northern

 

It’s hard to explain the immediacy and passion that is inherent in rock & roll. What is it about a killer track that makes you want to tap your fingers? Makes you want to bob your head? Hell, what’s the chemical reaction that occurs when you hear that one great hook and it makes you want to get out of your chair and dance? It’s part emotional, part social, part familiarity and part instantaneous. Most of all, it’s hard to describe…so much so, that I’m not sure anyone can describe it.

Maybe Pete Townshend.

NORTHERN SOUL is the story of John (Elliot James Langridge), an 18-year-old lad living in Lancashire, England in 1974. He doesn’t feel like he’s destined for much, and feels like his sleepy community is destined for even less. However, all of that changes when he meets Matt (Joshua Whitehouse). Matt is a member of the Northern Soul movement; a gaggle of local lads who eat, drink, sleep, and breathe obscure American soul tracks. No hits, no name artists. The tunes that fuel the engine of Northern Soul require deep excavation…and once found, are treasures not to be shared.

To this end, John sees a future; one where he fills dance floors and gets the joint jumping. But are his ambitions of being a live DJ – and going to America to acquire more material – even possible for a loser of a lad, with burnouts for friends?

While NORTHERN SOUL isn’t about to join the pantheon of all-time great rock & roll films, it captures an interesting moment in the history of music. It’s about a movement that was all about the love of the rhythm, the quest to find more of it, and the celebration of that rhythm through dance. Its sounds are the sort that contain more heart and rhythm than most of what passes for popular music these days, and the listening to those sounds pound as a whole generation of Northerners dance themselves into a sweaty mess is well worth a watch.

Even if John’s journey is ultimately a familiar one, the tunes chiming from his car, his bedroom, his booth, and his headphones as he makes that journey make it well worth tagging along.

I have to believe that many modern audiences will look at the goings-on captured in NORTHERN SOUL and scratch their heads. It might confound some people to think back to a time before Google and Shazam would identify any catchy song that one might encounter. There’s no mystery surrounding such things anymore; whether we’re in a bakery or at Boneroo, the answer to “what’s this called” is in our pockets. If that doesn’t perplex those who seek out NORTHERN SOUL, the idea of keeping that sort of information secret will.

Forgetting for a moment that we’re in an era where we feel compelled to share everything, I’ve always had a relationship with music where my friends and I would want to share what we’d discovered. Even if one of us had a knack for finding the best stuff, we’d never consider keeping the titles and artists a secret.

So while many will understand the joys that come with using someone else’s art to express your feelings – and furthermore, bring people together – the notion of using that same art to achieve a certain status within a certain crowd because they have to come to you to get their groove on might seem dickish.

But hey, that’s rock & roll for you.