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Popcorn for the Soul

A documentary about the club where the Belgian Popcorn scene was born in the 70s.
Santiago Salvador
In the fascinating documentary The Sound Of Belgium (2012), (2012), the director, Jozef Devillé, puts Popcorn on one of the biggest branches of the country’s club culture family tree. There was no dress code, the atmosphere was as friendly as it was soaked in alcohol, the concert-goers shook their hips with a slow, sensual swing interspersed with improvised movements all their own. The DJs played the tracks slow to make them sound darker and drowsier. Welcome to the beautiful Central European subcultural rarity that was the 70s Popcorn scene.
From a downhearted rhythm and blues to a sleepy ska or a feverish Broadway musical number, from a melancholy tango to an imported funk 45 no one had ever heard before, a dragging Latin jazz rhythm or the angelic women’s voices sandwiched into a wall of sound by Phil Spector. If there’s one thing that distinguished the Popcorn scene from its athletic and hopped up English relative, Northern Soul, aside from its decelerated tempo, it was its unabashed eclecticism.
 
“Popcorn has a very similar timeline to northern soul: it started as a regional phenomenon in the 60s and peaked commercially in the 70s before going back underground in the 80s. The main difference between the scenes was the tempo of the records, with Popcorn crowds needing records with a drowsy feel;  DJs even played 45rpm singles at 33rpm to obtain the requisite atmosphere,” wrote Bob Stanley
The scene’s nom de guerre, was taken from a club named after James Brown’s hit  Mother Popcorn”. That club was opened in Vrasene, in northern Belgium, near Antwerp, in late 1969. From there, its peculiar style of dance and penchant for soul music spread to other Belgian clubs, and even to the Netherlands and France. In the minidocumentary Belgian Popcorn, the director Lander Lenaerts travels back to those four walls where it was all cooked up by Gilbert Govaert and Gerry Franken, two proud pioneers of the Popcorn scene. Here is the documentary and a broad assortment of classics from the era.