Rave: a brief history
Don’t Worry Everything is Going to Be Amazing by Billy Moran, is set during the era known largely as ‘Rave’. I love the book and not least because it’s a time that for me, was the last great youth culture and one that has significant personal resonance.
When I read Billy’s book, I felt the hairs on the back of my neck stand up as the memories started to resurface. I used to think that feeling was flashbacks caused by the various chemicals and plants I may or may not have consumed regularly and in huge quantities during this time.
I have now realised that the feeling was simply the music. The music that still evokes strong memories from 1989 to 1993. Billy and I experienced it differently, but the same. He in his, more outdoorsy west country world of whistles and sunrises, and me in my deranged and groggy Essex and London clubs and raves.
For at least two solid years I frequented these sweaty cauldrons every Friday and Saturday night without fail, often going on to the ‘breakfast clubs’ on Sundays where ‘somehow’ we found a little extra energy.
I’ve always felt lucky that I was able to live through the period, and to enjoy it at the right age (late teens as opposed to some of the confused Thai-dyed hippies that could be found gasping for air in the early days at various clubs, dancing like they were listening to Steve Hillage — all finger tips playing an invisible harp like a stupid wanker).
And in the right place too. I grew up in what was undeniably rave’s spiritual epicentre at various times, both in terms of the clubs and drugs, and crucially, the music. For a while, Essex fed London’s club scene with breakbeat hardcore, pirate radio stations, and a steady stream of ravenous ravers.
So much of the talent and drive for the whole scene came from the suburbs. I’m not sure why, for us I suspect it was that combination of boredom, weekend abandon, and seizing a moment to finally feel part of something. And someone.
I was a Mod in my teens, and a part of me always felt that this was my Clacton or Hastings (a comparison Flowered Up echoed in their 1992 track Weekender and accompanying Quadrophenia-inspired short film).
Rave was also something that felt uniquely British, and all without the need for booze and a punch up.
Like many, I was out every weekend — all weekend — pilled to the eyeballs, and somehow able to hold down an office job at the same time (made possible I think by the copious amounts of Mogadon dope we might have consumed at lunchtimes, and of course, a massive lack of career ambitions, university, and other distractions at the time).
I was fortunate to have had a hand in a successful rave track too, and so even managed to get a little sniff of the VIP side of things, and to my delight, most of the people making the music were just like us.
Mercifully, like all good youth explosions, it burnt bright and quickly, significantly fizzling out at the end of 1992 for us.
As with so many similar phenomena, it was largely driven by the working class as really all you needed for an amazing night out was £30. Half on the venue, the other half on an E.
Which reminds me, it was the jolliest of youth explosions. Aside from the odd ecstasy tragedy in the papers and the organised crime that became more and more present, most of our experiences were recklessly hilarious, energetic, quasi-spiritual, and very, very happy.
And like every raver (as a side note, we never referred to it as raving, or ourselves as ravers), I had my favourite tunes. The ones that meant, if I wasn’t on the dancefloor, I would be in seconds of hearing them.
I only ever had them on 12” (and of course a tape for the car), very often the DJ’s white label, played them over and over in my bedroom, particularly on a Friday evening while I tied my ponytail with a scrunchy, and popped on a T-shirt with an obtuse drug-related slogan on the front.
Like the scene, the music changed over time. It followed our habits, the culture, the drugs, and the clothes, and you could map the music to the years. We started with bleepy, intricate acid house, then breakbeat hardcore, (my favourite), before it got heavier, faster, and harder.
Then along came drum and bass and there were no more hugs, and everyone’s smiles turned into scowls.
And so to my 10 favourite tunes from that period. It’s like choosing a favourite child I imagine. Harder actually (let’s face it, there’s always one of your kids who is just a little pffff…).
Each one of these I like for different reasons. And of course, I still have all of them on 12”. Back off eBay!
Now, go and enjoy…
For more information on Don’t Worry Everything Is Going To Be Amazing by Billy Moran go here (it’s available to pre-order from Amazon and other outlets).
Buy Tom James’ new book Your Children Are Boring here on paperback and kindle in the UK, US and worldwide.