Ric Pattison had no choice. Known in the local music scene as a singer-songwriter, guitarist, record producer, and sound engineer, he is a child of the UK's clubland, coming of age in the early '70s Northern Soul scene. He was a regular at the fabled Wigan Casino, where all-night dance parties drew thousands of young people from all over the UK, raves before there were raves. "It's hard to explain it to people who weren't there," he told us. "It never leaves you."
So when two months ago Ric visited the UK and learned of a second coming of Northern Soul -- "It's the biggest underground dance culture in the UK at the moment," he says -- he came back to Florida determined to spread the word. Tonight he's unlocking his personal vault of vinyl to bring forth New Beat Soul Club, a monthly party at Respectable Street Cafe, dedicated to limited release 45s of '60s U.S. soul that the original Northern Soul movement discovered and treasured.
"It's about uptempo, hard core soul music," Ric told New Times. "The Mods were about soul but this was grittier stuff, from black America, from the heartland. It wasn't Motown. A lot of it never did well in the states, or it's B-sides, so it's rare stuff."
The fans of Northern Soul, he said, "were working class kids who didn't want to conform to the b.s. that was on the charts," and the dancing was as gritty as the music. "It was very macho, about two-thirds of the crowd boys, one-third girls. It was about dancing alone, not about picking up girls on the dance floor. It was a very intense experience -- four on the floor grooves, bam-bam-bam-bam. Like house music but with real songs, real vocals."
Ric expects the Northern Soul revival to kick into overdrive with the release of the film Northern Soul, a fictionalized recreation of the birth of that culture. Ten years in the making, with backing from Steve Coogan (a veteran of the Manchester scene), the film has been repeatedly delayed, by copyright issues among other things, but is expected to hit the big screen later this year.
To get a jump on the film and steep yourself now in the spirit and history of Northern Soul, Ric recommends the half-hour BBC documentary Northern Soul: Keeping the Faith. And for a quickie, dig this:
Ric said he's checked out the current local dance club scene and finds it lacking. "So much of it is so bland," he said. "It's asking for something good, something really great to happen. [New Beat Soul] could be it."
And if it isn't? "First and foremost," Ric said, "New Beat Soul is a labor of love."
New Beat Soul Club, from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m., third Wednesday of the month, @ Respectable Street Cafe, 518 Clematis St., West Palm Beach.
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