25 years ago before the Criminal Justice Act had been written into law, before Take That infected the airways with their drivel, before Superstar DJs gave it large with the egos and Super-clubs herded the dressed up sheep into their evenings ‘entertainment’; a summer of ‘pop-up’ parties (before ‘pop-up’ meant anything outside of a children’s book) took place across the UK. This all happened after and yet as an extension to the heralded 2nd Summer of Love, which had lead to epic headlines across the terrified tabloids and also a year before the largest ‘free-rave’ in British history took place at Castlemorton Common in Worcestershire (my main memory of that party was receiving a jiffy bag full of rubbish with a piece of paper with my name and address, something I suspect that I’d given to another party goer who had promptly thrown it on the floor, along with a note from an old lady saying ‘why do you people want to destroy our countryside!). What makes the summer of ’91 special for me is that I turned 18 and as a avowed hater of those spit and sawdust nightclubs you use to find up and down the country with shit music and an all you can eat buffet I didn’t know until then that I needed a proper outlet for my teenage energy and the need to go on missions that were more about ‘bare’ basslines than ‘Bear Grylls’. In fact each weekend as we gathered outside of the usual bar in my home town of Oxford to find out where and when the party was going down, there was always a excitement in the air as we found out where we’d be ‘chasing the base’ that night.
The reason I decided to come back to this period is three fold. Firstly, an academic I once read (although promptly forgot the name of) mentioned that everyone has an unforgettable summer in their life, mine was 1991. Secondly, as the year was sandwiched in between the cool and often discussed Second Summer of Love (which actually covered to summers 1988 and 89, greedy bastards) and the explosion of legal festivals and Super-clubs of the mid-90s, this period is often forgotten about when journalists prattle on about first hearing Marshall Jefferson or Todd Terry - props to Todd and Marshall nonetheless). Finally, in a year where several iconic and culturally relevant clubs up and down the country have closed their doors due to Babylonian maneuvers I cannot help but think that without night-time outlets to rid ourselves of the stress the week can bring, but also places that work as an outlet for a our creative energies, we somehow lose one of the most important things that makes Britain great and that’s it’s musical culture.
Now I’m not saying that everyone should embrace ‘club’ music (or EDM has it’s been annoying called over the last few years), but it has been vitally important to the development of musical styles in the UK (drum and bass, grime and dub-step all instantly come to mind), but maybe it also acts as something for bands, IDM artists and traditionalists to kick against too, there’s nothing wrong with that either.