Eighties, we’re still living in the eighties

Any minute now there will be an avalanche of nostalgia about acid house. Maybe there is already, but I am watching the wrong telly and reading the wrong magazines. 20 years is long enough for people to have jettisoned their revolutionary zeal and/or hedonism and Made A Career Out Of It.

“Yes of course we were crazy in those days, we were just doing it for the fun, nobody had a clue what was going on. Oh I remember the sunrise in Ibiza when Tongy faded in that tune”.

Fade to that one shot they always use of people raving it up in a field, blokes with long lank hair and white longsleeve t-shirts. The same as the footage of that punk getting nicked on the Kings Road for having a chain as a belt. The same as that footage of people gently whirling their arms in the air at Hyde Park, faces painted, flowers in their hair.

Fade to a boardroom. Platinum discs. A designer suit. It doesn’t matter how many wrinkles, it doesn’t matter what era the records are from. Shut up and listen!

“We had fun in those days! Now we’re rich, ok? Which is also a kind of fun. Fun fun fun. The drugs/sex/music were better in those days as well. Everything seems so conservative now.”

A smile.

“Of course it wasn’t all plain sailing, by any means”

Fade out to solemn music: use footage of Grosvenor Square / Brixton Riots / Battle of the Beanfield / Criminal Justice Bill demo.

“Nobody really understood what we were doing, you know? I suppose they felt threatened by all us young people together. But I think we changed things, for the better.”

The Madonna clones, the goths, the skinheads, the ravers, the punks, the casuals, the Smiths fans, all having a good time together. But only at the fancy dress birthday party in 2008. There will be no tribal violence tonight. We have moved on from that, at least those of us who perpetrated or suffered it at the time. Maybe if you didn’t then “This Is England” looks glamorous. Authentic. Sexy.

People forget the fear. Finding yourself alone in the wrong part of town, your tribal allegiance broadcast to everyone else. Footsteps, shouting.

And then home, out of breath, for more mundane angst.

what I am doing with my life / am I ever going to get out of here / will it be worse next time / those exams / those girls / those boys / will I ever get a job / is there a god / is the world going to end / am I going mental / why am I such a spacker / am I ever going to have sex with anyone /

Round and round.

People forget the boredom. Waiting. Always waiting for something to happen, for someone to turn up, for life to begin. Years and years and years of school, paper rounds, homework. Looking out of the same window. Having the same arguments with parents, siblings.

People forget. The nostalgia industry helps wash away those painful memories and replaces them with zingy glamour.

Fade to cosmetic advert with a computer-generated consciousness twinkling away as the little black pock marks of trauma dwindle. Confident eyelashes blink.

“Yes! They were exciting, and dare I say it, important times.”

The credits roll. A teenager looks out of the window. Wondering why life is so shit.

Somewhere, somebody else is making a name for themselves. History is being manufactured.


  1. heaaavvvvyyy…now you’ve gone and fucked up my nostalgia trip…but isn’t this less about the 80s decade and more about…just being a teenager? the things you descibe probably happened to kids in every decade.
    i started getting nostalgic for acid house about 8 years ago. the music, not the raves/lifestyle.

  2. Yeah sorry about that 😉

    Yes yes I think the post is probably saying that these sorts of experiences are the same whenever you grow up so there is very little which is different in the 60s/70s/80s/90s except a change in aesthetics. But that doesn’t make for good nostalgia, you can’t really do a TV programme with Successful Personalities as talking heads on about it.

    Is it nostalgia if you just like the music though, I dunno?

  3. The thing is, whenever you read some insiders views of how ‘it’ all happened, it’s just full of dullard scenesters lamenting the days when the plebs got hold of it. But fuck me, it felt good.

  4. around the time that acid house was happening i was more concerned with my zits, failing to get laid , moving into the workplace after disastrous A-level results , how to afford to keep my knackered ford cortina on the road, how to afford leaving home to get away from my step father etc, so no nostalgia for that certainly. maybe just nostalgia for the freedom of youth…the sense that i might still realise my dreams, getting twatted on booze on a nightly basis blah blah blah.
    the really good thing about the 80s was the political and social polarisation. you knew who’s side you were on, you knew what you were for and against. domestic politics, music and fashion today are just a mush…the only things that matter now are the things that we can’t stop, like global warming, rising oil prices, terrosism etc. everything seems ultimately futile…the world’s fucked and we’re impotent spectators.

  5. Top post, John.

    It’s all about repackaging/rebranding yoof experiences back to folks when their disposable income levels rise in middle age, so that they can reconsume their own yoof…also it can be similarly re-packaged to the generation(s) that followed them, ie their children or their own younger siblings…

    What’s interesting to me is the way that these cycles have accelerated inh recent years – a combination of desperate capitalism, onological consumerist hysteria lol and post-modernism chasing its own tail.

    Acid House: what’s this, the 3rd/4th/5th revival, I forget which lol…yeah, you can’t beat an anniversary for heating up the market-place…

    “the world’s fucked and we’re impotent spectators.” No, we’re not, Nick. Don’t ever think that…lol….

  6. Kinda with kek on this…but don’t feel bad about the nostalgia drug… if the cycles keep turning then occasionally they spin off some new form of beauty with the predictable end result: if 95% of the original stuff was crap then 95% of the new stuff is also crap but there’s still a gradual accumulation of great stuff out there as more and more people throw their attenuated take into the mix… i still jump up and down to Westworld and Betty Boo when the drugs wear off but can’t see how, for instance, The Ting Tings aren’t just as good…

  7. Thought provoking stuff Mr E, as ever.

    As you know, certain events, people, styles of music, even whole scenes get missed out of the ‘official’ histories and I think it’s important that we – us, the people who experienced them firsthand – create our own versions of the Truth .. while we can still remember them. The whole pop-culture nostalgia industry may be just another pointless, empty media construct but that doesn’t invalidate our memories – if anything it gives them more value.

    And anything that keeps Paul Oakenfold and Judge Jules on TV and away from studios and clubs is fine by me.

  8. I attended a few parochial acid house nights in Hastings in 88/9, remembering one of them as being riddled with Loadsamoney types posing in label designerwear, spivs selling 20 quid pills, and posh kids whose parents bought them a car. They took the piss out of me because my clothes were home-made acid t-shirt and no label jeans. In the early days, you needed a large disposable income to be proper acid house, and in 1988/9 that meant Thatcherites and Trustafarians.

    Imagine my surprise when I subsequently watched the television and found out that the scene I witnessed was democratic and liberatory, nay revolutionary, and that it was all ruined in 1990 when it all got too popular.

    Look at those photos from Ibiza in 87. Look at those haircuts, those clothes. They think they’ve discovered something new, but they’re still looking like Pat Sharp and Chris Waddle.

    Basically, the rave scene didn’t get good until at least 89, and in reality, 90-91. By this time, those originally involved were telling everyone that the club scene had died. So they continued to milk it for lots of lovely money for 15 years, before failing to open a restaurant.

  9. yeah but everyone here including the author is talking about their own experiences, rather than the music. Your own experiences are of course tempered by the realities of geography/fashion etc, but music is not, and none of this makes say Mike Dunn or whoever’s work any less amazing and important all these years later. I do agree though that people do tend to talk total poo when reminiscing about those times.

  10. I liked Lord Borthbury’s point, I agree it is certainly arguable that the whole thing really peaked in the mid-1990s with Reclaim the Streets, mass clubbing with incredibly varied scenes and proper house music – in 1988 they were still dancing to the Woodentops for fuck’s sake, followed by a clueless trip round the M25 to hand over money to gangsters and Tory entrepreneurs. But I guess everyone thinks their moment was when it was really happening, in which case there is no more reason to celebrate 1988 than 1979, 1983, 1996 or 2001.

  11. i’d agree with borthers in general- the summers of ’89 and ’90 were revelatory (based on my experiences around oxford and the home counties)- diy punk attitude, reclaiming the urban space (inc. forgotten bits of the countryside); the authorities generally confused and therefore doing very little other than looking on etc etc. the rare groove snobbiness had gone and everyone was going for it, with or without drugs.

    the rave itself was a small part of the whole- the hanging out, waiting for instructions, the drive to the middle of nowhere were often more exciting.

    castlemorton was the end of the end of that period. the casualties mounted, heroin became common, profiteers of all types had well and truly moved in.

    it certainly wasn’t glamourous- kids coming to school on monday morning wearing ponchos, ffs.

    but it was sure better than getting beaten up by townies because you looked ‘different’, which happened plenty in the late 80s

    obv. this is subjective and very great things happened in different times/places, but i think it had a massive impact on all who experienced it first hand. for good or ill.

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