Stuart Cosgrove Young Soul Rebels - A Personal History Of Northern Soul - Polygon Press - ISBN 9-781846-973338
Stuart Cosgrove is a world acclaimed author, journalist, and broadcaster on both radio and TV. In fact, in 2012 he won a BAFTA for Channel 4’s coverage of the Paralympics. He’s been Broadcaster Of The Year in Scotland, and held several executive positions at Channel 4 (And was responsible for signing the show ‘Friends’ to the Channel in the UK.), and hosts a weekly show on Radio Scotland about his passion for Scottish football. But that’s just a disguise he wears for the day job, because in reality, he’s one of us !
To use a phrase currently in vogue, Stuart is one of the ‘Children Of The Night’, and has probably devoted for more time, thought, and energy to his lifelong passion; Northern Soul, than he has to any of his jobs over the last forty years.
As I said when I reviewed Gethro Jones’ book, it’s hard to do a review of a book like this without giving the whole game away, so I’m going to use some quotes from Stuart to illustrate how the book covers his involvement in the scene.
In fact, the very first sentence made me laugh out loud. This is how to get the attention of your readers;
“Nothing will ever compare to the amphetamine rush of my young life and the night I was nearly buggered by my girlfriend’s uncle in the Potteries”
I can see why nothing would ever compare to that Stuart ! However, to reach that point Stuart describes his upbringing in Perth, and how he was first introduced to the music of black America, and how much it would hold sway over the rest of his life. The opening sentence refers to his first visit to The Torch allnighter in Tunstall, but I’ll let you read whether he survived this predicament yourselves.
I’m also rather impressed by the way that Stuart has woven short biographies of artists into the story, songs that reverberated round the Torch by Tony Clarke and Darrell Banks lead to a couple of pages of detail about the two artists.
There are also links to events in the wider world that tie into the scene in the book as well. The Miner’s Strike (Especially as Stuart was living in Yorkshire at the time), gets a lot of coverage, as does Leeds Central Club, both of which were important to Stuart, and the chapter about the Yorkshire Ripper is particularly poignant.
A theory about why Northern Soul Clubs became popular in old fashioned coastal towns stands up to examination as well, and never having thought about this, what Stuart says is absolutely correct.
“The story of Northern Soul could be told without ever leaving England’s decaying coastal towns: Blackpool, Cleethorpes, Scarborough, Bridlington, Morecombe, Whitley Bay, Southport and Prestatyn, each in their own way played host to rare Soul venues.”
Having lived in the North of England, both Lancashire and Yorkshire Stuart’s day job takes him down to London, and with it, the opportunity to visit the States (and even study there for a while), but throughout, the Soul Boy inner core burned bright. His description of finding a copy of ‘Hey Boy’ by the D C Blossoms is sheer poetry:
“It was there, in the segregated south, in a tightly packed wall of discs, some of them splattered with grey paint, that I finally found it. For some reason, unfathomable, and beyond geographic logic, there was a copy of The D C Blossoms.”
I realise that I’m skipping whole portions of the book, by ignoring Stafford (But there again I didn’t mention Wigan either), Allanton, and The 100 Club, all of which get quite extensive mentions, but I want to focus on two more things before I end this review.
A lot of the book covers people that Stuart knew well, some of whom who are no longer with us, so it’s nice to see Bub, and Pete Lawson, getting several pages each. Not many people would have been able to write so eloquently about two of the scene’s biggest characters, both different, but both equally essential to the history of the scene, so it is nice to see them remembered in this way.
The final chapter of the book talks about how Northern Soul is thriving today, and making use of the new technologies to do so, Facebook, YouTube etc however, Stuart’s views are similar to my own on this subject:
“The media is interested again, but I remain unsure that Northern Soul wants the attention that currently shines on its rituals. It is at its best as a ‘secret’ underground and should always maintain a healthy distrust of the false promises that the media brings.”
It’s funny, although I know nearly all the people Stuart talks about in the book, with the exception of the early years. I think I only met him twice, although I know we were in the same venues quite a few times, so I think that has allowed me to be fairly objective in my review. This really is a good book, it truly is a personal history, but it weaves its way through my own history as well, (I even get a name check on page 139) and I’m sure that is how most of the people reading the book will also feel.
That just leaves me with two things to say: Buy the book, you won’t regret it, and check out Stuart’s other book about Soul Music and social history ‘Detroit ‘67’.
Dave Rimmer. May 2016
New Releases, Popular Music & Culture
19 May 2016
Paperback (also available as an ebook)
Available for Sale
No of Pages
Young Soul Rebels: A Personal History of Northern Soul by Stuart Cosgrove
Available to purchase via the usual suspects