29 June 2011

Acid House

One of the big "things" in 1988 and 1989 - the smiley face! Created in the 1960s and long associated by us plebs with kids' badges and jolly tea mugs, the face was suddenly the symbol of a rather frantic and frankly rather naughty progression from the House Music scene called Acid House. I was confused. House music had been created in Chicago - 1983 was 'Year Zero' for House - and the sound had not begun to go wide until midway through the decade.

And now we had ACID House. Say what?!

The smiley face was soon cropping up on T-shirts everywhere, accompanied by the slogan "Right On One Matey!" The elders got themselves into a right old stew about it all, whilst many youngsters, bored with being garishly posh, gothy, Indie or synthy, eagerly embraced the chance to get sweaty under strobe lights, and move about to weird electronic noises and samples.

And if you had to break into somebody else's warehouse or barn to do it, all the better!

Some newspapers seemed alarmed. A new drug culture, and the kids acting up again. Oh dear! Where had Acid House sprung from?

The Observer observed in 1988:

Drugs Fear as the 'acid house' cult revives a Sixties spectre

"Acid house" started in four London clubs... In the past month it has "taken off", spreading to other clubs around the country.

1988 and 1989 were wild. Absolutely evil according to some! The elders were definitely rattled!

From the Sun, August 28, 1989:

More than 25,000 youngsters - some aged only ELEVEN - went wild at a huge acid house party yesterday as the police watched helplessly.

Dozens of evil pushers raked in a fortune openly selling the mind-bending drug Ecstacy at £10 a time - with a bottle of mineral water to wash it down.

A police superintendent and WPC moved through throngs of spaced-out teenagers as dealers chanted "E, hash, weed" to the beat of the music.

School-age children rolled their own reefers.

But the officers were only there to make sure there was no trouble while notices about the noise were served on the organisers.

The 15-hour bash started on Saturday night when hordes of acid house fans converged on the village of Effingham, Surrey.

Cars, coaches and vans poured into Newmarsh Farm for the £30-a-head "Energy Summer Festival".

Youngsters from as far way as Leeds, Swindon and Ipswich screamed "Mental, mental" as lasers lit the sky.

Headlines from the Sun CONDEMMING the drug craze flashed on a huge video screen.

Party organisers made an estimated £500,000 from the bash - which cost about £50,000 to stage.
Police, who only heard of the party hours before, at first stopped youngsters entering the site.
But as thousands joined the crush, senior officers decided it was safer to let them in.

About 70 police were on duty, but there were only seven arrests - two for alleged drug offences.
Police will quiz the organisers and those responsible for the land.

A spokesman said:

* An acid house bash, tagged The Heat, was smashed at the weekend because it was a FIRE RISK.

* Around 10,000 revellers were expected to head for a disused factory at West Bromwich, West Midlands.

* But the local council won an injunction to ban the party after fire experts declared the building unsafe.

* Only 30 youngsters, mainly from London, arrived at the factory, but were promptly turned away by the police.

"There could be criminal charges."

Michael Grylls, MP for North West Surrey, said: "It is a massive indictment of parents that they allow their children to attend this sort of thing."

Fellow Tory Terry Dicks said: "These parents should be fined, if not sent to prison."
Monks at a silent order at West Kingsdown, Kent, were disturbed by 3,000 at a nearby acid house party.

Master of a little-known DJ skill called Transformer Scratching (making a record sound like a robot's voice), James Dorrell was hailed as a pioneer of "English hip-hop". Dorrell, who was also in M/A/R/R/S (Pump Up The Volume), was interviewed in 1988 and said of Acid House:

"It's really crazy, psychedelic music. There's no real tune, just lots of studio technology. You can also scratch other bits of records over the top of the beat and add to the effect. The other day I found an amazing old record by Brian Clough of all people! I used this bit where he says, "He's got a good left foot that lad!" over a serious Chicago House groove. It sounded brilliant!"
Mind you, imagination and originality were needed. Dorrell again:

"If I hear another James Brown yelp or This is a journey into sound again I'll scream!"

Despite the '60s psychedelic references (particularly the return of the lava lamp, which became HUGE in the 1990s, reaching its highest ever sales), the new drug culture (just what was this ecstacy?!) and so on, followers of Acid House were not hippies. From what I saw, they were harder, more streetwise, more working class - "On One Matey!" rather than "Peace Man!" The music too was very different. 20th Century Words by John Ayto, describes it thus:

Acid House n (1988) a type of house music with a very fast beat, a spare, mesmeric, synthesised sound, and usually a distinctive gurgling bass noise. Also applied to the youth cult associated with this kind of music, characterised by a vogue for warehouse parties, a revival of psychedelia, and the taking of hallucinogenic drugs. "Acid" may well be the slang word for LSD, although many cultists claim that it comes from the record "Acid Trax" by Phuture (in the slang of Chicago, where this music originated in 1986, "acid burning" means "stealing", and the music relies heavily on "sampling" a polite word for stealing musical extracts).

Did you join in or want to put an end to the "menace"? From the "Sun", November 18, 1988.


Anonymous said...

I loved acid house. I took shit loads of E and acid and raved into oblivion. Was the best experience I have ever had. Over two decades later Im still thinking about how amazing it was.

John Harmer said...

I was at New Marsh Farm Cobham. I can assure you there were no schoolkids there.I was A 26yr old reporter who arrived at 11:30pm & left at 5pm, party stil in ascendancy. Every event loves to dream up a myth or two.