Director Sam Carrack on his latest project Happy Dave
photography | Desmond Chewyn
In 1994, Michael Howard (former Home Secretary with plans of Tory domination who eventually got ousted by David Cameron, who then got himself ousted by a baboon) passed the criminal justice act that banned ‘free parties’ or ‘raves’. A rave, by definition of said act, is anything characterised by the emission of a succession of repetitive beats. Now to my untrained ear that sounds like anything ever produced by Simon Cowell, however, relax Directioners, I’m not sure that’s what he meant. No, what he was referring to are those dirty/grime/dub-step/house/techno/ trance music we know as rave music. The anthems that grabbed the wayward disenfranchised of the 90’s, popped them a few MDMA’s before taking them to a field and telling them to bounce, relentlessly, and then later to smack their bitches up. OK, now I don’t know what Mr Howards' particular feeling is towards this music, he might be a closet Drum and Bass fan (he might?), but
I think his major concerns probably were more focused on the criminal damage, trespassing, drug-use and occasional fatality. In the grand scheme of things he probably should get a little bit of a nod, as both drug crime and drug related death figures went down - well done Michael. However,
in shutting down raves had the government finally won its 50 year battle with ‘Youth Culture’?
Had they brought about the death of Rock‘n’Roll? And in an age of over exposure, legislation
and rules is ‘Generation Y’ without a musical identity?
This year I have teamed up with the brains behind Smoke & Oakum Theatre, Oli Forsyth, rapidly becoming a very important young playwright. Last two plays published, an amnesty nomination for freedom of speech and several commissions for his new plays and poems (my mitts are firmly gripped onto his coat-tails), Oli is really rather good. Ok, so Oli can write, however it’s not his words that necessarily draws me to his work, it’s the ideas behind it. HAPPY DAVE, which will be on at this year’s Edinburgh Festival is about Dave, Dave used to be a DJ, actually he was pretty good at it, then it all went wrong (see above). Now in his 40s he works in advertising, but old habits die hard, and before long he is heading a group of young millennials back into the rave scene – as he knew it. But in truth that’s not what the play is really about.
You see Oli has this theory…
“I think one of the major issues Generation Y is facing is the lack of a clear identity, a youth culture that is specific to us and sets our generation apart from what came before. If you look at the post-1945 era, from the birth of modern jazz through to rock'n'roll, disco, punk and hip-hop almost every generation has created a soundtrack to their coming of age that has both united and defined their generation, while at the same time scaring and alienating everyone else. My theory as to why we're lacking this, and the inspiration of the show, is that the destruction of rave culture in the mid to late 90's was the last incarnation of this kind of youth culture”
We had this conversation in a bar (insert hic-cup’s, tangents, and slurred point making to the above for a fuller picture) and I was very excited. Not sure I believed him though? To be honest I’m not completely sure I understood it, but I couldn’t stop thinking about it. What’s my musical identity? I was pretty annoyed when Take That split up? I hopped on a train to watch MUSE play their first album when I was 15. But then the first tape I ever bought was Dr.Dre? (A ‘Radio edit’ I later learned much to my dismay, several years later – the non-edited version was very sweary). My Mum, Scottish, likes The Bay City Rollers, which as a young Scottish lassie was certainly the fashion. I scoff, but then in order to watch them play she lied to my grandparents about buying a ticket, she created her own uniform made entirely of tartan (including sash and hat) and then snuck out, despite being grounded, just to watch them play. It’s probably not the musical identity that Oli is referring to but does that still happen? Why aren’t I sneaking out? Is it because there was nothing there to inspire me, lead me, enrage me? I don’t think I have a musical identity, shit?! At Uni I went to watch Slayer (I moshed), Reel Big Fish (I skanked) and Gogol Bordello (I was high), I like them all, but it’s hardly nailing your colours to the mast is it? So, I took the directors job, I wanted to explore, broaden my musical education and then with all the evidence hopefully do Oli’s words some justice and make a good play.
Rock‘n’Roll, united an entire generation - globally. It got people talking about important subject matters by singing and addressing them in its music. It got teenagers who were already having sex, talking about sex with adults, who’d be having sex for years and saying nothing. It brought forward advances on contraception and venereal disease prevention. It brought the shadows out into the light and it did so with a maturity and a confidence that had rarely been heard before. That said, it didn’t please everybody. In Santa Cruz, California, a concert was shut down and rock‘n’roll banned because the revellers were “engaged in suggestive, stimulating and tantalizing motions induced by the provocative rhythms of an all-negro band.”
Fast forward – “My anaconda don’t want none, unless you got buns hun" – Nicky Minaj (Double Platinum Single, No 1 in UK, US & AUS and MTV award winning song Anaconda)
It also has a lot of claims towards the civil rights movement in America, rock‘n’roll after all is of blues origin, it is a blend of ‘black’ and ‘white’ music. It got artists performing together, with rock‘n’roll there was no inequality, it encouraged racial co-operation and shared experience. It got young white people and young black people to identify themselves differently. Still the government tried to shut it down and it went to parliament to ban it on the radio as it was “detrimental to both the health and morals of our youth and community."
By the late 60’s, rock‘n’roll was firmly entrenched in the mainstream of Western culture and, if anything, had begun to loose a bit of it’s edge. Times were changing; the rebellious sentiments that had gone into rock’n’roll had gone back underground, or maybe more specifically to sea. Over here in the UK producers had found a novel way of keeping the musical rebellion alive and that was through pirate radio. ‘Illegal’ music and propaganda was being sent out through the airwaves to the ears and brains of our rebellious youth and guess what? They loved it. A new generation emerged and brought with them their own sound and attitude to what music was and what it meant.
Fast forward another decade and the last of those pirate ships were being scuppered in scrap yards, and the vinyls they carried sold off to discount stores. The die of youth culture had been cast again, and this time it came up punk. Enter The Sex Pistols, enter The Clash, The Ramones, Black Flag and suddenly those good looking rock’n’roll megastars were being pushed off stage by spotty punks with something to say. Under their watchful eye the youth of the 70s began to flex their muscles, shaking off another layer of convention and becoming arguably the least deferential post war generation. Aided by Watergate and the collapse of faith in The Establishment we saw an ironic ‘God Save the Queen’ and anarchy symbols sewn on leather jackets.
Fast forward again, and the next generation are doing everything they can to escape the precedent set by the Punk movement. Gone are the days of wailing guitars, greasy hair and crashing drums, no more “I Fought the Law”, a little more “Man In the Mirror.” We see the emergence of powerful, glamorous sex symbols as pop has it’s first go in the limelight. Enter Michael Jackson, Madonna, Kate Bush and Prince. The world changes again and this time parents aren’t trying to hide their kids away from angry punks, they’re trying to shield their eyes and ears from the raw sexuality coming over the radio and into their living rooms. Another generation grows and matures with it’s own soundtrack pumping out.
Until, in the early 90's, as many predicted, pop ate itself. It all became too much, too rich and so a new generation found themselves not with sparking gloves on one hand but stood, en mass, in a field with the sound of hard, violent electro beats filling the air. The Rave Era was born. And my god did it grow:
And then as quickly as it came, it went. Too much noise was made. We protested. We marched. They won. The rave era is dead.
Out of the smouldering remains of this mighty movement came what? A new sound, a new movement for a new millennium? No, in 2001 the first season of Pop Idol aired, and here we are. Generation Y led by the sound of yester-year, of what it ‘used’ to be like, mixed in with the birth of the internet, social media, and suddenly access to just about everything. When everything is accessible what’s left to grab you by the hand and show you something new? So I listened to Bread, James Taylor and The Eagles because my Dad told me too. I shunned the Bay City Rollers because they we’re no longer cool (Bye, bye, baby). I went to metal gigs to mosh with my ‘metal’ friends, and eventually thought fuck-it I’ll become a talent-judge with everyone else in Cowell’s new TV army.
Lost? Yes. Musical driven? I don’t know?
I’ve no idea what’s good anymore, what’s cool anymore, what’s important. I have an entire ipod library that consists of one song per artist. But I have Dave. Through him I can play with the notion of what would happen if we were inspired again, if we had something to fight for again. And we did it with music.