As a co-founder of London’s Boy’s Own fanzine, Terry Farley was one of the first people to document the UK’s emerging acid house movement during the sound’s formative years in the late 1980s.
By then, Farley was already something of a scene veteran, having been an enthusiastic dancer in soul and rare groove clubs from the late 1970s onwards. When ecstasy culture and acid house hit London in 1987, Farley and his Boy’s Own colleagues became enthusiastic disciples. The fanzine spawned a spate of spin-off record labels – most notably Junior Boy’s Own – and Farley threw himself into DJing and music production. Alongside Pete Heller, Farley delivered a string of underground club hits throughout the late ’80s and 1990s.
Farley returned to his roots in the 2000s as one of the men behind Faith, a long-running party and publication that also spawned a spate of compilation albums. In recent years, he’s worked as a writer and compilation curator focusing specifically on historic aspects of club culture on both sides of the Atlantic.
In 2005, Farley sat down with Bill Brewster and Frank Broughton to discuss three decades of London club culture, key moments in the history of house music in the UK and his lesser-known past as a dancer on the soul all-dayer circuit.
Let’s start with a bit of biographical detail.
I was born in 1958 in Latimer Road, London. I lived there till I was about 13. Then I moved to Slough.
Did you get moved because of the Westway?
We got moved because they were supposed to be doing a Westway spur. They were supposed to be building another one right down our road and they never did it, but they pulled everyone’s houses down. We had an outside toilet and no bathroom. I was 12 and I was having a bath in a tin bath. Everyone had these big air-raid shelters, made of concrete that had been put up in the war, and everyone kept chickens in them. Thinking back now it’s quite funny, ’cos once I’d moved to Slough, we moved into an estate that now looks shit but at the time looked wonderful. We had gas fires, indoor bathroom and toilet, fuckin’ wonderful.
How was it in Slough, how did you get into music?
Well, I got into music living in London because we were the white area of north Kensington. When you got to the bottom of the road you got into Ladbroke Grove and it was very West Indian. Our area was quite white, but you’d still get parties late at night playing reggae with these very old Jamaican guys hanging out. I got really into reggae when I was nine or ten. My dad hated it – “Fuckin’ parties all night long!” – and we used to love it ’cos it wound him up.
All the kids in Slough were slum clearance people from London, and most of them were second generation. When I come to Slough, all the kids talked with a much more London accent than where I come from in London. It was very strange. They also had this massive Polish estate and also Welsh. They had loads of Welsh that had come to work in the Mars factory.
How often were you able to get in the city?
Well, when we moved my mum and dad split, so my dad remained in north Kensington, till he died a few years ago, and both my grandparents lived here. I used to come back to watch QPR with my uncles every Saturday and I used to come back and see me dad and buy records in places like Dub Vendor in Clapham Junction market. Later on they opened a store just under the bridge, opposite where they are now, in Ladbroke Grove, almost like a tobacconists. People in Slough were obsessed with London. They were obsessed with getting back to London.
Crackers was the first club I went to where it was, “Wow, this is just amazing.”
I think most of the people who moved there realised it was great having a bathroom and a bit of luxury, but you can’t get a bus anywhere and there’s no shops here... Physically they’ve been priced out of London because of the property prices, but spiritually they were still there. Maybe that’s why I’ve always been obsessed with this stuff myself...
When did you start clubbing?
I started going quite late. In Slough, there was nothing. Everywhere you’d be, there would be violence. Even the funfair. It was quite heavy for the time, that inter-estate violence. There was nowhere you could go. I remember our first holiday we went to Selsey Bill caravan site [near Chichester], about ten of us, and we met some girls from Bermondsey who were really ugly, but they brought records down with them.
I remember this girl brought the Kool & The Gang album, Wild & Peaceful. They would take it to the club at night which would finish at half ten, and they would play “Funky Stuff” and they had this dance. They were wearing drainpipe jeans and capped sleeve t-shirts and plastic sandals. And we were like, “Cor, you’d got a dance!” Then we went back home and they told us about these places in London...
Suddenly a few little clubs sprung up in Slough and we were in the front of it all. Then we started coming into London, me and Gary Haisman. We first started going to Crackers, suddenly there was this whole gay thing in your face. There was a lot of people there pretending to be gay ’cos I think a lot of people on that scene had come out of Louise’s and Chaguaramas and those gay clubs.
How did you hear about Crackers? Was that the main club you went to?
It was the first club I went to where it was, “Wow, this is just amazing.” And talking to other people nowadays, people like Carl Cox, Norman Jay, Paul “Trouble” Anderson, there’s loads of people there the same age as me, like 16. I think before then there certainly was places, like Gullivers and there were soul clubs, but it was like Crackers was the first club for that generation.
The first time a place felt like yours?
I think so. We used to go on a Sunday first. It was on from seven o’clock till 12, but the last train to Slough went at half eleven, so we’d have to leave at half ten. So we’d get there and there’d be no one in there and just as people started dancing we’d have to leave… It was something like 50 pence to get in and you got sausage and chips! The place stunk of sausage and chips. I think it was licensing laws. I was obsessed. I used to go up on my own and I didn’t know anyone in there. It was about 85% black.
What year did you first go?
I dunno. The sort of records they played when I first went were things like Lalo Schifrin’s “Jaws.” It was fuckin’ brilliant. I really loved the fact it was like the Northern Soul thing. It was carpeted, the club, and they had a proper dancefloor but you couldn’t even stand on the dancefloor unless you could dance.
White kids, even the ones who could dance, wouldn’t go on the dancefloor because you’d have some guy who was fuckin’ amazing come right up in your face and throw all these moves and you’d have to walk back... And the first white kid who could dance was Tommy McDonald, he put himself out there. Then Gary Haisman was very good after.
Was the dancing as important as the music?
I think that’s probably what’s got me, it was the dancing. It was funny ’cos you went there and all the black guys in there – Trevor Shakes, Bevis Pink, Jabba from Ealing – the rumour was everyone went to the London Ballet School, but in fact they went to the Pineapple Dance classes in Covent Garden. Everyone started going there. You’d go along there. I was working at the gas board and Saturday you’d go along and there’d be these kids getting lessons from someone crap like Arlene Phillips. People’d be like, “No, no, it’s jazz dancing!” The dancing was everything.
Was it a spectator thing?
Well, you danced, it was like you had to dance within yourself. If you danced a little bit too energetically, even if it was in a corner, you’d get spotted and someone would come and–
You’d better be good!
Yeah. But then what would happen was people would travel around. There was a club in Dunstable called the Devil’s Den which was part of the California Ballrooms [chain]. They used to have big bands playing there like James Brown, Fatback Band. They’d get 6,000 people for some of these big soul concerts.
They had a little club in there and you’d get these soul kids from London and suddenly you’d realise there were black kids from Reading and Luton. You realised there was a network of these little dancers who were really good. On a Monday people used to go to Scamps in Hemel Hempstead, on a Tuesday there was a Scamps in Sutton, there was a club every night on this circuit.
Were they earning any money as dancers or anything? West End shows?
I don’t know what they did, but Bevis Pink turned up on the video of Kelly Marie’s “Feel Like I’m In Love.” They always show it on VH1. They’re on a ship and there are two black sailors. One of them is Bevis Pink. He was the absolute bollocks at Crackers. One of the top bods.
Didn’t Clive Clark win the national disco dancing championships?
Yeah, but that was the sanitised thing. You very much realised that black guys, who were winning the dancing at Crackers, were amazing dancers, but when that championships came up it was more about acrobatics and showmanship.
Was it about battling?
Very much battling, very much. It did, on many occasions, break out into violence when someone didn’t win.
They danced to the Bee Gees “You Should Be Dancing,” that’s the record they played in the final. There was a guy from Ealing called Jabba who was a really big black man, probably older than everyone. He might have been 25; very muscley. It was very much that someone would dance and everyone would gather round and go, “Woo woo!” It was the first time I heard people making noises in a club. It was very dark in there because it had a low ceiling.
And, especially when George Power took over, it got very intense. You’d hear, like, Zulu noises in there. It become very intense. These kids were teenage boys from very rough parts of London. The fashion which had come out of Acme Attractions, that sort of Sex Pistols look, had been fucked at Crackers because the best dancers were scruffy kids, so suddenly that didn’t matter. Most of the kids who were really good were gawky skinny kids. There certainly weren’t no peace or love in there.
If you went to the [Southgate] Royalty or any of those white clubs that Chris Hill was playing, it was really friendly. Them clubs weren’t like that at all. They were very intense, you could get smacked in the mouth if you stepped on their foot. Women losing their handbags.
Then they switched it to a Friday lunchtime and it got even younger. I think Paul Anderson first started DJing there. That became the main time for people to go. We used to bunk off college, but it got really young in there – 14 or 15 – you’d come out there, regularly, with 500 kids running down Oxford Street. There was a shop called Stanley Adams which is where Woodhouse is, and they sold Smith jeans, stuff like that. They’d steam in there, ripping things out, steaming, bag snatching… bad behaviour.
It was quite ghetto?
Yeah, very bad behaviour.
You say when George took over. Who was there first?
Well, when I first went Mark Roman was there. Really cool, older guy. He looked Greek, he wore really nice clothes. We were really into that. We’d go up and say, “Where did you get your jumper from?” [laughs] No, we did! It sounds really crap now, but we did. Brown’s in South Moulton Street was a really trendy shop for older soul boys and everyone was wearing sandals and big baggy jumpers and Carpenter jeans.
He played really good music, stuff like Bobby Womack “Daylight” was massive when I first started going there,” Let’s Do The Latin Hustle” by Eddie Drennon, El Bimbo “Bimbo Jet.” There was lots of people who had maybe been Bowie boys with wedges and girls doing the Hustle. It was probably a real mixture, older gay guys, a lot of white kids and the black kids in there were really trendy and good dancers, then suddenly when George Power come in, it seemed to get really black and “Boom!” – changed the music. A lot of jazz and jazz-funk stuff.
There were a lot of girls there?
When I first went in there, there was a lot of girls and you got the feeling that you could actually get off with some, but as soon as George Power came, it got very intense in there and a few of the black guys in there acted gay, I don’t know whether they were, but it did lose its diversity, it became very much a sort of male young peacock strutting. Thinking about it now, I never saw a girl dancing.
So it was very show-offy.
Yeah, but never for the girls, though. Especially if you went there on a Sunday night or a Friday lunchtime, you’d never find any decent birds in there, would you? [laughs] Eat yer sausage and chips!
Was it a unique place or were there others?
I think it was unique. Me and Norman Jay talk about this a lot. At the time, 100 Club was on a Saturday afternoon with Greg Edwards. It was pretty much a similar crowd and on a Sunday upstairs at Ronnie Scott’s, but I just think, for me, when you went somewhere, you went to another club, like Hemel Hempstead, people’d come up to and go, “You go to Crackers, don’t yer?” Like Shoom was the acid house club, Crackers was the club.
Did that open any doors outside of the club? Was there a bit of a network going on?
Only to go clubbing, I don’t think anything creative came out of it. Maybe it was people’s first experience and first real good experience that made them do what they do now, but it wasn’t like Shoom where suddenly people were opening clothes shops. But that might just have been the age of people, they were very young.
We were talking to Jazzie B about it, and he said it was the first time he went to a club and there were white people as well. Coming out of the reggae scene, it felt for younger black kids that it was their club...
Well, it was the first place I went to where I was in the minority, as well. It probably did help that, but I’ve got to say, I loved it so much, that I put up with it really... The white kids in there were second class citizens really, and it was only later when Tommy McDonald and Haisman and people like that got in the middle of the dancefloor that they were accepted. Suddenly people talked to you. It didn’t really matter to me, because I was just bowled over by the whole thing.
Can you give us a roll call of all the people who went on to do something interesting who went there?
You know what, this is another thing… Spandau Ballet were there… maybe they were, it was on a long time and the crowd really did change. I remember going there about ’79 and being 19 and feeling really old. Carl Cox, Paul Anderson, Norman Jay, Gary Haisman, Cleveland Anderson, loads of people like that. I heard Trevor Nelson speak about it once as well. It went on a long time. The only constant was George Power, he was a fucking brilliant DJ, especially for someone who looked out of place.
He was ten years older than everyone, at least. This Greek guy and terrible clothes. And that was important. It was really important how you looked. Even the kids who didn’t have the right clothes still did the right dance, so it compensated. But George had everything wrong about him. He used to use the mic, which no one else did. He used to say stuff like, “Get up, get jazzy!” But he was fantastic. A bit like Tim Westwood. You think, “Why do these kids accept him, he’s so wrong?” Maybe it’s the same thing. I never heard anyone saying, “Let’s fuck him off,” and there was a lot of testosterone about. People had a real passion about him.
Is it true he had a coterie of hard black lesbians hanging about him?
Don’t know. I was very naïve about what was going on around then. I went to Wigan [Casino] once, about ’76, and I didn’t even realise that people took drugs there. I was very into all that stuff and I didn’t realise what was going on.
I went with a Slough DJ called Alan Sullivan who was a soul DJ and also, apparently, the leader of the Shed! When I moved to Slough he had a gang called Sulli’s Boot Boys and they said he was the leader of the Shed. He used to DJ and he was a pretty good northern soul dancer. There were northern parties going on at the Top Rank in Reading.
We started going there and he said they were running minibuses up to Wigan. Gary Haisman went with a couple of black guys from Slough, and they were treated like absolute royalty. People buying them drinks and shaking their hands. I’d been up north a few times by then, with Chelsea, and it had been disastrous. You’d get the train bricked, you’d get murdered up there, so I couldn’t believe how friendly they were at Wigan. Nothing like it was in London.
I remember walking in there and there was 300 northern soul fans and 1,000 London-based soul boys. Then everywhere, everyone was a soul boy.
I think the people at Crackers thought they were the best, because they had the newest records and the best dancers and they were very arrogant about that. I was very much an outsider looking in, but when I went somewhere like Dunstable, I’d be “Mr Crackers,” you know what I mean? [laughs] And I’d be as gobby and arrogant as they were to me!
So how did you get involved in the all-dayers and stuff?
We used to go to this northern one in Reading and also one in Yate [near Bristol]. At Reading they had an upstairs room where they played funk and stuff like that, a lot of black kids, similar records to Crackers. 100 upstairs, and 1,000 people downstairs dancing to fairly commercial northern soul.
Then they did an all-dayer and I think it was Chris Hill who played there. And he led all these people out of the small upstairs room down on to the main dancefloor in front of the DJ and demanded they played funk. It ended up with some funk being played and the northen soulies all standing like this [arms folded] and then they played a northern soul record and there’d be booing and shouting. When it came round to the next all-dayer, which I think were on bank holidays–
Which year was this?
About 1977 I’d imagine. Suddenly it just flipped. I remember walking in there and there was 300 northern soul fans and 1,000 London-based soul boys. “Fuckin’ hell, where have all these people come from?” Then everywhere, everyone was a soul boy.
Where were the first all-weekenders you went to?
I went to the first Caister.
I think so. I went to the next 11 or 12. I’ve got some funny pictures. When the Malcolm McLaren album was out, Duck Rock, in 1982, we was still going to Caister. I’ve got a picture of Weatherall with a Mohican, Johnny Rocker in full Malcolm McLaren hat, suit, Cymon Eckels dressed in full Vivienne Westwood stuff. And the rest of the people were still in fuckin’ silk shorts! But, you know, we liked it. We were living at home, none of us had flats, we all had traditional jobs. I was working for the gas board. Rocker worked in a clothes shop in Windsor. It was somewhere to go where you could stay up all night.
Were people doing drugs or getting pissed?
Pissed. The first time I ever realised people were doing drugs was when I first met Rocker and I was on the production line at Ford in Langley. I was working on the night shift. There was a guy who used to come in with a portable record player, West Indian guy, he had a box of 7"s he used to play. I used to buy reggae records off him. Then this guy says, “Oh, I’ve seen you go to Scandals.” It was a soul club on a Friday. He said, “You should come down with me next Friday.” They had a half shift at Ford on a Friday, so you went in at two and came out at seven.
About three in the afternoon he said, “You’re coming aren’t you?” “Yeah, got me clothes.” He said, “Have one of these.” I said, “What is it?” “Blues. Everyone takes them at soul things!” “Do they?” [laughts]
He gave me this tablet, I remember I was putting the tachographs in the cabs. You had a set amount to do and once you’d done them you could finish. I did them in about two hours!
What went wrong with the all-dayers?
It just become enormous. When I first went to Crackers, it probably held 500 or 600 and there was a club every night of the week you’d go to, but I’d say it was the same people in every club. There were probably only two or three thousand people in the whole of the southeast of England who were into it. Suddenly, when the all-dayers broke, it was all the kids from where you lived who went. Instead of me going to Crackers with four or five people, it was the whole of Slough. Slough suddenly opened a club and people like Steve Walsh came down.
Suddenly the dancing was important again. Even though the clothes were ’70s-related, they were good. It got back to credible again.
There was no fun, it was very serious, but it was great because it was your thing. Once the Chris Hill thing came in, they brought fun into it. They marched people down on to that dancefloor. Whether that was an act of defiance or “Wahey, let’s all have a laugh.”
Once that element of fun came in, instead of Mark Roman going “Shake your booty,” you’ve got a guy going, “Woooah-woooah!” and it becomes shockingly embarrassing. So instead of the soul boys having the best clothes, these people were the worst dressed.
Did your crowd sack it and look for something else?
Yeah, I think so. I got into reggae in a big way again. I was into lovers rock. Went to 100 Club on a Thursday, Prince Far I and Dennis Brown used to play there. I got into the jazz scene, with Paul Murphy at the Horseshoe in Tottenham Court Road. A lot of the dancers who used to go to Crackers moved into that jazz dance scene where that intensity was still going on. Then a lot of my mates got into that indie dance. I personally didn’t like it.
Where did you first hear house music?
The first time I thought this is a thing rather than a record, I played at a warehouse party. We used to go to a shop called Demob, which was run by Steve Marney and some northern soul people. They had a warehouse in Roseberry Avenue. Being a record collector, I was getting loads of gigs playing backrooms.
Not really. I used to play sort of leftfield stuff, early rap things like that. I’d be playing soul clubs in the back room playing records that people didn’t dance to. We used to go in Demob and he asked me if I wanted to play. Big thing for me. Maurice and Noel Watson were playing and I was doing the warm-up. I was playing maybe the sort of stuff that early Jay Strongman would have been playing.
They came on and played two hours of records I’d never heard. They were all new New York labels like Sleeping Bag, that real sort of tribal sound. I asked them where they’d got them from and they were like, “Oh, we got them from New York.” That was my first house moment listening to those two play.
What was the response like?
It was good. It was a warehouse with a lot of crazy people in it. It was quite fashion-y. Londoners’ negative response to house music wasn’t the fact that they didn’t like it, it was due to the rare groove scene. It was so enormous and so good. It wasn’t they didn’t like it, they just didn’t need it. It was probably the best it had been since Crackers.
Suddenly the dancing was important again. Even though the clothes were ’70s-related, they were good. It got back to credible again. People going to warehouses. Anthems. There was always another record to find.
Did the warehouses suddenly spring up or were they always happening?
It was part of the rare groove thing. Without the rare groove scene London wouldn’t have exploded in the way it did when house came along, because you already had everything there, you had the soundsystems, you had the people in the clubs. They just switched the music and, instead of there being a thousand people, suddenly there was 10,000. It was already there.
So it wasn’t house then, exactly, it was stuff like Serious Intention.
Yes, it was. But I remember them specifically playing the dubs of those records, which was quite radical then. And I think they were mixing as well, not well particularly, but in a way that linked the records. The first time I heard house as something different and, “This is what we’re gonna play,” was at the Raid.
I used to warm up there and Pete Tong and Oaky were the main DJs. It was just around the time when Tongy was just trying to get that thing together with London and he’d play a half an hour of it and people didn’t know how to react to it.
Did he clear the floor?
Well, people just never danced. Go-go was big at the time. I remember him having two copies of something which he’d cut up and he was pretty good at it. Then things like “Love Can’t Turn Around” would be played and people’d just didn’t know how to dance to it. It didn’t go with how people were dancing, with the little jazz moves.
You could play a Def Jam record next to a go-go record and a James Brown record, but then you played a house record and it was like, “What am I supposed to do to this?” It didn’t fit in with anything else. It only worked when it was only house. It didn’t work as part of the tapestry of what was being played.
We used to go to Rockley Sands [in Poole] where the music was fantastic, you’d get a good crowd there. You could hear jazz records from the ’60s next to Public Enemy. First time I ever saw Danny Rampling was there. He’d been trying to get a gig with Nicky Holloway, who was a mate of his, but he wouldn’t let him play.
Johnny Walker was playing George Kranz’s “Din Daa Daa” and Rampling jumped on the stage and started doing this Shoom dance. People was going, “He’s took one of them E things! You know them Es? They’ve got them in Ibiza.” This was in November of 1987, so they must’ve just come back. They asked him to get off. Holloway was getting the hump. And someone said, “Look at Chris Butler,” and Chris Butler was in the speaker. [laughts] And it was like, “What’s going on?” And they were going, “If you take one of these E’s it lasts all night and tomorrow.”
And Sunday afternoon they were all there dancing, Johnny Walker, Chris Butler, Danny and a couple of little girls. They were going, “Yeah, we took one last night and we’re still on it. It’s fuckin’ great.” We were like, “Wow, yeah. Brilliant!” We all had to have some. It was the first time I’d ever taken an E and known what to do.
Did you go to the early Shooms?
I went in January I think. I missed the first month. My main problem or my main asset is when I get into something, I go in with two feet and I’m really enthusiastic. The Boy’s Own magazine was going, which was totally rare groove. I had the big trousers and the hat. We had pictures of Rockley Sands, pictures of guys in rare groove stuff. Then suddenly – boom – there it was. And I was like, “Right, we’re changing. This is amazing!” And one of these little girls, who was one of Chris Butler’s lot, did actually say to me, “You’ve missed it. It’s full of wankers now.”
The third week?
About the fourth week. The first three were full of the 20 people who’d gone to Amnesia. Suddenly, the people who were in the know started to come in and you could tell even then they were being really defensive about it; they didn’t even really want you in there. We were like the first wave and then suddenly, two months later, we were being really defensive about everyone else. Saying to Jenni [Rampling], “Don’t give any more memberships out.” It was like that.
Why were they like that? They were quite on it with the press, though.
That was later. First of all, it was this wonderful little secret and the people who were there were very much part of that Rockley Sands clique of people. Suddenly people were coming in from outside. Jenni hired a PR company, Victory PR, who were doing the big parties in London.
I remember talking to Robert Elms in there and holding Gary Crowley’s hand to Joyce Sims’ “Come Into My Life” at the end! All sorts of people in there: Bananarama, Martin Fry, Paul Rutherford, Michael Clark. You could definitely tell there was different levels of people who didn’t really get on with each other because everyone thought they were the true Shoomers.
But it was also an end of something and a start of something else, because the Elmses and Bananaramas belonged to the previous generation of elite clubbers.
Well, they tried it. I remember Robert Elms in the mid-’80s walking round at the Wag Club in a fantastic Gaultier suit and he looked fantastic. And suddenly he’s coming up to me in Shoom, in shorts, looking a knob. [laughts] Graham Ball was running around in there in Mambo shorts, as well, it’s like, “Steady on!”
What were you wearing?
To be honest with you, I was into that distressed casual look. The first people who forged that Ibiza thing were kids from this estate called Roundshaw. They were living in Ibiza. That band Natural Life, they were part of it. One of their dads was a bass player. They went on to do Naked Lunch and Monkey Drum. They were all basically in old Chevignon jackets, Lee dungarees and Converse. That’s where that look comes from.
Even without the DJs bringing back tablets, was there an undercurrent of working class kids who’d been out there working?
We did a party at the Raid club underneath this hotel in Marble Arch. Massive venue. Me and Weatherall did the door. We were on the door dressed up and a group of kids come up and one of them was from football, he was Millwall, and they were all Shoomed up, but this was before… and we were like, “No, you can’t come in like that.”
I went to Shoom from Discotheque that Ben and Andy do at Busby’s. Haisman came and took us there and suddenly I realised all the people in Shoom were the people who I didn’t let in six weeks earlier. A week later I’ve got dungarees on and looking a right pudding! [laughter] That’s the way it was.
What about Spectrum?
When Spectrum first started I was playing reggae in the VIP room. I was playing Studio One. The first week there was 100 in there and they give everyone a free E. Oaky played. He played the top 20 Alfredo records. There was people running round with flowers on the dancefloor. It was fuckin’ brilliant. Second week, it was brilliant, but only 100 people in there. Third week they were saying they were gonna shut it. I think the fourth or fifth week they were like, “I can’t pay you your £20 wages.” Then the last week it was gonna shut, we turned up and there were 400 in the queue. “Wow, what the fuck’s going on here?” Within a month it was however many it holds, 3,000. Don’t really know where it come from.
What was the difference between Spectrum and, say, Shoom?
Class, I’d say. Once Shoom was in full swing, it was split between working class, middle class and upper class people, whereas Future was South London and it was quite moody in there. By the time Shoom had kicked off the people at Future were looking down at them. There was a lot of sort of fringe characters who wouldn’t have got in at Shoom, because they wouldn’t have gone to the rigmarole of getting the clothes and dancing round to Danny. They were too cool for that. So there were a few plazzy [plastic] gangsters in there and a few real ones as well. Spectrum, though, was just full of potty kids. Probably the same as the Haçienda and Cream. It was pretty racially mixed for the time, as well, because Shoom wasn’t. Future wasn’t either.
How did Boy’s Own start? You were plugged into The End in Liverpool weren’t you?
Well, I used to write silly letters to them! And they’d print them, stuff about football fashion. We was living in Slough and the kids in Windsor, it was nicer over in Windsor, a few posh birds over there, so we used to go over there. We met Cymon Eckels and Andy Weatherall and I said I’d like to do a fanzine like The End but about London. Weatherall was up for creating this monster and he was very clever. My schooling and Steve Mayes’ schooling was pretty nonexistent, and Andrew, of the first half a dozen magazines, he did nearly everything.
When did it start?
’85-’86. I never thought about writing.
It was a weird time in London. We used to go to football and that whole casual thing was pretty big at football. To get into the clubs at night we would have to change the way we looked completely.
You’d have to look like something out of The Face rather than something off the terraces?
Yeah. Or even something out of London. Ollie who run the door at the Beat Route was Welsh. Chris Sullivan was Welsh. Chris Marney from Demob was Welsh! We all got the hump that we’d go along to these things and they’d let four of us in, but not all of us.
We couldn’t go straight from football, we had to go home and get changed. It did piss us off. I didn’t mind the clothes they were wearing in these places, it didn’t bother me, but it was kind of like the inconvenience of being told what to do in your city, by people who were… Welsh.
House was the first time them barriers broke down. Suddenly you were talking to people and it didn’t matter that they were from up north or what clothes they had on.
It seemed like the whole club scene was run by a St. Martin’s School clique and even the London people like Robert Elms and Graham Ball, they’d all gone to the London School of Economics. I knew as much as they did, I knew loads about records, but I could only come in if I got changed. We hated that scenario.
What did house change?
It meant we didn’t have to change clothes! [laughts] I remember talking to Jonathan Richardson [who ran Pop Promotions], I really liked him and I had something tenuously to do with Pop at some stage. I think I might have owned it for a week. I remember talking to him and meeting his friends and he said, “Yeah, we all met at Cambridge University. Where did you go to school?” “Er, I went to Broomfield in Slough.” “What’s that?” “It’s a comprehensive.”
Suddenly I realised I didn’t know anyone like them. Even when you went to the Wag, you didn’t meet people like that because everyone kept to themselves. House was the first time them barriers broke down. I thought that was a good thing. Suddenly you were talking to people outside of your class and it didn’t matter that they were from up north or what clothes they had on.
House music definitely broke down all kinds of barriers like that. Shoom was very sexually mixed, gays, straights, all sorts of gay palaver going on, which some of the kids in there, who were football hooligans, would never have seen. Michael Clark and a Scottish guy called Sandy, who worked for Vivienne Westwood, they had like real urchin kids from South London who would follow them round like flies. It was almost like they were mesmerised by these beautiful creatures. But Danny was all important to that.
The dance. The whole acid house dance is Danny Rampling. Waving his record while he’s playing. Until then, DJs used to just put records on. They didn’t do anything. During the rare groove thing you wouldn’t acknowledge the crowd. They wouldn’t even smile at the crowd. The crowd wouldn’t smile at the DJ. There was no connection. Suddenly Danny’s standing there and he’s waving his record around, shouting and people shouting at him and hugging. That was his dance.
Then it became the Shoom dance, then the Shoom dance became the Spectrum dance, then the whole of the fuckin’ country! I’m sure he stole it from Ibiza. I’m sure of it.
For me, that whole movement came prepackaged. You had the dance, which was so different from everything else. You had the drug. You had a series of records that were totally overlooked by everyone, and they’d already been hits in this club in Ibiza. Rough Trade? Where’s that? I’d never been in Rough Trade Records. I went in there, “Have you got this Woodentops record?” First time I met Rocky I was in there trying to buy Nitzer Ebb and the Woodentops! It wasn’t a soul boy shop, why would I have gone in there?
It’s like you were saying about house, that it was a fresh start. House only worked when you went, “Right, this is a house club.” And you went there in your house clothes. You did the house dance, ’cos you couldn’t do your old dance. You did a totally different drug. So you had all these people taking a new drug together, doing a new dance, in their new clothes with their new mates. I remember really good mates, me, Plug, there was about ten of us going to Shoom and suddenly all of our really good mates wanted to come and we didn’t want them coming. We didn’t want these blokes, who we’d hung around with for ten years, we didn’t want them coming. This was our thing.
Why is that?
Every one was like that. This is our thing. This is us.
Were you afraid they wouldn’t get it?
We didn’t want no one else to get it. It was so amazing you didn’t want anyone else to get it.
But that goes totally against the whole idea of amazing experiences, doesn’t it?
Yeah, I know, but the problem was you went around telling people how good it was, but then you didn’t want them coming! [laughts]
Was it obvious that it was gonna be massive when you were stood in Shoom?
No, because you were so in it, so in that fuckin’ stew, you never thought about it. I remember me and Sue went on holiday to Portugal in the spring of ’88 and I didn’t want to go because I didn’t want to miss Shoom because when I came back I thought it might be different. I know! I know it sounds shit.
I remember having the headphones on listening to “City Lights” thinking, “I wish I was at Shoom, I can’t believe I’m here, what am I doing here?” No one could say that in a year’s time this would still be going on. It was so intense. You thought the police would stop it or something.
There must have been a point where you realised it wasn’t going to end?
Not really. It always seemed to be – once ’89 was over – that the clubs were never quite as good a Shoom or the early Boy’s Own parties. It felt like you were treading water. Looking back though, at these clubs, we wasn’t, and these clubs were brilliant. The one regret I’ve got about that time is that I wasn’t more open. I wish I’d gone to Sunrise.
So you didn’t go?
No. In fact, people said, “You’re not allowed to go.” I remember a party at Wembley, I think it was the first ever Biology and there were Shoomers outside and they were saying, “Don’t go in.”
Like a picket?
Yeah! I think they’d gone down there, found Danny wasn’t playing and then stopped people from going in. Boy’s Own was terribly like that. Once people had become part of that inner clique, it got really clique-y in London. I never went to Confusion, I never went to Mr C’s club, I never went to High On Hope! We just didn’t. It’s a shame because we missed out on a lot.
Did house music provide opportunities for people like you? Did you feel you could do things suddenly?
Maybe that’s ecstasy. I don’t think house on its own would have done that. Maybe if it had only been house it would have been another movement like go-go or like rare groove. There were people who opened clothes stores in rare groove times and started to run labels. You had little shoots of creativity.
Well, punk as well.
I don’t know. I didn’t know any punks. Before the Sex Pistols made that record, the clothes that punks were wearing were the same clothes that the people wore at Crackers: Acme Attractions, Don Letts’ shop, Malcolm McLaren, peg trousers, ’50s shoes. We didn’t have that aspiration then to do things, because we didn’t know anyone who did it. Maybe when everyone met at places like Shoom, you thought, “I could do that.” Maybe they were opening a clothes shop, or selling drugs or starting a label or even making a record, which seemed incredible. No DJs had been making records, not really, till house came along.
Where do you think it all went wrong?
I don’t think it’s gone wrong. There are thousands of people out every Saturday dancing to house music. Or Ibiza.
There are, but it’s got a lot smaller.
It’s got smaller, probably because that Bright Bill that was funded by the breweries to get people in their pubs. The breweries suddenly started doing alcopops and cleared the tables and chairs out and put music on. What that meant was, instead of there being a club in Hereford playing house, it went back to 30 people in Hereford travelling somewhere else. I think that killed it, the pub chains.
Suddenly this cow got really close and you could see it was jacking! And there were people who couldn’t look at it, freaked out.
And now they’re the ones that are paying for it with a nation of binge-drinking teenagers, when you could have had a nation of E-takers, but not causing any problems. Having a great time. Now they’re stuck with every casualty in every major city with glassings, stabbings and policemen being sorted. No one got sorted at Sunrise and it’s the same kids. Without doubt there was a definite “boardroom” decision taken by people. It’s not a conspiracy theory, but they said, “We’ve gotta get them out of these fields and back into our pubs, how we gonna do this?”
There’s never been a musical movement that has been so invested in by outside forces as house music.
But also there’s never been a music that people have been so passionate about. I don’t think there’s ever been a movement where you suddenly get into something and take drugs for the first time, you’ve suddenly got thousands of mates.
But if you’re 16 now, you’re never gonna have that experience.
No, but if you were 16 in ’94 you didn’t have to go to Shoom to have that. If you go out to the End on a Saturday, the majority are 23-30, and they probably had their first experiences when they were 16. There are no rare groove websites. There are no go-go websites. There’s no one obsessed about mixes that Chuck Brown did. There are no websites with mixes that Norman Jay did in 1982. But I can find Larry Levan, Ron Hardy. It’s only house that has that obsession.
What sort of old records got played back then?
I used to play a lot of my old soul records. Anything with the word ecstasy in it. [laughs] Jackie Wilson’s “I Get The Sweetest Feeling.” I used to play that every week at Spectrum. People would go, “That record! Fuckin’ hell, I never realised this was about E!” [laughs]
Loads of records that were obviously about love, suddenly people were hearing all sorts of drugs connotations. Especially the word ecstasy. The Barry White record was enormous. I used to play things like “When I Think Of You” by Janet Jackson, that was another really big record for me at Spectrum. People used to say, “That’s a real E record, that is!”
How did you start the Boy’s Own parties?
We did a few small ones before acid house. But early on in ’88 we said we wanted to do a party and we asked Danny to play. We found a guy who owned a big house in Guildford. He had a really small barn about twice the size of this room and a big garden.
Danny couldn’t do it ’cos he didn’t want to shut Shoom down, so we got Steve Proctor to play. We ran 200 people down. The bloke who owned the place was sitting there at about six in the morning with Boy George and he played guitar, this bloke, obviously wanted to be a musician. Boy George was singing “Karma Chameleon” or something like that, and this bloke says, “This is the greatest moment of my life!”
It got to about 8:30 in the morning and everyone was really going for it. There was not one complaint. The police turned up. I’ve got pictures of this, it’s appalling: there’s Smiley shorts, bandanas. It’s really bad. They said, “What’s happening here then?” “Oh, we’re from London, we’re on these coaches here and we’re having a party.” They went, “Right, there’s beer cans in the street, can you pick them up?” So we walked over there, off our nuts, picked up the beer cans. They said, “What time are you finishing?” We said, “Er…11?” “Alright then. See you lads!” A year later they’re using truncheons!
Weren’t there people walking home and talking to cows?
The Barry Mooncult cow thing? That was at the East Grinstead party. That was the one party for me where it was like, “This is it. There’ll never ever be anything like this.” We were very lucky because we had this great field right on a lake, massive marquee, sold tickets in London, we ran a few coaches and we had about 500 people of the Shoom/Future crowd.
Unknown to us there was a huge rave, something like Sunrise, in the next village. The police had spent the whole night trying to shut this thing down and left us completely alone. On this lake, there were these geese. I can’t remember anyone dancing. It was weird, just people sitting there gurning. And these geese came down, a flock of them, through the mist – schhhhhh – and all of a sudden all these people started clapping, as if, you know, you’d done this, [laughts] as though they were acid house geese and we’d trained them.
And then there was a big hill and someone said, “Look at that cow.” There were about four cows on this hill. “That cow’s dancing.” It was about quarter of a mile away. And the whole four hundred people stopped and were looking. This cow was going [mimics wiggling of right leg] and people were going “Aw, fucking hell!”
And it was slowly coming down the hill. Suddenly it got really close and you could see it was jacking! And there was people who couldn’t look at it, freaked out. Suddenly you could tell it was a pantomine cow. It was Barry Mooncult and someone else. But they hadn’t walked into the party and gone “Weee!” They’d been up on the hill for about half an hour freaking people out.
This interview was conducted in February 2005 in London. © DJhistory.com