Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1101

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“Northern Soul: An Illustrated History” by Elaine Constantine and Gareth Sweeney

Northern Soul: An Illustrated History by Elaine Constantine & Garth Sweeney



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UK release date 05.09.2013

Away from Blues & Soul my journalistic jobs over the years have included book reviews, both fiction and non-fiction…There are ways and means of doing this job. When faced with non-fiction, as with this “History” the first trick is to think about the stuff one knows oneself and look it up in the index. Easy with Northern Soul of course. Let's take an example shall we?

On the Northern scene there was one person in particular who used to write about various clubs, jocks and the music. After seven years as a fan – from well before Northern was named in fact – he then toured the country for the next seventeen years, writing, in this very magazine in fact, every fortnight. His readers were very kind, said lots of nice things about his knowledge and style, and still do today.
So, of course his was one of the first names I looked up in this “History” …er… he's not mentioned, not once.

Of course I also looked up names like Dave Godin – the man who named Northern Soul…six mentions; Blues and Soul Magazine, three mentions; Black Music magazine, one…Ooer, How about Russ Winstanley, surely one of the greatest influences with his starting up of Wigan Casino (which has innumerable mentions, naturally) Russ has six, although, oddly enough he wasn't interviewed by the authors. Nor was the writer I mentioned above.

Ah, but wait... two deejays are mentioned and quoted countless times throughout the pages. The wife of one of them is mentioned ten times, and quoted. So now the penny is dropping...The politics of the scene have reared their ugly head once more. It seems that if your face fits you are in this book – fans, recording artists, clubs – if it doesn't you are not.

This isn't a bad book, as such. It does have plenty of quotes from club goers and it goes part of the way to explaining how the Northern Soul scene progressed over the years…The photographs are excellent.
However, it is poorly researched with a definite slant towards one “clique” whilst, not too cleverly, ignoring the rest.

The big problem here, then, is that if you are in the book it will be the greatest thing since sliced bread. If you are not, you can't help wondering why…Yet again, the Scene's divisions will be emphasised. The saying goes that 'history is written by the victors'. Those people who had an important part to play in the history of Northern Soul – and who are still around today but are missed out of this “History” may have their own opinions…

*This book is of course, published to accompany the publicity and popularity of Elaine Constantine's eagerly awaited film “Northern Soul”.

It has, in fact, nothing at all to do with the film which is a fictionalised story. If you do read the book and agree with my review you should not let it put you off the film which, by all accounts, sounds like a good 'un.

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