The chosen few
The experience and practice of northern soul
in Keeping the faith
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Chapter 5 assesses how northern soul was practised and experienced by its participants, focusing on the centrality of DJs to the scene, their relationship with fans and the way in which fans lived and related to northern soul, including its well-documented involvement with illegal drug abuse. It explains how northern soul’s perception of itself as ‘different’ and detached conflicted with what were viewed by many as attempts to commercialise the scene. This contributed to the emergence of cleavages and tensions and to the development of a form of ‘penny capitalism’ that was complemented by the entrepreneurial pursuit of profit through the sale of rare recordings. Such activity strengthened the transatlantic links that the scene had engendered between Britain and several North American cities and resulted in the enhancement or rehabilitation of a number of US artistic careers. However, it was specific commercial practices relating to recordings that undermined the rhetorical discourse of ‘togetherness’ apparent in northern soul. The chapter evaluates the tensions within the scene and determines the extent to which commercialisation and the scene’s association with illegal drugs led to its demise.

Keeping the faith

A history of northern soul


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