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40 years ago, in small town bars across the U.K., you could find party goers spinning, twirling and pumping their legs to the fast sounds of American soul music. But, it wasn’t the top 40 Motown sound you’d usually hear, in fact, by that time in the 1970’s, Funk and Disco had already taken over the charts. These kids craved Soul they hadn’t heard yet--rare B sides, and small label releases that were overlooked in the surplus of American-produced Soul music in the 1960’s. DJs in the U.K. began collecting Soul records that were off the beaten track, and often impossible to find again. That specific sound of Soul, and the night-life culture that erupted around it, was branded "Northern Soul."
Unlike other genres, the title, Northern Soul was defined by a foreign culture’s appreciation of American music. The “Northern” referring to the parts of England that first began to embrace the all-night, Soul party culture.
Today in San Francisco, we have our own vibrant party-culture fueled by the same desire to dance to rare, 60s Soul songs that you can’t hear everyday, and are almost impossible to find anywhere else. Here in the Bay Area, we have well over a dozen recurring dance nights, where crate-digging DJs spin their favorite singles from the late-50s, 60s and early-70’s on their original format: 7" records, at 45 revolutions per minute.
For the past few months, I’ve been working with NPR Music to launch the first ever, 24-hour stream of Northern Soul music, but from my viewpoint as a Soul DJ based here in the Bay Area. And in that process, I’ve been trying to figure out just how to define the foreign concept of Northern Soul in relation to the contemporary Soul party culture here in San Francisco. And I figure, the best way to do that would be to bring more local DJs into the conversation.
In this hour long special, I’ve invited popular DJs from around the Bay Area Soul party scene to talk about where they find records, what makes the party culture in San Francisco special, and how it is and isn’t informed by its Northern Soul predecessor.
I’ll also be mixing in some of the most distinctive and hard-to-find soul records that epitomize the Soul sound you can find on San Francisco dance floors now, as well as the Northern Soul all-nighters that happened decades before, thousands of miles away.
Brown Amy (Martinez) & Carnita (Tom Temprano)