Most helpful positive review
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
Not much new - but some revelatory interviews
on 11 March 2014
The book is worth buying because
a) The popular format of juxtaposed oral histories with commentary works. The commentary –particularly the final chapter is astute
b) The quotes from Tappenden are an absolute revelation – the Cabinet were pulling the strings of the Pay Party Unit. I am more sympathetic with him now
c) Surprisingly Weatherall comes across great – get this man a publisher.
d) Fiona Allen presents one of the few female perspectives on the scene. But 99% of those interviewed are male –including the clubbers. Shame!
But here is the downside
a) What you get is a London –Manchester axis. So it’s the usual focus on white heterosexual men in Ibiza in 1987, the Wag, Shoom, 80s acid house clubs in the West End, The Hacienda (and surrounding Lancs clubs) that have been well documented elsewhere hundreds of times before. Yawn!
b) So the South West, Scotland, the Midlands, the East Coast and so on all had thriving scenes 1988-92 but don’t get more than a cursory mention -other than as a breeding ground for DJs like Graeme Park to move on to better things .
This elitism is part of the problem in most writing on youth culture and began in the 1970s with the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies (see Stuart Hall, Dick Hebdige etc.) which focused only the birth of each subculture and saw them as worthless the moment they spread to Wrexham, Coventry, Norwich, Belfast, Ayr, Penzance and so on. (Gary Clarke of CCCS highlighted this as a problem way back as 1981)
Subsequent populist writing on youth culture continues in this vein. Consequently we always get a clichéd elitist version of history (repeated and reinforced in every publication) rather than the true story of how the style /music spread to be massively popular. So we get an old fashioned ‘top down’ version of youth culture history that focuses only on the winners and royalty. (E.g. UFO club, The Speakeasy, Wigan Casino, CBGBs, Screen on the Green, Free Trade Hall , The Roxy, The Blitz, The Wag, Shoom, Hac, Speed, Twice as Nice etc.)
In reality, house was not confined to the style elite linked to ID/ Face / Boy's Own crew etc. House was massively popular and quickly spread across the country. Bob Stanley (in ‘Yeah Yeah Yeah’) meticulously calculates how much dance music (and the KLF especially) dominated the UK charts in the period concerned. Please read it. If you read this book, you get the impression that virtually every acid house record sold came from Eastern Bloc or was personally handed over by Jazzy M. (In contrast I suspect that the majority of the copies of those charting house classics were sold in Woolworths.
I do acknowledge that there was elitism in UK house
a) Some clubs and raves had a door policy that was worse than Studio 54 –or even The Wag!
b) Being upfront was valued (and still is) –tunes were dropped the moment they were on UK commercial release. If they charted, DJs would deny ever spinning the tune -unless it was Voodoo Ray. .
c) In the age of vinyl, owning a UK release or (gasp) a track on compilation carried less status than the same tune on acetate /the test pressing / the white label / the double or triple promo pack promo/ the shrink wrapped import
d) Some people wanted to keep E a secret.
However house was popular, democratic and inclusive (“In the beginning there was Jack…”). Unfortunately the limited range of interviews selected in the book mean that Bainbridge falls for the whole elitist ideology of Boys Own, the Ramplings and co. As ever, it falsely distinguishes between
a) Those down Amnesia vs those in San Antonio in 1987/88
b) The Real Balearics vs the Acid Teds
c) Those in proper acid house clubs vs those in mainstream ‘Kevin and Tracey’ clubs
The great thing about acid house 1988-92 is that virtually all of the ‘Kevin and Tracy’ clubs were playing tunes that the Hacienda etc were playing two weeks previously. In addition, most ‘Ritzy’ type clubs had a back room or a basement room playing a mix of house /hip-hop/ disco/ rare groove) Further, most had a mid-week night playing the same with some indie thrown in for the students. As for the tunes, most towns had at least great independent dance shop – and even HMV had house imports, white labels and promos. House music was democratic; exclusive imports often rapidly got domestic releases or were licensed on easily obtainable compilations.
So the true story of acid house? We need some new literature on
a) What was going on outside the elite 1988-92? What were the promoters, clubbers, DJs and record shops doing outside of Central London and Manchester? What drugs were being consumed? (Energy Flash by Simon Reynolds is probably the best book regarding this aspect but mainly hones in on hardcore). Some of Greg Wilson’s comments in this book are a useful starter.
a) Who bought all those acid house tunes and compilations that hit the charts? What did it mean to them? Where did they go dancing? (And who bought that Reynolds Girls record and why?)
b) House quickly became international (although the USA only woke up 25 years later). What’s the story there? For example let’s hear interviews from the producers of those Italian piano classics or the Deep Hose producers from Eastern Europe.
c) Someone needs to interview the unsung DJs from the gay clubs 1984-1988. What is apparent in the interviews in this book is the repeated claim that in London, Manchester and the provinces, house and beat-mixing were established in the gay clubs way ahead of the ‘royalty’ in this book. Time after time, those interviewed claimed that house could only be heard in the mid 1980s in gay clubs. Who were the DJs? What were their motives? Where did they get their tunes/ learn their craft?
By the way, I had to laugh when Mike Pickering complains herein about flyers advertising him for un-booked events. I spent a year in the Midlands being him every Friday night… and I always showed up. However the headlining ‘Steve Proctor’ act was usually dire – but not as bad as the miming superstar DJs in this book with their sets on a DAT machine during this period.