There were both good and bad sides to 90s rave culture, so why have just a few years of illegal raves become so celebrated?
This article came to fruition after watching endless 90s rave culture videos on YouTube. One video that really set the tone was filmed at about 9 am in the morning. The sun is now up, the pills have worn off, its cold and you want to go to bed yet there are still some people going for it. You actually felt sorry for this group of ravers who looked like they were on the verge of tears and a total meltdown from their comedowns. People are desperately trying to get away in their MK3 Escorts and Vauxhall Cavaliers but regrettably their wheels are getting stuck further into the mud as they give their GTi engines full pedal. The weary eyed ravers wait for their lift home whilst a woman still ‘mad for it’ is dancing energetically around them. Their faces tell a tale of the chemical kind, what goes up must come down and ‘get me the hell out of here’. If you have ever been in a similar situation you will know the exact feeling we are talking about.
What went down in the UK countrysides and disused warehouses around the UK literally lasted a few years yet it still gets everyone with a slight knowledge of subcultures and electronic music wet. The reality is the whole 90s rave culture didn’t even last that long. It pretty much got shut down by the authorities which is probably why it has the whole nostalgia attached to it.
The illegal rave scene in the UK really got underway in the late 80s and early 90s. The rise of Chicago House, Detroit Techno and Acid House had made its way across the Atlantic to a new generation of chemical hippies. The second ‘summer of love’ since the 60s and Woodstock’ once again took to a field with mind altering substances. Secrecy was key, nobody really knew the organisers and that’s how they wanted to keep it. Kind of like the pirate radio grime and garage movement of the early noughties, rave locations would also be given out on pirate radio stations. However, organising illegal raves came with its fair share of risks and problems. You had to keep the punters supplied with ecstasy and other stimulants such as speed or coke. You also had to make sure the old bill’ weren’t onto you, locations and venues were kept to a minimal on a need to know basis.
Margaret Thatcher and the Tories came down hard on these so called ravers. The illegal rave act or Section 63 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Bill banned all parties of more than 20 people basically playing any form of dance type music in 1994. This was really when rave culture started to fizzle out, electronic music ran out of the fields and strolled into the swanky nightclubs. The super club was born. Without the original 90s rave culture we wouldn’t have house music as we know it today, all them Ibiza trance classics and electronic music pioneers like The Prodigy and The Chemical Brothers. The whole scene has diversified so far into other sub genres and styles you would need a detailed spider graph to really understand it.
Ex ravers of the time talk about the 90s rave culture like they had had some sort of out of body experience, almost spiritual feelings. However, nowadays for some, their brains serotonin balance is probably so messed up they constantly feel up and down. In recent years with this whole 90’s resurgence, 90s rave culture is constantly getting talked about, constantly getting mentioned in music videos and products from trainers to t-shirts.
Why are we so obsessed with it? Is it the fact really we are so sick and tired of how mainstream and commercial electronic dance music has become that we are trying to reinvent it even though it has already sailed. Or is it just another revival like we had with the whole mod thing in the 80s as well and the casual culture revival in the mid noughties. People can’t seem to be themselves nowadays, its all about how you look and the reality is people are afraid to just let go. Back in the rave scene people didn’t really give a fuck, they got messed up and danced like nutters for 6-7 hours at a time. Go to Ibiza nowadays and its more like a pretentious ‘look at me I’m in Ibiza not in Marbella this year’ type of carry on. Ask your average poser who Frankie Knuckles or Trax Records were on the white Island in 2017 and they wouldn’t have the foggiest.
The 90s rave culture has sadly been and gone, people want to feel like they are still a part of it because it is something so unique that go will do down in cultural history forever. Its like we are latching onto the past of something that only really lasted a couple of years. Maybe we need to evolve and look at changing the whole nightlife experience instead of constantly clinging onto the past? Groups of teenagers and young adults taking drugs is an everyday occurrence but its like they need to be a part of ‘scene’ or subculture to make it acceptable. If 90s rave culture was just about taking drugs in large groups and listening to dance music was it really as enchanting as we all make out? Or was it a lot more than that? An electronic peace movement for like minded youths and young adults to express themselves through dancing because no-one was listening to them. All sounds too familiar doesn’t it?