Page last updated at 08:10 GMT, Wednesday, 19 August 2009 09:10 UK
Sounds of 1989

By Michael Osborn
Entertainment reporter, BBC News

A rave at Slough in 1989
Intense music and vibrant colours came to the Home Counties in 1989

On the world stage, 1989 was the year of the collapse of communism and the fall of the Berlin Wall.

In the UK, the music scene also stands out in the memory as the year when the Manchester sound caught the imagination and Eurodance music hit the charts.

But the headline-grabbing phenomenon was the growth of law-defying rave parties that filled warehouses and fields in south-east England.

The tabloid press concentrated on the drug culture associated with the all-night acid house parties, but overlooked the restrictive licensing laws which prompted the mass gatherings.

Radio 1 and club DJ Judge Jules, now 42, who played sets at numerous events shares his recollections as part of a series on the music of 1989.

I DJed at a lot of the parties. I was on a pirate radio station at the time and was booked to play a lot of the larger ones that made the press. I had residencies at clubs and would do later sets at the raves.

A lot of people tie the acid house parties to the development of drug culture, but the other significant development isn't often mentioned.

Judge Jules
Judge Jules says there was a spontaneity about rave culture
The licensing laws at the time were very conservative. The majority of clubs outside London closed at 2am, if you were lucky some London clubs shut at 3. The streets of London after that time were completely different to what they are now - it's a true 24-hour international city today.

1989 was the beginning of those times and a burgeoning demand of kids then.

Clubs at the time neither understood nor wanted to embrace something that was different musically.

There would be flyers for the raves, but there would never be a location. There would be a series of mobile phone numbers which you'd be expected to call.

Even as a DJ, I didn't know where the party was going to be. They might give you a county and a back-up location, but I had to do the same as everyone else - attempt to work out where I was going.

There was an awful lot of police outside the raves but the promoters tried to get as many people in the area as possible so the police would be too understaffed to close the party down.

The parties themselves didn't necessarily feel like youth culture history because there'd been an evolution towards the huge events.

Sam Williams in 1989
Sam Williams

My friends and I all lived 30 miles outside of London and this rave wave was exciting and fresh. We'd never heard this kind of music.

We went to parties in fields and empty warehouses - a far cry from the cheesy discos we were used to.

The buzz at the raves was contagious and the feeling mutual. The hypnotic music and happy crowd made you feel at one with yourself.

The feeling of unity was overwhelming, with a huge sense of belonging and freedom.

We loved the excitement of meeting up with people and joining convoys listening out for loud music, looking for lasers and landing in a field with a 50k sound system. This whole scene took over our lives.

Sam Williams (pictured in 1989) now runs the ravereunited website and is compiling a book about the raves of 1989.

But what did make it feel like a revolution was that you'd come out of an event and the papers had written about it across their front pages.

They enormously overplayed the drugs aspect - the music was ultimately the revolution.

It was part of an evolution towards dance music being hugely successful in the early 90s when the chart was dominated by it. I was too young at the time to view it as something special.

Those times were great, I made new friends, developed a DJing career and it allowed me to do what I always dreamed of doing.

I'm not enough of a fantasist and idealist to think that I could ever go back to those days, but it doesn't make them any less poignant and memorable.

I remember doing one big rave in the open air and I was wearing a yellow jacket which was attacked by wasps in the middle of my set. Silly memories like that are part of the bigger fabric.

The spontaneity of it all was one of the most fabulous parts - we'd always end up at the house of someone we'd never met before afterwards, in some Home Counties location that you'd never have predicted.

The legacy of rave culture is Britain once again cementing its place at the hub of global youth culture.

Print Sponsor

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