Instrumentals (Marmite Anyone?)

If you have read one of my previous blogs you will know that I would risk derision and mocking by frequenting a record shop called Some Kinda Mushroom that sold blues, progressive and American west coast music, where the hippies would hang out. Its saving grace was that the owner was also a DJ and kept a stock of Northern Soul sounds, which he sold from a beer crate on the counter.

I had been looking for “The Right Track” by Billy Butler. The search had been going on for long enough, without success. But, one day the owner of the shop – Dave, suggested with a knowing smile, that there were some records in the box I might be interested in. There it was. Or more correctly, there they were. Six copies of “The Right Track” on the purple Okeh label. I could not believe my luck.

I became oblivious to the disturbing sound of Van Der Graph Generator or some such other noise being played over the shop’s sound system and basked in the glow of my new found treasure. For one fleeting moment the mod in me had the idea to buy all six copies so that I would be the only one who owned that sound amongst my immediate crowd. The cost of the idea soon brought me back to earth.

I bought one copy and took the record home gingerly. I robbed another 45 of its plastic middle. I played it and waited. The familiar guitar solo introduction kicked in and, with perfect timing, I launched into the vocal “Girl it seems so right, when you’re feeling sad and blue”.

Unfortunately Billy did not join in. I had, in my haste, unknowingly, bought the instrumental version. I was gutted. I played the B side just to make sure. The same track was on both sides. It took some time to recover from the disappointment.

Despite this trauma my view on instrumental tracks did not change. I do like a good instrumental (Six By Six, Afternoon of the Rhino, Rat Race etc). I suppose the proviso is that I had to hear the track as an instrumental in the first place. Hearing the instrumental version of a track that I know has vocals just does not do it for me. “Fat Man” by Butch Baker is a good example. I first heard the vocal track, which is the B side of the single “Working at the Go Go” which is the instrumental. I can appreciate them both.

I realise that instrumental tracks divide opinion, in some cases you either like them or you do not. Just like Marmite. However there are many instrumentals that have their place in Northern Soul. Such tracks are devoid of any lost love, heartache, double timing, relationship breakdown, sadness, philosophy, yearning, aspirations, dance names, the need to move on etc. The listener can make up their own interpretation of the music and give the track their own unique meaning. It’s a personal thing.

Their beat, rhythms and more importantly, feel, were from the same gene pool as the vocal tracks that make up the mainstream of Northern Soul. They also have the same ability to make us dance.
Anyway, back to the double sided pressing of the Right Track instrumental. I can’t find it anywhere on the popular sites selling Northern Soul vinyl on the internet. It could be that I am left with something of a sought after rarity on my hands. Or it could be that I was sold a pup. I know which is closer to the truth. The genuine instrumental track has the word “Instrumental” written on it. Mine does not. Marmite anyone?


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