This book provides a vivid historical ethnography of the 1970s Northern Soul Scene, drawing on the author's personal involvement in this as well as extensive research. The book examines how cultural patterns and normative standards are established through individual practices and group interaction,and aims to show how participants in the scene became converted to actions that they once thought unacceptable - for a substantial majority this was amphetamine use, and for a minority, opiate use and burglary.
The book shows how early social background experiences influenced how quickly participants started using amphetamines and whether they subsequently became involved in criminal activities such as the burglary of pharmacies, and suggests a link between burglary of chemist shops, opiate use and fatalities from drugs overdose. Such high-risk behaviour is associated with previous delinquency and early social background, rather than the nature of involvement in the subculture.The book shows how early life influences have a powerful impact on shaping social identity, attachment to the subculture, and involvement in crime. How and why individuals become involved in the subculture, and the impact it had on identity, are central themes to the study. The findings suggest that while involvement in the Northern Soul Scene provided valued memories and friendships, it did not impede movement to the conventional roles and responsibilities of adulthood. The book concludes with a summary of its implications for the sociology of adolescence, subcultural theories and deviant careers.
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Andrew Wilson is a Senior Lecturer in Criminology in the School of Social Sciences, Nottingham Trent University. His research interests include drugs, subcultures and gangs, and young people, crime and justice.Review:
"... The concepts of culture and subculture are increasingly used (‘knife culture’) to give a spurious depth to the public discourse about delinquency. Andy Wilson’s study of the 1970s Northern Soul Scene provides just the right depth to give such concepts any meaning. Picking up from the subcultural traditions about rock music, delinquency and recreational drug use, this book is rare example of a genuine historical ethnography: combining an external observer’s sense of historical change and an insider’s account of shared experience." Stan Cohen (Professor Emeritus, LSE)
"... Wilson’s book is thought-provoking, well written and accessible. This is a book that should be of great interest to those in a range of disciplines―criminology, sociology, urban and cultural studies being the most obvious. In addition, the book should be of interest to a non-academic audience... Most importantly, it provides previously unknown information about the workings of a music-focused subculture from someone who is able skilfully to map their first-hand involvement against a range of sociological theories." Katie Milestone, Manchester Metropolitan University (Urban Studies 2009)
"... A core question presented by Wilson is why at the height of its popularity spanning the period 1964-1981, ‘did the public face of the northern soul scene remain relatively drug free?’ ... This is classic ethnography providing facts about the lives of 55 former members of the scene... As a sociological theorist Andrew Wilson has produced an instant classic on the British Amphetamine culture of the Northern Soul Scene. .. On the one hand, these ethnographies provide cogent, empirically grounded, critique of drugs policies and prohibition in the contemporary era. On the other hand, Wilson provides a classic sociological study of subcultures and deviance in the British tradition of Cohen (1980) and Downes (1966). Despite its niche sounding title Wilson’s Northern Soul: Music, drugs and subcultural identity merits much wider appeal to sociologists, gender theorists, welfare theorists, musicologists and anyone across the life-cycle who treasures rare-soul records or is a fan of classic social science." Michael Rush, University College, Dublin (Drugs: education, prevention and policy 2010)
"... Northern Soul: Music, Drugs and Subcultural Identity is a compelling portrait of one element within that subcultural milieu, which―at least to American audiences―is far less well-known... Wilson clearly knows his subject, and Northern Soul is a thorough treatment of an important subculture... Northern Soul is a valuable contribution to an important area of study, and will be of interest to those concerned with the relationship between crime and subcultural formation. " Dimitri A. Bogazianos, California State University, Sacramento (Contemporary Sociology 2008)
"... Sticking two fingers up to the 'academic-criminology-must-be-boring' school of thought, Northern Soul is scholarly research as violence, drugs and northern soul. Rooted in the author's lived experience, rich ethnographic detail and an innovative re-working of sociological theory, Wilson has produced a fascinating account of the complex relationships between youth subculture in Northern towns, rare soul records imported from the USA, the all-night dance scene, amphetamine use and chemist shop burglaries. Reminiscent of the early work of Stan Cohen, David Downes and Jock Young, Northern Soul has the hallmarks of an instant classic. Highly recommended." Professor Ben Bowling, King’s College, London
"...This is a fascinating sociological study of a neglected aspect of British cultural history, the Northern Soul scene, which in illuminating one particular example of the interplay of friendship, drugs and music shows how much can still be learnt about popular culture by the good use of a ‘naturalistic’ empirical methodology. " Professor Simon Frith, University of Edinburgh (Chair of the Mercury Music Awards)
"... Wilson is not only a scholar of Northern Soul, but a long-time member of the scene as well. This fact allows a depth of understanding to shine through in his writing where an outsider’s perspective would have failed." J. Patrick Williams (Canadian Journal of Criminology and Criminal Justice 2009)
"... Northern Soul is a great book, accessible and engaging, but never slight on analysis. It should have a wide market amongst those interested in youth subculture, social history, drug use, and criminology generally, and I hope it is widely read. It is the type of criminology that deserves to be." James Treadwell, University of Leicester (Probation Journal 2008)
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