E Generation: Summer of love

For a few thousand clubbers, summer 1988 meant non-stop partying fuelled by acid house music and a great new drug called Ecstasy. Sheryl Garratt was in the thick of it. Ten years on, she recalls the beginning of a youth revolution. Overleaf, Polly Williams finds out what happened to other survivors

That summer, it seemed there were parties everywhere. When the clubs closed at 3am, no one wanted to go home. Those in the know would trek down to Mendoza's in Brixton, an illegal drinking den where local pirate radio DJs Fabio and Grooverider played acid house five nights a week after the clubs closed. Less connected clubbers would stream into the Charing Cross Road after the Trip, dancing around cars in the middle of the road, or on top of the fountains near Centrepoint opposite. One night, a police car turned on its siren to try and clear the crowd, and to the officers' amazement everyone went mad, dancing even more. The wailing sounded like the siren sample on the acid anthem "Can U Party", recorded by Todd Terry under the name Royal House. When the same thing happened outside Clink Street, the siren wasn't even needed. Clubbers danced around the patrol car's flashing light singing the record's hookline "Can you feel it?" For a few weeks a Mini pulled up outside Spectrum at closing time and played acid house on its sound system while a thousand clubbers danced in the street around it. There was even a spontaneous street party in Trafalgar Square at closing time one night.

Yet despite the numerous dealers now working openly in the clubs and already starting to organise into gangs, Ecstasy was still our secret. It felt like we'd opened a door and stepped into the future, leaving the dull reality of Eighties London behind us. Other initiates were instantly recognisable: the bright, baggy clothes, the beads and ethnic accessories, the music blaring out of their cars, the girls without make-up and the boys growing out their hair. People were shedding their black clothes and opening out like brightly coloured flowers. The traditional English reserve seemed to have disappeared. Once-surly security men laughed and joked with the queues outside clubs. Strangers would talk to each other freely. The regulation cool club pout was replaced by ear-to-ear grins. The most extraordinary music was being made, some of it by people who were dancing alongside us, like Baby Ford's abrasive acid anthem "Oochy Coochy", or the song "Everything Begins With An E" by the EZ Posse - an alias for Jeremy Healy, working with MC Kinky, a white girl who rapped in a Jamaican reggae style.

You would end up in the unlikeliest places, with people you'd only met an hour before on the dancefloor, in the toilet queue, in the street outside. A grand house in Stockwell owned by a foreign diplomat. A squat in Hackney. A penthouse overlooking the Thames owned by someone who did something in the City. A house available while someone's parents were on holiday. Sometimes you'd be driving and pull up alongside another car full of people drinking water and shaking their heads to the music, you'd make eye contact and smile and simply follow them to wherever it was they were going.

Tintin Chambers, a public schoolboy who promoted his first big acid party, Hypnosis, at the end of August in the Brixton Academy, was another tie- dyed T-shirt in the crowd at clubs like Spectrum at the start of that summer. He remembers the atmosphere in London late at night: "I'd be coming back from a party, walking down the King's Road where I used to live. A car would drive past and you'd hear some acid house music, and you'd just put your arms in the air. They'd stop, you'd get in the car, you'd go and have a smoke and a chat with them. Because it was such a small thing then. There were a few thousand people in the whole of London going to these parties. You'd meet someone on the street, and you might not know who they were, but you'd be wearing exactly the same style of clothing - baggy, Day-glo, Mambo-style tracksuits, pink-tinted glasses. And you'd get talking. That sort of thing happened all the time."

One night after Future, almost everyone in the club piled into a convoy of cars and went to carry on the party in a gym in Dagenham owned by one of the members. "Every time one car stopped, we all stopped and got out," remembers one clubber. "Not in service stations. Just on the A13. That unity that was so embedded. If one stops, we all stop! Whether it was for a wee, a water, a fag or a chat. It was like a party on the motorway. How we got away with some of those journeys ... I mean, obviously the police weren't thinking that everyone was drugged up and off their knackers on E."

The DJ Danny Rampling remembers a party in a flat above a cafe in Chapel Street market in north London which started on a Sunday night and finished around Tuesday. "On Monday morning the market was setting up, and there were just people dancing on the rooftops and out in the street while everyone else was going about their daily life. London was swinging, for the second time since the Sixties, with different groups of society mixing with each other in different areas of London. There were parties every night. It was quite a special, underground thing."

Acid nights began to spring up everywhere. Westworld opened Enter The Dragon and MyAmi. The Wag's Love night spawned one of the summer's best T-shirts: a beatific image of the Virgin Mary under the words "Love . Love . Love". Club MFI (Mad For It) at Legends showed the change most clearly: in the ground-floor bar, the monochrome set sat talking and drinking in designer suits just as they had before. Downstairs, the once-cold chrome dancefloor area was transformed with smoke machines and strobes while clubbers danced in tie-dye, beads and cut-off jeans.

Ecstasy was a drug that worked well in crowds, giving users the sense that everyone was feeling the same warmth and joy, moving in the same direction. It quickly spread to the football terraces, and it was common to see younger fans going to the match sporting smiley T-shirts and dilated eyes, and to see them later on the dancefloor in the same state. Some referred to them, somewhat patronisingly, as "love thugs", but this also reflected a genuine belief that everyone could be changed for the better.

The extraordinary optimism of the time is perhaps best illustrated by the story of Cymon Eckel of the club Boy's Own. He had a job building film and theatre sets, and was working on a set for a George Michael video one morning when he was involved in an industrial accident and lost all the fingers on his left hand. He was in hospital for six weeks.

"What is amazing to this day is how positive I felt. I'd always wanted to study furniture design, but I'd never been able to give up the money, because I liked going out, buying clothes and taking drugs. So I had an operation, and when I came out of the anaesthetic my mother started talking about the future. I was saying, "I'm all right. It's great, now I can go to college. Fuck working, I'm never going to work again!" I came out of hospital, I had a week in Windsor convalescing and then I went to Ibiza, dancing with my hand still in bandages. It didn't matter, because I was in this whole new world. What should have been a very traumatic period didn't seem at all traumatic to me. That was the gift it gave me. Whatever you were doing, it grabbed hold of you, gave you a shake and made you look at yourself?"

`Adventures in Wonderland: a decade in club culture', by Sheryl Garratt, is published by Headline, pounds 9.99, on 20 August

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

    £22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

    Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

    £22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

    Ashdown Group: Recruitment Consultant / Account Manager - Surrey / SW London

    £40000 per annum + realistic targets: Ashdown Group: A thriving recruitment co...

    Ashdown Group: Part-time Payroll Officer - Yorkshire - Professional Services

    £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful professional services firm is lo...

    Day In a Page

    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before