There’s no doubt that the summer of 1988 marked a watershed moment in the history of dance, as the house rhythms of Chicago, artistic exuberance of Ibiza, and electronic soundscapes of Detroit surged through club culture.
With this in mind, 909originals presents ‘Postcards from 88’, a new series that will see leading DJs, promoters, journalists, club owners, photographers, and of course the clubbers themselves, shed some light on just what went on during those halcyon days, 30 years ago.
This week’s ‘Postcards from 88’ comes from one of northern England’s acid house heroes, who helped put Blackburn on the musical map both for his appearances at the city’s now infamous warehouse parties in the late 80s, as well as for his residency at Minstrels: Tony Cannon.
Q. Do you remember what you were doing as the Summer of 1988 started?
I was just 19 in 1988 and had never listened to such a wide spectrum of music. Acid house had dropped and gone boom! Traveling to Manchester to Eastern Bloc and Spin Inn Records to buy the latest music from Chicago, Detroit, Europe and beyond, sometimes twice a week or more, was all I cared about.
Myself and my pal Dave Taylor (of SoulDeep Inc) were often being told by then Eastern Bloc co-founder and original 808 State band member Martin Price that we often picked up tunes before the Hacienda DJs had them.
We ended up being asked to spin our records on Steve Barker’s Sunday afternoon BBC Radio Lancashire On The Wire show after being recommended by local DJ and promoter Ronnie Brown. This was a real big deal for two kids from Blackburn, and, ironically, 808 State joined us in the BBC studio that day for an interview with Steve Barker.
The first rumblings of the Blackburn warehouse parties were about to surface, and they were small – some in a small space not much bigger than a garage on the side of a house! We would spin our newly acquired tunes on the supplied, inferior DJ equipment.
This is how we spent our time plying our trade on a weekend in the summer of 1988; spinning tunes before the likes of A Guy Called Gerald and 808 State for their planned live performances in Blackburn. The summer was certainly warming up.
Q. When or where did you first realise that ‘something different’ was happening with music, particularly dance/club music?
This must be Ronnie Brown and Dave Hamer’s acid house night every Thursday at C’est la Vie nightclub in Blackburn. The dancing was psychedelic, the clothes were baggy, and the sound of the Roland 303 ran round and round in your head.
The sound was a mixture of European and Balearic beats with a sprinkling of disco…the music was mesmerising. This place wasn’t the first place to play this kind of music in the north of England however, it certainly wasn’t far behind. Youngsters had been to the big cities and heard this music and wanted to experience it in their own town and this is exactly what happened.
We had gone through the Joy Division/ New Order period and dabbled with what we called ‘modern soul’ and ‘pre-house’ from Manchester and other big cities, hip hop also, but this was different. We had never heard anything like this before.
It wasn’t only the music that was changing either, in fact, so were the people exposed to it. You’ve heard the stories of football firms forgetting their gripes, and for a short while living in peace together. Well, it really did happen. Even various parts of the town which would usually be at it hammer and tongs would party together at the weekend without any concerns.
The music changed peoples attitudes for a while. Unfortunately, it didn’t last, but just shows how powerful the second summer of love in 1988 really was.
Q. Was there a particular tune from the Summer of 1988 that stood out for you?
There was so much music around in 1988 and it was diverse. As far as the acid house memories go, well, it must be the Fast Eddie productions coming out of Chicago: Acid Thunder, Can You Still Dance and Jack the House.
Q. Why do you think that people are still so interested in the origins of the dance scene, old school and everything that goes with it?
While I’m not a fan of the term ‘old school’, this is a good question. It appears that anybody with any knowledge of dance music knows that certain modern DJ’s back in the day were considered fabulous DJ’s and producers but are now largely ignored by serious dance music lovers. So, we look back. This leads us to believe modern dance music is of low quality and the youth of today looks in the past for answers.
The late 1980s was an interesting time, not only in terms of music, but also fashion and youth culture. All this came to a head in around 1988. In my opinion, this had been coming for a while. As mentioned I had seen the football ‘acid ted’ and the New Order fanatics flirt with modern soul and clubland long before this period.
Moreover, I’m not entirely sure there has been anything like it since. The dreadful slow and painful mutation of our beloved underground music has not helped the cause – and has only appeared to recover in recent years. Hence, the desperate need to reminisce or indeed research – asking dad: “what was it really like”?
Q. If the ‘you’ from 1988 could give the ‘you’ from 2018 a piece of music-related advice, what would it be?
That’s a hard question. However, a great conclusion, I’ll give it my best shot: Try to look forward and not back. Backwards is not the way you are going. Embrace the advance of technology and use it wisely and not foolishly.
You might not be as happy to play vinyl much now, but you can still play quality music to the people. Don’t get bogged down with nostalgia. Keep looking for new music and artists and don’t be brainwashed in to being told what to listen to by mainstream media. We didn’t do that then and I don’t expect you to do it now.
[Thanks again to Tony for this week’s interview. Postcards from 88 continues next week. Check out the other interviews in the series by clicking here]