1: DRUG RAVE-UP IN HANGAR!
Mandy comes into my life in the summer of 1988 – yes, that’s right, the so-called ‘Second Summer of Love’.
She walks into the back room of the Camden Falcon, just after bunch of no-hopers The Bad Cats had finished. She’s long-hipped and fluid in black top and jeans, green Celtic eyes, Asian cheekbones. We know each other vaguely because she’s been going out with a mate of mine, John. Well, I say mate; nobody liked him. They just pretended to. Me, I’d been through a rough patch too. I’d split up with Jenny and was on the rebound. I’d landed my dream job at the New Musical Express but it felt like it was going nowhere. I spent my time in the subs room cutting, pasting and checking, writing the occasional article or review, and interviewing bands that nobody else wanted to (losers like The Poster Loonies, The Water Addicts, Gay Karl and other twats you’ve never heard of). For the summer I’d been doing Single of the Week, but even that had lost its charm. The initial thrill of seeing a desk piled high with mailers was replaced by the frustration of realizing it will take ages to listen to them all, and most of them will be shit.
The NME I’d worked on that week was a microcosm of 1988: stale and lifeless and ready for a shake-up. A cover feature on Morrissey and his new album, “Suedehead”, and the death of the Smiths; interviews with The Fall, The Triffids and Billy Bragg. Amongst all the old stuff, and the full-page ads for golden turds such as Sting’s new single “An Englishman in New York”, was the only gleam of hope; Single of the Week – “Beat Dis” by Bomb the Bass. I don’t know it yet, but it’s the shape of things to come.
I watch Mandy as she drinks her lager. I watch the swing of her long hair, the shade of fresh chestnut. The air is hot and smells overwhelmingly of beer and tension. Across the pub, at the entrance, the legend FOSTERS glows in excited red neon, the pub punter faces reflected in the huge mirror, the red grinning faces laughing and shouting so hard the chat merges into one long incomprehensible barrage of pub noise.
The bell rings for time. “What are you doing after this?” I ask her.
“Going to the Edge,” she says.
“Is that some new club?”
“No, it’s the Edge, Jamie, Edge with a capital E,” she says. “Just like Ecstasy.”
2: THOUSANDS IN ACID HOUSE DRUG PARTIES!
JASON ZODIAC AND THE T-SERVICE:
“THE CAMELOT RUN”
by PETE KORNER
and MICHAEL SHENLEY
first broadcast – 13th March 1968.
running time – 44 mins 53 secs.
SCENE 7: Wintle Hall INT – DAY.
A large group of well-dressed men and women are standing inside a huge drawing room, drinking champagne from fluted glasses, chatting and laughing with each other in very high spirits.
They are surrounded by a giant indoor racetrack. Plates are whizzing around the room on top of miniature racing cars running along a long plastic Scalextric track shaped like a Moebius loop. The plates are carrying buffet food such as vol-au-vents and tiny triangular sandwiches with the crusts cut off.
JASON, TANGERINE and SCREAMING LORD SMITH enter the room. JASON wears mirrored ray-ban shades, a purple crushed velvet frock coat with matching bellbottom trousers, a lemon frilled shirt from John Stephen, and high-heeled Chelsea boots from Mr. Freedom (Kensington Church Street).
TANGERINE wears a black and white Mary Quant mini-dress, knee-high side-zippered white vinyl boots from Countdown, a floppy hat and long false eyelashes,
SMITH wears a navy blue suit, pink shirt and paisley cravat, all designed by Pierre Cardin.
DR. CHESS (VOICE-OVER): Jason, can you hear me?
JASON (discreetly touching the earpiece he is wearing behind his ear):
Loud and clear, boss.
DR. CHESS: I’m initiating a scan for any known operatives of the Church With No Name that may be in this room. Stand by.
The three take champagne glasses from a waiter dressed as a Grand Prix mechanic and sip their drinks.
Close-up on a dark-skinned man standing alone, wearing sunglasses.
DR. CHESS: The man you are looking at is Astor Karvik. He’s one of the Church’s top assassins, and he uses the code name of ‘Man-Snake’. The computer says his preferred weapon is darts of highly potent serpent venom.
SMITH: Sounds like he needs a good kick in the cobras.
Close-up on an attractive young lady, holding court with a group of male admirers. She wears a bright red dress that matches her lipstick, and smokes with a long cigarette holder.
DR. CHESS: That’s Valerie Felgate, in charge of Church transportation and smuggling activities. Her code name is ‘Fast Lady’.
JASON: Nice chassis.
TANGERINE: Down, tiger.
Close-up on a large man in glasses, wearing a tweed jacket with elbow patches, and a bow tie. He is scoffing a plate of cheese and pickle sandwiches.
DR. CHESS: That’s Dr. Terence Spooner, otherwise known as Anagram Sam. He’s the Church cryptography expert. We suspect him of breaking several MI5 and MI6 codes and selling the secrets to certain hostile powers.
ANAGRAM SAM (to passing waiter): Cheaper gammon, my good man.
WAITER: Pardon, sir?
ANAGRAM SAM: I said, more champagne, my good man.
WAITER (handing him a glass): Certainly, sir.
JASON: I’d love to know why The Minister thinks this treasure hunt needs the attention of the T-Service.
TANGERINE: I’d love to know what the treasure actually is.
SMITH: Just like a woman.
Sound of banging gong. A waiter takes the stage.
WAITER: Ladies and gentlemen, may I present…your host!
3: EVILS OF ECSTASY!
Turning off Oxford Street, Mandy tucks her hair into a wooly cap against the September chill, and I glance at her cheekbones reflected in the blank windows of shops selling things I would never afford. Earlier that year Nicky Holloway had opened Trip, a club night set in the Astoria on Tottenham Court Road. That’s where she was going and she had some Es to flog. I’ve never had them before, because twenty-five quid for a pill seems ridiculous when you can get an ounce of hash for a fiver if you know who to talk to. But then, that’s me, in my early thirties but already an old stoner.
Down an alleyway, we come up to some clubbing kid who’s hopping from one foot to another behind a group of people laughing and milling about on the pavement. “Is this the end of the queue?” I ask him.
“Dunno where the queue ends, mate, I didn’t bring me telescope,” he says, and laughs.
I beckon Mandy forward, following the crowd, and when we get to the crash barriers and security I use my NME press card to blag our way in. That’s what it’s for, innit? We push our way upstairs, through knots of clubbers in smiley T-shirts, bandanas, ripped jeans, straw hats, Timberlands with laces undone. The auditorium is split on two levels, with a large stage dominating the open ground floor and a large balcony area upstairs comprised of tables, chairs and a bar running the length of the wall. The air is thick with the scents of sweat, roasting meat, hashish, stale beer, incense.
To me, nightclubs have always been tragic places where Casual Kev dances in his pastel knit sweater, white socks and loafers, looking for a Madge to pull or a poof to beat up. But I’d been hearing all year about this thing Acid, like the House music out of Chicago but different, like the Disco out of the European islands but different. The NME party line had been to treat it as an academic curiosity but the sheer balls of something calling itself ‘acid’ in these ‘just say no’ Eighties should have tipped me off long before.
The club walls and ceilings are covered with camouflage nets and parachute silk, billowing in the gusts from the smoke machine, and the DJ is a silhouette framed against a laser show and a screen showing fractals and clips from old freaky kid’s shows like The Clangers and Magic Roundabout. I’m knocked out by the sheer strangeness of it (and also sneakily proud because I know what fractals are, I’d seen a BBC 2 programme on the Mandelbrot Set the month before).
“What’s this track?” I yelled to Mandy.
“Can You Feel It, by Mr. Fingers,” she says without hesitation.
She shouts something like ‘stop being a rock snob’ and gives me a hug. During the hug she palms me a small white pill and I neck it, washing it down with the water we’d bought from the bar. It tastes really bitter and I can’t help gurning for a few seconds. I’d wanted to buy a Carlsberg but she said you don’t need it, that’s the whole point.
We start dancing, and I gradually forget about my sense of London cool and exchange thumbs-ups and cheesy grins with the clubbers around us. Everyone’s drinking water, not beer. I stare at a clubber with blond dreadlocks flailing around his head. He’s so out of it, he’s forgotten where he is and who he’s with. Mandy tries to say something but the beat’s so loud she’s doing goldfish impressions, mouth opening and closing silently.
After about twenty minutes the fun starts. A tingling begins in my fingers and runs up my arms, filling me with a tense, really sexual energy. Beads of sweat break out on my hands and face, run down my chest. The buzz is new but it’s also like an old friend, an electric hum up and down my spine. The relentless glare of lasers amid the smoke covers the dance floor in a pulsing nimbus of come-on colors. I barely feel my boots on the sticky, grungy floor.
Suddenly, all things are possible.
I don’t know how, but the whole quality of the club – the light, the sound, the smells – everything has changed. Everything is sharper and brighter. I feel…woozy, yeah, woozy, it’s a great word and it suits me right now. My jawbone starts to shake and a sudden cramp shoots down my stomach. I bend over, I can’t help it.
“Have some water,” says Mandy. Somehow I’ve lost my own so she hands over her own bottle – it’s ten times better than beer – and then we start snogging.
Her lips, her skin, tastes and smells like the best thing ever. The entire upper balcony is shaking with the reverberations as clubbers chant Aceeed, Aceed, Aceeed! I stop dancing for a moment, and just take in the energy, the novelty, the love – yes, love is the word for it. For the first time in ages, I’ve dropped my cynical facade and I feel something like love for my fellow human beings.
Some young bloke in a bandana and Batman T-shirt comes up to me and holds out an unwrapped packet of cigarettes. “‘Scuse me, mate, can you help me open this packet of fags? I just can’t get it together, mate, I’m off me nut. You can have a smoke out of it.”
“Sure,” I say, and proceed to rip off the plastic, with the random bloke, Mandy, and me all laughing hysterically.
4: COPS BATTLE WITH ACID PARTY YOBS!
SCENE 7 – CONTINUED.
THE HOST, SIR NORMAN TRASK APPEARS. HE IS A DIGNIFIED MIDDLE-AGED MAN, WEARING A THREE-PIECE SUIT, A RACING DRIVER’S HELMET AND GOGGLES, AND HAS A CHECKERED FLAG DRAPED AROUND HIS SHOULDERS.
TRASK: Ladies and gentlemen…welcome! Welcome, to the annual Trask Car Rally and Treasure Hunt! I promise that this year’s treasure hunt will be the most exciting one ever! Exciting because…this year, the treasure itself is a mystery, and you will not know what it is, until you find it!
The room erupts in cheers.
TRASK: Why do we have the annual rally, my friends? Because the key image of the 20th Century is the human being driving an automobile. It sums up everything about this current era: speed, machinery, violence, desire, the shared experience of man and machine moving in harmony through a technological landscape. We spend a large part of our lives behind the wheel of a car; and everything you need in life can be found on the highway. The design of the automobile is one of unsurpassed beauty; this is the future, my friends, and it has fins on the side of it.
Polite applause. TRASK points to an upturned driver’s helmet placed on a wooden stand in the centre of the room.
TRASK: Each one of you will be paired up, and given a new partner. Please come up to the table, one by one, and draw your partner’s name out of the hat.
At the butler’s gesture, a man with a champagne glass walks to the helmet and draws out a paper. He unfolds it and reads the name.
MAN: Ingrid Declair.
A young woman waves at him from across the room. Polite applause.
DR. CHESS: You’re going to be split up. I don’t like the look of this.
JASON: Why so nervous, Doc? Haven’t you heard that swapping partners is the grooviest thing?
TANGERINE: You would say that, Jason.
The butler points at Jason. He takes a paper out of the helmet.
JASON: Yvette Van Ost.
A gorgeous leggy female in feather boa waves at him from the side.
TANGERINE: Watch it darling, or I shall rename my voodoo doll ‘Jason’.
TANGERINE walks up and selects a paper.
TANGERINE: Arthur Eden.
A young, handsome, distinguished man in a tuxedo waves at her.
TANGERINE: Now that’s more like it. Touche, I think,
SMITH: My turn. (Going to helmet) Jeremy Deacon.
A short, tubby man with glasses and buck teeth, wearing a stained anorak covered with car rally badges, waves at him.
SMITH: (grinning with gritted teeth) I shall kill you, Jason.
JASON: Luck of the drawer, Lord Smith.
TRASK: Let the treasure hunt begin!
Cheers and cries of ‘Tally ho!’ as everyone runs out of the room to their cars. Groovy Hammond organ music plays on the soundtrack.
5: RAVING MAD!
October 1988, and it’s time for my first real rave, my first illegal warehouse party in the middle of nowhere. All in the cause of investigative journalism, you understand.
I pick Mandy up in my car and like she said, she’s brought along a couple of mates, a girl called Julie who’s like a blond version of Mandy and her boyfriend, a stoner called Pete. Pete gives me a sly grin as he gets in the car, and I wonder what Mandy told him about me. He’s got a sharp face with thinning dark hair and designer stubble. His clothes are all in shades of grey and dark green, maybe expensive stuff, but none of your Casuals Man at C & A bullshit.
We drive around the North Circular and the M25, heading for somewhere south of the Leatherhead turn-off. We’re looking for the designated meeting point printed on the party flyer – a strategic strong point when organizing raves. The only other things on the flyer are a psychedelic sunburst, a cell phone number and the name of the party – ‘QUASAR’.
The meeting point turns out to be an Esso service station, and there must have been hundreds of cars and about two thousand clubbers who’ve already turned up, waiting to place the phone call to the number on the flyer at nine o’clock, dancing in the forecourt to a pirate station on their car radios and blasting out whistles and air horns. I recognize the track: Joey Beltram, Energy Flash. The bad news is that PC Plod has also arrived. Over the year the Old Bill’s got more and more rave-savvy, but the cops are keeping a low profile at the moment, black Mariahs and jam sandwiches and lemon curd sandwiches back at the turn-off, keeping an watchful and disapproving eye on the ravers and muttering KKKKKHHH into the walkie-talkies every two minutes.
Off our heads in England’s green, pleasant and highly policed land.
Mandy and Julie get out of the car and dance in miniskirts and fluffy bras, shouting out random song lyrics, throwing around Milky Ways that they’ve pilfered from somewhere.
“I can taste something,” Mandy screams.
“Chocolate?” I call.
“No,” she calls back. “I can taste the electricity.”
Inside my car, Pete produces a bag of Es and we sort out payment. I roll up a spliff and after Pete’s had a toke he says to me, “So…where do you think Acid House started, then?”
“Detroit, wasn’t it? No, hang on…Ibiza. No, Manchester.”
Pete shakes his head and gives me a knowing wink. “No, mate. It started a couple of years ago, in Northampton. It was an experiment. All Jason Zodiac’s idea.”
I laughed, blowing out a cloud of fragrant smoke. “Jason Zodiac? Jason’s a recluse. He’s in the John Lennon stage of his career, but with no sign of a Double Fantasy on the horizon yet.”
“Guess again. The New Acid Test, he calls it. The Eighties Acid Redemption. I seen it, man, I was standing on the Racecourse with a few mates when Jason did it. It’s real. The door of the sun, man. Jason’s gonna open the door of the sun.”
I pull on the spliff and try to make sense of what he’s telling me. “So why didn’t NME hear about this?”
“Because they did’t want you to know about it, man.”
I can’t think of a reply to that.
“I’m writing an article, man. Gonna tell the whole story.” He stares at me, eyes narrowed. “You reckon NME might be interested?”
I shrug. “I’ll do what I can, mate. Put in a word for you.”
He leans over and holds up a clenched fist and I sit there for a few seconds until I realize he expects me to touch fists with him. So I do.
A massive scream goes up from outside. “It’s on!” yells Mandy. “Start the car!”
The convoy hits the country roads, with ravers standing up in their open-top cars shouting Aceeeeeeeeed! and flashing blue lights somewhere behind us. I’m driving, following the BMWs in front, and Mandy’s giving directions and Pete’s stopped being mysterious and started snogging Julie.
About five miles from the Esso station, the convoy pulls off the main road and through an open pair of gates. I drive us through a labyrinth of dark hulks of buildings until we reach the loading bay, converted into the party’s entrance. Five police vans turn up at the same time. We park where everyone else is parking, start walking, and then the security guys by the door yell at us to get inside the warehouse as quick as we can. We don’t need to be told twice.
Light pours out of the windows, turning the warehouse into a fairy cathedral. Beats are pounding, making my sternum vibrate in sympathy.
Here be treasure. X marks the spot.