Diary of a Soul Boy (Northern Soul the Film.) On a rainy autumnal night in Wolverhampton surrounded by fellow soulies, at long last I was seeing Northern Soul the Film. The atmosphere was tangible and I hoped I wasn’t the only one who felt like they could get up and dance.
Only two years earlier my friends and I had been dancing in dimly lit hall in Blackburn shooting this film directed by Elaine Constantine, trying to recreate Wigan Casino in all its 70s grandeur. Hair and makeup had cut off my precious quiff and slapped my hair into a middle parting and in my high waisted Oxford bags I felt like the dogs bollocks.
Set in 1974 Matt and John discover Black American Soul music and throw themselves in the hedonistic lifestyle that is Northern Soul, all-‐nighters, drugs, music, dancing, friendships and then the comedown of heading back to reality when it is all over. You must have a frozen heart not to have found something to relate to in this film. As it happens I have gone to the cinema to watch it at least four times. It is wonderfully shot and portrays the Soul scene in a gritty and realistic way. Having danced for 10 hours to shoot the Wigan Casino scenes I was keen to spot myself in the crowd bobbing along to the music. What I took away from filming and watching the film was so much more than that.
Shooting the dance scenes enabled me to establish some solid friendships with like-‐minded soulies. Before I had only ever seen some ancient folks bobbing along on the dance floor and made a fool of myself trying to copy them, but now I was face to face with young people who were clearly empowered by what they were listening and dancing to. I felt something innate inside me telling me that I had finally found my kind of people. Three years on I am out most weekends, spinning, back dropping, shuffling and generally thriving in a sweaty soul filled state of mind. There are so may records out there which no matter how I am feeling will always make me dance, Yvonne Fair, ‘Walk out the door if you wanna,’ Lenny Welch, ‘100 Pounds of Pain’ and Ike and Tina Turner, ‘Baby what you want me to do’, to name but a few. My wallet may not agree as record collecting is an expensive business but it is very empowering to know that as a bloke I can get up and dance without anyone taking the piss.
Northern Soul has not only boosted my social calendar as I get to hang out with some of the most fantastic and passionate people out there. But is has also provided me and my mates with some extraordinary experiences. Leaving the film shoot for instance was gut wrenching as I had lived and breathed the 1970s for two days, I think fondly of Keith the coach driver (Keefy baby) parking the colossus coach in a terraced street in Blackburn for 20 or so of us dancers to invade a tiny off licence on the street and ransack its stock of booze for the after party. Dancing For Lisa Stansifeld in her music video and on her tour was a highlight, as well as dancing on the One Show and donning our costumes and doing our thang for a press screening of the film are experiences you cannot buy.
It is the little things that make me want to stay in this crazy scene forever, that instinctive feeling to dance just because you have to or watching Bob effortlessly spins to a high octane tune with perfection, that spine tingling excitement when your favourite records plays and you hit the right beat with a move. I just hope I don’t come crashing down to reality too soon.