Northern soul is a music and dance movement that emerged from the British mod scene, initially in northern England in the late 1960s. Northern soul mainly consists of a particular style of black American soul music based on the heavy beat and fast tempo of the mid-1960s Tamla Motown sound. The northern soul movement, however, generally eschews Motown or Motown-influenced music that has met with significant mainstream success. The recordings most prized by enthusiasts of the genre are usually by lesser-known artists, and were initially released only in limited numbers, often by small regional United States labels such as Ric-Tic and Golden World (Detroit), Mirwood (Los Angeles) and Shout and Okeh (New York/Chicago).
Northern soul is also associated with particular dance styles and fashions that grew out of the underground rhythm & soul scene of the late 1960s, at venues such as the Twisted Wheel in Manchester. This scene (and the associated dances and fashions) quickly spread to other UK dancehalls and nightclubs like the Catacombs (Wolverhampton), the Highland Rooms at Blackpool Mecca, Golden Torch (Stoke-on-Trent), and Wigan Casino. As the favoured beat became more uptempo and frantic, by the early 1970s, northern soul dancing became more athletic, somewhat resembling the later dance styles of disco and break dancing. Featuring spins, flips, karate kicks and backdrops, club dancing styles were often inspired by the stage performances of touring American soul acts such as Little Anthony & The Imperials and Jackie Wilson.
During the Northern soul scene's initial years in the late 1960s and early 1970s, popular Northern Soul records were usually not recent releases, and generally dated from the mid-1960s. This meant that the movement was sustained (and "new" recordings added to playlists) by prominent DJs discovering rare and previously overlooked records. Later on, certain clubs and DJs began to move away from the 1960s Motown sound and began to play newer releases with a more contemporary sound.