Acid House History 1989
The younger generation find it hard to imagine London three decades ago. Pubs generally closed at 11pm while nightclubs closed at 2am. There wasn’t much demand for all night dance parties or events staged outside of traditional venues. No-one complained or worried about such matters because that’s just the way things were.
In the 1980s the only group using the term raves were Jamaicans, they adopted the term in the 1950s. We questioned a few Jamaican pensioners asking whether they remember saying the word back home. None of them recollect hearing the term in Jamaica so it’s highly likely the term was born here in the UK during the 1950s.
In its very early stages rave described bohemian parties staged by the Soho crowd. Shocking as it sounds today but jazz musician Mick Mulligan was nicknamed ‘King of Ravers’ in the fifties. Hall of Famer Buddy Holly recorded ‘Rave On’ in 1958 and the sixties mods used raves to describe wild parties in general. Attendees were called ravers, folks such as Keith Moon (The Who) was a self-described raver. Paul McCartney of the Beatles produced an experimental sound collage for an event titled ‘Million Volt Light & Sound Rave’. The term faded from the mainstream but remained alive and well throughout the 1970s and 1980s by the Jamaican community in the United Kingdom.
So how did ‘rave’ come to define the Acid House generation in the late 1980’s and beyond?
You may be surprised to hear the UK’s press called Acid House warehouse parties ‘raves’ rather than anyone actually connected to the scene. This happens more often than you think. Graffiti artists were so named by the press and government and not the ‘writers’ themselves. Throughout the seventies and eighties rave was associated with West Indian culture, usually denoting blues parties, shebeens, sound system clashes and house parties. The nations press had spent decades degrading Jamaican social life, by printing sensationalised stories of drug use, prostitution, and violence. When the media called them raves, it wasn’t a term of endearment, the intention was to stir up a negative picture of the scene by associating Acid House events with blues parties run by ‘violent’ ‘drug pushing’ ‘yardies’. The press were running media campaigns targeting parents who remembered that negative propaganda. A calculated move by the media who wanted to paint the darkest picture they could.
Dozens of news stories saturated TV screens and news-print media during 1989, the buzzwords were rave and ravers. Although widely used outside of the scene, attendees called them Acid Parties, Warehouse Parties and later Dance Parties. As Genesis’88 & Biology, later joined by Sunrise, brought in the new year 1989 – 1990 with a huge free party in Slough. Rave had seeped into the collective psyche, and soon became the international standard.
The nineties brought white gloves, whistles and furry boots, an image often depicted of raves and ravers in modern times. Personally I’ve always felt an awkward twinge in my stomach whenever we have to use the loaded term. We avoid using it most times but every so often such as today, it creeps into the dialogue.