POSTCARDS FROM 88… Terry Francis

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. Acid house had arrived.

With this in mind, 909originals presents ‘Postcards from 88’, a series that sees 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 someone that has been providing top tunes and quality vibes to London’s fabric since it opened in 1999, and is one of a myriad of big names set to grace this weekend’s fabric 19th birthday celebrations… the legendary Terry Francis.

Q. Do you remember what you were doing as the Summer of 1988 started?

I was 21 years old, and I was working as a roofer. That didn’t last very long, because I was going out all night!

I was DJing at the time in this little wine bar in Leatherhead, in Surrey, where I grew up. It was a rockers’ bar, a bit of a dodgy sort of place, to he be honest. I started off playing rare groove, a bit of boogie and funk, and started playing house music in 1987, 1988.

I started gradually adding it to my set and soon it became more prominent – by the start of 1988 I was probably playing just house music. A lot of the people in the bar were saying, ‘what are you doing, playing this music for people on drugs?’ By the end of the year they were all jumping around like loon bags.

Q. When did you first notice that ‘something different’ was happening with music?

I was in this pub, in Chertsey, not too far from where I used to live, and Phil Perry was playing. I remember everyone was just having the best time of their lives. I had no idea they were ‘on one’ – to me, they just seemed like they were having the best time ever. I always remember that moment.

I started going to more parties – I remember Nathan Coles putting a few on, and Mr C – he must have been very young at the time. It was a really exciting time. To be honest, I wasn’t going out and taking drugs at all, I was just feeding off the energy, you know.

Q. You mentioned you were playing funk and post-disco and things like that – when you first heard acid house, what did you think of it?

I remember my mate Julian Kirby came round to my house with a bag full of records he’d just picked up in My Price in Croydon. Tracks like Russ Brown – Gotta Find A Way, some of Mr Fingers’ early stuff.

I loved it, there was a good bassline to it, it was quite musical. But when proper acid came along, I was like ‘what the f**k is this?’

To be honest I was buying a lot of records at the time, and I didn’t know they were classed as ‘house music’. I just liked the groove.
Living around London, did you notice things changing?

The ‘football hooligan’ thing definitely changed – a lot of the football guys were doing the parties, actually. Instead of kicking each other in the teeth they were kissing each other!

But seriously, it just brought everyone together. You had black and white people dancing together, everyone was a part of it, everyone was on the same vibe. It was just fantastic, and then it started to evolve into bigger events, raves around the M25 and things like that.

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?

I think because people are generally interested in the culture of music, and where it comes from. I was into funk and soul and rare groove, and while I wasn’t part of that scene in the 1970s, I still wanted to understand it. That’s the same with dance music.

Q. Do you think that with music in general then, there’s always that link to the past?

There has to be. How far can house music go before it becomes undanceable? It always goes back to its roots, the four/four and so on.

Q. If the ‘you’ from 1988 could give the ‘you’ from 2018 a piece of music-related advice, what would it be?

Keep my old tapes! Actually, you know what, I found a whole box of them recently, so I’ve already ticked that box.

Other than that, I suppose I would say ‘don’t take life too seriously, life is meant to be fun, so enjoy it’. Of course I was having plenty of fun back then as well, maybe the main difference between then and now is that I had a lot more energy!

[Thanks to Terry for this week’s interview, photo by Danny Seaton. Kudos to sphey10 for the YouTube upload. Postcards from 88 continues next week. Check out the other interviews in the series by clicking here]

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