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
Saturday 15 August 1998
"When I MC'd over `Everything starts with an E' I hadn't taken one. The track got banned from Radio 1 and TV, but it was massive. I had no manager, agent, nothing. People used to phone up my house all the time and say, `Hi my name's so and so, can you do a gig?' Me and my mates would drive up to a massive party somewhere. I'd put my hair in curlers in the car, put on mad light-reflecting clothes in pub toilets. When the screechy guitar on `Everything ... ' began, the crowd would roar like a football stadium. Afterwards I'd get off stage and go and dance for hours with everyone else. People would come up to me saying, `I love you. I love your hair. You've changed my life.' I couldn't believe it.
And there was so much money around; literally huge piles of cash in the Portakabins. Because everyone was so out of it they'd pay me huge amounts. We were like kiddies with cash, going into restaurants and ordering every dish we hadn't tried. It was never a job, just a brilliant way to live. When Thatcher stopped it, people didn't say, `Let's take off our baggy T-shirts and get a nine-to-five.' Many of us carried on and developed creative careers from that scene in music, journalism, whatever. In comparison, today's 21-year- olds seem so safe, so `better get a bank job'. I get really sad when I go out now. Everything's so corporate. And they subject you to eight hours of the same music. Yeah, I really miss it. Cool Britannia? I'd rather be dancing in a field in '88."
Suzannah Nuttall 33. After her business and marriage disintegrated she moved into advertising, then land reclamation, before setting up her current business, a catering company. She is settled with her partner of seven years, Frank Kelly.
"In 1987 our interior design business made pounds 750,000 profit: it was all spent within a year. My marriage broke up in 1990, after two years. Our business went down the pan in 1991. Acid house had a lot to do with it. Me and my husband went on a non-stop party. We'd meet Fat Tony, go to a couple of clubs in London and then off to the outdoor ones. We were totally nocturnal. Everyone would pile back to our house during the day. We'd chill out. Crash out. And go out again the next night. We were the neighbours from hell. We'd boom out `get off me land' to farmers from a PA system in our Toyota land cruiser. We'd have wild parties, where normally uptight people would strip off naked. (It really wasn't a scene for couples: E isn't conducive to fidelity.) In 1988 I went out to Goa for the TV show Network 7. I told my husband I'd be back in two weeks but loved it so much I stayed five months. That summer it was a real trail thing. You'd bump into the same crowd in Bali, Brazil, Goa, Ibiza. And I spent at least a year in Ibiza between 1988 and '92. There was so many drugs around. One summer I took acid every day for six weeks. It took two weeks for my pupils to go back to the normal size after stopping. Ah ... it was wild. Do I regret it? Of course not."
Rebecca Johnson 27, went on the road in 1988 when she was 17, living in buses and caravans. In 1991 she moved off site to study fine art in Sheffield. After leaving college, she ran the NPA (New Producers Alliance) in London and now works as a freelance in the film industry.
"The free parties were incredible but they did hasten the end of Britain's travelling scene. Acid house crept up suddenly. One summer it was all hippy festivals and trips, the next summer it was acid house parties and E. Initially we were very sceptical about the `Cheesy Quavers' [ravers], the skinny lads in baggy clothes sucking dummies. They were just punters. But, partly because of the E, that cynicism began to disappear. And travellers started getting into it. Those early parties went on for days; thousands of people dancing; lots of drugs. They were lawless but there was never any trouble. Even the police left us alone.
Then our ranks began to swell. Ravers would come to a party, end up staying for days and think, `I could get used to this, Wendy house on wheels, a mobile view, outdoor living ... ' And the parties began to receive hysterical media attention - peaking at Castlemorton - and police hassle that led to the Criminal Justice Bill, which caused massive problems for travellers. When the police managed really to stop the parties, the corporates running commercial raves like Perception and Universe came to exploit the market. Everything began to change. At the free raves drug dealing was like a cottage industry. When the scene became commodified travellers started getting knifed. The E was cut with medicinal opiates. People started taking smack and crack. The cynicism returned. The mood totally changed. I decided enough was enough in 1991: I was in my bus on site when a woman parked up in a truck next to me. My new neighbour knocked on my window: `Got any rocks?' "
Adamski 30 (below, pictured now), got his first taste of stardom age 11 with his band Stupid Babies (they got a John Peel session and made number three in the indie charts with the single "Baby Sitters"). Adamski was one of the first to perform house music live. "NRG" was a top 20 hit in 1989; 1990 saw his collaboration with singer Seal, "Killer", reach number one. His new album, `Adamski's Thing', is released on 27 October. His daughter Bluebell sings on one of the tracks.
"Acid house suited me: I loved partying, l loved taking drugs, I loved music that sounded good when I was on drugs. Some gay friends took me to Ibiza in 1988. And I popped my first E there. From then on it was wild, hedonistic. My hits provided me with a lot of disposable income and fuelled the drug-taking. I'd spend a few hundred quid every weekend. I went to Thailand, Goa, Glastonbury ... potentially spiritual places, but all I can remember was being off my nuts. I'd mix everything with E: acid, charlie, vodka. I would shag everyone in sight, male or female. My seven-year-old daughter, Bluebell, is a love child from that era. I met her mum at a boat party. We bonded over chemicals. [They split up in 1991 and Bluebell lives with Adam].
After a while everything began to backfire. I was in a black-out most of the time and still have huge chunks of my life I don't remember. And I'd have horrific comedowns with flu. I'd fall asleep every time I sat down. I remember seeing a photograph of myself in a teen mag - eyes rolled back with only the whites showing. That disturbed me. It got to the point that I felt so shit I couldn't do it any more. But I went back to Ibiza a few weeks ago - my own anniversary. Bluebell learnt to ride a bike and swim. I set up an acoustic band in Nancy Noise's bar. There were loads of candles. The windows were open. Bluebell was dancing. It was the antithesis of 10 years before. But my priorities have changed and I've discovered this great new drug. It's called not taking anything." John Bates (not his real name), 29, studied politics at a London university before going to prison for drug-dealing. He finished the last year of his degree after leaving prison. His employers don't know about his drugs record.
"I was student in London going out three times a week, a big outdoor rave, a club or warehouse in London and a smaller mid-weeker. I couldn't possibly afford all the E so I ended up buying 10 and selling nine to my mates - it was about sorting them out as well - which would pay for mine. After a while you couldn't help but think about money: I'd start working out profit margins on the pills. Then I started selling to people I didn't know - in clubs, car parks, service stations - and making a lot of cash.
In the summer of '91, I went to a huge party outside Bristol, sold hundreds of Es, left with a carload of people on the Monday night, bombed out, having not slept since Wednesday. There was a distinct lack of precautions: Es in the glove compartment; thousands of pounds in sweaty fivers and tenners underneath the car seat. But we were having a laugh and it felt isolated as if we were in a bubble. Half a mile down the road, we got pulled over by the police who found everything within a few minutes. Busted. Shit. I was in deep deep trouble. The case went to court a year later. I was convicted of possession with intent to supply and sentenced to 18 months at Bristol Prison.
It was harsh but the tabloids' anti-party, anti-E campaigns had reached a crescendo. There was moral panic. I bore the brunt of that. I served eight months in a cell with a guy who was inside for very similar reasons. When I came out nothing seemed to have changed. I stopped dealing and carried on partying. But life changes. I don't go out very often now and if I take an E, which is rare, I'll eat it straight away. I won't have one sitting in my pocket."
Dom T 34 (top, in 1988; above, now), was a DJ with the 2Bad sound system in Bristol in the late Eighties. He moved to London in 1989. Since then he's been DJ-ing and remixing artists such as Bjork, Massive Attack, and DJ Rap. "I first started playing house as a DJ in Bristol in 1986 when I was with the 2Bad sound system. I remember going to London to buy this new kind of music on small independent labels from America, like `Music Is The Key' by JM Silk and `Jack Your Body' by Steve Silk Hurley. I loved it. It was totally different from anything we'd had before - perfect for mixing because it was seamless. 2Bad was known for funk and hip-hop and when we started playing house in places like the Moon Club, people hated it so much they'd walk out. It was so alien to them. At that point I didn't realise what was going on in London, I just loved the records. But Nellee [Hooper, music producer] kept saying, `You've got to come down to London. There's something mad going on here.' I was like, `What? What's the big deal?' He took me to Love at The Wag. I remember looking at these guys in bandannas jumping around, and thinking, `Who are these psychos?' Nellee put an E in my mouth. And 20 minutes later it all made sense. Music became the most important thing in my life. (For me it was always the music first, drugs second.) I went back to Bristol like a mad, crazy thing, enthusing about it. Not long after that, acid house took off in Bristol. The connection was made. People no longer walked out the room when we played house."
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