Some books fail to do justice to subcultures. It is almost impossible to truly render and encapsulate the energy of a historical counterculture in the pages of a book. But Elaine Constantine and Gareth Sweeney’s Northern Soul: An Illustrated History is perhaps the closest you could probably get without getting in a time machine and going to a gig at the Wigan Casino.

Produced a year before Elaine’s critically-acclaimed film – also called Northern Soul ­–the book charts the heart and heritage of a scene that energetically exploded in the North of England during the latter half of the twentieth century. As the music of ‘60s and ’70s American soul singers twisted and turns its way into the working-classes of Britain, an underground scene was simmering and boiling over. Fuelled by passion, a euphoria, an otherwise unprecedented energy that rapturously took over anyone who came across it, Northern Soul was not just a type of music, but rather a way of life.

Devotion was key; from hitching rides to gigs on the other side of the country, to collecting the rare 45s from the markets; from putting on your dancing shoes to also looking the part, Northern Soul transformed Britain, and youth subcultures forever.

Elaine and Gareth’s book is a massive labour of love and bursts with this energy: having curated photos and interviews with DJs, gig-goers, record dealers and collectors – from those who were literally there – as well as seamlessly integrating stills from her film, their book is a sparkling, evocative rendition that pays homage to an epoch, an energy and a soul that cannot be imitated.

It’s a book written about soul people, by soul people, for soul people.

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