They Call it Acid

Written by Paolo Sedazzari
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They Call it Acid
Picture This – London Town 1987. A once swinging city paralyzed by a cult of conformity and materialism. The youth more pre-occupied with getting on the property ladder than getting “on one.” But something stirs deep in the heart of the city’s underground – the sound of pumping bass and percussion. A seismic shift in London’s landscape is about to happen.

Just how important was the acid house explosion of 1988? To those people who lived through it and were part of it – it was nothing short of a revolution, the single most important cultural happening in our lifetime. To those who weren’t – it may seem like a bunch of nutters taking drugs and acting silly. So it’s time this amazing tale were told - and that’s exactly what the documentary They Call It Acid sets out to do. Taking you on a frenetic two hour journey through those times, told by the people who lived through it, danced through it, spun the records and even those who bust the parties.

they call it acid The film’s extensive range covers the birth of house and techno in Chicago and Detroit (told by, among others, Larry Heard, Marshall Jefferson, Derrick May) the British clubs that pioneered the scene, (with testimonies from Noel Watson, Colin Faver, Mark Moore, Mike Pickering, Trevor Fung, Paul Oakenfold, Danny Rampling) the Ibiza experience (Alfredo), the tabloid hysteria and the resulting police crackdown. Mad anecdotes are interweaved with serious political comment as civil liberties and our right to dance faced an onslaught from the boys in blue.

All this to a pumping soundtrack curated by ‘Evil’ Eddie Richards perennial DJ of the Sunrise parties who along the way gives us bursts of classic tracks like Flesh, Going Back To My Roots and that one by The Residents. The film is full of nice little touches – like employing the silky vocals of Robert Owens (Tears, I’ll Be Your Friend) as narrator. There’s great stuff in between the series of talking heads, including amazing original RIP Clink Street footage, some quite convincing made-up Shoom shots, a re-creation of Carl Cox’s storming it at 7 am at Sunrise with his three-deck mix of Let it Roll/French Kiss, and evocative clips of those mad yet mellow Sunday afternoons on Clapham Common.

The big problem with ‘marketing’ the story of acid house is that the scene never gave us the crazy maverick performers that rock’n’roll has. There are no Vince Taylors, Janis Joplins, Rob Calverts, Keith Moons or Joe Strummers. Artists whose life stories in themselves would sustain a two hour documentary. But Acid House was a collective experience, all about people coming together, and so logically the story of Acid House is a patchwork of tales that only makes sense when you put the many pieces together - and this was what They Call It Acid gives us.

The final act of this documentary focuses on the police crack-down and the passing of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 (complete with that ‘repetitive beats’ clause). There is some shaky footage of the brutal raid at Blackburn this is balanced with another nice touch - Wayne Anthony of the Genesis parties chatting to his old adversary in the police force, while playing the Rave board game. The policeman has the good grace to admit the pointlessness of what he was ordered to do at the time.

Though raves got harder to organized, the scene survived the draconian measures. The dance scene, the house scene, the club scene, call it what you will (but you can’t call it acid any more) moved to the nightclubs and became part of the mainstream culture of conformity and materialism. Inevitable perhaps, but let’s not worry about that now - it’s time this tale was told. Catch They Call It Acid when you can and relive the madness

"Looking out the window I feel the heartbeat of the cityI hear the City Lights Are Calling My Name.”
They Call it Acid
©  Words – Paolo Sedazzari/ZANI Media
        Bottom Photograph – Dave Swindells.

Read 6585 times Last modified on Sunday, 28 March 2021 16:15
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Paolo Sedazzari

Paolo Sedazzari

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