Raygunesque #18: Swallow’s On Amazon

Art & Culture

Much has been made of the football hooligan and acid house crossover, how the chaps from the Bushwackers, ICF and Headhunters all hugged and made up on the dance floor at Shoom, the faces turning all smiley, putting aside their tribal factions and who ran from who rivalries, as the super-strength Calis caused a mass outbreak of loved up-ness among once bitter hoolie foes.

Ecstasy, as the legend has it, killed football hooliganism better than Thatcher ever could. Sure, the two went hand in hand – it’s no coincidence that rent-a-gob Tory Graham Bright was one of those fighting against hooligans (ID cards, membership schemes and the likes after Millwall had the mother of all tear-ups at Luton) as well as the acid house (Criminal Justice Act). Throw in his anti-video nasty plans and you’re looking at someone who tried to ruin my formative years, but that’s another story, for another time. But, back to the Balearic bovver boys, and the relationship was always far more nuanced and not nearly as clear cut as that. 

Take, if you will, Andy Swallow, former ICF don turned one of the leading lights in the East End’s own take on the acid house malarkey. 

“Tim goes to that place, he knows all that lot,” reporters told management, grassing me up. “He’s into that acid house. And Chris Rea’s Josephine. And he’s Millwall.”

He was one of the people involved with Centreforce FM, which was, depending on which side of town you were on, ted central or the glue binding the diverse e-fuelled family together. Again, both sides were kind of right: the snobbery of the original Shoomers was probably right. But then again, Tony Wilson, Andy Nicholls and the other leading Balearic DJs over at Centreforce-related nights and shenanigans in east and south east London, were still When the Old Bill decided to clamp down in late 1989 and early 1990 (look, I can’t remember rightly), they carried out a series of raids across east London – Centreforce sites; addresses; Echoes – the club under the Bow flyover that acted as a fulcrum for Centreforce activity, Friday was Adrenalin, the night run by Tony Wilson (not that one), Saturdays was hosted by Swallow and named, er, Pacha (not that one) and more.

I’d often be found ambling around Adrenalin on a Friday night, Wilson’s mix of Euro pop (Company B, Scarlet Fantasic), Thrashing Doves and Red Box B-sides and a bit of Then Jericho was where it was at as far as I was concerned. I’d done a feature in the Stratford and Newham Express, where I was working at the time, on Centreforce and the whole East End thing – no names, no pack drill – and had got to know a few of the faces involved. Thankfully, a weekend’s Manchester and Hacienda activity spared me being at Echoes when the Old Bill waded in, searching all and sundry. By the next week, back at work as a cub reporter on local newspapers in the East End of London, I was in all sorts of bother at work. Scotland Yard and local coppers had been trumpeting their work in smashing an evil acid house empire, capturing a bunch of ICF types, showing off a haul of mind-bending love drugs, weapons, those scrapbooks they used to always seize from football fans, transmitters and other pirate radio paraphernalia, probably some dodgy Italo bootlegs too. “Tim goes to that place, he knows all that lot,” reporters told management, grassing me up. “He’s into that acid house. And Chris Rea’s Josephine. And he’s Millwall.”

Meanwhile, people like Swallow and, as a million and one barrel of Cockney monkeys films have told, other ICF types looked further afield. They branched out into Essex and along the way, there were all kinds of other dodgy dealings involved. Needless to say, the more money that started sloshing around the, ahem, rave scene, the more the gangsters wanted in. Trips to Amsterdam? Selling drugs? Bags of cash on the door? There’s all sorts of allegations flying around, but one thing is for certain, that from its humble beginnings and peace and love vibe you’d even get at Echoes (with the odd tear gas canister let off or some other such moment), before long you could chart a circuitous route from those heady days of the balearic beat through to dodgy pills, Leah Betts and the Essex Boys murders, where three dubious characters were gunned down in a Range Rover in a lane in Rettendon. 

Andy Swallow turns up, talking about his involvement in the rave movement before it went even moodier in a new documentary Essex Boys The Truth, a documentary that joins the plethora of fictionalised treatments and claims to tell the definitive version of the story. 
Here he is, talking about how the proper gangsters got involved…

The Essex Boys The Truth is available exclusively from Amazon from Monday December 14 and other retailers on January 4. It is accompanied by a free E-book.  Watch a trailer HERE