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Critically consider the relationship between the media and dance music culture in Britain after its take-off in 1987.

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Critically consider the relationship between the media and dance music culture in Britain after its take-off in 1987.

This essay will attempt to explore and show the rise of predominately dance music as well as acid, acid techno and drum and base within Ibiza, how it came to form in Ibiza and who founded it there.  This essay will also include how and why dance music was brought over to Britain, its impact on and within British society, the moral panics that followed this and just how tough the government and police acted upon this.  Finally this essay will examine just how huge and powerful Ibiza has come as well as the many outdoor events and festivals that are prominent today within dance music culture as well as the dug scene and how it effects the clubbers today, as dance music would not have spiralled to how enormous it is today without drugs, predominately ecstasy, acid (LSD) and MDMA.

   The early rise of dance music and the rise of it within Ibiza can be traced back to the late 1980’s, at this time Ibiza was seen to be divided between two social status, firstly the rich, who saw it as an upper class and expensive holiday destination, to embark upon Ibiza even if middle class would redeem you as more wealthy than maybe one actually was.  At the other end of the spectrum of people who holidayed to Ibiza were ‘hippies’, hippies did this as they did not agree and conform to the political views that Britain held at this time, so escaped to the island of Ibiza which held hot weather, beautiful beaches and a relaxing atmosphere.  This was not going to carry on for long as in 1987 three aspiring and upcoming DJ’s named Johnny Walker, Danny Rampling and Paul Oakenfold decided to try Ibiza as a holiday destination, mainly because of the cheap prices at the time.  They then opened a bar called ‘Project’ in the summer of 1986, they worked hard in the bars in the day time trying to promote a club like atmosphere and then lived and partied hard in the nights, enjoying and trying to promote house music as much as they could.  Being in Ibiza ecstasy, the drug became more easy to obtain and Walker, Rampling and Oakenfold quickly realised that ecstasy plus music equals and amazing night. ‘It is hard to imagine a drug more conducive to the club experience.  It gives you energy, it enhances light and sound and it can make a roomful of people drop their defences, forget their insecurities and feel a sense of communion.  Not for nothing is it classified as an empathogen, as in empathy, as in the transcendence of individuality.’ (Brewster and Broughton, Last Night a DJ saved my life, The History of a Disc Jockey, Pg 393.)  this was why ecstasy fitted in so well with dance music and why Walker, Rampling and Oakenfold were keen to bring this lifestyle back to Britain and get people involved within it.  ‘When ecstasy was combined with the formidably danceable sound of house music – complete with its heightened emotive force – the results were nothing short of seismic.  It was the most potent combination yet of a particular drug and a particular music.’ (Brewster and Broughton, Last Night a DJ saved my life, The History of a Disc Jockey, Pg 393.)  

 The attraction of a hedonistic lifestyle made them crave the Ibiza lifestyle more and more but by 1987 they had run out of money and had to return back to England.  They then embarked to set up a number of clubs and nights to try and market dance music in England.  They were ‘Schoom’, ‘Future’ and ‘Project’ whereby playing the music they enjoyed, the ‘smiley face’ was Schoom’s trademark as the flyers for the clubs night read ‘Happy, Happy, happy…with a scattering of tumbling grinning pills, starting a craze for yellow smiley faces.’ (Brewster and Broughton, Last Night a DJ saved my life, The History of a Disc Jockey, Pg 394.)  this club was run by Danny Rampling and his fiancé Jenni and opened in October 1987.   which is everywhere today and is well recognisable, every time the smiley face is shown anywhere today people instantly relate it to the dance music and funky house scene along with the drug scene.  Paul Oakenfolds club ‘Spectrum’ moved to the gigantic main room in Heaven and everyone expected it to be an enormous flop, and for the first week in fact it was but Oakenfold had faith, “But I knew something which everyone didn’t” ‘said Oakenfold’ “which was ecstasy.  So I knew Spectrum was going to go off.  I knew it in my heart.  That’s why I stuck with it.” Sure enough, by the fourth week it was rammed.’ (Brewster and Broughton, Last Night a DJ saved my life, The History of a Disc Jockey, Pg 394).  This dance and drug culture was a lot more friendly and loving, as this was a sub-culture which entailed no drinking alcohol, therefore less or no fights between people and no drunken behaviour.  The drink of the time was Lucozade, this is an energy drink and energy was need to stay up all night as the majority of the clubbers at nights such as this were ‘on one’ or ‘schooming’ in clubbers terms meaning to be off it on drugs.  The style of dress at this time was not what was usually expected, it consisted of baggy jeans, t-shirts and hoodies in which the clubbers could take off when they got hot and sweaty and dance with their tops off, this was embraced by all clubbers.  

   By the summer of 1988 many of the mainstream clubs had heard about and picked up on the dance scene and as a result of this had begun to play house.  Clubs such as the ‘Heaven Club’ put on house nights and the summer of 1988 became known as the ‘Summer of love’, 1988 also became known as this because acid house had been introduced and DJ’s quickly found themselves in the midst of these illegal raves, putting together sounding and lighting as discreetly as they could to avoid the police.  At first a few random events were thrown throughout London.  ‘The idea quickly caught the attention of some more money – minded promoters and over the next few years, raves expanded in size and ambition until they were huge encampments complete with car parking and fair ground rides.’ (Brewster and Broughton, Last Night a DJ saved my life, The History of a Disc Jockey, Pg 398)  
   Tunes such as ‘Pump up the volume’ by ‘Mars’ became extremely popular, these were tunes that used samples from different songs and remixing was born, here copyright laws started to have some problems as no-one could really distinguish who’s tune was who’s.  But ‘dance music is also very much the product of a series of technological breakthroughs…..including sampling, which allows for a recorded sound or short musical passage to be “triggered” when required using the keyboard of a synthesiser, drum pad or even a human voice in conjunction with a microphone.’(Bennet, Cultures of Popular Music, Pg 120.)  Langlois states that ‘The most celebrated DJs are often involved in re-mixing other artists’ recordings, providing a variety of interpretations of existing material.  From the production side of studio work to composing new tracks themselves is a small step which many DJs are able to take.’ (Bennet, Cultures of Popular Music, Pg 121.)   By the mid 1988 dance music and acid house had begun to dominate the charts and gradually began to attract media attention.  A tabloid newspaper named the ‘Sun’ began to investigate into dance music, its background and what sort of scene and crowd followed it.  The ‘Sun’ discovered the Acid (LSD) came with dance music and its clubbers, suddenly all this information snowballed and in 1988 a media moral panic had begun emerging drugs.  The sun also enabled, without realising it that by creating such frenzy about the raves their main headlines were in fact creating free advertising ‘Spaced out! 11,000 Youngsters Go Drug Crazy At Britain’s Biggest Ever Acid House Party.’  Therefore after this head line was brought to everyone’s attention, the children wanted to get involved with this scene, but parents were not happy at all.   The fact that in June and October of 1988 the first ecstasy deaths had been reported did not help the rise of dance music and did not set a very good light on its culture.  Illegal parties were on the increase, these were housed mainly in warehouses, and un used cinemas or old theatres.  ‘If a place couldn’t be hired legally, then it would often be appropriated for the evening through either a friendly estate agent or, failing that, a crowbar.’ (Brewster and Broughton, Last Night a DJ saved my life, The History of a Disc Jockey, Pg 400) These raves were one of the only places clubbers could listen to house music and take drugs without being disturbed.  In August 1988 the very first rave was introduced, these were discovered by Tony Colstonheyter he staged many nights, particularly open air events.  He legally organised these events so technically the police could have no say and not interfere but this was not the case, and still attracted national attention, in November of 1988 riot police tried to stop the raves, but the clubbers would not let this happen and were even more determined to carry on the raves and by the end of 1988 the police have huge attention towards the rave and house scene.  

   The summer of 1989 arrives and the summer of that year was known as the outdoor rave scene.  ‘Sunrise’ put on a party attracting over 1100 people.  Clubbers loved raves so much because ‘A rave was an idealized version of clubbing.  It wasn’t about visiting some purpose-built venue; it was about creating somewhere new; it was about building a city for a night.  A club had a place in space and time, but a rave was made of possibilities.  A rave existed in the minds of people who danced together.  Without them it was nowhere just a field off a motorway exit.’ (Brewster and Broughton, Last Night a DJ saved my life, The History of a Disc Jockey, Pg 398 and 399.)   This attracted yet more media attention; the media attacked the hedonism of youth.  As the police attention still increases they believe, as do the media that all of the moral panics are due to the music itself.  A man named Ken Tappenden created a ‘pay party unit’ this entailed politicians who criticised ecstasy and the effect it was having on people and cultures, and launching a individual investigation within the police to dislocate and demolish the youth culture and all they stood for within the dance scene.  The police used high tech equipment to attack the dance scene; they were doing everything in their power to stop the raves.  The police even began monitoring pirate radio stations, which used to spread the word on a rave that would be taking place soon, as this was the only way for clubbers to find out when and where the raves would be taking place.  The police would then use helicopters to monitor the areas to find out where the parties and raves were taking place.

   1989 saw the birth of the ‘handbag house’ called this because girls would dance around their handbags on a night out, it can be seen that house was fast becoming more and more mainstream, so much so that it had finally broken through in to the charts.  

   Police were steadily becoming more and more concerned with the criminal element that came with dance, house and techno music, they associated this music with weapons such as guns, drugs and money.  This being as dealers deal drugs in very large amount to people, for example clubbers wanting to make money for themselves, and they don’t come through with the money the dealer will shoot them, this element worried the police a great deal.  Therefore police began systematic stop and search and did this upon anyone and everyone just to be safe.  They were quite sneaky to, in which there would be a number of road signs pointing the way to the rave for the clubbers, the police would find these and purposely pull them up so the clubbers would not know the way to the rave.  They would also create phantom raves, in which they would make these heard everywhere, clubbers would turn up and the police would then arrest them.  They also increased penalties for any illegal raves they came across. ‘As a direct consequence of the media attention that was focused upon it, acid house and the rave scene that it was inspiring became the centre of a new moral panic.  Nightclubs that featured rave events were subject to random spot checks by the police and in some cases had their licences revoked.  (Bennett, Popular music and youth culture, Pg 75.)

   Between 1989 and 1990 the outdoor rave culture that had grown to be so huge in such a small space of time was pretty much closed down.  Within the year of 1990 the government had brought upon a systematic state assault and the police onto rave culture and its clubbers.  Although there was a huge clampdown on these raves they still went ahead, in 1990 a law was passed called the Bright Act and within these laws people found guilty could expect fines such as £20,000 and six months imprisonment, after this law had just been passed the police raided an illegal rave and the biggest arrest of people in one go ever was recorded in Britain.  The police arrested 836 people but at the end only charged seventeen.  The DJ who was playing at this rave was charged and was sentenced for three months as he had urged the clubbers to barricade the doors to stop the police from entering.

   A media and moral panic swept across Britain, parents were panicking that their teenagers would want to experience the rave culture, and the teenagers were panicking that they would not be able to experience the rave culture as the police were trying to shut down the whole culture.  City’s began to almost accept dance music, Manchester was the first city to promote dance music, and the DJ that was known throughout Manchester on the dance scene was Mike Pickering.  A band named the ‘Happy Monday’s’ came down to Manchester they brought with them their ‘Indie’ type music, but not only that, they brought down ecstasy, therefore this meant that pills were now readily available to practically anyone and everyone.  The ‘Happy Monday’s’ were the band that enabled dance music and Indie music to fuse together, so there were now even more clubbers from both the different scene that had come together.  Within Manchester at that point there was the ‘scally’ look, which evolved through the dance music scene, and the ‘baggy’ look was evolved through the Indie music scene, Manchester was just filled in these two stereotypes, everyone followed the trend.  By the mid 90’s and 91 Manchester had become known as ‘Gunchester’ this being for the rise of drugs and drug taking and the dealers and their money that go with it, as it was seen in Manchester at the time, drugs and its scene.

   In 1994 another law was passed, it was called the Criminal Justice Act, ‘one of the most repressive measures ever passed by a modern democratic government.  Part of it specifically refers to people coming together to listen to music, taking particular care to define music so that includes dance music.’ (Brewster and Broughton, Last Night a DJ saved my life, The History of a Disc Jockey, Pg 391.) Section sixty three of the act allows and gives the police the authority ‘to remove persons attending or preparing for a rave….The act further states that “land in the open air” includes a place partly open to the air’ while “music” includes sounds wholly or predominately characterised by the emission of a succession of repetitive beats.’ (Bennett, Popular music and youth culture, Pg 75.)

  Since the law being passed in 1994 the dance scene has been therefore ‘fragmenting into a number of smaller club-based scenes which spill over into low-key DIY events centred around house parties……as new styles have been developed and promoted in different cities and regions around Britain, has also contributed to the fragmentation of the original dance music scene into smaller, more localised scenes.’ (Bennett, Popular music and youth culture, Pg 73.)

   Overall it can be seen that since dance music and its culture took off in 1987 that there have been a number of moral panics regarding dance music and the prominent drug scene that goes with it, brought to the publics attention, predominately by the media, and that the media have blown the majority out of proportion, but everything the police did in their power did not and has not stopped DJs and the clubbers.  Dance music is at an all time high in Ibiza, and as long as there are clubbers who yearn for the music Ibiza will continue to be even more popular.  Since its takeoff in 1987 every year clubbers swarm to the island, usually for a holiday but a majority of people choose to live there for the summer, as they can not get enough of the clubbing scene, beginning in May and ending in September for the closing parties.  Festivals still continue to be just as big, they are all over Britain and all over the world, whereas today they have been made legal as the media and police have realised they cannot stop theses raves, the more they try to stop them the more prominent they become, as long as there are DJs willing to play and clubbers willing to go to these festivals, the dance music scene will probably never end.

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