The Second Summer of Love: Thirty Years On
IN THIS PHOTO: Spectrum in Jubilee Gardens (6th June, 1988)/PHOTO CREDIT: Time Out/Getty Images
Its Controversy and Headiness – and Whether a Third Summer of Love Is Possible
IT seems each Summer of Love…
IN THIS PHOTO: A crowd of hippies during the Summer of Love in 1967/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images
involves a degree of excess and controversy! Not many of us were alive in the 1960s when there was that viewpoint of hippies joining together and a certain amount of 'experimentation' and free love ruling the scene. Artists like The Beatles, and Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967), seemed to soundtrack something extraordinary and unusual – a unity and community that we do not often associate with the modern world. It may sound idealistic to suggest that Summer of Love as all perfect and countercultural. There was some violence and the drug-taking courted enough media focus. Against warfare and political tensions; it seemed like there was that hunger and desperation for a more peaceful and ‘relaxed’ lifestyle. Maybe it was a bit of a dream and ambition that did not properly define what the 1960s was all about. I only hear about the 1960s’ Summer of Love through photos and archive footage but I am always supportive of any movement, however brief, that provides chance for people to bond and detach from the starkness of the world. The music coming from that time was as experimental and blissful as the substances that were being ingested; the recklessness and lack of consequences. It may seem like I am bagging that time but the colour, music and spirit that was in the air captured something.
The spirit and sense of freedom being exposed and explored helped lead, through a few decades of separation, a second Summer of Love. It happened in 1998 and was a little different to the 1960s’ version. The 1980s’ incarnation has different music and drugs of choice. I keep coming back to that subject of drugs but, as I shall explore, it, again, became the centre of the media’s attention. Maybe acid was the ruling muse then – whereas pot and acid, in combination, was dominant in the 1960s – but the music was the biggest difference. A lot of celebrations will happen next week that look back at that time when, once more, the nation was together and something incredible was in the air. Whereas the Summer of Love extended to America back in the 1960s; the raves and Acid music (House and Dance, too) seemed to be a particularly British thing. Britpop was years away and, after during a time when Margaret Thatcher was in charge and there as so much division around. If you are foreign to how the 1988-started movement captured the nation; here is a rundown from Mixmag:
“In 1988 a seismic change occurred in British society. It was caused not by a violent insurrection, demonstrations in Trafalgar Square or shadowy forces manipulating social media. The source of this bloodless revolution was a bunch of records from Chicago, Detroit and New York, a love drug called ecstasy and a load of potty youngsters doing the St Vitus Dance.
The hippie original may have been way back in ’67, but dance music’s Summer of Love was 30 years ago, an explosion whose shockwaves are still now rippling out across the world. It changed the fashion, the drugs, the clubs, the politics and the high times.
IN THIS PHOTO: Danny Rampling at Shoom, 1988/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images
“…The music of that period became known as acid house, but it’s a shorthand for wildly divergent sounds that range from funky pop records played by Alfredo in Amnesia to Detroit techno, Chicago house, New York garage and even hip hop. In 1988 this music combined with a powerful new narcotic to create arguably the most far-reaching and long lasting youth cult we’ve ever seen. It was the year that British youth discovered how to turn on, tune in and drop one.
Suddenly, all previous certainties melted away like a pill dissolving on the tongue. A new era was afoot. It was all about giving it a go and not giving a fuck. Gas fitters became DJs, aircraft personnel became record label owners, bank managers jacked it in to run clubs. Everyone was an impresario, everyone knew someone who’d made a tune. Qualifications? Fuck ’em. All you needed was the gift of the gab and a set of decks”.
To be a part of this new movement and scene; you did not need any qualifications and expertise. The somewhat grey and ordinary scene of 1988 – when music was not at its peak – was causing a lot of youngsters to feel isolated and purposeless. Suddenly, there was this wave of mind-opening music and spaces where everyone could congregate and lose themselves. The soundtrack – which I shall explore later – seemed to open doors and change things. I was a child in 1988 but was already aware there was not a lot to get excited about during that period. Each city had its clan of D.J.s who were bringing music to the people. Liverpool had Andy Carroll and Mike Knowler; there was Graeme Park in Nottingham and Nightmares on Wax in Leeds. London has Colin Faver and Eddie Richards whereas clubs like Asylum became hotbeds for this new expression and freedom. We look back at the 1960s and drugs that were circulated during the first Summer of Love. Whereas a lot of club experiences before 1988 involved hostility and drunken recklessness; ecstasy came in and seemed to change everything – something Mixmag reflects on in their article
“There was another magical ingredient that had turned house music from a fad to a phenomenon: ecstasy. “Ecstasy was the accelerator,” says writer Matthew Collin. “Ecstasy was the drug that bound people together. It didn’t create the music, but it did help to create a community around it. And it gave it that passionate intensity. Of course, there would have been an electronic dance music culture without it, but it definitely wouldn’t have happened in the same way.” Once they’d been thrown together, it seemed as blindingly obvious as two parts hydrogen and one part oxygen”.
PHOTO CREDIT: Dave Swindells and Gavin Watson
There was confusion as to the extent of drug-taking behaviour; many were actually taking acid as it was cheaper and more available than E. The new Summer of Love was disconnected with Margaret Thatcher’s Britain and gave a voice to a generation that felt like they were being ignored and shunned. Thatcher did not speak for them and represent Britain how they viewed it. These D.J.s, clubs and songs seemed to emancipate the masses and, as with any great movement, create a wedge. There were the conservative and stuffy clans that turned their noses up and felt the new Summer of Love was all about drugs and disregard for the authorities. There were iconic spots coming up that have lived in the memory and we still talk about today:
“In Manchester the resident DJ at The Haçienda’s Friday night, Mike Pickering, had been playing house since the first releases on Trax in 1985. By 1988 he had built the night into one of the strongest in the city. Then ecstasy arrived. “We were going to The Haçienda before it all kicked off,” recalls clubber Catherine Obi. “And then we walked in one weekend in our normal club outfits – black tights, DMs, MA1 bomber jackets – but people were all in T-shirts, sweating. I was like, ‘What the fuck is going on?’ Within a month we’d had our first pill and we were just loving it. It was very, very strange how quickly it switched. It was like mass hysteria. But that was what was so good about it. All of a sudden it was like, ‘oh my god, look – everyone’s in it together! One nation under a groove’”.
PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images
I will talk about the legacy of the 1980s’ Summer of Love but the scene was always threatened. U.K. laws made after-hours clubbing challenging and there was the fear that police raids and surveillance would compromise the fun and longevity. A lot of clubs were sprouting around the M25 and there was easy access to the countryside and city. It was easy for people to drive to raves and become part of something exceptional. The intensity of the raves and parties meant the scene died down when the 1990s came around; it was harder to license big parties and the media scandalisation created moral panic and Government uproar. The media’s uproar and the obsessive tabloid coverage meant the Summer of Love would close down. Writing in 1998, The Independent spoke with Adamski about his experiences and what defined the times:
“Adamski was one of the first to perform house music live. "NRG" was a top 20 hit in 1989; 1990 saw his collaboration with singer Seal, "Killer", reach number one. His new album, `Adamski's Thing', is released on 27 October. His daughter Bluebell sings on one of the tracks.
"Acid house suited me: I loved partying, l loved taking drugs, I loved music that sounded good when I was on drugs. Some gay friends took me to Ibiza in 1988. And I popped my first E there. From then on it was wild, hedonistic. My hits provided me with a lot of disposable income and fuelled the drug-taking. I'd spend a few hundred quid every weekend. I went to Thailand, Goa, Glastonbury ... potentially spiritual places, but all I can remember was being off my nuts. I'd mix everything with E: acid, charlie, vodka. I would shag everyone in sight, male or female. My seven-year-old daughter, Bluebell, is a love child from that era. I met her mum at a boat party. We bonded over chemicals. [They split up in 1991 and Bluebell lives with Adam]”.
PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images
The Summer of Love was a revolution and revelation for those who were in boring jobs and wanted to break free. The struggling economy and a Government run by Margaret Thatcher was not designed for a lot of youths who were ignored and not part of her plans. The great music and legendary D.J.s provided a temple and safe space for those who wanted to be with their tribe and feel loved. That almost-spiritual connection between person and the music was, in many ways, aided and heightened by drugs. Maybe we associated E and acid with that time and feel it is the reason why things came to a halt. Were it not for a certain ‘inspiration’ one could argue we would not have seen such media coverage. That coverage brought the Summer of Love to the majority and showed there was this new movement who did not want to be part of the Thatcher-ruled Britain. Whether you see that as good or bad; one cannot deny the necessity and influence of the Summer of Love that happened in the 1980s. I shall leave it to Mixmag to talk about the legacy of the movement:
PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images
“But the Summer of Love was in no way a failure. It changed our views on sexuality, race and class. As Genesis promoter Wayne Anthony says: “It would have taken decades and decades of awareness campaigns to bring us all together. MDMA did more for multiculturalism than anything the government has ever done.” Acid house influenced advertising, film-making and art. It worried governments so much they introduced legislation to control it. It terrified breweries to the point where they introduced hilariously lurid alcopops to tempt kids back to booze. It transformed city centres and ushered in a new era of late-night licensing. It changed the way pop music was consumed. It changed pop itself.
What happened yesterday is what has allowed us to make today better, and the future bright. The values of the Summer of Love continue to influence a generation of young clubbers who are actively engaged in club politics, from the rights of transgender dancers to safe spaces for women, and whose activism has also been instrumental in the mushrooming of female DJs on our scene – nowadays some festivals have a 50/50 gender booking policy. Unthinkable in 1988”.
There are good and bad parts of the Summer of Love – much like the original in the 1960s – and it would be unfair to say it was a fad or ill-conceived revolt.
It was less about rebelling against boredom as it was creating a platform and space for those who felt isolated and lost. The music and innovators that came out during that time have influenced music today and I feel, like 1967 and 1988, there is a need for something in the air. The nation, again, is under a Tory rule and there is more isolation and division, arguably, then those two time periods. Music, now, does not have a singular movement of life-force that defines the time and unites people. There is this division and segregation; so many loose threads of scenes that have not woven themselves into a cohesive and colourful whole. The drug laws and rules would be huge and strict but you need not have a scene that is defined by drugs. Maybe it would be hard to have that much fun if it were not for stimulants and excess. You could have alcohol and some fun but it is important not to create a movement where the law and Government are clamping in from the very off! There are great D.J.s who could fuse elements of the two Summer of Loves and create new and exciting music. We have great clubs out there and I feel 2018 or 2019 would be a perfect backdrop. There is a lot more music and variety now than back in 1988 and the options are open for artists and D.J.s to create their own soundtracks.
PHOTO CREDIT: Dave Swindells
I feel there is more dissent and stress circulating than any other time in recent times. The mainstream does not have a Britpop-like force that will unify us and bring something joyful. The bliss and reaction we need will come from the underground and the clubs. Whether a third Summer of Love involves House music or something retro; a modern reworking of Dance or something completely new – there is a chance to mix things up and go wild. That wildness can be through creativity and music but there is always going to be the risk of drugs and drink playing a part. I am not condoning it but it is arguable the other two Summer of Loves would not have spread and caught on like wildfire were it not for substance. Everyone feels the strain of modern-day Britain and I think something accessible could be created so music lovers of all tastes could unite and enjoy. We often look to the mainstream for that massive inspiration but I feel, when it comes to something blissful and pure, there is not the talent and mindset available to initiate such grandeur and credibility. As we celebrate the 1988 Summer of Love and all it gave to music, good and bad, it makes me think, thirty years down the line, it is a prime time for…
PHOTO CREDIT: Matthew Smith/Rex/Shutterstoc
A third incarnation.