Thirty Years a Raver. Part 6: Impact Zone

Final piece of the series then, and a conclusion… One More Tune!!!

By 1994 the Criminal Justice Bill had become an act. Attempts to enforce it were either greatly exaggerated, such as riot vans and police helicopters crashing a birthday barbeque, or were disregarded as an unnecessary government enforcement from the police on the ground. Though we may never have had another Castlemorton, the mid-nineties and even into the millennium, free raves struck back from the body-blow.

Urbanised parties took over railway arches, disused warehouses and squats, the people fought tooth and nail to preserve the culture, and in a way, they did. Rural parties continued, localised and smaller, but communal and friendly. Albeit any forces resisting against them, caused many larger ones to become more viciously anarchistic over time. There were attempts to party in aid of a greater cause, environmental issues for example, such as the Reclaim the Streets protests.

Yet in turn, rave bore an impact on culture and society, which outreached the free party scene. We spoke of musical genres breaking apart, so that large pay-raves erected multiple tents of differing sounds; house, drum n bass, techno, happy hardcore, speed garage, the list continued to get more diverse, until at Universe’s Tribal Gathering 1997, where originators of computer-generated music, Kraftwerk played a main stage, and everyone from each individual subgenre tent came out to pay respects to the roots.

Likewise, Liverpool super-club Cream wanted in on the large festival rave, and created Creamfields, where the likes of Run DMC played. And the scene redeveloped in many avenues, Acid Jazz was popularised, and if it was only short-lived, it birthed incredibly successful Jamiroquai. It also returned hip hop to the forefront, as breakbeat, chemical and big beat were the sounds of the later nineties. The indie and rave divide, parted dramatically since the days of Madchester, the Happy Mondays, Stone Roses, and Primal Scream’s Screamadeleica had realigned, with the punk nature of the Prodigy’s new look. The crossover blended once again, as indie kids accepted electronica wasn’t intending to lay down and die.

Clubs rocked to The Dust Brothers, later to be the Chemical Brothers. Mo-Wax, Skint and Wall of Sound roared a big beat, hip hop melting pot ethos, rooted by rave parties, and everyone flooded to Brighton beach to see Norman Cook “large it” as Fatboy Slim.

What was clear, by this conjunction, while the movement had altered, and divided, rave was now embedded in our culture, and was spreading globally. The paid peanuts DJs who once rocked up to an illegal rave now jetsetters, playing clubs worldwide.

Clubland never had it so good, buy a MixMag, relish in a party, legally, without the need of convoys, service station coups and risks of police brutality. I bought a silk shirt, wore it at Lakota in Bristol, but headed there after a free party in the forest of Longleat, the night before, and without care for basic hygiene, my paisley chic was ruined by the sweat marks of a boxer. I was oblivious ‘til presented with embarrassing photographic evidence afterwards.

But commercialisation of the culture had always loomed. In the race to become the “king of rave,” as rock n roll had Elvis and reggae had Marley, they failed to note this plastic throwaway ethos I’ve previously mentioned. In 1992, thousands of twenty-somethings blissfully unaware of the references, sang ‘Eezer Goode ‘Eezer Goode He’s Ebeneezer Goode, simply because the Shamen reached number one in the pop charts, in just the same way thirty years previously, no-hopers sang “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” oblivious to its blatant LSD connotations. I’d argue if we have to have a “king of rave” it’d would have been the ever-progressive Prodigy, but they never cared to call for the title.

The point is, commercialisation got the better of us eventually, as it did for every previous outrageous youth culture. It would be difficult to imagine in the days of Scott Joplin, that his rags would be considered conforming for a hoity-toity jazz festival in market towns like Marlborough, as in the 1910s, he played to lewd degenerates and desperate sailors in New York’s underworld and bawdy brothels.  In a short few years after the peak of rave culture, Leftfield’s Release the Pressure will be used in an advert for Cheese Strings. And don’t get me started on Yo Gabba Gabba.

And now we live in a time when reflections of nostalgia from forty-somethings comply with Albert Trotter moments, and a misunderstanding of what happened is ingrained in our culture. I cringe at how the tragic Wonder Woman sequel depicted the eighties, in an almost caricatured version of the fashion, and foresee bearded twenty-somethings attending wistful “rave” nights dressed in glow sticks like tourists on planet Mars. I never waved a fucking glowstick in the nineties, any more than I wore legwarmers in the eighties!

A van speeds past me, a youngster wears his hood up while driving. Why? Is there a leak in the van’s roof? Yes, we ravers popularised the hooded top in the UK long before the “hoody” culture, and if we wore the hood up, it was because we came out from a sweatbox into the cool night air with perspiration evaporating off of us. We did it to prevent dehydration from precipitation, rather than cos it made us look well ‘ard.

And then Ollie Murs’ heart skips a beat, with a drum loop the Ratpack would’ve rejected in 91, and I yell, NO! Get your own youth culture kids, nicking ours is disillusioned by commercialisation, unless you’re standing chilly at Peartree services at 3am, teeth masticating the life out of a slice of Wrigleys, eyes like saucers, and waving your arms about like a broken robot with a hundred others, surrounded by cars beeping their horn and playing a chewed up Easygroove cassette, then you are not a raver. And don’t you even let me see you asking Alexa to search the word cassette!

Last thing I want to do is end this series on a sour note, but duty calls. I read an article about how the days of the illegal rave had returned in all its former glory. “It was just like 1992,” they quoted in a story about a warehouse takeover, then informed partygoers discovered the happening via a Tweet. Eh? Have a word with yourself, Tweets were a novelty eighties band who rehashed an oom-pah so your granny could do a little bit of this and a little bit of that and shake her bum at some family disco of yore. We went raving without a clue what a pager was, while scare-story spreading tabloids suggested we all had mobile phones, in an era where mobile phones were thought of as the devil’s business. They couldn’t comprehend how an entire generation could all descend onto one field simply by word-of-mouth.

  “…and if you tell that to the young people today, they won’t believe you…”

The Four Yorkshire Men sketch, Monty Python.


In conclusion; as we say farewell to my little series reflecting back on those heady ravey dayz, I’ll confirm, there was numerous amazing times, the best times of my life, times evoking stories I could bore you into an early grave with. And by the thankful response to this series and the masses of posts of stories from so many old skool ravers in the variety of Facebook groups, it is clear I’m not alone in this theory. Although, my rose-tinted specs were large enough to engulf those dilated pupils throughout most of the examination.

Probably the most active of those groups, aforementioned DOCU FREE PARTY ERA 1990-1994 – WERE YOU THERE? was originally set up as a research project by one Aaron Trinder a filmmaker on a mission to document the era in a film. We wish him all the best of luck with this monumental task. And it is a monumental task, as unlike most previous youth cultures which borrowed from various trends and cultures, say the teddy boys borrowed extensively from rock-n-roll, mods borrowed from jazz, Italian suits and scooters, and so on, rave borrowed from everything and anything.

United, the melting pot came from any source, we electrified it and, even if it was relatively short-lived, what exhausted out inspired everything that went hereafter; modern pop, multiple dance music subgenres, fashion, video technology, literature, children’s entertainment, and most importantly, despite the authorises misunderstanding us and their traditionist values causing hateful vengeance upon us, a wealth of people power; the notion that masses can make a difference to life, society and politics. Evident by politicians consistently doing what our Iron Lady wouldn’t do at the time, make a U-turn to save their popularity and votes. For this, we should all be proud.

I would reward myself with one last disco biscuit, but I’m unsure if my ticker would take it. Slapped with a finale date though, it would be on my bucket list, and what a way to go, reaching for the skies in one last sweet harmony…..


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