Musicologists love their labels, tags, genres and sub-genres and amongst those genres they’ll be able to tell you all about “Popcorn”. Popcorn is a European genre that has a timeline very similar to Northern soul. It began as a regional phenomenon in Belgium in the 60s, enjoyed a peak in the 70s then went back underground… and it’s now enjoying a renaissance thanks to collectors like Bob Stanley of St Etienne. Bob’s label, Croydon Municipal, has issued a number of Popcorn anthologies and their latest is “Popcorn Exotica”…an always enjoyable 22 tracker that offers a great cross section of the genre.
Chat to Bob and he’ll tell you that Popcorn began in the clubs of Antwerp but in summer the clubs and bars of Ostend embraced the music – a mix of rare soul, R&B, ska, pop, Latin jazz, Broadway tunes and exotic instrumentals. One of the pioneers was bar owner Freddy Cousaert (yep, that Freddy… the one who helped Marvin Gaye get back on track!) and his popularity helped spread the movement through Northern France and into Italy.
‘Popcorn Exotica’ will give you a great, eclectic snapshot of what Popcorn is was all about. Soul collectors will recognize the name of US Bonds. His contribution to this Popcorn set is a broody ‘Time ‘Ole Story’ while the Delcos keep the soul flag flying with a sub doo-wop tune called ‘Arabia’. Elsewhere there’s French pop from Sylvie Vartan, Italian MOR from Ornella Vanoni, British trad jazz from Acker Bilk and lots, lots more…. eclectic, yes and totally exotic.