Styles & Forms | Acid House | Dance

In the mid-1980s, the Chicago DJ Pierre was fiddling around with a new piece of technology, the Roland TB 303 machine. Tampering with its bass sound produced all sorts of squiggly, complex patterns. Pierre and the DJ/producer Marshall Jefferson gave a 12-minute tape of these doodlings to a local DJ, Ron Hardy, who played it at the Music Box club.

It became known as Ron Hardy’s Acid Trax, a reference to the rumour about LSD being put in the water supply at the club, and spawned many copycat tunes, such as Bam Bam’s ‘Where’s Your Child’ and Fast Eddie’s ‘Acid Thunder’. DJ Pierre, however, soon moved away from the acid sound after a while, claiming it was ‘soulless’.

The Summer Of Love

The acid sound in dance music has become virtually synonymous with the sounds produced out of a 303. Early producers of acid tracks often insisted that the genre had nothing to do with hallucinogenics, although considering the amount of drugs consumed in Chicago at this time, the claim was probably a reflex defence. It was the drug ecstasy, however, that helped kick off the acid house scene in the UK and Europe, as it grew from a few people wielding a 303 in Chicago to the most important youth movement in the UK since punk.

DJs such as Mike Pickering (who later formed M People), at Manchester’s Hacienda, began to play the new house sounds from Chicago and New York, and in 1987, four London DJs were turned onto house by the Balearic DJ Alfredo, at Amnesia in Ibiza. Returning home, Danny Rampling, Paul Oakenfold, Nicky Holloway and Johnny Walker kick-started the acid house explosion in the UK. The term ‘acid house’ came to apply to the whole house explosion in the UK in 1987, which also became known as the first Summer of Love, with a knowing nod towards San Fran 20 years previously.

Rave On

It was a somewhat exclusive secret for a while, but acid house and the drug that fuelled it – ecstasy – soon swept the UK. Finding clubs too restrictive, some punters took to putting on acid house parties in disused warehouses, as tracks such as D-Mob’s ‘We Call It Acieed’, Jolly Roger’s ‘Acid Man’ and Humanoid’s ‘Stakker Humanoid’ smashed into the charts. However, the notoriously moralistic British tabloids soon took note of the scene, and ‘Acid House Horror’ stories began to creep into the headlines. As police raided these illegal acid parties, some promoters became more daring and started to throw big outdoor parties in fields – events that became known as raves.

Tracks in a 303 style may have given way to the pianos and breakbeats of hardcore at these turn-of-the-decade raves, but the acid sound was destined to make a reappearance every so often in ensuing years. ‘Higher State Of Consciousness’ by Philadelphia’s Josh Wink would be one of the biggest and most memorable dance tracks of the 1990s, a cut reliant on its manic...

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Source: The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Music, general editor Paul Du Noyer


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