Souled on Soul

Souled on Soul

Martyn Johnson Northern Soul Photography

The point of this site is to let people promote their music, brands, shops and events. We also want to hear from the people who have grown up with their subcultures and hear their experiences. Our first is Martyn Johnson who gives us a great insight into his experiences in the soul scene and who now photographs events up and down the country, here is what he had to say.

“Before I launch into this particular tome can I firstly thank Gregor for asking me to contribute to his website. I don’t know Gregor personally. I came across some of his work on Instagram and soon began to realize his observations on life just made me laugh. A slightly mad Scottish geezer with a big beard, funny dogs and a wit second to none. What’s not like? thank you sir for the privilege.

35 years ago in 1977 and much against my better judgment I found myself, a 15 year old lad stood in a youth club in a mining village called Gedling in Nottinghamshire at the Friday evening disco. Dragged along by my mates, I witnessed and heard something that would change my life forever. I experienced the cult phenomenon that was Northern Soul for the first time in my life. And so began my 35 year old relationship with a music scene that’s was prominent in my life for about 5 years during which time I embraced the scene wholeheartedly. I made new friends. I went to strange sounding places and venues. I collected and sold records. I wore baggy trousers and Fred Perry’s. I met the first girl who would break my heart. And I danced my youth away at whatever event I could afford to get to.

Northern Soul

But like all intense relationships my affair with big beat soul music was all but over. I became increasingly embarrassed not listening to new music and found myself veering off towards the lure of youthful modern indie music full of wailing electric guitars and synthesizer sounds and drum machines so predominate in the early 80’s. Increasingly the mod revival was encroaching more into the Northern Soul movement at the time and although I dabbled a little, somehow for me the scene was being diluted by the ever increasing amount of sharp suits, pork pie hats and Rude Boys. No more baggy trousers for me.

I came back and flirted from time to time, going to the odd event here and there but with kids and a mortgage I had better things to do. But like an old first love, the flame was still burning away, the song of the siren started calling me again, trying to tempt me back. My resistance was strong and I convinced myself it was quite sad that many of my old friends were still into a scene that should have died a long time ago. Move On Up people for fuck sake, Move On Up. But even though the scene felt a bit like a revivalist movement of sorts there was no denying deep down inside that there was something indescribably sweet and satisfying about deep black American vocals intertwining with the velvety strings and thumping bass rifts of a full house orchestra. Needless to say though my taste for the Northern Soul of yester year had been overtaken by a taste for proper soul. None of this white big band sound perpetuated across the scene due to its dance beat but a taste hopefully much more developed and refined. Much less Paul Anka, much more Garnett Mimms.

Northern Soul Souled on Soul

At this moment in time after a couple of years of intense re-invigoration, I have to admit to being slightly “off” the scene again. But that’s the nature of my relationship I have with my Northern Soul. Very push me and pull me. I come into it and will travel everywhere for a while then I’ll step back, take my foot off the pedal and go do something else. I don’t travel the country every weekend, I don’t do all-nighters, I don’t wear “the uniform” and I don’t collect records. That’s not to say I’m not passionate about the movement but these days I spend a lot of time imaging the scene. So you will find me going from event to event, camera in hand, trying to capture the magic of the movement that so captivates everyone involved, irrespective of their age, fashion foibles and sometimes odd tastes in music.

I’m no longer embarrassed about the movement, it challenges me. Some things I get, and some I don’t. It’s once again becoming a highly fractionated movement, not least due to that fact the current movement is high in the media spotlight. And we’re not talking a two minute news slot here, or a 30 minute TV special there. Facebook, Youtube, Twitter, Google, Smartphones, Music videos, Full Length Movies and a younger generation of soul lovers on the scene, intent on pushing out to a wider, younger audience is all driving the fractionation to an extreme. The old guard, protective of their cult and the underground seemingly at odds with the direction the modern movement is being driven. And all exposed openly and endlessly at the typing of a google search term, warts and all, the good and the downright ugly, depending on which part of the fence you are sat. So embarrassed no, but fascinated most definitely, hence the work with a lens. My images can be found here at and at my Facebook page of the same name if you’re interested. I hope you enjoy x.”

To see Martyn’s work go to the Souled on Soul site here -

Or the Facebook page here -

Souled on Soul


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  1. 1
    Ali (Bubbles) black bee red dress

    Hiya! I was at black bee! It was amazing, I don’t usually allow my photo taken as I’m not on social media but you may have got a few shots, Neil mentioned you, I wonder if you have any please! If you have any of me doing kicks or spins I would really appreciate it! Before they hit the cutting room floor so to speak…

    Kindest regards

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