I recently wrote a piece for Tank Magazine about the changing way in which dance music is visually documented, and what I think that says about society. In the process of writing the article, I spent hours watching rave footage from across the decades. As I cant embed Youtube videos in the resolutely low tech medium of paper, I thought it would be worth posting a few of them in this column, mostly because I came across some great bits and pieces from across years and continents.
The premise of the piece was that rave videos used to focus on the crowd, and now they focus on the DJ. To my (admittedly paranoid) mentality, this shift speaks volumes of the petty individualism were being sold as aspirational modern life, and has done much to denigrate the role of dancing in modern day club events. Its why people hate shufflers, and why anyone who dares to dance during a Boiler Room set will get staggering levels of shit spewed at them by the turgid puritans who prowl the comments section, freaks who think a track ID is more important than being able to bust a move.
If you want to see my full rant, you need to buy the next issue of Tank, or wait til they digitise it. In a display of crass back slapping, heres a quote from it that I like: I think we can assume that Saturday Night Fever wouldnt have revolutionised the globe if John Travolta had been learning how to mix.
In the meantime, here are some examples of how dance music used to be filmed its enjoyable, but kinda sad :(
Big Fun dropping on the New Dance Show
New Dance Show followed in the footsteps of US staple Soul Train, with early techno replacing disco as the soundtrack of choice. The format clearly had a massive influence on the UK show Dance Energy, and you can see why its a joyous experience. This clip, taken from the first edition of the show, has Inner City classic Big Fun appearing round 4 minutes in. Being in the studio as the synth hooks descend looks like the best thing ever, and I come over slightly funny watching it.
And heres the format transported to England. It being the UK, everythings that bit grimier. There are so many excellent clips from Dance Energy, so its hard to pare them down I like this clip of A Homeboy, A Hippie and A Funki Dred because they manage to encapsulate the DNA that made English hardcore so exciting in the space of three band members. If Benetton made bands
BBC 2 Ecstasy documentary from 1993
Theres some fine footage taken from Lazerdome and Shelleys in this doc, and some laughs to be had at the BBCs slightly plummy narrator trying to get to grips with the culture. Upon one thing everyone agrees, he enthuses before an interview with a gurning pill fiend rave audiences are the most friendly and charming
Sasha playing Shaboo, Blackpool, 1990
This video is priceless 2 hours of footage of the Shaboo night in Blackpool. The tunes are fucking tremendous, the kids rave constantly, and theres barely one shot of Sasha in the whole thing. At one point theres a black out for some reason, and the whole room just keeps cheering til the sound comes back on. Putting my geek hat on for a moment, its interesting to remember how the prog house and breakbeat hardcore sounds intersected, dance history often seeks to divide things into convenient, tribal genres, which footage like this prove irrelevant.
Hysteria 9 @ The Sanctuary
Check the girl at 1.30 telling the film crew that she doesnt like the camera very much. Can you imagine someone saying that a club now? God I feel old. The sound quality on this video is a bit crap, essentially an earsplitting warfare between reverb, airhorns and frantic breaks, but the vibes are great, and the interviews with ravers for the first 10 minutes are unique; unlike mainstream media reports on the culture, they give the ravers a voice without framing them in disapproving anti-drug propaganda.
Now, compare all of these films with this the BBCs recent recording of Sashas Warehouse Project set
Crap right? Theres no time given to ravers, but a whole lot of close ups of a chubby old man pushing buttons. I cant help thinking that something has gone seriously wrong somewhere along the way