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Only a northern song.

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For various reasons, I don’t have the mojo to write much tonight … which is not much different than a lot of other recent nights, I suppose.

I will pull your coat toward a recent BBC documentary on the “northern soul” cultural phenomenon, though. It’s only a half-hour long, and it moves pretty quickly, so don’t be put off by the word “documentary.”

(I heard about it via the Onion A/V Club; you might already have encountered it in other precincts of the Web.)

The host spends a long time hashing and rehashing the popularity of the northern soul scene, but it’s really pretty simple: Dead-end young men and women with passion in their hearts relate to music made by dead-end young men and women with passion in their hearts. Stir in the uniquely British strain of pop-culture obsession, and you’ve got northern soul.

I thought the show was pretty well-done, but I couldn’t help but find some holes in it:

– Everybody quoted in it says that northern soul fans are “like a family.” They expect me to believe that you could pack 2,000 pilled-up, sleep-deprived kids into a ballroom, set them off doing their best Bruce Lee impressions, and not come out of it with at least a few punch-ups?

– If uppers and speed were so necessary for northern soul fans 35 years ago, what of the new generation of youngsters who dance all night now? Are they high, or just twinkling with the magic energy of youth?

– Will the Internet kill pop culture obsession by making everything too easy? Today’s northern soul obsessives can use the Internet to paw through stacks of records, in the U.K. and abroad, without leaving the comfort of their beds. Is it the same when the challenge isn’t there?

(I suspect the true loyalist will soldier on, turning his/her back on Internet orders and insisting on the old-time interaction of swapping disc boxes with people to see what they’ve got. Possession is only part of obsession; form is just as important.)


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