The Northern Soul Scene - Sarah Raine

The Northern Soul Scene - Sarah Raine

ReMarking Old Records, Making New Meaning: Debating the Questionable Home of Northern Soul

The Northern Soul Scene - Sarah Raine

Nicola Watchman Smith [+-]
Teeside University
Dr Nicola Watchman Smith (PhD, PFHEA) is Deputy Director of Student Learning at Teesside University and a cultural sociologist and researcher. She has published widely on northern soul, including chapters in The Ashgate Research Companion to Popular Musicology (2009) and Ageing and Youth Cultures: Music, Style and Identity (2012).


Northern soul is a British music culture centred upon the direct acquisition of American soul music. Thus, when the heyday northern soul scene produced a recognisable British culture and consequent identities for its UK participants, an interesting dynamic was created in terms of the link between place and popular music. This chapter will discuss the role of American soul music in the synthesis of (an initially) northern cultural identity in relation to two factors. Firstly, in acknowledgment of the fact that northern soul is so named because of a perceived distinction between northerners preferred style of soul music, compared to other British consumers of soul. When a specific strand of borrowed American soul music became (re)labelled as a reflection of the tastes of northern English youths the notion of authenticity, ownership and locality as an origin of identity became muddied. Therefore, secondly, the significance of the separation between the American home of this soul music and the UK locality in which this music is (primarily) enjoyed will also be discussed. Ultimately, identity and locality will be problematised within an analysis of the northern English claim to the possession of a specific batch of American music, the appeal of this ‘alien’ music, and the significance of the consumption of that alien music in a geographically distant and distinctly northern manner.

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Smith, Nicola. ReMarking Old Records, Making New Meaning: Debating the Questionable Home of Northern Soul. The Northern Soul Scene. Equinox eBooks Publishing, United Kingdom. p. 99-118 Feb 2019. ISBN 9781781795583. Date accessed: 29 Mar 2023 doi: 10.1558/equinox.31278. Feb 2019

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