Ed Note: The following is a lecture given to 300 students at Stanford University, California, 1996. Introduction by Professor Richard Powers:
Marshall McLuhan said TV was a cool medium. But raving is NOT!
The subject of today’s talk is in response to a request from many of you who asked about Rave Culture. And, since our subject is Social Dance Forms of America, and this is certainly one of them, a very current one, I thought OK, but I must find someone who’s more qualified than myself to talk about it.
So I started a search, the criteria of which were rather daunting. I started looking for someone who was not just a die-hard raver, but who also had actually produced raves as well. And someone, further, who was from beyond the San Francisco area, because here the Rave scene is only about 5 years old. I wanted someone who’s been part of this current version of the phenomenon since the beginning, which meant that he or she would probably be English, since Rave Culture began in England.
Nor would that quite do either, because one of the most interesting aspects of Rave Culture is that San Francisco has become a world centre, a more ‘enlightened’ version so to speak, and some people are moving here specifically for that purpose.
And still that wasn’t enough, because I didn’t want someone who’d just sit on a chair and say “Ah, gee, raving’s really cool.” I wanted someone who’s really given it a lot of thought, and who’s developed a philosophical base for it the whole global cultural phenomenon.
So it should be a Brit who was there from the beginning, who’s put on raves, who’s a philosopher of rave, and who’s moved here because it’s here now.
And, finally, a visiting lecturer is not a teacher, it’s not someone to come in and hand us an answer. He should give us a broader spectrum of things to think about, food for thought. So ideally a speaker should be controversial as well.
OK. I know only one person in the whole world who fits all these criteria, and anyone here who knows Fraser Clark will know he fits the bill. He’s English - born in Scotland actually - a seasoned veteran of the rave scene, and he’s been attending and producing raves since the beginning.
Last summer, for instance, he produced the Grand Canyon Mega Rave which you probably read about in Newsweek. He started the legendary Megatripolis club in London that’s still running. He’s published 3 magazines on alternative lifestyles and Rave Culture. He produces rave music recordings, albums, compilations, house mixes, including collaborations with Timothy Leary and Terence Mckenna on his own record label.
And, as far as being a raving philosopher, Fraser’s an Honours degree psychologist who, among many other things, founded the Zippy Movement. That’s the Zen Inspired Professional Pronoiacs who dwell mostly on the internet. Pronoia, by the way, is the sneaking suspicion that others are conspiring behind your back to benefit you. And you them! The Zippy following has become quite sizeable on the internet.
And, as for being controversial, Fraser not only participates in a controversial lifestyle, but he’s also controversial within the Rave Community. Anyone who’s been subscribing to SF RAVES, the rather large discussion bulletin board that I believe has about 6000 subscribers in the Bay Area, you’ll know that half the participants agree with what Fraser says, and half don’t. I particularly admire that in Fraser.
So, without further ado .... Rave Philosopher, and Zippy Ordinaire (as he calls himself) Fraser Clark.
Raving Is Not Cool
I feel very proud to be part of the current Rave Culture that’s growing in all developed countries, and in many others too, because I’m convinced it is the greatest possible good news this planet could hope for.
If I may, I’d like to correct just one thing Professor Powers said in his very interesting whodunit introduction. He wanted someone who’d thought about Rave Culture deeply enough to do more than stand there and say “Raving is cool!”
Well, I’m here to tell you that Raving is not cool. It’s hot. It’s an involving and life-changing activity. The last time I heard the word ‘cool’ used frequently, in fact, was in London in the mid ‘60s immediately before Hippy burst upon the scene. People would stand around at parties posing, decked out in their smart clothes and ‘modern’ opinions, trying to look ’cool’.
Into precisely which cultural mindset Hippy burst through the door!
Whereupon he promptly tripped and fell flat on his face. Got up, muttering something about “negative shit in the stars tonight” while knocking something over. Which made him laugh at his own stupidity. You see? Hippy was living Life far too intensely to be cool. He was HOT! Marshall McLuhan said TV was a cool medium. But raving is NOT!
And with Rave Culture here in America I feel we are exactly back at that point, but in the next fractal.
I graduated in Rats Brains
Now, I enjoyed the CV Richard gave me very much. But let me establish my credentials this way.
In the first half of the ‘60s, as a young man about your ages, I studied Psychology in the hope it would help me understand myself better, and the world I lived in. Yes, I took an Honours Degree. But all I got was more understanding of white rats’ brains than I wanted. To tell the truth, I was shocked to my core by the terrible suffering we inflicted on those poor creatures.
…how the hell can you criticise an entire system and say it’s wrong? How could you (and a few hundred thousand drop-outs) be right, and nearly everyone else be wrong, especially all those experts?
I became a Hippy in the summer I graduated in Rats Brains,1965, and I then lived through the whole fashion cycle to its end, after which I continued to be a Hippy until I became a Zippy in the mid-‘80s. In fact I had to invent the Zippy concept at that time in order to define who I was and who the others I respected were. I’ll come back to this.
Then, when the Rave Scene exploded in 1986 in Manchester, Ibiza and London, I was probably the first person over 25 to get involved, and I’ve been deeply involved in it ever since, right up to now. And, as Richard said, not just raving but organising raves, publishing magazines, philosophising about the growth of Rave Culture, and publicly and politically defending and extending the sphere of its activity..
So, if you accept the case I shall develop here that Rave is Hippy Part 2 (or, more correctly, Hippy, The Conclusion), then there can’t be a greater authority on the subject than myself. That’s just a fact, and I’m not boasting.
But I am boasting, because I feel very proud to be part of the current Rave Culture that’s growing in all developed countries, and in many others too, because I’m convinced it is the greatest possible good news this planet could hope for.
I am not a Hippy now, by the way. I’m a Zippy. The Zippy stands between the Hippy and the Yuppy, with one foot in technology and the other in the spiritual life.
Confessions of a Peace’n Love Dissident
When the Hippies looked at the world in the ‘60s, they concluded that both Capitalism and Communism, or whatever you want to call them, were bad systems, user-unfriendly both to the leaders and to the led. The Hippy attitude was: a plague on both their houses! And my attitude today is: One down, One to go! I’m quite serious, and I hope to persuade you by the end of this talk. Or, more likely, start you thinking seriously about some of these things.
Rave Culture, on the other hand, is exploding all through the western democracies, and shows every sign of capturing America over the next few years.
Think about this. Just because 2 systems were on offer is no reason to believe that no others exist, and that it has to be one or the other. This System left standing, the one we increasingly live under now, the one which will fill the tremendous gap and the goddess-given opportunity left by the collapse of the Communist system, is based quite openly, even proudly, on Competition.
And in all my years of criticising my own Competitive System the most frequent response I’ve encountered was: well, how the hell can you criticise an entire system and say it’s wrong? How could you (and a few hundred thousand drop-outs) be right, and nearly everyone else be wrong, especially all those experts?
But the collapse of the Soviet System has shown that it is perfectly possible for an entire system to be based on such totally wrong principles that it’s bad for rulers and ruled. If that was the case with Communism (as most people will now admit) then why is it outrageous to consider it’s true of this system too?
And remember: Communism was really just a breakaway from what was already a corrupt and competitively divisive system!
At least, as a psychologist, I can notice every day, in countless tiny examples, how deeply we Capitalist citizens are conditioned to be competitive. Constantly I hear adults ask young children, say, what’s your favourite colour? Favourite colour? We have to rank colours too?! Or your favourite food? Your favourite star? And so on. We’re groomed (by authorities, family and everyone) to see the world and others competitively, and it’s very difficult indeed to see any other way.
Now some will tell you that we’d never have gained this fabulously advanced technological development without competition. I don’t believe that myself, but luckily we don’t have to agree, because it’s unarguable that this dominant Competition system is wholly inappropriate for continued happy existence on a very small planet. The sinister signs of this are everywhere.
One more thing. The problem of competition is not just ecological. An unfair competitive system also threatens everyone on a social basis too. Oklahoma and the Unabomber show us that this current system is so competitive that it is literally starting to tear itself apart . From the right and from the left there is clearly a growing awareness that the System is not working. I mean, what would cause a human being to walk into a supermarket and blow other beings away? Either you conclude that humanity is just crazy, simple as that. Or you have to ask: what is it in our culture that is driving people crazy? What fear and sense of injustice and daily stress could such terrorists have been under to make them do such things?
So, obviously, while beefing up security to protect ourselves from the psychopaths the system has already created, we must, much more importantly, take a hard look at the culture and the stress that’s breeding them.
And perhaps we have to pray that a new, more cooperative spirit spreads across this land of ours. And quickly.
You begin to see my drift?
What The Planet Most Needs Today Is A New Cooperative Culture
Karl Marx once predicted that Capitalism was bound to fall and that, when it did, the capitalists would compete to sell the victors the rope with which to hang them. That seems to hold true. No sooner do we lumberingly put a stop to one bad practice that’s slowly killing us all than some competition-crazed corporation finds ten even worse ways.
So what the planet most needs today is a new Cooperative culture. If there’s to be any hope, we need to see the appearance, rapid spread, and eventual dominance of a cooperative meme. A meme is a cultural virus you see around, and in the media, and which infects you with the beginnings of a new lifestyle-viewpoint. Our culture needs a meme which will make a cooperative attitude fashionable.
(As an aside, I don’t care if someone starts meditating or doing yoga or dancing because they read it’s fashionable in a trendy magazine - as long as they start meditating or dancing! Getting people there is what’s important. This is how memes work, that’s why corporations spend billions trying to spread theirs.)
SO... if the Human species really is capable of adapting in time, then by this late stage in the game there should be signs of it, signs of a new cooperative culture appearing. And not just here and there, but spreading widely and rapidly in all western democracies.
It should certainly involve Youth - of all ages.
It should offer a meeting/melting point where many diverse answers can come together.
It should have its own new style of music and dance.
It should be linked with a Love of Nature.
It should encourage its participants to cooperate (meaning no big corporate star system)
And it should encourage gathering together in large numbers out in the countryside and away from the City.
I was finally forced to conclude that there’s no way for a culture or social system to resist the commercial entrapment attack (unless maybe the muslim religion!).
Searching through mainstream culture here in America there is absolutely no sign of this happening. Beavis and Butthead attitudes still rule. Generation X. Cynicism. Apathy. Negativity. Self-sufficiency. Grunge .. whose great hero is already dead .. from hard drugs. The Punk thing, which America is now in the dying stages of, sees no way out, and merely refuses to be part of the overall corruption and materialism. But that’s no way enough to change anything. Certainly not in the time available.
Rave Culture, on the other hand, is exploding all through the western democracies, and shows every sign of capturing America over the next few years.
It has no stars. Everybody is equal on the dancefloor, and its ethos is that everybody mucks in to help. Rave has been going for a good 6 years now, and yet I doubt if most ravers could agree on one well established DJ name. Compare that to Rock’nRoll, the musical vehicle of the last great alternative/protest/new culture, where already you had Superstars in the first year who are still famous and wealthy today.
And I’d guess that 7 out of 10 ravers on the dancefloor couldn’t even tell you who the DJ is. And 6 out of ten probably couldn’t even tell you where he is!
In England, where the economic collapse has gone much further (but it’s coming here too, believe me) young people are being forced to cooperate. If you want to organise a Rave, say, someone will have records, someone else will know a venue, somebody else will supply a sound system, and so on.
The yuppy myth of having all the technology yourself is dead. In my opinion never to return.
In England it’s called a ‘Depression’ - but it’s important to notice that that’s the perception of people who believe they have something to lose. In my estimation, although an increasing number of young people in England no longer have any expectation of ever having what used to be called a “proper job”, there has been a gigantic outbreak of creative energy and imagination the likes of which I’ve never seen in my life, even during the Hippy times. Everybody’s publishing their own magazines, leaflets, mixing music, making their own clothes and affecting the overground fashion, organising raves and social protests, everybody’s busy busy busy being creative.
When some Zippies and I arrived for the Zippy Pronoia Tour To Us last year we all felt like we were moving at light speed compared to the constipated, competition-blocked energy we found here. It’s as if the collapse of the Old System has unblocked this creativity and imagination in people. In the people.
We Can’t Avoid Materialism, We Gotta Go Past It
I spent a lot of my early “Hippy” life, after University, exploring the planet in search of a “third way”, a culture with which to ally myself that would be evolved enough, in a true sense, to look at the Western model with a wise eye, and be able to say: “We like the modem, we’ll take the digital recording stuff, and the recycled tissues and this and that, but we don’t want the rest of it, none of it. Now look what we’ve got! Check out this shamanic technology!”
Though I found many such individuals over the years, I was finally forced to conclude that there’s no way for a culture or social system to resist the commercial entrapment attack (unless maybe the muslim religion!). The number of times my meditation was interrupted in India by enquiries as to how many diamonds were in my watch when I never even knew of these diamonds myself!
Finally, after 2 decades, I realised that, as long as the dominant driving power is the Western competitive “progress” meme, then materialism, with all its attendant exploitation of natural resources, general pollution and social division, is a stage each culture must now witness for itself before it can hope to see beyond it.
…before we can plumb the depth and breadth of the Rave phenomenon to place it within its proper context, we need some real understanding of what that previous gigantic social movement of the Sixties was about.
And here’s another problem Rave Culture can solve. Once people start noticing what’s going wrong, many many little movements spring up to protest and resist. However, though many people are doing good selfless work, the trouble is that each of these single issues creates more fragmentation, both with those who oppose a particular needed change, and fragmentation with others who are prioritising other issues that are actually inextricably linked. And yet nothing has quite managed to focus them all together.
Somehow, it seems to me, all these protests have to be seen, and then acted upon, as One Single, Overall Paradigm Shift. If Society can make that One Shift from Competition to Cooperation then all the lesser issues will obviously work themselves out. And that will be the end of the world as we know it.
In short, I came back to the West, to the very Belly of the Beast, to work from within. And, after a few years of analysing and re-exploring where the West had devolved to in my absence, both in Europe and in America, re-connecting with old colleagues and friends and defining what we were all about, we hatched our Zippy Conspiracy To Save the Planet.
The Zippy Conspiracy To Save the Planet. This involved...
First: An agreed analysis of the sum total of basic problems. These were pretty much what I’ve already outlined, plus the basic agreement that the essence of the problem was psychological. No true conspiracies existed, though hundreds of lesser ones, and therefore the Solution involved changing the culture, which would then lead to system change. Not the other way round, as so many people seem to think. Indeed, if there is an overall conspiracy, they want us to believe that their System is the only way to achieve the changes we want. I say the people change first, and finally the government enacts those changes.
Second: we tried to identify where the best hope for real change in the culture would appear - if it was going to appear. We decided this was most definitely going to be in Youth Culture, where you clearly find the most idealism, the most experimentalism, and the least commitment to the current competitive structure. Young people have the smallest stake, so to speak. Plus, curiously enough, the least government control, largely because the “pop/entertainment world” just isn’t taken seriously.
So we chose to work at the extreme end of the entertainment world - in edutainment. Not only would we be able to create some radical communication between large numbers of people before the powers-that-be even noticed us, but then, when they did, we’d be serious enough, and with enough “serious” connections and inroads into the system itself, as to be almost respectable.
Third: we calculated, logically and almost mathematically, just what the new lifestyle we were going to promulgate should be in order to return humanity to a cooperative relationship with the planet. Here’s where Zippy first coalesced.
Harmonising the Tecno and Hippy hemispheres, in Self and on Planet, I’ll come back to this.
Fourthly: we set about making that lifestyle fashionable. And linking in with all people of good will who were already living that way. Since we’d already agreed that there were no villains, just psychological victims, this further allowed us to agree that our Message would be: More Fun For Everyone!! And it’s true! Everybody, without exception, will have more fun under a more cooperative culture. Zat iss an order.
And from there to the feeling that all we’d really be doing would be providing a stage for all good creative people to “help each other”, it was not hard to go all the way to pronoia - the sneaking suspicion that others are conspiring behind your back to help you. And you them.
Now the zippy thing is not that hard to work out. We need a new lifestyle to rapidly become fashionable that encourages people to feel hip if they’re lowering their consumption expectations and demands, getting more imaginative and cooperative by trimming costs and pooling facilities, and being more gentle and more shamanic at the same time.
A Cooperative meme. Not just with each other, but with others who are not part of the movement. We don’t want a confrontational attitude - that will just spread the problem. We’re fighting and partying for their fun too!
And here’s the definition of Zippy - ‘someone who, perceiving the imbalance in his mind and on his planet between the Tecnoperson hemisphere (which values long term planning, group endeavour, proper budgeting, patience and perseverance) and the Hippy hemisphere (which values spontaneity, living in the moment, personal whim, mysticism and detachment), is working to harmonise them again, both in himself and on his planet.’ Notice that a Zippy is working towards this balance - he hasn’t necessarily achieved it yet.
And, of course, we posited in our calculations that the technology would start becoming seriously affordable to many young people.
This Zippy concept cut straight across the Old Paradigm of Straight and Alternative. A zippy could be a businessman stimulating his Hippy Hemisphere by taking a yoga class, or a Rainbow lady activating her Tecnoperson Hemisphere by setting up her own little hemp stall business at a rave. Each is trying to move towards balance. It helped you to see who your real allies were, who was really like you. A businessman who wasn’t exploring his hippy hemisphere, or a hippy who wasn’t increasing his engagement with the world, are not Zippies.
And then the ‘Acid House Party’ burst through my door!
Just as it had done in the Sixties! It was hot! And it bore the seeds of a possible final success of what the Hippies had set out to achieve. For the truth is that, before we can plumb the depth and breadth of the Rave phenomenon to place it within its proper context, we need some real understanding of what that previous gigantic social movement of the Sixties was about. For the fact that there are already more ravers on the planet than there were hippies at the height of that phenomenon (and yet most people are still not even aware of it) testifies to the sheer scale of this ‘90s, millennial phenomenon which is still, even today, 6 years after its birth, only in its infancy. More mature folk haven’t even really started getting involved yet - as they did in the ‘60s - the ‘Youth Thing’ was a well-researched phenomenon during the era, and changed many, many people.
Hippy, then, involved a political component, an ecological component, and a personal/spiritual component.
THE POLITICAL COMPONENT was rather an attempt to go beyond the Old Competitive Politics which seemed just unintelligently destructive. An Opposition, within the governing body of the system itself, whose duty was simply to oppose?! Gimme a break! Basically, as I’ve said, what Hippies decided was that the two competing world systems were fundamentally user-unfriendly, both for the masses, who were left starving for soul food and peace, and for the so-called leaders who were dropping from cancer, heart attacks and stress. A plague on both their houses was our conclusion, and One Down, One To Go our attitude today.
THE ECOLOGICAL COMPONENT was this: becoming a hippy involved Dropping Out - of a System that was suffocating everyone and killing the planet. It was actually a brave personal decision to basically reduce one’s own personal level of consumption by roughly 75%. That was what the planet needed. And that’s what the Hippy opted for.
And I, and hundreds of thousands of other good people around the planet, have continued to live that way ever since - unreported. And I say today: we were right about that too. If everybody, possessed of much the same facts as we, had had the courage and intelligence to make the same decision then, we would today be passing on to you, the next generation, a very healthily balanced, beautifully and sensitively preserved and developed planet, instead of this shameful, terrible mess.
But most people did not have the courage, or the intelligence, or whatever it was, and now they are beginning to be forced to make those changes.
THE PERSONAL/SPIRITUAL COMPONENT brings us directly to the Rave. The Hippy conclusion, after many experiments, successful and otherwise (and don’t forget that we were exploring territory which Western culture had never delved into before, certainly not on the mass scale that we did) was this: the only hope for the planet, and for WoMankind who was the only threat to it, was that some device or technique be discovered (or more likely re-discovered) that would enable every person in the West to Get Out Of Their Heads! And Back Into Their Hearts And Bodies! To get their three brains, the Intellectual Brain, the Emotional Brain and the Physical-Moving Brain (as a great teacher George Gurdjieff used to put it) back into harmony, and working cooperatively together.
Today, every high street in Britain, and increasingly throughout the West, boasts a club offering just such a facility. The ancient, shamanic, consciousness -raising, ego-meltdown, boundary-dissolving technology of African-style, non-stop dancing to an insistent tribal drumbeat, enhanced by the most futuristic, technolgised, electronic virtuality is getting an entire generation Out Of Their Heads! And starting the Long March back to Balance.
Why Are You Still Wearing Black?
Haven’t You Heard The Funeral’s Been Cancelled?
So there I was, editing & publishing the Encyclopaedia Psychedelica, predicting a massive new outburst of “mass consciousness raising” when, through my door, burst the Scoobie Doobies, two young designers dressed in colourful clothes, and looking bright-eyed and enthusiastic. This was in the dark days of Punk, remember. Indeed, as soon as I got involved in the Rave scene, I coined a special phrase for Punks and Goths: “Why are you still wearing black? Haven’t you heard the Funeral’s been cancelled?”
The Scoobies informed me excitedly that something they called the ‘Acid House scene’ had been happening around the corner for 6 months!
Shoom was the first rave club I attended. It was run by Danny Rampling who, if he hadn’t remained a yuppie at heart, would now, and should now, be very famous indeed. And the first thing I noticed, and wondered about, was that the 2000 ravers there were dressing down, simple jogging pants and big loose t-shirts. What spirit in these smart young yuppies would make them want to dress down?! Obviously because they were seriously dancing. But that doesn’t explain it away. Why else were they seriously dancing but from a natural reaction against too much ‘headucation’? Right?
The first open-air ‘Acid House Party’ I attended was by a posse called Sunrise, run by a young ex-gambler called Tony Colston-Hayter, who was soon being interviewed on all the media as the ‘Acid House King’. There were 20,000 kids packed into a field 20 miles from London, surrounded by a Big Dipper, a Ferris Wheel, stalls selling champagne, hot dogs etc, with me the only person there over 25. We’d arrived by following the instructions on our full-colour flier, calling the hot lines from various map points to get the next directions, the whole operation carefully organised so that loose groupings of 1000 people were simultaneously descending on the spot from 4 different directions - all this in order to prevent the police from discovering and stopping the fun. Once we were in, the law demanded they consider it a “potential riot situation” and leave us alone.
If Mrs Thatcher’s call for ‘a rebirth of the spirit of enterprise’ had been real, she would not have tried to stamp Raving out. She’d have supported it, would have provided backup and proper facilities, it would have been an entirely natural and healthy regeneration of the culture, and it would now be Britain’s greatest cultural export to the world, sort of the Beatles and Rolling Stones…
I remember Tony halting the music (almost never done at a rave) to announce: “They’ve hit us with 12 injunctions, but they haven’t stopped the party!” and a gigantic, defiant cheer going up. Clearly there was determination, courage, and potentially rebellion in this scene.
The closest my mind could contextualise the event which my eyes were registering was the Hippy Festival, but this was assuredly a new fractal of that. Social developments don’t go in cycles, or even in spirals, they go in fractals, with each bearing self-similarities to the previous wave, but each bigger than the one before and travelling further and further from the gravitational pull of the Old Paradigm until, finally, we fall under the pull of a new Strange Attractor and go off in an entirely new direction, with no return.
There were differences, however, and I don’t want to hide them. The primary one was that these ravers were not hippies, they were yuppies. Smart, maybe even smart-assed, but level-headed, savvy and entrepreneurial. They believed in the system. Indeed I remember one young yuppy raver girl exclaiming: “Isn’t it great? You work really hard all week, and you rave really hard all weekend?!” So long as she could ‘get out of her head’ once a week, she was proud, even excited about being part of the system. In the Sixties we’d have called her a “weekend hippy”, except that those types came much later in the Hippy phenomenon when it had become fashionable, but here everyone seemed to be weekend ravers! Already!
If Mrs Thatcher’s call for ‘a rebirth of the spirit of enterprise’ had been real, she would not have tried to stamp Raving out. She’d have supported it, would have provided backup and proper facilities, it would have been an entirely natural and healthy regeneration of the culture, and it would now be Britain’s greatest cultural export to the world, sort of the Beatles and Rolling Stones of the Nineties. I mean people like Tony were charging $40 a head, and selling 20,000 tickets. Work it out, it’s $800,000, in one night! If that’s not enterprise, I don’t know what is...
But Maggie Thatcher’s version of ‘enterprise’ was puritanical, mean-spirited, middleclass and middlebrow, and she was protecting her own Conservative supporting industrial barons and the status quo. She did not appreciate the freedom and sudden shifts of power which true enterprise can bring about.
And when the kids saw the full power of the state turned against them, for doing what she had advised them to do, they began to question the system for the first time in their lives, and a long and inevitable process of radicalisation was begun.
By party most people think of picking up a member of the opposite (or same) sex, maybe getting off your face, dancing a little bit, chatting a little bit, drinking a little or a lot. None of these items would really happen at a real rave.
Another difference with the Hippy thing was the volume and sheer pervasiveness of the music. Its deep bass tecnotronic beats carried everywhere, and dancing continued everywhere, people even danced to the champagne stall at the far end of the field. This was not music to lay back and listen passively to, from a distance, or confined to one place so you could get away from it. This was involving, these kids wanted to be surrounded by it. And this is crucially different from the Hippy style. Rave culture is dance-based. Dance is not some optional extra. If you watch old Hippy/Woodstock footage, you’ll see a few girls dancing (that’s why the camera was set up there in the first place) but most people are sitting around, listening to the bands, puffing, and so on.
And the third crucial difference was the insistence with which these young people proclaimed that they were not hippies. That’s one of its strengths - Rave was not invented by old hippy conspirators like me. This was a spontaneous energy eruption from among youth itself, from the very heart of the Gene Pool. This is Rave’s ultimate validation.
But at the same time, from the Zippy viewpoint, it was unquestionably the Hippy hemisphere of their minds that these tecnopeople were activating.
So What’s A Rave Actually Like?
It must be clear by now that it is not just a new kind of party. Actually the concept ‘party’ is long overdue for redefinition, being a leftover from the industrial age, in my view, where the weekend ‘party’ was a release for the worker ants after 5 days of hard, physical exhaustion in the factories. Increasingly we don’t actually live that way any more, and we need to re-define it. And the new paradigm will be along the lines of Work-Play and Play-Work. Edutainment.
By “party” most people think of picking up a member of the opposite (or same) sex, maybe getting off your face, dancing a little bit, chatting a little bit, drinking a little or a lot. None of these items would really happen at a real rave.
FIRST: Alcohol is not the main social lubricant. A whole generation is now appearing where alcohol is not fashionable, indeed it’s more and more regarded as a drag. That alone would make Rave Culture a historically crucial and positive development. If you’d told me ten years ago that alcohol would become unfashionable in my lifetime I’d have accused you of doing too much acid. But it has.
SECOND: Raving is not just a new dance step. In fact there are no steps. And you rarely dance with a partner. You just get out on the floor and do what you feel, or just follow whatever takes you over from inside.
This is important. The fact that there are no steps to hide behind makes everyone very naked. I love watching people raving almost as much as I enjoy dancing. Everyone’s revealed as unique. Every dancing person tells their story whether they wish to or not. Here’s a fat green-haired girl going for it like a souped-up earth mother, there’s a skinny black dude smoothly jigging like humorous sin, and that blond guy, well, he looks like a deranged but amazingly rhythmical toad. Since you can only do what you are, you are totally exposed on the dancefloor. And the fact that everyone is in the same position adds this feeling of everyone being naked together. And pretty soon you don’t even notice, you’re already taking it for granted! Which is how Change comes about.
THIRD: The beat is faster, and each record mixes into the next (the whole concept of mixing has been raised to the level of the divine), each record blending seamlessly into the next to produce a non-stop wall of sound. All night long. Like an ocean of waves carrying us all forward towards a not-so-distant shore, a common shore - at least that’s the feeling that builds.
FOURTH: The DJ is present, live, able to pick up on the mood on the floor, lift the pace or the vibe when it’s ready, and bring it down again, only to lift it to a new peak. When I first noticed this power which the DJ potentially has to channel the crowd mood, I called the DJ the ‘Tecno-Shaman’ - the phrase has stuck and you’ll see it a lot.
The UK government has passed an unbelievable number of laws against Rave Culture. And other governments are starting to follow suit. Why? It can only be because, in some dim way, they sense the power of it.
Also you don’t just have a little drinky-poo, and then a little dance with some girl you’ve just met. Nothing like that. People dance to rave music for hours. It is shamanic, tribal african style dancing for hour after hour until your mind is stilled, and your previous conditioning starts to be removed. It’s often called a trance state, but I prefer to see it as having your trance state removed, so that your eyes are opened and you can see the world as it really is. Or could be.
Most raves stop there, even today, stop at what I call the First Stage of Rave. And, as far as that goes, that’s okay. But it’s very important to take the next steps. If a promoter has helped open someone’s mind to new input, then he should have good positive new input available. And this is where the Ambient Chill Out Room(s) come in. Here you might have various kinds of literature available, movies, massage, tarot, astrology, brain machines, computers, and another room with talks (even like this one) and so on. Stage Two.
The History Of Rave Culture
As for the History of Rave Culture, you can get most of it from magazines etc, so I won’t spend a lot of time on it. The music itself began in Chicago - it was called “Acid House” Music - connected to interfering with a track, even pouring acid on or “burning” a record to produce an effect etc. I’ve spoken on stage with Derek Carter, and I’ve heard him (and others at other times) state categorically that it had nothing to do with “acid”. But then, let’s face it, if the media were all accusing you of such a thing, what would you say?
Next it was picked up in London, and in Ibiza - which is interesting, because Ibiza was also a famous hippy hangout in the ‘60s and ‘70s - I spent several years there myself. It’s full of intimate little clubs, with micro dancefloors, and, of course, lovely Mediterranean outdoors weather, beaches and full moon parties. So London’s club “trendies” used to hang out in Ibiza, picked up on the new music from Chicago, started mixing it in, along with the new drug from America, ecstasy (which had been almost entirely used there for couple therapy) and then brought this new mix back to London.
An so appeared the first “acid house” parties. And E Warehouse parties. Shoom, as I mentioned, was the most famous of the early ones. Aficionados might be interested to know that Jenny, Danny Rampling’s wife, grew up in Malta which is famous for its mafia and its clubs, so Jenny certainly knew a thing or two about making a club “fashionable”.
From the first time I saw and heard an “Aceeed” House party, I knew that this was the ‘consciousness raising’, revival I’d been predicting. Most of the trendies - who seemed to see only a happy new dance style with lots of hugs - were of the loud opinion that it would all be over by Autumn, and have been saying the same thing ever since, but I knew right from the first moment that this one would spread and spread, and that’s what it’s done. An interesting side-effect is that folks in each place as it catches on think they’re the best that’s ever been, and I think this is very very important and healthy. The UK was Rave’s original home, but in no sense can it be called its HQ today, except insofar as Rave Culture (as opposed to just ravers going to raves) may be much broader and more developed there.
A key element in the development of Rave Culture was when the Ravers, faced with a lack of big warehouses in the city because of government crackdowns, crossed over with the New Age travellers and the Free Festival Hippies. This connected Rave back to its Hippy roots, thus giving it social impetus, rebellion and some spirituality. Obviously a whole book could be written on this subject.
The UK government has passed an unbelievable number of laws against Rave Culture. And other governments are starting to follow suit. Why? It can only be because, in some dim way, they sense the power of it.
And now, lastly, after which we’ll have questions and answers, I’d like to read aloud a piece I wrote last night called The Mythical Rave. It’s a bit poetic, which is fitting, but also a bit prosaic and informational at the same time.
The Mythical Rave
The Mythical Rave should be both out in the open air and begin around sunset. This rarely happens, but it’s the ideal I’m now describing. People start drifting in as the sun goes down - checking out the venue, finding their spot (where they can leave their things) maybe a tent, hanging their flag so others of their posse can find them, eating some food and so on.
By now the music has started, but it’s relatively quiet and drifty at this stage. People are checking out what other distractions are available. These could include massage, body & face painting, stalls on social, political, ecological and personal/spiritual activities, brain machines, food and smart drinks, video-modem interlinks with other clubs, and so on and on. Anything, really, that’s inspiring, consciousness-raising or positive.
No negative images should be shown during the whole rave. This is how we do it in Megatripolis, the club I founded in London. Despite the argument that Art should show both the Dark and the Light, I am very clear in my own mind that we get the Dark six days a week, and, even if we get pure Light for a whole night, the balance is still on the Dark side.
Occasionally people start hitting the dancefloor. Dancing at this early stage helps to get the blood flowing round your veins, and generally loosens people up, helps them to mix, drop their social barriers, and so on.
Gradually over the night the music accelerates, and more and more people join in. By just after midnight the place is starting to get as packed as it’s going to be. (This is different with indoor raves where most people probably arrive after midnight.) We’re now participating in a Tribal Gathering / Love Dance to absolutely non-stop, shamanic, rhythmic drum rolls and electronic bleeps that slightly unhinge the mind (where am I? who am I? not a fukkin accountant that’s for sure!).
Gradually the Group Mind becomes more dominant. It becomes Who Are We? I’m part of something. I’m part of something that’s actually bigger than myself. I’m one of the people, these are my people, this is Us! We’re not just Particles, we’re a Wave!
In ‘Noise, The Political Economy of Music’, Jacques Attali says this:
“Music is prophesy. Its styles are ahead of the rest of society because it explores, much faster than material reality can, the entire range of possibilities. It makes audible the new world that will gradually become visible, that will impose itself and regulate the order of things.”
By the middle of the night people are taking a break (some go all the way through non-stop of course) wandering around, hugging old friends and new friends, lots of hugging, not much direct sexuality because of this Group Mind entity that’s beginning to be felt by everyone present. Ego meltdown into GroupMind and Consciousness.
Sunrise approaches. And this is the crucial time - definitely the mythological heart of the Rave. Everyone is back on the dancefloor now, dancing up a storm as the music gets louder and faster and more cosmic, possibly with angelic choir samplings and even classical music samplings laid over the pumping beats to help arouse a religious sense of awe.
And so, WE DANCE UP THE SUN!
Like the old pagan festivals, we’re all in this together, this is our planet, She is indescribably beautiful, gigantic, we are atoms of that Living Goddess. Personally I can’t see a better way to help people learn the love, respect and reverence for Nature which is crucial than the classic, open-air, all-night Rave. Can you imagine what it felt like with 20,000 people going for it and actually feeling together, and the power of a people together ... and then dancing the sun up?! It’s awesome, it’s religious, it’s life-changing. And it’s history-making, because it heralds the arrival of the Spirit of Cooperation..
The current Yoga Journal has an article called Sacred Raves which says this:
“These all-night dance marathons look like hedonistic escape, but raves may just be the defining spiritual expression of a new generation.”
And I’ll finish with a quote in that same magazine from the Reverend Matthew Fox of Grace Cathedral in San Francisco: “These kids are showing us how to pray in a new way, which is also an ancient way - with fewer books and more dancing”.