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There's a Ghost in My House - R Dean Taylor





In the UK R Dean Taylor is mainly remembered for the single "There's a Ghost in my House", originally released in 1967, but not a hit in the UK until seven years later in 1974 , when it was re-released due to its popularity on the British "Northern Soul" club circuit. First time round, the record had no chart placings at all, either in the US or Britain.


Northern Soul was a vinyl hybrid that developed in the dance halls and clubs of Northern England in the late 1960's and early 1970's. Just as the "Liverpool Sound" had been sparked by the habit of merchant seamen buying cheap batches of records in the US to sell back in England in the Northern ports of Liverpool and Manchester often used ex-jukebox 45's, later in the sixties returning visitors from the US would bring excess stocks of unsuccessful singles to sell in Lancashire and the Midlands. This developed into a demand for "rare" uptempo sixties style soul music, which suited the mod style of fast-paced dance. The epitome of this dance music were the records produced by Motown in the sixties. The irony was that a prerequisite of a good Northern Soul record was it's rarity ie it's lack of success. The unsold American soul records were making their way to the UK precisely because they were unsold, therefore unsuccessful. So the area of definition of a Northern Soul classic was fairly narrow, a commercial paradox whereby the quality of the single had to be good, but also it had to be a US flop. As soon as the music became successful, it was rejected by the Northern Soul aficionados, which meant that Motown releases by the likes of the Four Tops and the Supremes were an anathema to the northern soulsters, whereas lesser known artists on the label, like R Dean Taylor, were okay.


To be a great Northern Soul deejay, you needed a cache of singles that no-one else had, but that everyone wanted to dance to. Some deejays, in order to ensure that they remained the only owners of a record, would create their own disc label and glue it on the platter over the original, with a slightly altered song title and a fictitious recording artist and record company to throw any nosy competitors off the scent. With the wrong information, it would be harder for a rival to source his own copy of the record. These deliberately wrongly attributed discs became known as "ghosts".


Another strange consequence of Northern Soul were the occasions when relatively unknown support acts, hired to be third or forth on the bill of tours of mainstream soul stars, would find themselves greeted at train stations and concert halls by hoards of adoring fans that they had no idea existed, the enthusiasm for their performances often overshadowing that of the bemused main acts. Some of the former even moved to the north of England permanently, as they were more popular and better known there than in the States.


When I worked in councils or other corporate bodies, from time to time an ex-colleague would return three or four months after leaving in a freelance capacity. This would be a person whose leaving party we had attended, having shelled out good money towards their leaving present. Upon bumping into them in a corridor, tea room or by the photocopier, we'd ask how they were, how they were getting on and so on. The second time we'd encounter them, a week or so later, there'd be nothing left to say: they were no longer part of the cut and thrust of our daily lives, we'd already caught up, and not so deep down we resented them as we all knew that their freelance rates would be better than our in-house salaries, and, to cap it all, we'd all donated good money to their parting gift. So we ignored them; it was easier. No-one talked to them. They had come back but they weren't one of us any more. They were ghosts.


Politicians often become ghosts, hanging around after they've retired or resigned in disgrace, feeding off the rotting carcases of their former careers as advisors, company directors, lobbyists and in other nefarious roles. Politics itself needs regular exorcising.


This is classic Motown, written and produced by the label's best song writing team, Holland-Dozier-Holland plus Taylor himself. The lyrics are as sharp as the beat, and the metaphor is pure Taylor. Thank God for the stubborn idiosyncrasies of Northern Soul, or most of us would never have heard of it.


"There's a ghost in my house, the ghost of your memories, the ghost of the love you took from me.

Where our love used to be only shadows from the past I see...."

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