Young soul rebels? Soul scenes in seventies Britain

Time and again, young British audiences have picked up on forms of black music that were neglected – and indeed systematically marginalized – by the white-dominated music industry in the US. There is a long history here, which can be traced from the British beatniks’ enthusiasm for traditional New Orleans jazz, through the blues boom of the early 1960s, and the mods’ enthusiasm for rare soul. However, my main focus here is on the ‘soul scenes’ that flourished in the north of England, and somewhat later in the south, during the 1970s and early 1980s. Although I consider some of the music itself, my main emphasis is on how it was used and consumed, primarily in the context of social dance. I also look at how these various dance scenes have been represented in media, both at the time and since.

You can download the whole essay (without illustrations) by clicking here, or if you want to read the illustrated version, click on the subheadings to read the different sections:

  1. Introduction: black music, white youth
  2. A longer history
  3. Whose roots?
  4. Northern soul: making a scene
  5. Northern soul: identity and representation
  6. Southern soul: a neglected history
  7. Southern soul: identity and representation
  8. Conclusion: beyond ‘race’
  9. Sources and references