Seventy-three years old, Bruce Springsteen sings with the energy of someone forty years younger. It is energy evident in a new album to be released on 11th November. The rock singer has made one of his departures from the East Street Band to play music of a very different genre, a collection of soul hits.
Promotion for the album includes a video of Springsteen singing his version of Frank Wilson’s Do I love you? It is sung with an ebullience that would grace any rendition of the Northern Soul classic. There is an exuberant joy in Springsteen’s capture of the spirit of nights out of fifty years ago.
As well as the Frank Wilson number, the album includes songs from Northern Soul favourites The Four Tops and The Temptations. Niche it may have been, but Northern Soul left an enduring legacy.
In my schooldays, there would have been people who had never travelled north of Bristol in their lives who would have had ‘Wigan Casino’ written on their pencil cases. Only decades later did I realise the meaning of the words, that the ‘casinds no’ was in fact a place at which thousands of people would congregate to dance.
The dance hall enjoyed an iconic status among those who sought to be counter-cultural. They were those who did not enjoy the fare served up by Top of the Pops or by the sort of bands that might have appeared on The Old Grey Whistle Test.
Northern Soul music was distinctive in its sound and in its identity, commercial success for an artist almost excluded them from being included in some of the playlists.
The all-night dances in places like Wigan and Blackpool and Manchester would have demanded huge levels of energy. Watch the video recordings of such gatherings and those there, some of whom had travelled huge distances, are there to dance and to enjoy the moment. Northern Soul dances were occasions very different from the gatherings of fans of psychedelic music in the previous decade.
Perhaps it is the fact that Northern Soul music is about enjoying the music for its own sake that makes it attractive. There is no need to make associations, nor is there a need to have a particular set of memories, it is music to be enjoyed in the here and now of it being played.
Springsteen’s singing of Do I love you? is a tune to be enjoyed in the moment it is played.