‘Eye Witness Account No.1,988’

By Andrew Weatherall

It had been twenty years since the accident but in the conspiracy confused minds of the public there were still questions to be asked and even more to be answered.

Did London DJs play ‘soft southern shandy drinking shite’? Was it more political than punk? Was it the last recognisable youth cult before pop ate itself? Did the I.C.F. wear flowers in their hair?

A hush descended over the courtroom as the day’s next witness took the stand…

“There was no epiphany, your honour. No blinding light other than the cheap theatrical trick that is the strobe, and the light bulb of memory is white 100 watt and illuminating, not rose tinted and blinding.”

“A relief to us all. Now please continue.”

“After a heavy afternoon’s clothes and record shopping I was back in the suburban council flat thoughtfully provided by the government by way of various cunning benefit ruses. It was early Saturday evening and the first of the night’s social diary calls came in. The conversations that these led to would more often than not map out location, narcotics of choice and, after a few arguments, the designated driver.

First out of the blocks was Farley, a chap I’d been on many a mission with after gaining his acquaintance via my home town’s one decent clothes shop. Our finest hour as I recall was a raid on Caister soul weekender, dressed pockets crammed with amphetamines, in ‘Buffalo’ era Westwood. We went “round the outside” alright; usually chased by security guards. We were also on the editorial board of a fanzine called Boys Own, a publication dedicated to football, fashion, music, nightclubs, naive romanticised left wing politics and, later in its evolution, acid house rule writer.

I don’t recall his exact words, your honour, but the crux of the matter went a little something like this:

“Fancy coming to this new gaff in south London? It’s full of football hooligans and their Richards back from Ibiza all taking ecstasy. Sometimes they play some of that weird music you like. The night’s called Shoom.”

Your honour, before I reveal my answer I’d like to present some pertinent facts. Well, one pertinent fact. I was 25 and jaded; it was going to discos from the age of thirteen and getting into a fight the first time I tried ecstasy (three years previously) that did it.”

“No, you’re alright.”

“It was pure stubbornness on my part. With a dash of snobbery. If I hadn’t discovered it first it wasn’t worth jack.”

For heightened comedic effect the movie version would now flash forward, probably employing the spinning newspaper or flying calender pages device, to reveal our witness, out of his tiny fragile mind, dancing to The Residents at a soul weekender in Margate, in a way that was severely vexing the spat wearing formation teams.

“I was on a Shoom club outing to the seaside and Danny Rampling [Shoom founder] was going down like a turd in the salad with everyone bar the coach load of dungaree dervishes that were the Shoom regulars. The rarified rare groove air was sullied by the sounds of disco, European electronica, house, and even the odd bit of what got later labelled indie dance. The perfect soundtrack for a punk rock soul boy looking for a twist in his disco and a side of Gristle with his Bohannon.

Within weeks I felt I’d slipped into a ‘scene’ and was becoming aware of the connotations both good and bad. Rules were quickly established and details finely fashioned. The classic defence mechanism of the proud early keepers of the flame. Elitist and selfish but it sure roots out the dilettantes. Within months I was playing at proto-raves in secret countryside locations.

At this point I crave the court’s indulgence when I say that my recollection of events from then on are somewhat dulled and in a world of decreasing mystery and ever increasing confusion. I feel it fit to conclude by entering as evidence a few faded polaroids from my personal collection. They are titled thus:

Exhibit One: ‘People in questionable trousers enjoying what Julian Cope once called “the eternal now”.’

Exhibit Two: ‘Man who went a bit soft on ecstasy and went from Killing Joke to Chris Rea.’

Exhibit Three: ‘Man being thrown off the decks two records into his set for playing music that sounds like “man sawing wood”.’

Exhibit Four: ‘The girls and boys of The Roundshaw Estate.’

Exhibit Five: ‘Mr Oakenfold at The Future.’

Exhibit Six: ‘Man being pestered by tabloids because ‘acid house’ had gone from a few people upsetting soul purists to the nation’s number one corrupter of youth.’

You’ll find similar images to Exhibit Six in files dating back to the Fifties – and in yesterday’s Daily Mail. However, pictures in the 1988 file marked ‘Politics’ are few and far between. Like youth cults before it, ‘acid house’ was only politicised later by authoritarian overkill. The police were convinced that people with the power to mobilise hundreds of thousands of young people must be doing so for a darker purpose than merely facilitating dancing in a field. They turned themselves inside out trying to figure that little conundrum, believe me. Neither did it put an end to terrace scrapping. You may see the odd picture of a flower garlanded Chelsea Head hunter, but on the whole Barry Mooncult was a voice in the wilderness and it was business as usual.

If it is social impact you’re after then try one final subjective view for size. A generation of youth getting off on music made with machines fuelled the unstoppable development of the music software that pervades everyday life in 2008. Rock ‘n’ roll has always thrived on D.I.Y and now you don’t even have to build a tea-chest bass or learn three chords on a guitar.

Viva skiffle, viva punk rock, viva acid house ”

“Thank you. You may leave the stand.”


You can visit JUNOdownload.com to listen to and purchase a selection of the Acid House classics discussed in our retrospective.

Click here to visit JUNO.

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