Richard Searling, music consultant on the film Northern Soul, tells us about his favourite tracks
Richard Searling’s DJ-ing career started back in 1971 when he played venues such as Va-Vas in Bolton, The Pendulum in Manchester (originally an upstairs room of a pub in Hardman Street, off Deansgate) and Wigan Casino – the latter providing the blueprint for the all-nighter scenes in the new film Northern Soul.
When he wasn’t spinning the records at soul venues, he could be found on the other side of the Atlantic tracking down rare soul records. It was Manchester-born Searling who discovered Gloria Jones’ debut record – a ‘b’ side called Tainted Love – which was a massive Wigan Casino favourite and, in the early 80s, became the first chart hit for Soft Cell.
He worked with Elaine Constantine on Northern Soul, and said: “It was a fantastic experience to work with Elaine – someone who loves the scene as much as me. She’s produced an incredible and extremely authentic film. And it’s also been great to introduce a new generation to the music.”
Still playing hugely successful and popular northern soul nights in St George’s Hall, Blackburn (where the all-nighters were shot in the film Northern Soul) and The Tower Ballroom and Winter Gardens in Blackpool, Searling is also a regular on radio.
Here, he lists his top ten northern soul tunes but not, he points out, in any particular order.
1 The Salvadors: Stick By Me Baby US, Wiseworld (1967)
Written by soul legend, Jo Armstead , this four-piece outfit from St Louis came into the studio one night in ’67, cut the track and were never heard of again. That’s a shame because this is explosive harmony group Northern Soul at its very finest. Mark it down as one of the Bolton “ Va -vas “ All nighters most popular dancefloor packers from June 1973 …
2 Chubby Checker: You Just Don’t Know (What You Do To Me Girl) UK/US, Cameo Parkway (1965)
The “ twist” sensation had long died out when Chubby cut this amazing track whilst on a promotional tour to London in September 1965. Only ever officially released in the UK, there are just a handful of American promotional copies in existence. A record first heard at the Catacombs All Nighters in Wolverhampton in 1971.
3 Linda Jones: I Just Can’t Live My Life (Without You Babe) US, Warner Seven Arts 45 (1968)
One of the greatest soul singers who ever lived, Linda was tragically taken from us in 1972 just as her star was on the rise. This George Kerr produced masterpiece was first spun at the legendary Highland Room sessions at the Blackpool Mecca and is the perfect mix of deep and Northern Soul – there will never be another like Linda!
4 Gloria Jones: Tainted Love US, Champion 45 (1965)
Released as a “b” side in September 1965 this was Gloria’s first record. She later became a successful songwriter at Motown, and then later still married Marc Bolan. I met the two of them at an All Dayer at the Ritz Ballroom in Manchester in 1976. I found this record whilst on a buying trip to Philadelphia in 1973, and it went on to be one of my biggest ever records at Wigan Casino in early 1974. Later covered, and a huge chart hit for Soft Cell.
5 Yvonne Baker: You Didn’t Say A Word US, Parkway 45 (1967)
The perfect Northern record, a cool dancer, a wonderful melody and meaningful lyrics… and super rare too! Influenced by the James Bond craze of the late 60s, this Billy Jackson produced anthem was , and still is, a guaranteed floorshaker to this day!
6 The Vel Vets: Got To Find Me Somebody US, 20th Century 45 (1966)
This incredible track never lets up, a marvellous production makes you wonder what the atmosphere must have been like when they laid this down in late 1966 out in LA. Songwriter “ Dimples” Harris was only 19 when she wrote this sensational song. If you are lucky enough to own an American original, it’s now valued at just over £1,000!)
7 Marvin Gaye: Love Starved Heart (It’s Killing Me) US, Tamla 45 (1966 )
Although recorded in 1966, this gem only turned up in the tape vaults of Motown in 1980, just a few months prior to Marvin’ s untimely passing. I played it at the Casino all-nighters to a rapturous response, but ceased to do so after April 81 and his death. Written by two white schoolteachers from Detroit, and produced by a youthful Johnny Bristol, this is without doubt the biggest Motown track ever to grace the Northern scene.
8 Tony Clarke: Landslide US, Chess 45 (1966)
If ever a record had all the attributes to make it the ultimate Northern soul dancer, then surely this is it. A massive drum roll crescendo brings it in before the brass section takes over and Tony tells us how heartaches are pouring down on him from all sides like a “landslide” . If Marvin has the ultimate Northern track on Motown, then Tony claims that award for the legendary Chess label. Tony was also an actor, born in Detroit, he had a bit part in the Sidney Poitier movie, “They call me Mr Tibbs”.
9 The Charades: The Key To My Happiness US, MGM 45 (1968)
This one has remained ultra popular for over 40 years. A polished group performance which benefits from a fully orchestrated backing. The group made several 45s, and included in their later year, the vocalist Cuba Gooding who would later go on to be a soul superstar of the 70s with The Main Ingredient.
10 The Dells: Run For Cover US, Cadet 45 (1968)
When we talk about classics from the Northern scene, this magical number would feature in most people’s top 10s…the Dells are , arguably, the greatest soul group ever to perform and this catchy dancer is always one to get folks running to the dancefloor. If anyone asked me to choose just one record to exemplify what this music is all about, this would be it.
For more details about today’s scene and recommended events, visit Richard’s website.