This conversation was prompted by Tabitha Denholm`s Berkshire Goes Balearic documentary. A program that screened as part of Dazed & Channel 4`s Music Nation many moons ago, but is currently up on the `tube. Due to time constraints, Tabitha`s film charges along at a furious clip, covering a decade in 30 odd minutes – out of necessity skimming the surface, to give a brief but accurate glimpse of a “scene” exploding. There`s some great footage in there that`s sure to send a lot of people down memory lane – putting names to faces – and trying to spot themselves. It`s a collage of interviews and existing coverage – a daytime rave in Slough`s Upton Park, A Short Film About Chilling, a Snub TV segment, music videos for Bocca Juniors` Raise, and Flowered Up`s Weekender – both starring Anna Haigh. The latter directed by Andrew “Wiz” Whiston who also contributes wonderful sepia toned shots filmed behind the scenes at a Boys Own bash. There are Dave Swindells photos from `89s “Grin In Grinstead”, and loads more lifted from scrapbooks and albums taken at Queens and Full Circle.
The “conversation” is me, one South London obsessive, quizzing two chaps from way out West: Chris Galloway of Soft Rocks / Kinfolk / Pure Pleasure Music fame, and Mark Seven DJ / producer and proprietor of Jus`wax and Parkway Records – two of the most knowledgeable music heads I know – both of whom grew up in Berkshire, in Bracknell. It was a bit of an eye-opener for me, because between the autumn of `85 and the summer of `89 I was studying in Leeds. The first time I heard a house record in a club – Steve Silk Hurley`s Jack Your Body – I was in Wakefield`s Roof Top Gardens! Listening to Chris and Mark I realized that by the time I moved back to London I`d pretty much missed the boat – that I was a “Ted”. I also understood much more clearly how important the scene was to its original devotees, and how let down they felt as “rave” exploded – and the music, and the idea, got diluted. The story’s the same as the one Tabitha tells, but we have the luxury of adding a lot more detail to one small part.
What was Bracknell like to grow up in and what music were you exposed to at an early age?
Chris: Like most ‘new towns’ it was a shit hole, rough as hell in certain parts but for all that it was actually an OK place to grow up. From a very early age I was exposed to everything from 2-Tone to northern soul in my school years thanks to the Skinheads and then Mods that were both there in abundance. Upon leaving school my chums and I got into rare groove and hip hop and ventured into London for nights out – rather than locally. It wasn’t until we started hearing cuts like Acid Trax at Dave Dorrell’s Raw night (DJs were Dave, Rob Milton from Dirt Box, and Boiler House Boys – Ben and Andy, Mark Moore), that things changed.
Mark: Same as, I got started with 2-Tone as well. Then I got big into The Jam and that lead on to soul. By the time I left school and started at Bracknell College I was really focused on dance music. I started hanging with some mates who were a year or two older and we’d go to a spot in Chertsey, The Cricketers – Jazzy M would play on Saturdays, Norman Jay and Jasper would Sundays. That gave me a taste of what was happening in the city.
Chris, how did you find out about / discover Raw? How did you end up there? I`m pretty sure I first read about it in The Face or ID.
To be honest, it was by chance. We`d got a legendary knock back – like many others – at The Wag and I think we met someone as we were walking away who told us about it. It was in an amazing space that was underneath the YMCA in Tottenham Court Road (this was later a temporary venue for Shoom). It was the first time I`d ever seen those famous Sapporo open top beer cans.
Can you give me – say – five tunes that remind you of Raw?
Big Daddy Kane – Raw
Voices Of East Harlem – Wanted Dead Or Alive
James Brown – Funky Drummer
Eric B & Rakim – I Know You Got Soul
Phuture – Acid Trax
Mark, did you ever go to Raw?
No, not Raw I don’t think, but the sounds were probably the same across London at that time. The Wag, Camden Lock or Delirium! at The Astoria… Noel and Maurice Watson playing go-go, hip-hop and funk, mixing that up with jackin’ house. Stuff like Original Concept`s Pump that Bass, Rock the House by Mr K – tunes like these take me right back to that time.
Chris: A lot has been said about the suburban kids – not just from Berkshire – who helped spread the acid house / balearic “gospel”. Although there were loads of great parties in our area, for me there were three major ones that were the whole essence of that scene in Berkshire. Two of them were regular / weekly parties, both on a Sunday, the other was a one-off.
The Queens Club was up on a hill overlooking the Queen Mother Reservoir, in Colnbrook, near Slough. I thought it was a ‘members only’ boating club – but Phil Perry and Fiona Crawford hired it out on a Sunday daytime. I think Charlie Chester was also involved. During the rest of the week the place had a bit of a dodgy reputation – a lot of fighting. The was door run by gangster, Dave Courtney. We used to get home from a Saturday night in London, have about 4 hours kip and then drive there…it was nuts. It had an older crowd, some of whom I half-recognized from jazz dos that were held at local venues, like The Belvedere Arms – in Richmond – and other`80s parties, like Devil May Care.
Those Sundays at The Belvedere were hosted by Giles Peterson, with guest slots from people like Jez Nelson and Sylvester. This was around the same time – `84? – as Giles was doing The Electric Ballroom and The WAG. Chris, can you remember any of the music played?
It was stuff like Cal Tjader, and Nancy Ames….a lot of `60s Blue Note.
I’ve never heard of Devil May Care. Do you know who the promoters / DJs were?
It was run by Stuart Patterson and Dave Carter. The times I went I’m pretty sure Nicky Holloway and Pete Tong were DJing. Tong was on Capitol Radio at that point so he was known to us. Nicky Holloway not as much. The music was a mix of everything – hip hop, rare groove, early house. One tune I heard there a lot though – in the early house days – was the live version of Can You Feel It by The Jacksons (the version sampled by Fingers Inc for Can You Feel it).
Mark, pre-acid house, did you go to any local parties?
I went to a few things – soul nights at some of the surrounding ‘clubs’ during 86 or 87 – but my overriding memory of local venues in the mid-80s is the prickly air of violence! There was always danger lurking round the corner, – some local hero kicking off.
Chris: Mark`s right about the violence. In `87 – on my 18th birthday – I got my jaw broken at Simpsons – where Shave Yer Tongue was later held – by a bouncer – for “stepping on his brother`s toes” as I was drunkenly walking out.
Mark, did you go to Queens?
Yeah I went a few times through ’88, then ’89. I remember Rocky & Diesel were regulars, Clive Henry, and Brandon Block I think too. It was funny in there, at the time it looked like the whole club had dungerees and Kickers on! I have hazy memories of hearing the then anthems like Sterling Void`s It’s All Right and Joe Smooth`s Promised Land… it seemed like one of the two was always getting played. Oh, and that WestBam, “Monkey” tune (laughs), that’s another one I remember hearing in there.
Chris: All of the local DJs, plus others on the London scene played there – Dean Thatcher, Glen Gunner, Rocky & Diesel, Terry Farley, Andrew Weatherall, Steve Proctor, Danny Rampling…..I had too many memorable times there – Dizzi Heights doing a live P.A, Martyn Passey reading his poetry – yes, really!….there was a record stall there every once in a while and I remember buying copies of Sparks` Beat The Clock and Icarus` Stone Fox Chase. Andrew Weatherall played the last tune on the final night there – The Rolling Stones` You Can’t Always Get What You Want.
Other tunes that “bring Queens back” are
Will Downing – A Love Supreme (Jazz In The House Mix)
Natalie Cole – Pink Cadillac – Yes really, again!
Westbam – Alarm Clock
Third World – Now That We’ve Found Love
Where would you have been on a Friday and / or Saturday, before going to Queens on the Sunday?
Chris: It really depended on what was on and – eventually – who was playing. Usually one-off parties in London or other parts of the home counties, although I did go to a lot of great parties at Chelsea Football Club – believe it or not. They were full of people who couldn’t get into Shoom.
Mark: I went to a couple of those too.. My mate just sent me a flyer from one of them as it goes. Like Chris says it’d depends… there were loads of one-off things you’d hear about, maybe a mate was playing. June ’88 Nicky Holloway started Trip on Saturdays and that was really when it started to blow up.
Shoom was at The Fitness Centre, YMCA, Busby`s, and finally The Park. Did you go to all of them?
Chris: Shoom was initially Saturdays then Wednesdays. Yes, I went to all of them to some degree. Shoom was nigh on impossible to get into when it was at The Fitness Centre. I got in a couple of times with some girls I knew from the suburbs. Jenni Rampling was always keen to get as many girls in there as she could.
Mark: I went to The Fitness Centre once in the early days and got a direct knock back at the door! I think we might have gone to RIP at The Clink that night in the end. After that I didn’t go back to Shoom until it had moved to Busby’s.
Would you have gone to Shoom on Wednesday, Future on Thursday, somewhere Friday, somewhere else Saturday, Queens on Sunday, then Spectrum / Land Of Oz on a Monday? How on Earth did you hold down a day job?
Mark: Naah, never the “full week” Rob! Future yeah, maybe Spectrum on the Monday. Plus the one-off parties at the weekends. Later I was at Busbys most weeks once that started. I was never a regular at Queens though. I’d been doing an apprenticeship as a software engineer, that’s how I ended up at Bracknell College. The first course of its kind in the country! It came at the wrong time for me. I was going in half-dazed and telling the people in the office that they were all wasting their time – which went down a treat I’m sure! In the last year there – 88 / 89 – I apparently had the worst sick leave record in the entire firm… there were 2000 people working there. They offered me redundancy and I bit their hand off.
Chris: Personally, my week usually went like this…
Monday / Tuesday: recuperate
Thursday: Future – if Shoom wasn’t on
Friday & Saturday: Whatever good was on
Sunday: Queens between midday and 4 and then onto Passion at Valbonnes between 9 and 2AM.
Somehow I managed to keep a well paid day job throughout this whole period…running printing presses. Not sure how…
Mark: I can’t believe I didn’t know Chris at the time – we could have shared a ride!
I`m surprised too. Not just because of the general “bonhomie” of the times, but also because the two of you are so tall – you would have surely stood out. People sometimes talk about a divide between Future and Shoom – did either of you ever experience this?
Mark: I don’t remember really talking about it with anyone at Future. Everything just felt positive in there. But I do know there was some bad feeling in the early days because I remember Kevin Hurry telling me about it, saying “You should go (to Shoom)… we’re not going there but you should check it out!”
Chris: I’ve read about the divide, but didn’t really experience it at the time. Shoom and Future both definitely had a more hardened / older / “you should have been here 6 months ago” vibe. Spectrum was a younger crowd in general – but you’d see faces from Shoom and Future at Spectrum. Personally I liked them both and went to both. People have forgotten – or may even deny it – but there was conscious shift early `89 with regards to that world. Lots of people distanced themselves from parties and nights, and younger people, kids seen as “ravers” – “Teds”. Smarter, designer clothes started being worn – a move away from that hippie / Amnesiac look – Ecstasy became a drug that ‘ravers’ took, and this breakaway balearic breed got more into more other ‘designer’ “recreationals”.
Can you tell me more about Passion at Valbonnes, Mark didn’t you DJ there?
Chris: Valbonnes was situated on the banks of the River Thames, at Boulters Lock in Maidenhead, next door to the Skindles Hotel. Fridays and Saturdays were known as a ‘Sharon & Tracy’ – not my words!! – nights, where Page 3 girls and First Division footballers could be spotted. In a situation similar to that at Queens, Tommy Mac hired it out on a Sunday night and started throwing acid house parties. These were called The Action and then, Passion. With the name change came a move, musically, towards more “balearic” beats. These tunes all got regular plays…..
Malcolm McClaren – Deep In Vogue
Thrashing Doves – Sympathy For The Devil (Live)
Richie Rich – Salsa House
Simply Red – It’s Only Love
Cry Sisco – Afrodizziact
Although people rarely used it, Valbonnes had an indoor swimming pool, which added to the exotic ‘Ibizia / Balearic’ vibe….-the drugs were strong (laughs). Over the period of 1989 / 1990 it was jam-packed and Sunday clubbing became just as essential as going out on a Friday and Saturday – Queens during the daytime, and then Passion started at 9PM. Like Queens, all the big DJs of the time from London and the suburbs played there. Highlights were the Bank Holiday all-dayers, especially the ones where Danny Rampling played. Danny was literally like a messiah at this point and he`d arrive with a coach load of ‘Shoomers’. A post-Bros Matt Goss once tried to get in, got knocked back, sneaked in and then got thrown out. I remember seeing some Liverpool FC players in there – after an F.A. Cup match – looking a bit lost dancing amongst the wide eyed clientele to Sympathy For The Devil (laughs). The crowd at Passion was younger than Queens, and I guess like the Future / Shoom divide, some people didn’t or wouldn’t go to both clubs. The trek on a Sunday evening might also have played a part.
Mark: Yes, I DJed there. My family had a shop in Bracknell and Tommy Mac used to live in the block opposite. He`d come in on a Sunday in a fur coat or something equally “extravagant”. So my old man got to know him. He was well known for his dancing. he was on Top Of The Pops through the 80s. We’d already gotten a little name playing by this time so when he started at Valbonnes he asked us to play. It was pretty quiet when he started but within a few weeks it was mental. We played the main room a few times and then persuaded Tommy to give us the restaurant at the side to play more balearic stuff. We called it Shrubbery `cos it had plastic plants in there. We were playing stuff like Yellow Magic Orchestra and The Waterboys to a smaller crowd, made-up mainly of our mates.
Was this around the same time as the Bizarre parties?
Mark: It was late 88, 89 as I remember yeah. Bizarre was May ’89.
Chris: I knew of Mark through mutual friends, via football, and the local parties he and his mates started throwing in around 86 / 87 – Bracknell, Ascot, Wokingham, the better ones were in Chertsey and Windsor. I lost track of them a bit but I bumped into Mark`s DJ partner at the time – at a daytime “rave” in Upton Park, in Slough. He was talking about how he and Mark had just come back from Italy to get records that no one else had.
Mark: I recognize at least 50% of the people in that video. The first buying trip we went on was to Spain. I was talking to my mate upstairs at Busby`s, and it just hit us that we`d never find the tunes we needed at Trax – where we`d be waiting 3-deep from the counter! So, we went to Barcelona and hit all the labels direct.
Before that we’d been playing more and more acid and house at these parties through ‘87 and ‘88 to largely bemused locals. Then one of us heard there was a crowd for this stuff in Windsor so we moved there, met this whole bunch of heads and never looked back. It was a function room by the river. The Old Trout… nice spot, shit name! Anyway, we started doing Saturday nights there about May `88. It was slowly getting busier and one week we were firmly told by our mates that “Boys Own are doing a party next Saturday and you have to go.” We told the sound guy to bring some records and cover for us. We actually left him with the night from then on! Within a few weeks he was wearing a bandana. He must have made a fortune that summer!! The Boys Own party turned out to be The Karma Collective and it was Andrew (Weatherall) who greeted us as we stepped off the coach. Boys Own brought together the council estate and the popstar, the hard-nut and the poet. It was an inspiration, I was changed forever. Once we ‘moved’ into Windsor, as a group of friends, we kind of separated. We still did parties together but then the two of us started organizing bits with one of the Windsor heads – Marcus. He’s kept on that path actually. The last time I saw him he was running a big festival. The Windsor lot were really special. They’d grown up with Andrew and Cymon (Eckel) and If you’re talking about such a thing as Balearic Berkshire then it really began with them in Windsor. That crowd were like a second family to us at that time.
Chris: The Old Trout was a good venue. As well as Mark`s parties I also saw Dub Syndicate and Renegade Soundwave there a couple of times.
Was the barn party the first Bizarre event? Or were you doing the Friday nights at the Paradise Club, in Islington, first? Did you hold more than one “barn” party?
Mark: No, the barn party was the first Bizarre. Paradise was a year later. But months before we did the big Bizarre party in Winkfield we did a little thing for the Windsor crowd in Binfield! We found a barn, moved all the hay bales out and set up a sound system. It was called Serenity. September ‘88 I think. That was a crazy night.
Was this inspired by the Karma Collective do?
Definitely. After that first Boys Own we were just sure that’s how it had to be. That’s why we were out looking for a barn for Serenity.
Why do you think Boys Own went on to be so influential. I`ve always been fascinated by the fact that they sort of set out to take the piss, but people began to regard the fanzine like a bible. I`m sure the goal was to encourage folks to get off their arses and do their own thing, think for themselves, instead of slavishly following a set of rules.
Mark: It was a massive breath of fresh air at the time – it was a fanzine for “our” scene so I get the influence. Reading about clubs, DJs, and a music scene that you and your mates are actively taking part in was great – and it was genuinely funny in parts too. As for the bible aspect – I don’t know really. There were a lot of drugs about Rob, strange things happened!!
Chris: I think a lot of people at the time needed something positive to follow. It – acid house / balearic did become a like religion for many. Speaking to Andrew on it years later, I know that he slightly regretted how over protective of that scene he, Boys Own and others had become. I do understand why it happened and personally speaking when I saw a lunatic I knew from school E’d up on the dance floor at Passion – still wanting to kick off with everyone – I could see why a lot clearer! It was cliquey but I get why it became that way.
Personally, I`d been out of London for 3 years. I was aware of what was going on – from press like John Godfrey`s article in I-D on the “Amnesiacs” – and from my younger sister and her mates – who’d been going to the lock-ins at Zigi`s. I`d come home the odd weekend and gone to the odd thing – but it didn’t “click” until she took me to the Trip. I’ve written about this before but looking down from the top of The Astoria and seeing a sea of hands in the air was THE pivotal moment for me. From that point on I was complete sold. It blew my mind – and I started growing my hair. If I’m honest it was the feeling of unity as much as the music. Once I`d actually moved back, a mate at work lent me a copy of Boys Own – the Autumn 89 one – which I photocopied and pored over – trying to catch up. For me at least, It was like a crash course in current cool. I bought all the “Top Tunes” I could find, went to all the clubs advertised – I couldn’t quite stretch to Michiko Koshino clobber though. I pretty much learnt the whole fanzine word-for-word. I`ll admit that I’m a bit obsessive compulsive but given the times I don’t for a minute believe that I was the only zealot out there. And yeah it was funny too. It obviously wouldn’t have worked without the sarky, self-depreciating humour. It was full of in-jokes, that only their friends would get. Jokes that everyone wanted to be in on.
Chris: The Bizarre barn party was a “Who`s Who” DJ and punter-wise. There was a big Shoom / Boys Own contingent there, as well as a lot of local “faces”. I distinctly remember one chap wearing a jean jacket with a hand-embroidered Shoom logo on the back. The party was “Strictly Invite Only”, and I know for a fact that “local” clubbers were not especially welcome (laughs).
Mark, from your photos the packed looks like it was packed. How many people were there?
It was supposed to be 800, but was more like 1200 I think.
What was the DJ line up?
It was the “2 Kevs” – Kevin Hurry and Kevin Swain, then Danny Rampling, then me and my partner, with Andrew Weatherall playing the last set.
Were the two “Kevs” also local lads – were they friends of yours?
Yes they were. I loved the Kevins. I think they were from Hounslow. Swainey was a lovely fella. Always the joker, cracking you up. Hurry was a big influence on me. He was a cool fucker. He had that perfect skinny-boy Acid look… there was always a big grin on his face. He did that dance, he had the hair… right from the start, proper early days. The Kevins were there from “Day One”. We used to meet up at my mate Donald’s flat in Ashford, smoke unhealthy amounts, play records and chat shit. They also DJed for us at Serenity. We asked them to DJ at everything we did. They were big names on the scene and I don’t think that’s been recognized as time has gone on, and the story’s been retold. They took a punt and went to Discomagic in Milan, and came back with gold. One tune that they definitely “broke” was Piano Fantasia`s Song For Denise. Everyone wanted to know what it was. It was actually the two of them that said “You should play your stuff to Guerrilla” – who they were signed to as D.O.P. That`s how my Lemon Sol releases with Guerrilla came about.
Chris: That Bizarre party became the stuff of legend locally. In fact, after Andrew passed away, I was talking to an old friend – someone I hadn’t seen for at least a year – about it. Andrew playing Dizzi Heights` Would I Find Love – a tune that at the time I, we, hadn’t heard before – as the sunrise hit – through a skylight in a stable – smelling of horse shit – was a highlight for many (laughs). Alongside now classic house and balearic records, there was a flood of new Italian imports. Things like Funk Express, Gino Latino, Belo E Sambar. It was the party that ignited that sound in our area. Andrew even cited Bizarre in the sleeve notes he wrote for an Italian comp he put together in a round about way – “In the suburbs something stirred”, “Born in a barn in Berkshire”. It`s funny to think now that it was also one of the parties that highlighted the rivalry between DJs – the fight to have records that nobody else had – covering labels with stickers that said “fuck off nosey”, “the cover up kings” etc., like the northern soul scene before it.
Mark: Yeah we played a few cover ups. I think we copied Andrew on that `cos I’m sure he used to do it. We had two label-sized bits of cardboard with the Bizarre logo on. We played a load of Italian records… to be honest, most seemed to go down like a cup of cold sick as I recall (laughs). I kicked off with a record we had just bought back – Albert One`s Visions – which I thought had all the right elements. We played X-tended`s Split… a few others but I don’t remember anything getting a reaction until we played People Hold On!! Fucking typical, always too smart for our own good!
Andrew came on at 5AM, I think he finished at 8. The first track he played was U2`s Desire – the place went wild.
Mark, were you aware that the party has become the stuff of legend?
No, I’m surprised anyone knows about it really. It was in an equestrian centre in Winkfield for fuck sake!
By 1990 Shoom, Future, Spectrum had all closed – where did you go then? Where did you go in `91? Personally this is when I started to lose the plot. To be honest the music had got boring, but instead of moving on – I just took more drugs.
Chris: Yeah, it was a funny time for sure. I saw a lot of friends go right off the rails around this time. There were still good things going on obviously but the scene had spread out massively. Queens and Passion finished in late 1990 / 91. ’Rave’ culture was literally everywhere and – as I said before – quite a few people who`d been there at the start of it distanced themselves from it, especially after parties like the infamous Sunrise in White Waltham – also in Berkshire – started making the front pages of the tabloids. When Queens ended it was replaced on a Sunday by Full Circle, where the music took on a different, harder ‘progressive’ edge. Passion moved to Southall – of all places. All though it was OK, it didn’t have the same vibe and eventually fizzled out and then from those ashes came Shave Yer Tongue but that’s a different story.
Mark: The scene had changed beyond recognition. I just felt it was time for a break and I took off to Europe for a few months. It feels strange to look back on that time. It’s a real mixed emotion thing for me. The joy of the early days and then… not. I could go into more detail but I should say that we were snobby fuckers back then. We weren’t the only ones, we learnt the hard way from Andrew, Terry and all. You had to earn your way and there were no easy rides. As such I burnt some bridges and let’s say we didn’t open our arms up as we perhaps could of. So, we were snobby yeah but it’s worth adding that we had tried. We did throw some local parties as Chris mentioned, around Bracknell, Wokingham… I remember people just took the piss. They’d turn up in their rare groove gear, come up and complain, “What the fuck is this?” We got nothing but hassle from people who didn’t want that music. We`d been buying these records through `87 and then in `88 – once we`d been to Hedonism and Future – we knew that this was IT. We couldn’t understand anyone else not feeling the same. Hence the resistance to locals later once it started to blow up. I’m very glad Chris was there at that first Bizarre party and that it meant something to him `cos I do remember my DJ partner at the time trying to keep Bracknell people out. Fucking stupid really but these were different times. I was an immature 19, 20 year old who thought he knew it all but had so much to learn.
This “segue” serves as an illustration – simply collecting most of the tunes mentioned. It is not an attempt to recreate Queens, Passion, or Bizarre.
Cry Sisco – Afrodizziact
Xtended – Split
Albert One – Visions
Mixmaster – Piano Groove
LTY – Funk Express
Icarus – Stone Fox Chase
Landro & Co – Belo E Sambar
Gino Latino – Welcome
Raul Orellana – Real Wild House
Sparks – Beat The Clock
Westbam – Saxophone
Natalie Cole – Pink Cadillac
Will Downing – A Love Supreme
Joe Smooth – Promised Land
Sterling Void – Its Alright
Coldcut – People Hold On
Thrashing Doves – Sympathy For The Devil (Live)
U2 – Desire (Hollywood Remix)
Simple Minds – Alive & Kicking
Gipsy Kings – Djobi Djoba
Dizzi Heights – Would I Find Love
Piano Fantasia – Song For Denise
Ethereal Beat – Can You Understand
Simply Red – Its Only Love
The Waterboys – The Whole Of The Moon
The Rolling Stones – You Can`t Always Get What You Want (Live)