philadelphia music. Perhaps Motown is much lighter, cheerier and more danceable than some of the stronger rhythm and blues and funk music that came out of the other cities. If Northern Soul is anything, it’s about lightness and levity.
Some labels block the recordings from seven inch singles that he posts on his YouTube channel, as if they weren’t freely available on countless other sites. CBS seem particularly active in blocking the posts. “Weren’t they Abba’s label?” I asked.
”I don’t think so,” he said. “Don’t say anything about Abba. They were pure professionals. Pure pop, but pure professional. It’s a pity the broke up in the way they did. Everyone of their songs was rehearsed and re-rehearsed, recorded and re-recorded until it was exactly right.”
I held up my hands. ”I wasn’t going to say anything. I have a copy of DancingQueen from when it was released in 1976.” (Remembering the orange paper sleeve that held the record, I remembered that Abba were definitely not on the CBS label).
The next soul track filled his classroom and I realised that eight o’clock was approaching and there were handouts to be photocopied before it was my turn for gate duty at 8.25. Sauntering down the corridor there was an imagining of a disco ball reflecting light in all directions as a syncopated song filled the air.