House music had been pioneered by a select group of tastemakers in places like Chicago in the USA, but unlike in the UK, the American scene remained in arrogant isolation from the cultural mainstream, restricted to the gay clubs and eccentric nightspots of big urban centres. When Brit tourists brought back the sound from Ibiza – where copious amounts of sun, booze and party-people had given it a perfect petri-dish to grow in – it spread from coast to coast, infecting the charts and plastering the yellow “smiley” (the movement’s unofficial icon) on everything from T-shirts to pencil cases.
When it first crash landed in London, the country’s sprawling capital and party central, the House sound in combination with the movement’s drug of choice (MDMA) was enough to cause a much heralded ‘Second Summer of Love’. Most notably, Football hooligans from the city’s many rival teams who had spent much of the last two decades kicking the shit out of each other for no other reason than having the gall to support another team, suddenly swapped their violent thrills for dropping pills. Men who would’ve previously almost killed each other now found themselves dancing side-by-side in the same clubs to the same music. Months ago nobody would’ve predicted it. And It was enough to put an end to Football hooliganism as we knew it.
The fields and pastures of Britain’s green and pleasant land would become the party-place of choice for those who couldn’t (or wouldn’t) enter the House hotspots springing up around the country. Made possible by the fast growing network of mobile phones, pillheads and the ceremoniously shitfaced would congregate at top secret country spots publicised using a covert mix of sparsely released flyers and handmade posters. Each with a method of contact, usually a phone number, to find the elusive ecstasy hideaway.
All this continued as the nation’s tabloid newspapers began printing the “evils of ecstasy” and publicising the widespread takeover of land by these unruly youth. But it wasn’t until 1994 when Michael Howard, Home Secretary under Tory PM John Major, introduced the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 that anything was really ever done about it. The new legislation increased police stop and search powers, allowed coppers to freely obtain incriminating ‘body samples’ that might prove criminal drug use and also enabled the police to infer a guilty concious from someone’s silence during questioning. A common aversion tactic among the apprehended youth.
All this was aimed at the young ravers whose high-decibal badass-ery had apparently gone far too unchecked for far too long. Under the Act, the definition of music played at a rave was given as: music that “includes sounds wholly or predominantly characterised by the emission of a succession of repetitive beats”. The law also empowered police to stop a rave in the open air when “ten or more people are attending, or where two or more are making preparations for a rave”. The battle lines had been drawn and getting off your face in a field would never be quite the same again.
Nowadays, reading in the news that a country rave has been shut down somewhere in the depths of the UK countryside is somewhat of an irregular occurrence. The commercial alternative – nightclubs, warehouses and festivals – provide more than ample opportunity to enjoy the beats of the day and get mortal in the meanwhile, for most people anyway. But for a faithful few with fields in their hearts, party time in the countryside will never lose its allure — no matter what the risks.