MY sincere apologies if this gets a bit nerdy but it’s virtually impossible to write about the surge in excavated pop music without being distracted by technology and terminology.

You will already be aware that The ­Beatles have a “new” single out – which stretches the concept of “new” to near ­breaking point. The single is called Now And Then and it was recorded in three separate segments across 45 years.

The song was originally written and ­recorded in a rough form by John Lennon in the mid 1970s. Then elements from a 1995 session including George Harrison’s guitar parts were added to the mix, and then in 2022, instrumental parts recorded by Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr brought the track closer to fruition.

The surviving Beatles had the sum of the parts but not yet the final mix.

The National: The Beatles pictured in June 1963 as their fame soared (PA)

Progress on Now And Then stalled for much of its life, largely due to technical ­issues that made the muddy original tape impossible to work with. ­According to McCartney: “In John’s demo tape, the ­piano was a little hard to hear. And in those days, of course, we didn’t have the technology to do the separation … Every time we wanted a little bit more of John’s voice, this piano came through and ­clouded the picture.”

With the use of modern post-production technology, it became possible to ­isolate Lennon’s vocals and so the prospect of ­rebuilding the song became achievable.

The wave of media interest in the new Beatles song has brought the term “pop archaeology” into the mainstream of ­cultural conversation.

Although it is often described as a new concept, it is one that I have been aware of for more than 30 years in the restless world of rare soul music.

Last week, I met up with two old friends, both collectors on the northern soul scene. They were in Glasgow to bring new life to some long-forgotten soul tapes, and we met up in a painfully hip city-centre bar to compare notes.

My contacts were bearing gold, ­frankincense and myrrh, or to put it into a more secular context, they had a small bundle of old studio tapes and were in ­Glasgow to draw upon the sorcery of sound ­technology.

One of them had travelled up from Nottingham with an old studio master of a female vocal version of an ultra-rare northern soul record called Burning ­Sensation by an unknown New Jersey soul singer called Robby Lawson. The original song was recorded in 1967 in Jersey City, ­written and produced by an emergent producer called Paul Kyser, on his own personal label.

Although no one can be sure, the ­assumption is that Kyser had recorded a male version and then brought an ­unknown female singer into the studio to sing over the same backing track. We may never know who she was. The record was never released.

Until the meeting in the Glasgow bar, it was unknown to me, and I have only heard it played back to me through the tinny speakers of an iPhone.

So why travel to Glasgow to repair an old soul tape from 50 years ago?

One obvious reason is that ­Scotland has an oft-unseen talent base of sound ­engineers, who specialise in ­audio-voodoo and can perform magic on old sound.

Despite the crisis within independent television production and the poverty of network commissions, sound design is one of the areas where our creative ­industries have thrived.

There are so many parts to this ­success story it’s not clear where to ­begin. An ­obvious point is that there are many ­well-respected degree ­courses in sound technology in Scotland – at Edinburgh Napier ­University, the University of the ­Highlands and Islands and at the Royal Conservatoire in Glasgow (below).

The National:

HND courses in audio ­engineering – ­often wrongly seen as the poor ­cousin of university degrees – are even more ­numerous. Forth Valley, Clyde ­College and Kelvin College along with ­institutions in Fife, the north east and the ­Borders ­offer structured courses on sound ­engineering and a route to higher ­education that is not always defined by high school exam results.

A second factor is generational. Sound engineering and desktop editing are ­hugely attractive to the generations that grew up playing video games and ­listening to electronic dance music. Already ­proficient with laptop-loaded software, they have come to sound engineering in droves.

Software development is another key factor. Audio applications such as ­iZotope RX and Waves bring professional ­software into the realm of the affordable and it is now common for young people to ­experiment with sound creativity from the comfort of their bedroom studios. It is now as big a hobby as football was back in the day.

According to one bedroom engineer, “Technology can now take audio into a multi-dimensional form, that enables ­levels of processing unimaginable in years gone by.”

Curiously, Covid may have played its part too. The pandemic was brutal for most of the creative industries – theatres closed, festivals were postponed or cancelled, the comedy circuit choked to near death, and the performing arts faced a brutal contraction.

Only a few creative careers kept ­going, among them small-form sound ­engineering, which was unfazed by ­being isolated in bedrooms, garages or garden studios and was largely unrestrained by restrictions on physical contact and ­lockdown. Along with online meeting software like Zoom and Teams, the file-sharing service WeTransfer saw a spike in its software sales.

Beyond the rise of the studio-engineering subculture, Scotland has been a ­leader in the evasive skill of sound ­curation too. This particular chapter in the ­archaeology of soul music leads us to Edinburgh, where one of the most successful and respected labels in the story of soul archaeology is to be found.

Athens Of The North is a brilliantly ­curated record label run by Euan ­Fryer, specialising in gospel, rare soul and ­nu-disco. Internationally known to ­crate-diggers and vinyl collectors around the world, it is virtually unknown in its ­native Edinburgh.

Whilst theatre institutions like the Traverse and publishing houses like Canongate are revered, Athens Of The North flies under the radar. A visit to the company’s online store is like a journey through the obscure history of African-American music.

It is astonishing that a small Scottish company has done so much for the archaeology of black music.

Loved abroad and yet unknown at home, it is one of those frustrating ­Scottish anomalies that is more loved the ­further you travel.

If you hurry to the National ­Galleries of Scotland, there is still time to see the astonishing tapestries by Grayson ­Perry about social disruption and toxic ­English nationalism. If you nip down to the ­Portobello Bookshop, you can buy Georgi Gospodinov’s Time Shelter which won the International Booker Prize in 2023.

Or you could take my advice and ­follow the path of pop archaeology to ­Athens Of The North and buy either a ­vinyl or ­digital download of Coco And Ben’s Good ­Feelin’ (AOTN 12019). It is one of the most sought-after modern soul songs of ­recent years, featuring the ­delicately ­beautiful voice of an underground ­Memphis soul singer simply called Coco. The original release disappeared without a trace and still changes hands for nearly £2000.

Discovered by crate-diggers and vinyl sleuths on the northern soul scene, it has since been sound-engineered in ­Scotland from the original studio tapes and is now commercially available on disc or via Bandcamp. Royalties are returned to the original artists and producer Ben ­Robinson who still live in Memphis.

Maybe I wear my patriotism on my sleeve, but I am extraordinarily proud that such a brilliant soul record, almost lost to the world, has been given a new life by Scottish archaeologists.