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 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 an entrepreneur who established the first management and booking agency exclusively for DJs, Groove Connection, back in the early 90s, and who has been one of the leading promoters of the drum and bass scene since its formation… Sarah Sandy.
Q. Do you remember what you were doing as the Summer of 1988 started?
I had just finished my finals at Goldsmiths College, but had been partying quite heavily through the end of my second and third years of Uni. It was a mixture of midweek funk sessions at London’s infamous Wag Club, Soul 2 Soul at the Africa Centre, and wild squat parties in Deptford, where we met the Mutoid Waste crew.
Then we would join up with the annual travellers going to Glastonbury, in the days when you could just sneak in through –or over – a hedge or fence!
Sometime in 1987 or 1988 I was taken to an event called ‘Enter The Dragon’ by a friend, on the promise that it would change my life. It was at a glitzy night club called The Park on Kensington High Street on Friday nights, and was run by two guys, Ben and Andy, who also did some of the first Westworld raves.
To say it changed my life is an understatement. As I went down the heavily mirrored staircase and into the smoke and laser-filled club, I was mesmerised. The energy was phenomenal, people just dancing wildly, wearing amazing clothes with smiley face T-shirts, chanting “Acieeeed..!”. I was blown away and joined the frenzy, dancing all night long to Colin Faver ( RIP), Trevor Fung and Paul Anderson.
Q. When or where did you first realise that ‘something different’ was happening with music, particularly dance/club music?
I think I knew something amazing and different was happening that night. The energy levels, the sense of freedom, the togetherness of the crowd, the all-accepting nature and shared love was like nothing any of us had ever experienced before.
I caught the bug immediately, and it was then a matter of where we were going next – High On Hope with Paul Anderson, Frankie Foncett, and Norman Jay, or a Westworld rave, or a rave in a Brixton Arch or Camberwell squat, Clink St with Mr C and Kid Bachelor, or The Brain Club on Sunday afternoons with The Shock Sound System boys and Sean McLusky.
Then came the huge illegal raves, Biology, Sunrise and Energy, the scene was exploding, and was no longer containable, the legal venues just weren’t big enough, so random fields, airfields and huge disused warehouse spaces became the new home for the acid house explosion.
At this time I took a job in accounts at Nineteen Management, and learned the skills of artist management in general, looking through tour accounts, and seeing vaguely what managers did for the mainly rock-orientated artists. I was still raving every weekend at the Astoria, Busby’s, wherever we could go.
It all just gathered pace, and kept on growing, I never looked back. By 1989 I knew that I was possessed, I was such a raver, and that this was something special that wasn’t going to go away, I knew that I had to work with it in some capacity. I was out all the time, and grew to know many of the DJ’s on the circuit.
I knew then what I had to do, it seemed like the natural step to start some kind of management /agency for all the DJ’s I was now following.
Q. Was there a particular tune from the Summer of 1988 that stood out for you? Why?
Oh gosh, there were loads. Frankie Knuckles’ Your Love, Rhythim is Rhythim Strings of Life, Jolly Roger Acid Man, and We Call It Acieeeeed from Danny D and D Mob.
There were loads , but these all just captured that amazing, euphoric energy, the special vibes we all felt.
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?
Because it was the change of everything – from the 80’s stronghold of rock music, it was the start of the whole dance music scene. It has shaped and continues to shape youth culture globally.
Many of the same DJs, artists, club owners, promoters, are still in the scene, and can’t leave it, as it continues to grow. Old tracks are still sounding as good as new, today’s kids still hearing it for the first time love it, and numerous tracks are sampled and re-released again and again.
The rave scene blew up, and is largely the reason behind the global festival circuit as we see it today. It changed the whole nature of the then-music business, crept up beneath them from the grass roots, and took the world by storm.
Q. If the ‘you’ from 1988 could give the ‘you’ from 2018 a piece of music-related advice, what would it be?
I’d say that your intuition about DJs becoming the stars of the future was correct – you knew how revolutionary it was going to be, and how it would shape youth culture globally, but you should’ve tied all the artists into contracts.
I thought loyalty was enough to hold people to the agency and the label, as I was trying to create something different. We had to learn the business – things like publishing and MCPS were just words back then, it was all just white labels and promos, having the best club nights we could, and taking it across the UK and into Europe and further afield.
DJs United and Groove Connection was the first management, booking agency exclusively for DJs – period – and kickstarted a whole new trend for DJs and their future careers. The rest is history.