Northern Soul Top 500 Podcasts
In November 2015, I started a series of podcasts based around the official Northern Soul Top 500. The idea was to journey through the Top 500 in twenty-song episodes, and see what I could learn. I'd get to discover soul songs I'd never heard before, and hopefully come to understand something about the 1970s soul scene reflected by this iconic rundown, and see how it compares to the soul scene of the modern day. i didn't stop to think how long this venture would take me - in the end, it's been slightly shy of four years. I just took the first few steps and followed my nose, and the list, from then on.
What is interesting is the difference between the 500 and the popular sounds of today - or at least 2019, when this was written. Some of the current scene's biggest songs are nowhere to be found on the 500 - "Gone With The Wind Is My Love" by Rita And The Tiaras would probably make the top 20 these days, but it only manages number 74 in an extra list of 100 "bubbling under" songs. And the novelty pop songs adopted at Wigan in a desperate bid to refresh the playlist - "Goodbye Nothing To Say" by The Javells, at number 424, for example - have been quietly dropped. And where oh where in the top 500 is "Do It" by Pat Powdrill, eh? And "Voodoo Mademoiselle" by September Jones. And..
The first in a new series of Great Big Kiss podcasts, in which we make our way through the official Northern Soul Top 500. We kick off with the Top 20 and an hour of solid gold classics by everyone from Frank Wilson and Dobie Gray to Yvonne Baker and Tobi Legend. The huge songs that have filled dancehalls throughout the land since the 1970s are all present and correct. Whether you're a card-carrying soulie looking to relive some precious memories or a bright-eyed newcomer eager to find out more about northern soul, join us. We believe that you're on the right track.
The second in a new series of Great Big Kiss podcasts, in which we make our way through the official Northern Soul Top 500. This time around, we dance our way through numbers 21-40, and once again it's wall-to-wall classics. From solid gold big hitters like Tainted Love and What to beloved gems such as You've Been Away and Unsatisfied to the very best of crossover with Come On Train and Turning My Heartbeat Up, it's 48 minutes of perfection.
The third in the new series of Great Big Kiss podcasts, in which we make our way through the official Northern Soul Top 500. This time around we glide from 41-60, and this podcast sees the chart start to broaden out stylistically, adding the smoother sounds of modern/crossover northern to the footstomping charms of the classic floorfillers. My picks of the chart are "My Sugar Baby" by Connie Clark, "A Little Bit Hurt" by Julien Covey, "Crackin' Up Over You" by Roy Hamilton, and the brilliant, atmospheric instrumental "Bari Track", which turns even the most humble dancehall into a grand ballroom.
I'm on my way!
For the 4th part in our series running through the official northern soul top 500, we hit solid gold. Kicking off with the incredible "I'm On My Way" by Dean Parrish, this segment of the 500 is classic after classic after classic. From "Open The Door To Your Heart" and "Love Love Love" to "In Orbit" and "Nothing Can Compare To You", it's glorious floorfillers all the way. Push back the furniture, kick off your shoes, turn up the stereo...it's looking like a soulful Easter!
The latest instalment of our journey through the official northern soul top 500 finds us drifting blissfully into an hour of quiet classics. There are no huge, foot-stomping anthems here, but a run of incredible songs that harness a slowburning power to create those soulful dancefloor moments where the real world just seems to melt away. From The Impressions' "You've Been Cheatin'", propelled by the dreamlike falsetto of Curtis Mayfield, to "Run For Cover" by The Dells and "If I Could Only Be Sure" by Nolan Porter, this is northern soul at its purest - sensitive, serious and straight from the heart.
The latest episode in our journey through the official northern soul top 500 takes us into the 100s, and what a hit-packed selection this is. Any set that can run The Spellbinders-Gloria Jones-7th Avenue Aviators-Marie Knight-Edwin Starr-The Valentinos definitely has the wind in its sails, and the classics just keep on coming, from The Poppies and Beverley Ann to Richard Temple and Willie Mitchell. Cancel your plans, crank up the volume, and dance your way into heaven!
The latest episode in our journey through the official northern soul top 500 sees the genre broaden its boundaries and take in everything from blue-eyed soul to sunshine pop. There's classic 70s northern from Eloise Laws and The Exciters, blue-eyed pop hits by The Majestics and The Shakers, genuine oddities such as "Bok To Bach" by Father's Angels (a garage rock band put together by a priest, hence the name) and "The Flasher" by Mitsura (an instrumental which probably would have felt equally at home at Studio 54), and stone cold girl group classics by Mary Love and Frankie And The Classicals. This is easily the most eccentric slice of the northern soul top 500 we've encountered, but there's still plenty to enjoy here. Crank up the volume and dance!
The latest episode in our journey through the official northern soul top 500. This time we're treated to 20 songs that have effortless cool written right through them - we may have left the big hitters behind, but these are deeper and more rewarding waters. From the handclapping suave of "Lover" by De-Lites and the atmospheric shuffle of "Nothing Can Help You More" by Lenny Curtis to the sculpted drama of "Don't Take It Out On This World" by Adam's Apples and the tortured brilliance of "Baby Don't You Weep" by Edward Hamilton, this is the essence of northern soul, pure and irresistible. Add a few well known favourites such as "Determination" by Dean Parrish and "Wade In The Water" by Ramsey Lewis, and you have one of my favourite of these top 500 podcasts yet.
The latest episode in our journey through the official northern soul top 500. We kick off with a Major and continue with a Duke, and it's royalty all the way from then on. There's a superb mix of styles throughout this section of the top 500, with 70s soul represented brilliantly by Curtis Mayfield and Jodi Mathis, the girl group sound reaching new dramatic heights thanks to Doris Troy, The Exciters and Nancy Wilson, and no-end of classic northern favourites by the likes of Nolan Porter, Leon Haywood, and many many more.
The latest episode in our journey through the official northern soul top 500 sees us kicking off with a solid gold, all-time classic - "The Night" by Frankie Valli And The Four Seasons - but after that absolutely anything goes. Track two is a severe gear change, with "Janice (Don't Be So Blind To Love)" by Skip Mahoney offering seven minutes of modern soul, closer in truth to disco and house than the beloved footstompers of the 60s. And from then on, the 20 ricochets merrily from 60s classic to pop oddity to bizarre dance craze smash to disco-esque crossover to Motown gem and back again, displaying the schizophrenia of the seventies northern soul scene in all of its eccentric, wide-eyed glory.
The latest episode in our journey through the official northern soul top 500 finds us encountering some landmark northern soul classics - and one of my all-time favourites. Quite how "The Magic Touch" by Melba Moore only made number 219 is a mystery to me - it'd be in my top 10 - but here it is alongside the peerless "Wade In The Water" by Marlena Shaw, "Interplay" by Derek And Ray", "You Hit Me" by Alice Clark, and loads more. There's classic Motown, gorgeous 60s girl groups, stomping northern soul, everything your soulful heart could desire, plus one song which really is beyond northern and resides in a genre all of its own - "The Bottle" by Gil Scott Heron.
The latest episode in our epic journey through the official northern soul Top 500 sees us kicking off with one of my all-time favourite northern soul songs, "I'm Standing" by Rufus Lumley. This would easily be in my top top, so what it's doing languishing down in the 200s is a total mystery, but as a show starter, you'd be hard-pressed to do any better than this. Elsewhere, there's solid gold classics in the form of "Suspicion" by The Originals, "Compared To What" by Mr Flood's Party, "I've Got Something Good" by Sam And Kitty and "I'm Not Built This Way" by The Hesitations, a distant cousin of "Hold On To My Baby" by The Cavaliers, plus the usual eclectic mix of blue eyed soul, smooth 70s soul, R&B stompers, and more.
The latest episode in our journey through the official northern soul Top 500 sees us kicking off with the girl group brilliance of The Flirtations and then moving onto northern classics courtesy of Herb Ward, Jeanette WIlliams, The Fi-Dels, Jo Armstead, and many more. There's a couple of 70s curveballs from Skullsnaps and Joe Tex, and a moment of unabashed pop magnifence from Ila Van. Sprinkle the talc, crank up the sound system, and enjoy some sweet soul music!
We continue our journey through the official northern soul top 500 with this collection of gems. Away from the bright lights and the pounding beats of the big soul anthems, there's a host of classics that know you don't need to shout loud to make an impression. From the wondrous "Don't Be Sore At Me" by The Parliaments and the infectious "That's What I Want" by James Carr to the mid tempo joy of "Now You've Got The Upper Hand" by Candi Staton and "Baby Mine" by Thelma Houston, this is soul at its sweetest and coolest. Of course, this being the northern soul top 500, there's a couple of sudden gear changes to keep you on your toes, and modern soul fans are well served by Benny Troy, Collins And Collins, and Daybreak. But it's the so-called oldies that really make my heart sing. Dig in!
We continue our journey through the official northern soul top 500 with 19 sixties gems and one 70s gatecrasher at the very end of the podcast. Even though we're venturing into the lower reaches of the 500 now, the quality doesn't let up for an instant - in fact, this is one of the strongest episodes of this series. There's a lot of sublime girl group sounds on offer, courtesy of The Shalimars, Louise Lewis, The Lollipops, Linda Lyndell and Helen Shapiro, plus some genuine northern classics from Frankie Beverly And The Butlers, The Younghearts, Eddie Parker and more. And if all that isn't enough, near the end we're treated to one of the most atmospheric northern 45s ever, the glorious Can't We Talk It Over by Larry Allen. Crank up the stereo, sprinkle the talc, and get dancing!
Up and over and into the 300s now, in our continuing journey through the official Northern Soul Top 500. The two highlights of this twenty are both covers - the irresistible Call Me by Eddie Bishop and Johnny Jones' rousing take on Purple Haze - but there's plenty of original gems on offer too. Earl Grant's Hide Nor Hair is a solid gold classic. Joey Heatherton's When You Call Me Baby is a classy blue-eyed treasure. Tamala Lewis' You Won't Say Nothing is a total joy. Gene Chandler's I Can Take Care Of Myself almost floats on air. And this edition's curveball is the storming So Is The Sun by World Column. Is this northern? Disco? Funky soul? Whatever you want to call it, it's a righteous blast of fresh air, and impossible to resist.
After a brief summer break, we return to our ongoing journey through the official northern soul top 500, this time reaching numbers 321 to 340. You might imagine the lower reaches of the chart to be filled with oddities and offcuts, but this selection is packed with much-loved gems. From "Baby Boy" by Fred Hughes and "I'm Where It's At" by The Jades to "I'm In A World Of Trouble" by The Sweet Things and "Tear Stained Face" by Don Varner, here's a bunch of floor-filling gems that would be much higher up the chart if I had anything to do with it. Special mention goes to "You Can't Mean It" by Chapter Five and "Job Opening" by The Del Larks, which both have an atmospheric majesty to them that I find irresistible.
We kick off the new year with another episode of our journey through the official northern soul Top 500. It's a varied selection but there's still plenty of stone cold classics within, not least the glorious opening track, "Breakaway" by The Valentines (one of a few northern soul songs to include the key phrase "keep the faith"). Elsewhere, there's the irresistible "Chills And Fever" by Ronnie Love, "Of Homes Dreams And Tombstones" by Jimmy Frazier, the piano-pounding brilliance of "Soul Symphony" by The Sons Of Moses, the dreamlike "I Remember That Feeling" by Barbara Lewis, and "That's The Way He Is" by Ann Perry. There's oddities too, of course - "Sidra's Theme" by Ronnie And Robyn sounds like the music for a spy film set in the desert and "My Bang Bang Man" by Little Hank is ridden with gunshots!
The latest episode in our journey through the official northern soul Top 500 sees us venture into the upper 300s, sifting through a sometimes eccentric mix of tracks to find pure gold. The Top 500 has always run on a mysterious logic and having "No One To Love" by Pat Lewis and "Getting Mighty Crowded" by Betty Everett (both stunning tracks) at the bottom rather than the top of this listing highlights this perfectly. Elsewhere you'll find classics like "The Drifter" by Ray Pollard and "Sliced Tomatoes" by the Just Brothers rubbing shoulders with tracks that don't feel like northern at all - surely "Is There Anything I Can Do?" is disco soul? Watch out for charming oddities like "You Can Split' by Youngblood Smith, seemingly powered by harpsichord and horns, and "6 O'Clock" by Total Eclipse, an orchestral instrumental for the stars.
We continue our journey through the official Northern Soul Top 500 with numbers 381-400, a selection packed full of surprises. There's the usual puzzlement at finding solid gold classics so far down in the list - Mamie Galore's It Ain't Necessary would make my personal top 10, while Happy by Velvet Hammer has grown steadily in stature over the years - but there's also some unexpected delights. Country Girl by Vickie Barnes is a ballroom-shaking anthem with an unsoulful but stunning vocal. Eternally by The Charmaines is foot-stomping, blue-eyed pop gem. I Can't Change by Lorraine Chandler is a hand-clapping delight. And Hooked By Love by Homer Banks is pure feelgood.
The latest episode in our ongoing journey through the Official Northern Soul Top 500. We've reached the final straights now, and the first section of the last 100 songs is a quietly classy selection of flawless dancers and soulful gems. No oddities, no strange clashes of genres, just great soul music. My highlight of the 20 is the wonderful "What More Do You Want" by Gene Toones - that piano intro is to die for! - but with Maxine Brown, Edwin Starr, Carla Thomas, and the rabble-rousing, foot-stomping brilliance of Mickey Lee Lane also in the mix you're never far from a slice of dancefloor heaven.
The latest edition in our ongoing journey through the official Northern Soul Top 500 finds a host of megastars crashing the party. There's tracks from The Supremes, Martha Reeves & The Vandellas, Little Richard, and Marvin Gaye in this twenty, although you suspect that if the Top 500 were compiled today, the peerless "This Love Starved Heart Of Mine (It's Killing Me)" would be slightly higher in the chart (top 10 surely?). Elsewhere, there's girl group brilliance from Cindy Scott, northern gems courtesy of Gene Chandler, Patrice Holloway and Clifford Curry, and even an appearance by Kiki Dee, with "On A Magic Carpet Ride". Phew - made it to the end without mentioning The Javells. Result!
The latest episode in our journey through the official Northern Soul Top 500 sees us reach the final stages of the list. As usual, there's solid gold classics that have been buried bafflingly low in the 500 - "Helpless" by Kim Weston is an all-time soul great, while "You've Been Gone Too Long" by Ann Sexton, "Nobody But Me" by the Human Beinz, and "Dr Love" by Bobby Sheen are dancefloor smashes that continue to stand the test of time. Elsewhere, there are songs that have seemingly only been included because they have the "right" beat or xylophone sound - opinion is rightly split over songs by Gary Lewis and Burning Bush. And the double of You Sexy Sugar Plum and The Zoo has to be the 500's WTF moment! Still, there's loads to enjoy here, even if it isn't all strictly northern soul.
The penultimate part of our journey through the official Northern Soul Top 500. We've come a long way, baby, and our almost four year odyssey is nearly at its end. There's still plenty of classics to see us on our way though - this episode alone features "I'll Keep Holding On" by The Marvelettes, "Soul Time" by Shirley Ellis, "Show Me" by Joe Tex, "My Weakness Is You" by Edwin Starr, "I Got A Feeling" by Barbara Randolph...I better stop before I list the entire 20! Quite why these gems are languishing in the high 400s is anyone's guess, but there's a fine night out right there! Add to that the sublime "Breakaway" by Toni Basil, "Everything's Gonna Be Alright" by PP Arnold, and many more, and it looks like we're going out with a bang. Just one more episode to go after this - see you out on the floor!
It's finally here! The very last part of our epic journey through the official northern soul top 500. It's taken almost four years but we've made it - with some sweet, understated sounds to see us off on our way. You may not wear a hole in your shoes dancing to "Since I Found My Baby" by The Metros or "Shoes" by Bobby Bland, but these midtempo gems are classic northern soul through and through. Same goes for the glorious "I'm Gonna Run Away From You" by Tammi Lynn. Elsewhere there's girl group melodrama, fingerclicking classic soul, shoe-shuffling r&b, and a typically eccentric outlier in the shape of the Flower Shoppe's hippyish soft pop. But as the final song states - number 500! - You Got Me! If you've made it this far, then you've gained an obsession for life.