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A Nostalgic Look at Late 1980s & Early '90s Old Skool House Music and Raves

The UK rave scene in the early years around Lancashire was part music and part culture. This is our story.

The rave phenomenon in northern England, early 1990s. Picture taken at Hacketts, Blackpool.

The rave phenomenon in northern England, early 1990s. Picture taken at Hacketts, Blackpool.

An illegal rave goes wrong...

I ran as fast as my legs could carry me, my heart pounding like it was going to burst out of my chest, the wind rushing in my ears.

It was pitch dark and the ground was rough, with pot holes, long grass and thorns.

I was wearing only shorts and t-shirt, with bare legs and trainers, so I was filthy and my skin scratched and red with the cold.

But I didn't care. A survival instinct took over and I just kept running through the pain barrier.

I had no idea where I was going - I just knew I had to get away.

In the distance, I could hear shouting, people screaming and the sound of fighting and scuffles. I felt very isolated and alone.

Eventually, I saw an old stone bridge across a canal looming out of the darkness. In an instant, I slid on my bottom down the embankment, which was damp and cold, scurried under the bridge and hid on a narrow ledge, which felt wet and uncomfortable.

I was curled up, my bare legs tucked in front of me so that I would not be visible from above.

The thought briefly crossed my mind that if I slipped, I’d end up falling into the icy water below in the darkness and may well drown.

So I just sat still, gripping my arms firmly round my knees and keeping quiet. I hardly dared breathe, even though I felt like gasping for air to fill my lungs after all the running I had done.

I heard footsteps approaching until they were on the bridge above me. They were running slowly, but seemed tired. More screams. The sound of someone being hit and falling to the floor with a dull thud, only to start shouting, scramble up and run on again.

It was 2am and I knew I was in for a long night.

We lived for the weekend...

Even after it had gone quiet above, I could still hear shouting in the distance and knew I would just have to sit tight until it was safe to leave my hiding place.

This was not how my evening was meant to be.

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I had plenty of time to sit and reflect, as I sat there in the dark, aware of every sound, waiting until I thought the coast was clear.

All I wanted to do was get back to the warmth and safety of my car. But moving wasn't an option until I knew what was happening out there.

I will return to the conclusion of this episode later - what I need to do right here is go back to how it all started.

Todd Terry Project: Weekend (1988)

Me in the early 1990s wearing my typical clubbing attire of shorts, t-shirt and shoes in which I could dance all night.

Me in the early 1990s wearing my typical clubbing attire of shorts, t-shirt and shoes in which I could dance all night.

Nine hours earlier, I had been at home, excitedly getting ready to go out. It had been a typical Saturday night.

It was 1991 and I lived for the weekend. I was part of a massive army of clubbers who set off every weekend to travel around raves and illegal warehouse parties across the north west of England.

We were the ‘warehouse party generation’, a term invented much later by the media to describe the intoxicating and addictive thrill of being part of a movement in which nothing mattered but the weekend.

For me, it had started out as ‘acid house’ in 1988, when I first became aware of this new culture sweeping the club scene.

I’d never been into mainstream music (I didn’t want to be a ‘disco dolly’, as I called it). I had grown up with punk and indie music and had always travelled a lot to watch live bands and go to clubs all over the country since I was 15 years old.

I was born and brought up in the seaside resort of Blackpool, Lancashire, so trips down the M6 to Manchester Hacienda to watch punk and indie bands in the ‘80s were a regular occurrence.

While a lot of my schoolfriends were going out to local nightclubs, meeting boyfriends and living a pretty normal life, I preferred putting on my leather and studs, bleaching and back-combing my hair to within an inch of its life and going to watch live music.

On the way home, we’d always stop off at the motorway services to hang out for most of the night and I would often arrive home at about 6am, as my dad left for work.

I don’t think my long-suffering parents were thrilled about this, but they were relieved I wasn’t sleeping around or into drugs, so a few late nights were acceptable.

808 State: Pacific State (1989)

The transition from punk to rave

For me personally, the rave scene became a natural progression of this culture.

I remember the first night it hit me that times were changing. It was in the autumn of 1988.

If we weren’t going anywhere to watch live music, we normally went to the pub on a Friday and Saturday night, followed by either a local rock venue, The Tache, or a basement jazz club, The Galleon, where all the locals congregated to escape a town centre filled with tourists.

I used to enjoy it at first, but over the years, I felt like there had to be more to life than this.

I spent countless hours sitting in a corner with my Bacardi and coke, my mind sometimes wandering elsewhere.

I started to feel like life was passing me by and I didn’t want to spend the next ten years doing this, only to realise one day that I’d grown old.

Me pre-1988, when I was into punk and indie music.

Me pre-1988, when I was into punk and indie music.

I don’t recall how it came about, but one Saturday night, someone suggested we go to a club on the seafront, Sequins, for a change.

We didn’t normally go there, but they were starting to hold ‘acid house’ nights and it was something to try.

I wasn’t prepared for the amazing sight that hit me when I walked in.

The club was a total blaze of colour, with hundreds of green laser beams shooting out from the stage, brightly-coloured lights on the edge of every step, more lights of different colours flashing on and off in time to the pulsing music, all bathed in a sea of dry ice.

I don’t know if you’ve seen Trainspotting, the 1993 film based on a book by Irvine Welsh. But now, with hindsight, that moment makes me think of a scene in the film when the lead character, Renton, is in a nightclub. One minute, it’s full of punks, but the next, it all changes and it’s full of ravers.

I felt like something had changed, just like that, in the blink of an eye, as I walked into that club. It was like an awakening to me and a major change in my life.

The music just made me want to get up and dance – Inner City’s Good Life, Steve Silk Hurley’s Jack Your Body, 808 State, Theme from S’Express, D-Mob’s We Call It Acid, A Guy Called Gerald’s Voodoo Ray, Baby Ford's Oochy Koochy and too many more to even know what they were.

I even remember what I was wearing and I suddenly felt like a dinosaur in my tight, short, black dress, red stilletos and sporting my backcombed hair.

Everyone around me was in baggy t-shirts, shorts, jeans, hooded tops, trainers and hats. They were dancing like they just didn’t care.

I ventured on to the dancefloor, but my high-heeled shoes weren’t suited to dancing to rave music and I kind of teetered around feeling like I was going to slip at any point and make a fool of myself.

I was just blown away by the atmosphere and wanted to be a part of it.

Baby Ford: Oochy Coochy (1988)

We did go back to Sequins several times and I always enjoyed it.

I loved the music and the atmosphere. I was up dancing all night and met lots of people from all over the North West, who travelled up to Blackpool on a Saturday night to go clubbing.

It was so easy to meet new mates. Everyone was friendly and there was never any trouble. Every person there just wanted to have a good time.

Sequins, Blackpool, where there was an amazing lights show

Sequins, Blackpool, where there was an amazing lights show

Julia, who was to become one of my best friends.

Julia, who was to become one of my best friends.

One of the favourite places to congregate, amazingly, was the ladies' toilets, where you could bump into people and end up standing talking for about 20 minutes!

I remember standing in there once feeling really hot and I decided to fill my empty glass with tap water. But it was hot water and I felt nauseous as I took a gulp.

"Don't drink the tap water - they only have hot water to make you spend more at the bar!" someone told me afterwards.

In particular, I met a girl called Julia, from my home town. We got chatting through mutual friends.

Like me, she wanted to have a good time, a laugh and to dance and party at the weekend.

We clicked from the start and had the same scatty sense of humour. Every time I saw Julia, without exception, I had a great time and never stopped laughing all night.

Little did I know she was going to become a big part of my life and one of my best friends for many years. We were to share many adventures and travels in our pursuit of parties all over the North West and beyond.

Shaboo Nightclub, Blackpool

At this time, everyone was talking about a new rave club, Shaboo, which was on Blackpool's north promenade, located on the upper floor of what was formerly the Bier Keller, where I had seen many bands in the early '80s.

I was invited to go there one Saturday with some workmates and agreed to meet them there. At this time, I had a temporary job working at the civil service as an administration clerk.

I recall going shopping that afternoon to buy some new trainers and casual clothes more suited to the venue.

As I walked in my usual pub, the Blue Room, in a hoodie, shorts and t-shirt, I recalled, a few weeks earlier, how one of my friends had said if they ever saw me in a hooded top, they would disown me! They hated the rave culture and wanted no part in it.

So they raised their eyebrows when I arrived and announced I was going to Shaboo later instead of The Galleon.

Queuing up outside Shaboo in 1989.

Queuing up outside Shaboo in 1989.

Queuing up outside Shaboo in 1989.

Queuing up outside Shaboo in 1989.

Queuing up outside Shaboo in 1989.

Queuing up outside Shaboo in 1989.

Queuing up outside Shaboo in 1989.

Queuing up outside Shaboo in 1989.

The crowd in Shaboo, Blackpool - a mass of people dancing to a pulsing beat.

The crowd in Shaboo, Blackpool - a mass of people dancing to a pulsing beat.

I thought I may tempt some of them to go with me, but no-one was interested, so I walked there alone.

I was amazed when I reached the entrance, as there was a queue about 200 yards long, snaking down the promenade! I queued for an eternity, finally gaining access about an hour later.

DJ Sasha at Shaboo Blackpool

It felt a bit weird at first walking in on my own, but I'd no need to have worried - everyone was friendly and welcoming. Once I had found my workmates and hit the dancefloor, I never stopped and had the time of my life.

I went there plenty more times and learned to arrive earlier, so I didn't have to endure the huge queue later on and risk not getting in.

Some of the world's top DJs, such as Sasha, played early sets at Shaboo. Back in those days, I had no idea how they were going to become internationally renowned and highly respected DJs some years down the line. I just loved the music they played and wanted it to go on for ever.

Me and Steve, my friend of over 30 years.

Me and Steve, my friend of over 30 years.

Venturing farther afield...

As time passed, I continued to go to the local rave clubs and some of my old friends from my punk days had also started going clubbing, so we all used to hang out together and had some manic weekends.

I started going clubbing with my old mate Steve (we used to be in a band together) and his sister and her friend. Soon after this, I also became closer friends with Julia and she was always out with a crowd of her friends. So there was usually about three or four car loads of us when we went on a night out.

I went to Manchester Hacienda at some point - I can't even remember when and with whom - but I do recall I saw a big change there from the days when I used to watch punk and indie bands at the venue in the early to mid-1980s.

Pictured (above and below) is Manchester Hacienda in 1989.

Pictured (above and below) is Manchester Hacienda in 1989.

a-nostalgic-look-at-the-1990s-old-skool-house-music-and-rave-clubs-enjoyed-with-good-friends

I think it was around 1989 when I went there - when the 'Madchester' scene was at its height - and I loved the Happy Mondays and Stone Roses at the time.

The music at that time was a mixture of local bands from the Madchester movement, plus the early rave tunes too, including some of the more obscure stuff that I hadn't heard anywhere else.

Shaun Ryder performed with the Happy Mondays at the Hacienda and was a regular there too.

DJ Sasha often played there - so did Graeme Park, another top international DJ.

We weren't going to the Hacienda regularly at this time, but certainly went on several occasions.

I recall one night, everyone was dancing as normal all over the place, not only on the dance floor but on podiums, the stage, on the steps - anywhere there was space to dance, upstairs and down, people were dancing.

Then, we saw about six big, burly guys, in smiley face t-shirts and bandanas, all standing in a row on the stage, dancing in a similar style. Although the smiley t-shirts and "acid house" label had been there at the outset, I seem to recall it had started to fade a bit by this time as the scene became known as rave.

The guys on the stage looked a bit like a throwback to two years earlier and one of my friends said drily, "Looks like the police are having a night out," which had us in stitches.

It was well known the police were going undercover at a lot of the big clubs and events at that time to try and catch drug dealers and users. But these guys just stuck out like a sore thumb and if they weren't officers working undercover, I would have been surprised!

Madchester in Manchester

I remember dancing to the Happy Mondays' 24 Hour Party People - it was like an anthem to me at the time and seemed so apt, as if it summed up my lifestyle.

We went to see the Happy Mondays at Manchester GMex Arena in March 1990.

One of the main things I remember is being on the top row of some pretty flimsy seats and as the music started playing and everyone began dancing, the whole block of seats seemed to be moving wildly in time to the music.

Maybe they weren't moving really - that was just how it felt to me at the time! Everyone in the whole place was dancing and the atmosphere was mind-blowing. It remains one of my most vivid memories of a gig to this day.

The Blackburn Rave Scene

Although I wasn't aware of it at this time, there was a massive rave scene kicking off at nearby Blackburn, a Lancashire town about 25 miles down the motorway from Blackpool.

There were already illegal rave parties in Blackburn from 1988-89.

Researching this years later, I read how new organisers took over the running of the illegal parties around Blackburn in 1989 after the original organisers were arrested. With convoys of cars arriving from other parts of the country, the parties quickly grew in size and reputation.

Almost every week empty buildings in and around the Blackburn area were decended on by thousands of ravers. Sett End, Bubble Factory, Unit 7, Pump Street and many more abandoned buildings and warehouses were used for parties over the coming months.

At this time, I was still going out in Blackpool, with the occasional trip to Manchester, so sadly, I missed all this side of the scene, although heard a lot about Sett End in particular when I eventually started going out in Blackburn.

Together: Hardcore Uproar (Blackburn warehouse party, 1989)

The police were doing their best to stamp out the illegal rave scene in Blackburn almost as soon as it started, citing it was dangerous, a noise nuisance and the use of illegal drugs.

But every time they closed down one party or illegal venue, often confiscating the DJ's equipment, another one appeared immediately. No way were thousands of people in search of a good time going to be blighted by the police.

Arrests made after "Acid Rave"

Glen on the left, pictured with Chris, one of the doormen, at Monroes, Great Harwood (1990).

Glen on the left, pictured with Chris, one of the doormen, at Monroes, Great Harwood (1990).

The first time I went for a night out in Blackburn was in early 1990.

As my circle of friends grew bigger, I had met a local DJ, Glen, who often had parties back at his house after going out clubbing in Blackpool. He would be on the decks and everyone would hang out there all night on a Saturday.

It was Glen who first suggested we should go to Monroes, a club with cult status in Great Harwood, a town near Blackburn.

I remember several cars set off from Blackpool the first time I went (I was driving) and we had a major task finding Monroes, since it was tucked away down many dark country roads (or at least it seemed that way to me at the time).

It seemed to take an age to get there and I recall having to wait after one of the girls in the car behind felt travel sick and we had to stop our mini-convoy for her to get out and get some air. I was really excited about going and thought we would never get there.

Me and Julia out clubbing (1990).

Me and Julia out clubbing (1990).

In the ladies' toilets at Monroes (always a popular meeting place!) in 1990.

In the ladies' toilets at Monroes (always a popular meeting place!) in 1990.

My friend Joy, from Blackpool, with Andy Senior in the centre and Glen on the right, at Monroes (1990).

My friend Joy, from Blackpool, with Andy Senior in the centre and Glen on the right, at Monroes (1990).

Monroes' DJ, John J.

Monroes' DJ, John J.

Greenbins at Monroes (1990).

Greenbins at Monroes (1990).

My friends Carol (left) and Mandie from Blackburn, whom I met in 1990. I am still friends with both of them to this day.

My friends Carol (left) and Mandie from Blackburn, whom I met in 1990. I am still friends with both of them to this day.

When I arrived, I totally loved the place from the outset and it was to become like my second home every Saturday night for about the next two years.

It wasn't a massive club - in fact, it was pretty small, as clubs go - but the people I met there were the friendliest on the planet and I am still in touch with many of them to this day.

The music was out of this world and there was the best atmosphere ever. The legendary John Jepson (John J), Greenbins and Andy Senior (Andy Edit) on the decks, everyone always had a fantastic time and came out feeling happy.

All we did was danced all night, so always wore shorts, sleeveless tops and training shoes. It was so hot in there, my hair would be soaking wet and I would look like I'd just climbed out of the shower.

At one time, I wouldn't have left the house unless everything had been perfect. But it didn't matter any more, as everyone was the same and we all just wanted to have a good time.

I can truthfully say these were some of the happiest and most carefree days of my life, with every weekend being a fresh adventure.

It was at this time that I met two other dear friends with whom I am still in touch to this day, 25 years later.

I can honestly say I have no recollection of how I first met Mandie and Carol, who were from Blackburn. They both just seem to have been in my life for ever and along with Julia from Blackpool, the four of us were totally inseparable for the four years between 1990 and 1994.

I had started work at the local newspaper as a junior reporter, so I had my car and enough money to fund a good social life, so I felt most of the time like I hadn't a care in the world.

I had a fabulous circle of friends and when we were not out together at the weekend, we were ringing each other during the week and talking for hours, looking forward to the weekend ahead.

Bearing in mind this was before the days of Facebook and Twitter (and most people didn't have a mobile phone) I even recall writing to my new friends in Blackburn during the week, as I was so looking forward to seeing them again.

I would receive letters back and we would sometimes exchange photos that we'd had developed of the previous weekend.

I recall these were the days when the last post from Blackpool's main post office was at 11pm - hard to believe now! I was so excited about some photos I'd just had developed and collected - from Boots the Chemist - that I decided I wanted Mandie and Carol to have a set of prints.

They were photos taken at Mandie's house the previous weekend and they made me laugh out loud.

So I stuck them in an envelope and drove into the town centre to catch the last post - this was at about 10.30pm! Then I received phone calls the following evening saying the photos had arrived safely and what a giggle they were!

We were always in touch and always raring to go. I lived at mum and dad's at the time and the landline never stopped ringing. I would chat to my friends for hours.

I felt so happy at this time! It felt like it would go on for ever and it was certainly in my view the most powerful movement of which I had ever been a part.

Saturday nights were legendary...

I can honestly say Saturday nights had legendary status and that's no exaggeration.

We would start getting ready earlier each week, as there was always a massive queue outside Monroes and sometimes it was a crush getting in as everyone clustered around the door, pressing up against it like they were suddenly going to burst through.

We were all just so keen to get in, I remember once being on the dance floor at 7pm - a massive change from when I was younger and often didn't make it out to a club until about 11pm due to taking so long to get ready!

Saturday nights became legendary: Here is a crowd of us outside Monroes, on the carpark (1991).

Saturday nights became legendary: Here is a crowd of us outside Monroes, on the carpark (1991).

After Monroes, we would always find a party somewhere - either an illegal rave at a disused warehouse somewhere, or a party at someone's house which invariably would go on all day Sunday too.

That was the brilliant thing about those days - there was always something to do, people to talk to, somewhere to go. What ever happened, we knew we would never be going home at 2am after the club, with only work to look forward to on a Monday morning.

We kept the weekend going as long as possible and always found something entertaining to do.

A Potted History of the Rave Scene (1987-1993)

We soon got into a routine for the weekend which actually started on a Thursday night and lasted till Monday morning, a pattern that continued for about two years.

On a Thursday, we would go to the house night at Park Hall, a nightclub at Charnock Richard. Many of our friends from Blackburn and Blackpool went there too - it was a case of everyone knowing where to go and when and we would all meet up without actually making any firm arrangements. We just knew everyone would be there.

That was the beauty of it all - and the music was the best. I still love those tunes to this day.

Park Hall at Charnock Richard.

Park Hall at Charnock Richard.

Dream Frequency: Feel So Real

On the motorway services after Monroes in 1990.

On the motorway services after Monroes in 1990.

At our friend Vanessa's house (she is pictured, second right) in Blackpool after a night's clubbing.

At our friend Vanessa's house (she is pictured, second right) in Blackpool after a night's clubbing.

On the motorway services in 1990 after Monroes. I am on the right, with Julia on the left and our pal Ian standing between us.

On the motorway services in 1990 after Monroes. I am on the right, with Julia on the left and our pal Ian standing between us.