There's a movie and a book coming out on the UK clubbing explosion in the 90's that swept around the world. Called One More Time. Here's the chapter I was asked to write.
"Natural nuclear reactions occur in the interaction between cosmic rays and matter."
In principle, a reaction can involve more than three particles colliding, but because the probability of three or more nuclei meeting at the same time at the same place is much less than for two nuclei, such an event is exceptionally rare.
Except in the 90's that rare probability happened. A UK clubbing explosion with seismic love **waves that were felt all over the world. The three nuclei in the 90's were -
#1 underground clubs,
#2 ecstasy and
#3 the good old Aunty BEEB. (BBC)
**There is actually an earthquake wave called the 'love-wave' that shifts side to side.
The igniting component was that third nuclei - to link all the UK clubs on the 'air' of the most powerful national radio station in the world - BBC Radio 1 at 6pm on a Friday night for three hours to tell the dance music thirsty fanatics where to go, to see which DJ, at what club, in which town. With underground clubs popping up all over the UK filled to the decks with up for it clubber's and DJ's on the same vibration to push the boundaries of a normal club experience into another time and space.
A little rewind - because just as the M1 motorway did not just appear one morning up the country, it was thought out, planned and laid down to give millions of people easier access to a destination - ditto the dance shows at BBC Radio 1.
Allow me the liberty to explain a little - during the mid 80's, I was the DJ of choice to warm up BBC Radio 1 gigs in towns all over the south of England. From this position I saw the power of that station over the people. At one of these nights in '84 at the Hexagon Centre in Reading, Berks I was supporting Radio 1 DJ Peter Powell who every Monday had a 12 minute dance music feature on his 3 hour Radio 1 drive-time show called 'Stepping Out'. That was it folks, 12 minutes of national air-time every week. Before the Reading gig with Powell I'd received a white label of Loose Ends "Hanging On A String" and called their manager, Erskine Thompson (RIP) to say bring the group to the gig on Friday I'll speak to Powell about announcing them during his set. On the night Powell agreed to put Loose Ends on half way through his hour of competitions, chucking out records, stickers and t-shirts etc. The performance went well. The following Monday I tuned in to Radio 1 to hear Powell do his "Stepping Out' 12 minute feature and was more than happy to hear him glowing about the Loose Ends performance then play the song in full - the record went on to be hit a #13 in the UK chart in '84 and #1 in the US chart in '85.
That 12 minute feature at 6pm on BBC Radio 1 had a massive amount of potential influence. A huge starting block for things to develop, like an umbilical cord to a baby. The significance of it all was firmly imprinted in my mind as a 24 year old who had already set up a DJ agency called CAMPAR managing the careers of young Radio DJ's Jeff Young and 23 year old Pete Tong. The first DJ agency of its kind folks...
Around this time in '85 a new template was being tried and tested successfully in London and in Kent with myself and master guru Nicky Holloway. We knew if we got our venues, DJ's, press together then put the event info on the Radio with Jeff and Pete we'd have all bases covered. I was also writing a weekly music column for the county newspaper, The Kent Messenger, which was the biggest selling weekly paper in the country back then, so I made sure our gigs and DJ's were getting their due publicity. The gigs were underground but the promotion attitude was overground.
In the mid 80's Nicky ruled London with Special Branch and my club, The Slammer, had Kent locked down. The magic recipe. Take over an unpopular venue, preferable with two rooms to dance in, put in big, loud sound-systems, deck out the room with cool banners and book the best young DJ's to play in those two rooms with you, so Paul Oakenfold, Norman Jay, Gilles Peterson, Mark Moore, Westwood, CJ Macintosh, Dave Dorrell, Jay Strongman, Holloway plus many others all joined Tong and Jeff Young who would announce to the world on their Invicta Radio and Radio London show's what was going down in town. Write about the gigs and radio shows in the newspaper so paper feeds radio, radio feeds paper. Get everybody onto a mailing list, work together not to clash nights or events and share the info of the gigs to our databases.
The Slammer in Kent would book Oaky, Tong, Holloway, Peterson and Norman Jay to all play on the same night for £500 total. In the main room the music would flow from House to Hip Hop to Rare Groove, downstairs it was Jazz, Latin Jazz and Soul. Running for over 9 years in two venues it won Kent's best club award in its first year and later became an underground hip hop and drum & bass club open every weekend with Westwood, Fabio & Grooverider. Nicky's Special Branch was resident at the Royal Oak in Tooley Street, London SE1 plus big events anywhere that Nicky could create a WOW factor London Zoo, the Natural History Museum, Rockley Sands, Corfu and Ibiza until it found a home in London's West End - The Milk Bar. Both Nicky and I even became young licensees for our clubs. Whatever it took.
Around '87 this recipe of bespoke sound systems, DJ's and decor was super-sized and taken out into the fields for Raving across the UK causing a complete music and lifestyle revolution until the government passed laws that forced the people back into underground club venues.
During this change in '87 DJ Jeff Young created a slot on BBC Radio 1 to play dance music to the nation on Friday evening at 6:30pm whilst opening up the door at London's Capital Radio for Tong to do the same thing on a Saturday night. NO more 12 minutes of dance music on BBC Radio 1. We had our two best radio jocks in key positions and the hits started to bounce out of the clubs onto the radio shows then into the charts. MARRS, Bomb Da Bass, S'Express all #1 hits. Managing both Jeff and Pete gave me a unique insight into the path to success, I moved successfully into major record label work, Nicky saw the opportunity to have Tong working his legendary Trip nights at the Astoria on Tottenham Court Road every Saturday with Pete telling the Capital Radio audience "get your groove on London tonight". Roadblocks in Centre Point. London's multi-racial Ravers in the streets dancing to Chicago House music - beautiful. Oaky has set up Spectrum in Heaven on a Monday night, Rampling has Shoom exploding. Norman and Gilles are dancing at Dingwalls. London is rocking.
1991 and Jeff Young steps down from his Radio 1 'Big Beat' show to concentrate on his day time gig at MCA Records (now Universal) as Director of A&R, WE persuade the BBC Radio 1 bosses to take Pete Tong from his Capital Radio Show, they had never heard of him! After three years of being moved around politically inside Radio 1, Jeff had firmly established the dance show at 6pm until 9pm every Friday. It was locked and it was 3 hours folks, not 12 minutes. Tong was walking into a very comfortable seat that had proven its worth under Mr Young's stewardship. Now the task was to get Tong, who was only known in Greater London and Kent, out to the UK to establish his position, to bring the national audience to the show. After 6 years we were going to build 'our' M1, our access to all destinations. Use everything learned in those previous 6 years to make sure the fickle BBC did not undo our work with a flick of the wrist of any new incoming R1 Controller.
First up is to scan the country and pick the right clubs, Saturday night Mecca clubs is not going to complete our mission, its not what we've grown up with, we want the underground clubs and to work with those DJ's on the cutting edge of the amazing new music starting to fly into the record stores from the Chicago, Detroit, New York, Miami. HOUSE MUSIC.
Identifying Back to Basics in Leeds and Venus in Nottingham as two potential spots we get knocked back on the first call with Dave Beer saying "I don't need no fooking Radio 1 DJ in my club, we play house music mate, not hits." Totally understandable if you didn't know what we'd been doing the last 6 years. I then decide to drive to Venus to speak to the promoter James Bailie in person, I already know Jonathan Woodliffe, a fantastic DJ from Rock City, who is co-promoting the night so I should get Pete in there as Jon will know of Pete from London Records, his day time gig and his days writing for Blues & Soul.
Venus blows my calculating mind - its everything we started in those 80's, being two rooms, big sound, unique decor, a crowd that are having a great time but its so much better because of how the Venus-ites are dressed - after years of seeing punters in jeans, baggy t-shirts and boots or trainers, the Nottingham crowd are dressed to kill, everything from the music to the decor and attitude is super sexy. James Bailie agrees to try our "Radio 1 lad" on the say so of Jonathan and a date is set. I drive back to London thinking "I'm going back to Venus with or without Pete" - its love at first sight. The fashion and design syllabus at Nottingham University is the best in the country so half the clothes being worn in Venus are self made and after a night of 'ecstatic' dancing, they are falling off, half naked but with huge smiles on their faces. Amazing scenes.
On the night of Tong's debut Venus the first thing James says to me as we pull up in Pete's little 320i BMW is that the place is already full and hundreds of girls have turned up to see who Tong is - he does his set, blows them away, we have a celebratory spliff, hang out after and the motion is set - we're going to hit every cool club in every town in the UK.
James Bailie lets other promoters know of Tong's pulling power and the calls from me are accepted, we start teaming up with promoters all over the country Russell and Pete at Progress in Derby, Brian Andrews and Charlie Chester at The Arena in Middlesborough, Lakota in Bristol, Jeff Oates at Renaissance in Stoke and Mansfield, Nigel Blunt in Birmingham, Paul Taylor at Angels in Bolton, Jon Hill at Golden in Stoke, the legendary Ryan brothers at Moneypenny's, Chuff Chuff in Birmingham, Richard Carr at Slinky in Bournemouth, John Digweed in Hastings, Darren, James, Gill and Jim at Cream in Liverpool, David Vincent at Sankey Soap in Manchester, Ricky McGowan at Colours in Edinburgh, the Reid brothers at The Tunnel in Glasgow, The Arches in Glasgow, The Warehouse in Leeds, the Leadmill in Sheffield, Pacha in Rotherham, Scott and Simon at Gatecrasher in Sheffield, the two Barry's at Sugar Shack in Middles-borough - every weekend up the M1, M6, M62, M4 anywhere but London except for the odd Friday night at the Gallery or the Ministry of Sound.
The mission is to ignite the UK, collectively to link it all together and it works - the power of the national radio platform then gets further strengthened with the Essential Mix show, a two hour show by different DJs every week where they play the big tracks off those underground club dance floor's. Andy Weatherall, Parks, Digweed, Sasha, Oakenfold, Cox, Whitehead, Norman Cooke, John Kelly, Jon Da Silva, Justin Robertson, Dean Thatcher, Jeremy Healey, Orde Miekle and Stuart McMillan, Rocky & Diesel, regional DJs become household names with the national Radio coverage.
With the advent of ISDN telephone lines being able to carry digital signals without delay or loss of sound quality the next major move is to persuade the Radio 1 to let us broadcast the Essential Mix live from one of those clubs.
The first big gig at the Que Club in Birmingham is attended by Matthew Bannister the new R1 Controller and Andy Parfitt his Head Of Programs - the room is mic'd up so the audience listening on the Radio can hear everything, when Bannister and Parfitt walk into the main room at 1pm the place is going bonkers and the energy from audience is electric, you can almost touch it. The two BBC heads are sold - they want this audience from around the UK locked into Radio 1. What other Radio DJ's can we suggest for shows? Westwood from Capital FM and Rampling from Kiss FM get that big Radio 1 call and we set up West End Radio Productions to produce the new shows along side the Essential Mix. Westwood's hip hop world is not on our radar so we let him produce his own thing but we got him his show - hip hop owes us :-)
It doesn't take long to figure out that if we can broadcast live via an ISDN line from anywhere in the UK that we could do the same from Ibiza. I badger Andy Parfitt, now the Controller at BBC Radio 1, to let us take Tong's show and the Essential Mix to Ibiza and broadcast live them back to the UK. The summer of '95 Ibiza and Radio 1 comes alive. Its great radio and sets Ibiza up for other media to follow, MTV, KISS FM, VIVA TV, Channel 4, Clubavision all giving room for other DJs to take centre stage. Radio 1 go to Ibiza every year henceforth. Judge Jules gets a two hour Friday and Saturday show on Radio 1 in 1997, so with Rampling, Tong and the Essential mix that's a total of 11 hours of dance music every weekend! Miami every spring for the WMC, summer in Ibiza, the Essential Mix live from virtually every underground club in the UK and New Year's Eve always live from a major event. Including '97 into '98 with a tri-city broadcast from London, Manchester and New York all linked together so at 5am GMT time the clubbers in the Ministry of Sound London, Ninex Manchester are all dancing to a DJ spinning live in The Tunnel in Manhattan, NYC.
Its the inspiration for the Millennium, trans-Atlantic dance radio broadcasting goes truly global from Australia to Hawaii. At 1pm on Friday 31st December 1999 BBC Radio 1 broadcast Carl Cox's Bondi Beach set of tech-house to the national audience for an hour as Sydney celebrates the turning of the Millennium and close with Carl's tech-house set from Honolulu in Hawaii 18 hours later.
The biggest selling daily newspaper The Sun devotes 4 centre pages to tell its readers where to see their favorite DJ's on the Millennium and that was a few years after we'd been secretly ghost-writing a weekly feature in Piers Morgan's Sun column slipping in the clubs, DJ's gigs and hot records.
Clubbers are touring the country at the weekend from town to town, city to city in search of another great night, the underground is linked like a wonderful national movement of DJ's, clubs and music.
BBC Radio 1 has a locked in audience listening every weekend. Dance music takes over at BBC Radio 1 Seb Fontaine, Lottie, Eddie Halliwell, Annie Mac even Dave Pearce from Kiss FM all get long running shows - the world is listening to the UK and if you want to be famous in your country for dance music then have a hit in the UK and its guaranteed you'll be a hero back in France, Spain, Australia, Holland, Italy, Sweden, Finland, Germany or Denmark and yes the USA too.
The UK is king of dance music around the globe, what was 12 minutes my friend rolled on for 20 years plus. Good old Aunty Beeb we laid with you, stayed with you, played with you and we want you again One More Time.