The Northern Soul scene sprang up in the UK in the late 1960’s in clubs like The Twisted Wheel and Wigan Casino. Initially the music played in the clubs was popular American soul singles but as the crowds grew so did the appetite for new and increasingly obscure recordings. DJ’s looked to all corners, including Australia, for fresh sounds. Here’s a selection of some of the Australian singles that have developed a reputation amongst DJ’s and dancers alike over the years.
Jordie Kilby and David Kilby are joined by Melbourne based Northern Soul DJ Vince Peach and artists Judy Jacques and Doug Parkinson.
Lynne Randell - Stranger In My Arms - CBS - 1967.
Lynne Randell was a style icon and queen of Australian pop music in the mid 1960’s. Her early records were cut with Melbourne R&B band the Spinning Wheels backing her but by 1967 she was beginning to record overseas. Stranger In My Arms was cut in New York while Randell was on tour there. The A side, Ciao Baby, was a huge hit but it was the flip side that set dance floors alight on the Northern scene.
Cheryl Gray - You Don’t Love Me Anymore - HMV - 1967.
Cheryl Gray found international fame in the 1970’s working with the Bee Gees and hitting the charts as Samantha Sang. A decade earlier however she released a string of pop singles for HMV records produced by David Mackay. The B side of her hit You Made Me What I Am is a great pop/soul side that showcases her powerful vocals.
Doug Parkinson and the Southern Star Band - I’ll Be Around -Southern Star Records - 1979.
One of the most soulful singers Australia has produced. A decade after his first hit with a cover of Dear Prudence, Doug Parkinson entered the studio to cut this cover of a song made famous originally by the Spinners. Interestingly though it wasn’t the Spinners track that had inspired him. He’d heard Ross Wilson perform it at a nightclub in Kings Cross as was immediately struck by it. He recorded it with the Southern Star band that included a young Tommy Emmanuel on guitar. It’s been a long time favourite in the modern rooms of Northern clubs.
Judy Jacques - You’re Messin’ Up My Mind - Astor - 1967.
Looking for a song that was a bit different to the jazz, gospel and blues numbers she’d been performing up till that point, Judy Jacques took on this Van McCoy song, originally cut by Herb Fame, and made it her own. Judy recalls that the song received little radio airplay at the time because many stations thought it sounded "too black". It’s got a great horn section and a driving rhythm making it perfect for the Northern Soul dancefloors.
Maria Dallas - Ambush - Viking - 1967.
Maria Dallas began her career in NZ. She spent time in the US recording with Chet Atkins and performing at the Grand Ole Opry. In later years she moved to Australia. Most of her records were in the country vein but this track is different. Recorded in the U.S this great cut is not strictly a Northern Soul track but it is a fantastic dancer nonetheless.