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 a DJ and producer who helped soundtrack the Summer of Love with tracks like Theme from S’Express and Superfly Guy, as part of S’Express… the incomparable Mark Moore.
Q. Do you remember what you were doing as the Summer of 1988 started?
DJing, making music and waving my arms in the air!
At the start of 88, I was DJing at Pyramid in Heaven with Colin Faver and Ian B (aka Eon). I was also playing at The Mud Club and playing at warehouse parties in London. The Mud was by this time a slightly mixed but straighter crowd and Jay Strongman and myself played very eclectic sets.
The music at The Mud was mainly rare groove, funk, hip-hop, electro, Bobby O, Divine, Yello and Alexander Robotnick – you get the idea, but now and again, I would subject the crowd to house music. They didn’t like it at first but eventually came round to it!
Pyramid at Heaven, however, was a different story. Being a mixed crowd, but mainly gay, they really got into house music from the start.
Myself and Colin Faver were on a mission to play Chicago house and Detroit techno at the Pyramid night and it fitted in perfectly with the uptempo electronic music we were already playing. We had artists like Jamie Principle and Darryl Pandy come and do shows, while people like Paul Oakenfold, Danny Rampling and Pete Tong would pop in to see what we were up to.
I got asked by Danny to guest at his club, Shoom, while Paul asked me to be a guest at his brand new club Spectrum, which was also at Heaven, on a Monday, starting in April 88.
Towards the end of 87, I had made Theme From S’Express, and it became a worldwide hit when it came out in early 88.
I was suddenly thrust into the unexpected position of being an Acid House popstar and travelling around Europe doing TV shows with my band S’Express – spreading the word about house music. Even though there had been a handful of house hits in the UK, the majority of people in Europe hadn’t heard of house.
I remember going to Spectrum the night before I set off for a tour of Europe, and there were maybe two hundred people at the club – more than the previous week but it was still deemed a failure by the haters.
We all had the best time and in our minds it was a complete success in spite of it not being packed. Of course, everyone told a few friends how great it was and those friends would come the next week and then tell their friends. It was completely word of mouth, and spread like wildfire.
When I came back from Europe two weeks later, I went straight to Spectrum and there was a queue right round the block! That’s when I knew house music/acid house was going to kick off big time.
But to me, the Mothership of the Summer of 88 will always be Shoom. It was family; it was full of love and it was a hell of a lot of fun, with great music! If I shut my eyes now, I can still see Danny and Jenni Rampling handing out ice pops to a packed dancefloor, flowers in their hair, with the strawberry flavoured smoke machine forever blasting out smoke that did god-knows-what to our lungs.
Q. When did you first notice that ‘something different’ was happening with music?
I first knew something was happening in ’85 and especially in ’86. We were buying these import records originating from Chicago and Detroit and realised there was something going on over there.
The music didn’t even have a name at the time. Then it got named house music and the established music industry were quick to jump on it and give it the big sell. The people who were already established in the music business were the first to incorporate – rip off? – the sound: the Stock Aitken and Waterman-produced Mel & Kim’s Showing Out being a prime example.
Magazines like The Face and NME wrote articles on house music and interviewed key people from the Chicago scene. But in spite of Love Can’t Turn Around and Jack Your Body going in the charts and Jack Your Body hitting the Number One spot, it never quite exploded like it was expected to.
So, the established music business kind of lost interest in house music. This was the best thing to have happened to it.
The house music scene was therefore given time to grow in a natural and organic way, in the underground, during 1986 to 1988, with people who loved the music coming together and either collaborating or swapping ideas in DIY clubs.
Around the UK, proper grass-roots scenes were forming, away from the gaze of the well-oiled music business.
Independent labels like Jack Trax and Kool Kat and others were putting out musical gems for the house acolytes who were growing in numbers by the week. Meanwhile, DJs and people in the UK scene started making their own records.
You can’t have the music business create a scene for you, it has to be made by the real people out there, fanatics getting their hands dirty and their bodies hot and sweaty.
Q. Was there a particular tune from the Summer of 1988 that stood out for you? Why?
So many! Off the top of my head, The Nightwriters Let The Music (Use You), which had been around since 87. The lines “Hey can’t you see? Everybody’s dancing with me…” summed up the feeling beautifully.
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 guess because it’s bigger than ever now. For better or worse, dance music has knocked rock off the top of the list as ‘best template for pop music’.
The story of dance music has such amazing tales to be told, going back to even before the birth of disco, and also to tales of the disco sound itself mutating over the decades to what we have now. That’s a lot of stories!
Q. If the ‘you’ from 1988 could give the ‘you’ from 2018 a piece of music-related advice, what would it be?
It’s music related, because it comes from a piece of music: “Listen honey, listen baby, don’t be so fucking serious…”
[Thanks to Mark for this week’s interview. Top photo by Dave Swindells. Postcards from 88 continues next week. Check out the other interviews in the series by clicking here]