Two decades after the original Summer of Love in 1967, Britain exploded into two seasons of euphoria, capturing the minds of British youth to the sound of acid house. Emulating the free spirit and hedonism of the 60s, the summers of 88 and 89 helped define the zeitgeist of that era in rave culture. Today Akhil Kalepu takes us back to this historical moment for raves in Britain.
Crash Course for the Ravers
Curiously enough, the word rave actually predates electronic music. The term was originally used to describe parties thrown by the beatnik community in SoHo, London. Early rock acts used the word in songs, but before modern EDM culture, the term rave was most notably used in an experimental electronic music performance called, Million Volt Light and Sound Raves, performed at the London Roundhouse in 1967 and featuring the unreleased “Carnival of Light” by Paul McCartney. The word rave fell out of use during much of the 60s and 70s, save for David Bowie ironically using it in his song “Drive-In Saturday”.
By the mid 80s, electronic dance music was starting to take over Manchester and later London, as well as a revival of the word rave. The scene was largely influenced by the mod culture and Northern Soul movement in the 60s and 70s, known for their all night dance parties to the sound of American soul music, particularly the uptempo style of Motown.
Various subcultures that the scene evolved into, like mod revivalists and apolitical skinheads, were known for including both black and white communities, in addition to having a taste for soul, ska and early reggae music. While the word rave might have been a throwback to its use in early rock, it is more likely that the term was revived through its use in Jamaican communities who participated in the burgeoning youth culture of 80s Britain.
Learn more about the history of rave.
We Have Achieved Orbital Velocity
The bleak economic environment at the time had brought the UK’s textile industry to a halt, forcing many factories and warehouses to be shuttered and abandoned. These secluded spots ranged from industrial sites to empty fields, and were the perfect venues for un-licensed parties fueled by illicit substances. LSD was experiencing a minor resurgence, but MDMA was absolutely the soup de jour, encouraging a spirit of love, empathy and community, in addition to providing boatloads of energy and sheer euphoria.
“It definitely took ecstasy to change things. People would take their first ecstasy and it was almost as if they were born again.” – Mark Moore*
By the late 80s, acid house had made its way into venues like Danny Rampling’s legendary Shoom:
“You will always get people saying ‘My mate played “acid house” back in 1984,’ and some of the records had been around for a couple of years, but it wasn’t until 1988 that it exploded and took the whole country by storm.” – Danny Rampling*
While the instutionalized club scene was scrambling to rebrand itself as rave culture, clubbers in London and the rest of England were developing a taste for something even more daring...[continued]