I didn’t set out to create the definitive story of Northern Soul, but I did aim to celebrate it. The photographic aspect is a study focusing on the current burgeoning generation of young people getting into the scene, whereas the film brings the atmosphere and wonder of Northern Soul to life. I didn’t want to just recreate the past, but I did aim to produce timeless works that illustrate the culture as never before. It is great to show how people dance to Northern Soul music, but more importantly how it is a passionate experience, and how its devotees young and old are immersed in it.
2011, BW & Colour, 10mins
Young Souls is an exciting, up-tempo spin into the world of the cult 'scene' of Northern Soul. Opening to the iconic 'Cigarette Ashes' track, Young Souls explodes onto the screen taking us under the skin of the Northern Soul scene. It is morning and a vintage car blasts down motorways, charges across rural landscapes and snakes through British suburban streets. Scully, the film's main protagonist drops his friends home after a night of profound meaning.
Young Souls retraces Scully's 'night before' with epic dance scenes and stylish cast, of real Northern Soul devotees.
DIRECTOR AND PRODUCER Dean Chalkley
CINEMATOGRAPHER Benoit Soler
EDITOR James W. Griffiths
FEATURED CAST Sonny “Scully” Evans, Tommo, Claire Digby, Matt Watson, Oliver Abbott and Elenor Emes
14 July 2011
Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club, London, UK
28 October 2011
Nothing in the World but Youth, Turner Contempory, Margate, UK
12 January 2012
London Short Film Festival 2012, London, UK
1, 6 & 8 March 2012
Cinequest Film Festival 2012, San Jose, California, USA
12 May 2012
Southend Film Festival 2012, Essex, UK
27 May 2012
Seattle International Film Festival 2012, Washington, USA
“The film is very, very, very authentic... ...It ‘s absolutely
beautifully filmed, It’s the kind of thing that I’ll come back to and watch again… …so that I can get all of the nuances of it.”
- Ian Dewhurst DJ (Wigan Casino, Cleethorpes Pier)
“It is really a homage.” - Eddie Piller Acid Jazz Records Co-Founder & DJ (The Modcast, BBC Radio 6 Muisic)
“It was beautifully shot. Dean is a genius
photographer.” - Jonny Owens Actor (Shameless, Wedding Belles, Svengali,
"[The] film... ...is seriously good in terms of the cinematography, sound, aesthetics etc., and (perfectly captured in the still photos) the dancing is so damn cool it hurts."- Bryony Quin It's Nice That
“Great Film” - Don Letts Director (The Punk Rock Movie , Dancehall Queen) & DJ (The Roxy, BBC Radio 6 Music)
Young Souls and Rebels
I went to my first rare soul allnighter at the lofty old age of fourteen. This was in the Lancashire seaside town of Morecombe, on the old wooden pier, which is now sadly no more. There was already a long orderly line of people, three or four thick as we approached the concrete slope leading up to the pier. I really didn’t know what to expect or whether I would even get in because of my age but we queued for a good hour to ensure entry. In fact it must have been much more, it was still light when we arrived there. Just to come forward though to April 2011. The reason for this reminisce was inspired by three recent events, my new friend in Paris, Lee, asking me ‘what is northern soul?’ A good old friend from teenage years getting in touch and reminding me of the time we did four soul allnighters in one weekend; the Twisted Wheel in Manchester, then Wigan, then Bradford and then Morecombe. The third recent event was attending the first showing of Dean Chalkeys wonderful short film ‘Young Souls’. The premise of the film is in the title, a focus on the young bloods that are, thankfully, enjoying the rare soul scene today, the very lack of which, was the main reason I drifted onto other things myself, albeit 20 years earlier. It was also fitting that the film was shown in London’s 100 club,
a long standing hub of rare soul in the UK and a venue I had not stepped in, well, as I just said for over 20 years. The film itself could also be said to be a tribute dedicated to anyone that has ever thrown caution to the wind and spent, without regret, their entire weeks wages on that essential record, travelling long distances to a venue. Sourcing the clothes, forgoing their Monday to Friday lunches for nearly 6 weeks to save and be seen in the right shoes. By extension, it could even stretch to their chosen daily transport , a vintage set of four wheels or Italian two wheels; all to compliment a certain lifestyle and look. Then we get back to the music, the passion, the dancing; real people. For its real people and the honest presentation of, that Dean Chalkley's film making and photography skills really shine. There are no actors in this short docu-drama film, I felt proud and a little bit in awe when I saw how well it had all been captured by Dean and his team.
Summer, Lancashire 1985
Clothes for the evening?, I was wearing an off the peg three button blue/purple ‘tonik’ suit, white button down collar shirt with black polka dotting that complimented equally, my eye liner and as it came to pass, the pupils of my eyes.
Philadelphia soul singer, Eddie Holman was also performing on stage that night, his trademark falsetto very much ‘en forme’.
I knew a couple of his numbers already, ‘hey there lonely girls‘ and ‘it’s a free country’ but it was his performance of ‘I surrender’ which maybe for the first time in a dance, made me utter with excitement ‘Whats this song? Whats this song?’, it was and still is, a complete anthem. Saxophonist Snake Davies and his band took the role of providing the backing.
Dancing was subdued as it coincided with a large scooter rally and a lot of people took to sitting/sleeping on the floor but there was a smaller room before the main area with some serious dancing, a few guys still sporting the look of long lank hair, singlet vests and oxford bag trousers. With hindsight, this was only three years or so after the closure of Wigan Casino. No time at all really.
From the record vendors, I bought ‘Cool Jerk’ by the Capitols that night and salivated over a yellow UK London American label demo of ‘Walking the dog’ by Rufus Thomas. The vendor said something like ‘ah that one came from the ultimate collection’, which had me going back to Stockport raving about
the existence of this ‘ultimate collection’. I danced hidden amongst the crowd, whilst watching Eddie Holman sing, his arm out stretched. It was a good feeling walking through the seaside streets in the early morning sunrise.
Moving forward three years and my life situation was similar as to my explanation to my friend Lee on why this all happened in the first place, why black soul music that had essentially failed commercially in the USA was picked up on, devotedly, by predominately working class kids in the North of the UK. On one side you have the recording artists and musicians putting absolutely all of their expression into 2 minutes 30 seconds, on the hope that the song may break into a local hit or score a home run with a hit throughout the state or even nationally and on the other side, somebody like myself, in my first job after leaving school, I don’t particularly like it and I cannot see a route out, other that quit, which, is not an option, so, I put absolutely all of my expression into my weekend. Chasing and revering this music I felt was hip, sophisticated, genuine, honest; an alluring combination.
Music made by dreamers and danced to by dreamers.Quite often at 3am or 4am in the basement rooms of the Twisted
Wheel, with my friends engrossed and lost in finger poppin’ club soul and r&b music, I’d stop and look around with the realisation I wasn’t even remotely concerned about the crap I worried about during the week.
For a period of nearly a year in 1987/88, three weekends out of four were spent travelling to an soul allnighter. More or less every Friday had our own record playing sessions above various Manchester pubs. We were skinny that year, food wasn’t high on the agenda.
Fashion and Northern Soul, does it exist? Well, we thought it did, New England Dexter Brogues, Beef Roll Bass Weejuns, worn with bright Burlington argyle socks. Tailor made Oxford bags trousers or parallel trouser 9” wide , cut short above the ankle; with or without one inch turn-up . Dark Blues, all shades of Grey, Dark Browns. Barracuta G9’s; every colour we could get our hands on; bottle green, chocolate, wine. When at an allnighter on home turf, we would wear tailored 3 button blazers, ‘Twisted Wheel Style’ with red linings. The worst fair isle tank tops we could find, a bit later; vintage lacoste polos. To be honest, during that year, we half expected, in earnest, for someone to come up to us to discuss the look we were trying to portray.
Our togs didn’t get a second glance really; the music was the priority, along with the sharing of knowledge and dialogue on 45’s. I’m not sure whether it is still the same now.
But we were on the periphery; any particular week would be spent attending various places to catch a listen of most genres of 1960’s black music. It just so happened that in this period of time, the ‘shiny object’ attracting our modernist magpie like attention was the mid tempo big city soul of Chicago, New York and Detroit and what was termed at the time as ‘sixties newies’. This was the catch all term for the new discoveries that were being put forward and dance floor tested by the more innovative rare soul deejays. Personally speaking I thought it was an exciting time, one that caused much debate. One would hear grumbles from the old guard eager for the golden age tracks of the previous decade and being generally disdainful of this variation of tempo and style but I completely disagreed. I felt the ‘sixties newies’ were of our time, fresh and more soulful, so we ran with it; pilfering what we could for our own playlists. Guy Hennigan was my favorite deejay, no ego, just impeccable selection without compromise. When you’re good you’re good. Plus he shaved a parting in his head which is always going to score points isn’t it?
One final thing to say, next time you find yourself in Manchester, make a point of heading down towards Urbis and in particular the new Cathedral Gardens there. This used to be part of Long Millgate, where the Manchester Sports Guild used to be and stood derelict there for many many years. In 1972, the cellars of the MSG housed the second location of the Pendulum club, Barry Tasker was the deejay. Clientele was the younger end of the original Twisted Wheel crowd, dress code; proto casual, playlist was investigating the more up-tempo side of rare American sixties soul, a genre soon to be known as……….yes, you got it. It’s the innovators that always pave the way for the others. So clench a soul fist knowingly the next time you walk across. The last pair of Oxford bags I had tailored, were made in a dark burgundy wool and mohair cloth. I never got to wear them, by the time I got them from the tailors, we’d moved onto other things.
But we were young souls once.
22 July 2011 - 04 August 2011
Youth Club Gallery, London, UK
19 January 2012 – 29 March 2012
Hotel Pelirocco, Brighton, UK
20 September 2012 – 26 October 2012
Royal Albert Hall, London, UK
Issue #17 Religion 125 MAGAZINE