3.1.12. UK Summer of Love

18 June 2021

In the UK, between the end of the summer of 1987 and the beginning of the summer of 1988, ‘House music’s influence’ had grown and inspired weekly parties across the country. People would be dancing all night long, and when the lights would go up, they would not stop dancing, and owners had to ask them to leave (Bidder, 2001, p. 116). The influences of drugs played a huge role in changing a generation in the UK, as it did in the clubs in the US. The mixture of music and drugs brought a wide variety of people onto the dance floor. The clubs in the UK would close at 3 am, and when the club-goers would leave, they searched for other places to go. As there were no other establishments open at this hour of the morning, thousands of dancing people would gather on the streets to play music and be physical with one another. The police would not know what to do as nobody was fighting (Bidder, 2001, p. 117). It became an epidemic in the eyes of the newspapers. Who incorrectly related 'Acid House’ to the drug LCD, tarnishing the club goers as scandalous that indirectly spread the word creating a greater interest in the scene that leads to a subculture called ‘Rave.’  This subculture grew in reaction to the neoliberal Thatcherite government (Bidder, 2001, p. 118). 'Raves’ offered something else; a time to be unified in an ‘oceanic experience’ (Malbon, 1999) on the dance floor. Author Ben Malbon equates the oceanic experience triggered on a dance floor as an “in-betweenness” (Malbon, 1999) or a state of liminality. “The name comes from Freud (1961) and Storr (1992), and it is a term that refers to “a feeling of an indissoluble bond, of being one with the external world as a whole” (Freud 1961:65, (Freud & Storr, 1961, 1992 p. 492 as cited in Malbon, 1999). Moreover, an ‘oceanic experience’ (Malbon, 1999) through the lens of theologian Ross Mckim’s notion of a ‘numinous experience’ suggests: “Gives ‘metaphysical’ or (since it is more than rational) ‘metalogical’ meaning” (Mckim, 2007, p. 3).  Mckim sees a sense of metaphysical meaning to generate a positive attitude to the world, which I believe is the underlying reason why ‘Rave’ had such a huge impact socially and culturally in the UK. People’s experiences through dancing changed a generation’s understanding of society and culture. It empathetically changed how they looked at each other; it gave them the confidence to leave the area they were from. It shattered cultural borders that were in place by normative violent football enthusiasm. The ‘Rave’ phenomenon grew, and parties moved into the countryside and warehouses. In what would become known as the summer of love 88 and the second summer of love 89. Driven by ‘Acid House’ and ecstasy, tens of thousands of people gathered and shared in the ‘Rave’ experience. Next in the evolution of ‘House music’ in the subcultural form of ‘Rave’ is consequential to the ungoverned structural nature and the fluidity and transient interaction of the actors within subculture’s, which led to political hegemonic control and the closing down of ‘Raves'. As well as this being due to the lack of waste disposal and sanitation planning of tens of thousands of people on a plot of land, the unguided drug use within the scene resulted in several deaths between 88 and 89, which caused a ‘moral panic’ (Haenfler, 2014, p. 9). Heanfler summarises that the Birmingham theory states, “authorities and the media create moral panics” (2014, p. 9). The entertainments Act of 1990 and later the repetitive beats act of 1994 signalled an end to illegal ‘Raves’. The Birmingham theory states: "Such resistance is largely ineffectual, as the subcultural style itself is eventually co-opted and commodified” (Heanfler, 2014, p. 9). The criminalisation of ‘Raves’ did not see an end to the phenomenon. What would come to be known as ‘clubbing’ would take ‘Raves’ place in legal locations, commodified and exploited by capitalism. Today ‘clubbing’ brings in global revenues of $7.1 billion a year (Collin, 2019, p. 5). What then is the reason for a world expansion in clubbing? What are the social or individual needs that create such high demands for the expanding ‘House music’ subculture to commodify capitalism?

By looking at how subcultures have been academically defined over a hundred years, starting in Chicago in 1900, then in Birmingham fifty years later, and finally addressed as post subcultural. Modernity moved families with its driving force of capital from their social and cultural heritages to the disorganised suburbs of cities amongst other social and cultural heritages. Modernity created political, social and cultural hegemonic values that isolated and oppressed people due to their social class, gender, race and religion. In the advocacy of capitalist individualism, what arose were pockets of people who did not conform to its ideology. People who wanted to be part of something they could identify with, perhaps replacing pre-modern ideologies of religion or family values that are empathetically missing within modernity. However, what we have seen in the evolution of ‘House music’ is, when a community is frameless and without any structure, it runs out of control and can end in tragedy. To prevent unnecessary tragedies from happening, guidelines need to be in place. Organisers must uphold rules and laws for spaces of freedom to exist where the experience of liberating possibilities incubates new ideas and novel ways to think. I argue that in the beauty of this communicative feedback, we can understand how to move forward.

3.2. The Birth of Tragedy - Rational and Irrational