Ecstasy on The Dance Floor, From The Club to The Hedge Row

Publication Year: 
2008

Image retrieved from c2.staticflickr.com on October 2nd, 2014.
Image retrieved from spectrummusicblog.files.wordpress.com on October 2nd, 2014.
Video Retrieved from youtube.com on Ocobter 23rd, 2014.

In 1967, a seemingly limitless mass of hippies were flocking to San Francisco—many wearing flowers in their hair, as ordered by Scott McKenzie's famous song-as a generation was switching on to LSD. It was a gradual process that culminated, mid-year, in “The Summer of Love.” During “Human Be-in” events in Golden Gate Park, as many as 100,000 “flower children” descended on the city. The mass exodus westward and the cultural upheavals the drug brought slowly spread across the world, and very soon kids from all over Europe were heading off in search of enlightenment, fun, and good drugs to the far-flung corners of the world on the so called “hippie trail.” One of the first stops on the road that would invariable lead to Marrakech and Katmandu was a small Spanish island in the Balearics called Ibiza.
Many hippies never got any further than this Mediterranean paradise and soon a small commune began to blossom there. Clubs like Amnesia and Pacha opened in the early 70s and rapidly evolved from primitive hippie hangouts to fully fledged superclubs, to rival New York's Studio 54 and the Paradise Garage, as disco fever gripped the island. Stars such as Grace Jones, Freddie Mercury, and Bryan Ferry jetted in to enjoy the champagne-and-”Charlie” lifestyle in the opulent clubs. House music and Ecstasy also jumped on a plane and crossed the Atlantic to set the Iberian nightlife alight, but the drug's use was still fairly limited to an in-the-know elite.
As the island partied into the early 80s, a new breed of tourist invaded Ibiza: the British working-class lad and ladette, as the media would later label them. Many of these “scallys,” “dodgy geezers,” and n'er do well spent the summer committing small robberies in order to fund their partying lifestyle. They started going to Pacha, and Ecstasy became the catalyst for democratizing the club scene in Ibiza. It broke barriers—suddenly, regular working-class people could literally rub shoulders with the stars, and every one was cool about it.
In September 1987, a now-legendary posse went out to the island in the sun to celebrate DJ Paul Oakenfold's birthday. With him were Djs Johnnie Walker and Danny Rampling and smooth-talking entrepreneur Nicky Holloway. Their well-documented Ecstasy epiphany changed the course of music in Britain forever. “It was almost like a religious experience, “Walker recalled. “A combination of taking Ecstasy and going to a warm, open-air club full of beautiful people—you're on holiday, you feel great and you're suddenly being exposed to entirely different music to what you were used to in London. This strange mixture was completely fresh and new to us, and very inspiring.” So inspiring that, after a week of wandering around San Antonio out of their heads and wearing moonboots, they had resolved to evangelize the music and the drug back in England. At the forefront was Rampling who, with his then girlfrind Jenni, staged a party in a fitness center in south London two months later. The night was called Shoom and it would prove to be one of the most important catalysts for dance music in the UK.
And so, from the seeds sown 20 years earlier, the children of the “flower children” were about to discover their own Summer of Love. For 1988 was the year Britain went “mental.”...
If Danny Rampling was the golden child of acid house, then Tony Colston-Hayter became its whipping boy. Having had his eyes opened at Shoom Colston-Hayter—a successful schoolboy entrepreneur—saw there was money to be made in rave. He was seen by the original Ibiza hardcore as brash and arrogant and was soon exiled from Shoom, but when he saw the scale of Spectrum and The Trip he was motivated to start his own event, Apocalypse Now, at Wembley Studios in August 1988. He had an open policy cutting across the class and racial divides, but his flash persona brought him trouble. In September, the media were starting to take notice of the burgeoning rave culture, and unlike Rampling, Holloway, and Oakenfold, Colston-Hayter stuck his head above the parapet and appeared on British TV's News at Ten. It was to open the floodgates for police persecution of the whole scene.
Gash
Realizing his mistake, Colston-Hayter renamed his events Sunshine, and when the police shut down his next London rave, he decided to take 1,000 clubbers out to the country. He'd hired an equestrian center in Iver Heath, just outside London, and blew ravers' minds with dry ice, green lasers, and stunning music. As the sun came up, people picked flowers and hugged in the fields in scenes reminiscent of 1967's Summer of Love.
After an event in London's Docklands that the press managed to infiltrate, Colston-hayter was plastered across the tabloids as the “Acid House King,” condemned for running an “evil night of Ecstasy,” and accused of luring innocent 15-year-olds into his drug den—all the while making thousands of pounds in profits. It was standard scaremongering by the press, but it was affecting business—and Colston-hayter himself. “He paid the price for speaking to the press because he had M16 [Britain's intelligence service] on his tail. He was followed. His phone was tapped. He was harassed. They put him through hell, actually,” mused Danny Rampling, ruefully.
But Colston-Hayter refused to be beaten: the raves must go on! And so they did, regularly attracting 4-5,000 “up for it” ravers who were willing to travel miles for the freedom to party and “get on one” all night. By now, Colston-Hayter had made his old friend Dave Roberts a business partner—Roberts dealt with security, trying to prevent gangs from muscling in on the lucrative business. It was a long hot summer in 1989 and the raves seemed like unstoppable behemoths of hedonism rolling across the British countryside. But the dark clouds of repression were gathering overhead.


pp. 95-97, 108, 109 of E The Incredible Strange History of Ecstasy by Tim Pilcher (2008)

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