In a world where our physical boundaries have contracted, it’s more important than ever to expand our inner horizons. With this in mind, we asked our writers and friends for their top Northern tunes. They told us about the music that makes them feel happy and alive and connects them to their past, present and future. Sit back and and enjoy (to listen to Northern Soul’s Bangers, log on to our Spotify link here).
Arctic Monkeys – I Bet You Look Good On the Dancefloor
The lads who formed Arctic Monkeys met through Barnsley College – frontman Alex Turner studied music technology there – and you don’t get much more Northern than that. But that’s not the only reason; it’s the cocky exuberance which veers just the right side of shouty. It also brings to mind every awkward under-18s disco I ever went to, where the boys would get tanked up on illicit Fosters and the girls would dance in an impenetrable circle.
– Jayne Dowle, Freelance writer based in Barnsley, South Yorkshire
This is something I usually listen to when getting ready for a night out, this is my new ‘dancing around the living room’ song. You can’t listen to this on low volume, so crank it up.
– Lizzie Wood, Northern Soul’s Travel Editor
The Housemartins – Happy Hour
Despite the upbeat melody and the accompaniment of its humorous claymotion video, Happy Hour is actually a scathing view on the greedy ‘big money’ times of the mid-1980s where the city boys would head to the pub after a big day on the trading floor. For me though, it always recalls some fabulous memories of carefree summers with mates. I can’t wait for happy hour again.
– Karen Connolly, Northern Soul contributor
A complete banger, recorded in 1965 but not a UK hit until Northern Soul took off six years later. A power-packed, relentless tune that keeps you hooked right to the very end. A hit again just four years later in 1975.
– Drew Tosh, Northern Soul contributor
Buzzcocks – Everybody’s Happy Nowadays
I’m nominating Everybody’s Happy Nowadays by Buzzcocks, a track from their brilliant first album Another Music in a Different Kitchen. They were a massive part of the Manchester music scene, and for fellow small town punks (me Preston, them Bolton). The joy of this track is infectious and it takes me right back, every time.
– Janet Harrison, owner, Cracking Wine
As a Mancunian and the editor of a website about the North of England, it’s tempting to choose a stone-cold classic like the Stone Roses’ Fool’s Gold or Step On by Happy Mondays for my banging tune. They both crossed my mind. Madchester was brilliant and I was right there in the thick of it but, today, my 40-something choice has to be Take That. Man, I loved those guys. I faffed about with Back for Good but, ultimately, it’s Never Forget. In these lockdown times with all this time on our hands, it has to be possible to teach a cat to hoist its paws in the air, right? Hey, I’m housebound and full of optimism.
– Helen Nugent, Editor of Northern Soul
The Smiths – The Headmaster Ritual
“Belligerent ghouls run Manchester schools…” It’s doubtless a bit unfair to return you to your 14-year-old self, stoke you up with all the rage you felt at the time, and then having done that tear yourself to shreds with Morrissey’s tormented tirade and the irresistible, ineffable guitars of Johnny Marr at his best – one simply doesn’t have a chance. I never ever tire of hearing it, never fail to be completely electrocuted by it, and suspect the feelings that it inspires will never ever be purged.
– Danny Moran, Northern Soul contributor
The Farm – All Together Now
Liverpudlian band The Farm’s feel-good anthem All Together Now soundtracked my nights in Lancaster’s Sugarhouse back in the day. And I reckon its catchy hook “all together now, in no man’s land” brings us bang up to date.
– Stephen Lucas, Northern Soul contributor
No one does Don’t-Give-A-Fuck while still delivering a groove better than the Happy Mondays. And Shaun Ryder’s accidental genius poetry, barely upright, just about on your feet approach to being a frontman makes them the perfect antidote to this locked down age. As for this particular song, I just love it when the stomping drum kicks in and you suddenly know what you’re in for.
– Patrick Sherwen, Northern Soul reader
(We Are) Performance – Dotted Line
Some might say that there’s a certain strain of Northern rock ‘n’ roll that’s leadenly in thrall to the past; anthemic, blokeish and dull. Performance were none of those things, and debut single Dotted Line in particular was hectic with pop’s possibilities. Articulate, rhythmic and quite possibly too clever for its own good, Dotted Line was an escape route from nostalgia potent enough to overcome the irony of recommending it some 17 years after its release.
– Desmond Bullen, Northern Soul contributor
Gomez – Whippin’ Piccadilly
Are you hooked by Gomez? Despite the fact that Massive Attack, The Verve and Pulp had landmark releases around this time, this less-lauded but equally impressive Southport fivesome put out the blistering soundtrack to my summer in 1998. Bring It On opened with the crackling Get Miles but they stole my heart with Whippin’ Piccadilly, a blasted walk through a great night out to see a band at Manchester Academy. You can almost see them tumbling down the station approach.
– Marc McGarraghy, Northern Soul contributor
Just a stupidly good half-remembered time. A hazy day of abandon, almost a dream. Doesn’t last. Not enough hours in the day.
– Cathy Crabb, Northern Soul contributor
Pete Wylie – Story of the Blues
I’m nominating Story of the Blues by Pete Wylie as a Northern banger. Wylie was a Northern hero in another wave of the Liverpool sound along with Echo & the Bunnymen and The Teardrop Explodes in the 1980s and arguably the best songwriter of his generation. I can testify that he really does have a heart as big as Liverpool.
– Robert Hamilton, Northern Soul’s Opera Correspondent
My two penn’orth would be My Lighthouse by Pulp (very early Pulp, released nearly 40 years ago, their first single I think). It’s jaunty and uplifting and has the sounds of the seaside on it which gives me hope that I’ll be able to take the kids and the dog to Lytham and run around on the beach someday soon.
– Jo Dearden – Northern Soul contributor
Rory Wynne – D’you Wanna Do It Again?
Stockport’s Rory Wynne released this mighty glam stomper of a single boosting him from indie kid to a young man with an eye on a much bigger prize. D’you Wanna Do It Again? cleverly sits within the classic three-minute pop format, released by Blossoms’ Very Clever Records.
– Cath Holland, Northern Soul contributor
To listen to Northern Soul’s Bangers, log on to our Spotify link here. We’ve added a few extras that we’ll think you’ll like, too.
Main image of Johnny Marr by Lewis Palmer