In the late ’80s and ’90s, the electronic music scene was bubbling with eccentrics and were extremely complex in form. US Chicago house and techno cross-pollinated with synth-pop, rare groove and sound system culture. The fused sonics were overflowing at free parties, warehouses and illegal raves and pirate radio.
The UK-specific sound that dominated this rave inception era, and brought rave culture to the masses, was breakbeat hardcore. Huge licensed events popped up, attracting tens of thousands of people, some perhaps not fearless or adventurous enough to commit to nights of chasing phone lines joining in a Mexican stand-off with police.
The birth of the UK rave scene (the 1980s-1990s)
The UK was finally recognised for its rave culture in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The Second Summer of Love was a 1980s social phenomenon that saw the rise of acid house music and illegal raves. The term generally refers to the summer of 1988, when electronic dance music and the experiential use of the drug MDMA fuelled an explosion in youth culture culminating in free parties en-masse and teased in the era of rave.
The sounds of this time fused dance beats with a psychedelic 1960s flavour, and the dance culture drew parallels with the hedonism and freedom of the 1967 Summer of Love in San Francisco.
Rave memorabilia has since turned into a growing collector craze and has grown in popularity. Over recent years it has turned into big business. Online auction sites have seen an increase in sales, and the items themselves are consistently breaking new all-time high values.
In this part 1 of a two-part series, I delve into the memorabilia world, looking at some of the most influential flyers and artwork through the ages. Some shaped the scene. Some are worth big money, and some are just cool as f**!
Choosing just seven flyers has been a tricky task. With endless possibilities, narrowing the selection down has offered nothing but sleep deprivation and sweaty palms.
What criteria should I use? Should there be criteria at all? It is time to stop over-thinking and post some flyer joy.
Here are some of the most influential, funny and expensive artworks from the late ’80s to ’90s era. The artwork ranges from those famous illegal parties to some from those dingy warehouse raves that started a future movement!
SHOOM – 1987 (The most expensive flyer in circulation)
Shoom was a weekly all-nighter dance music event held at four nightclubs in London between September 1987 and early 1990. The brand is widely credited with initiating the acid house movement in the UK. The famous smiley-face symbol is often associated with the event and its designs.
The Shoom artwork was always an interesting and engaging concept. Last month, an early example secured a tasty £1000 for the seller on auction site, eBay.
DREAMSCAPE – 1993 (A movement that shaped the scene)
Dreamscape is arguably the most well-known rave organisation of the 90’s era.
Born in 1988, Dreamscape were responsible for some of the best Rave’s the UK had to offer, however, the organisation’s history is full of controversy and tragedy.
At the height of Rave’s success in the summer of 1993, Dreamscape tried to stage a Festival/Rave of epic proportions called ‘Woodstock 2’. For various reasons the event fell through, leaving Dreamscape at a major funding loss, as well as thousands of ravers who had purchased tickets. (Refund process was not as simple as the modern-day)
It took Dreamscape over a year to recuperate and rebuild their finances, and a whole lot longer to gain the raver’s trust again. However, they managed to do this admirably with a series of amazing parties from late 1994 to 1996. The event left a long-lasting statement of strength and memories on the scene.
TRADE @ TURNMILLS – 1990 (A clubbing night that paved the way for today’s clubbing format)
Trade was an influential gay London event started in 1990 by Laurence Malice. Trade was unlike any other club event as it opened from 3 AM and rolled through to 1 PM on Sundays at the now legendary Turnmills. The club night was touted as “the original all-night bender.”
No other event since has had such an adoring following for what it stands for. It is only apt that the event flyer is included in this piece.
FANTAZIA – 1992 (The event production specialists)
Fantazia was a rave music promoter based in the UK. The first event made its debut in 1991 and held several seminal raves at the height of the breakbeat hardcore scene. Entering an already cluttered scene, Fantazia elevated the rave game and rapidly rose into the upper echelons of the scene. Fantazia hosted the party at the first legal all-night clubbing venue (Eclipse – Coventry). An emphasis on big-budget production, focusing on the whole rave experience separated the movement from the competition.
OTHER AMAZING ARTWORK
SPECTRUM – 1988
Have you ever wondered where Paul Oakenfold started? Well, it was here! After a string of events in Ibiza, Spectrum opened in April 1988 and grew out of clubbing hotspot, The Sanctuary (now the Soundshaft) next door to Heaven. The event boasted a 1,500 capacity for a Monday night, and as many again queued outside. Spectrum eventually became The Land Of Oz.
This artwork was revolutionary in its time and started a paradigm shift into weird and wonderful flyer designs.
RAGE – 1988
Rage was a weekly Thursday party that opened in October 1988 at Heaven, one of London’s largest nightclubs, and already home to early acid house parties such as Paul Oakenfold’s Spectrum (mentioned above). Rage had two unproven DJs as residents. DJs by the name of Fabio and Grooverider. The pairing hit upon a creative flow that proved unbeatable. Spectacular laser shows and some awesome artwork!
SATISFACTION – 1989
‘Smoke machines. Wind machines. Bubble machines. Lasers. Visions. Free ice poles and ice creams from 2-3 AM’
The above was the hook for the world-renowned Satisfaction event. The artwork was crazy for its time and triggers many memories with flyer collectors around the globe.
It has been a crying shame not to include more stunning and pioneering designs. Contenders such as World Dance, Orbit, Trip at The Astoria, Interdance and Stern are all worthy of a mention.
In the world of Rave, memorabilia plays an important part when talking about its history and the influence the early years have had on the scene today. Never forget and always look back!