Northern Soul is one of the most iconic cultural movements in history. Bringing more obscure soul and R&B to the industrial towns of the North and Midlands of England, it birthed some of the most dazzling dance moves of the 1960s and ’70s and, in many ways, set the scene for the styles that we’d see across dancefloors in the disco movement.
However, whilst the dancing is undoubtedly fantastic, it is just a by-product of the effect that the music has on the listeners, giving them excitement and pumping the endorphins, and when it was at its peak, it helped to quell the dire socio-economic backdrop of ’70s Britain. It is vital to remember that whilst we could get distracted with discussions of dancing or amphetamines, for Northern Soul, the essential factor is the music, and everything else is just secondary.
Notably, as a loose rule of thumb, the movement tends to avoid the Motown records that had significant mainstream success. Instead, the songs that are the most coveted are by lesser-known artists, often with little success, released in small numbers, by a string of American labels such as Vee-Jay Records, Chess Records, Brunswick Records, Ric-Tic, Gordy Records, Golden World Records, Mirwood Records, Shout Records and Okeh, to name just some.
Whilst many cuts are Northern Soul staples, such as The Tams’ ‘Hey Girl Don’t Bother Me’, and The Fascinations’ ‘Girls Are Out to Get You’, there is one song that is the movement’s ultimate anthem.
A timeless classic, Franki Valli and the Four Seasons’ 1972 single, ‘The Night’, has everything. Whether it be Valli’s uplifting delivery during the chorus or Joe Long delivering one of the all-time greatest basslines, it’s one of those tracks that has stood the test of time because of the brilliance of those who worked on it in what is a testament to the authentic musicians of old.
The story of ‘The Night’ is one of the more famous from the days when Northern Soul was at its zenith. The song failed to chart when it was first released; something Valli attributes to poor promotion by the MoWest label. Still, it quickly became popular on the Northern Soul circuit due to its energy, which led to a re-release of the song in spring 1975, when it reached seventh place on the UK Singles Chart. Afterwards, it wasn’t just the Northern Soul adherents who loved it; it was pretty much everyone.
There’s something genuinely magical about ‘The Night’. It says everything about its quality that it has remained as coveted as it was when it was first released 50 years ago. In addition to making a solid claim to be the ultimate Northern Soul anthem, it also makes a full-proof case for being Franki Valli and the Four Seasons’ best song. So without further ado, sit back and be prepared to be whisked into the hazy lights of the Northern Soul clubs.
Listen to ‘The Night’ below.