A Celebration of Scottish House Parties

Written by Johnny Proctor
  • font size decrease font size increase font size
  • Print
  • Email
By now, the story of how Acid House and ecstasy was introduced to Great Britain at the end of the 80’s has been told more times than The Hungry Caterpillar has been to kids at bed time by their parents.
The tale of how the hedonistic spirit of Ibiza was smuggled back in a few holiday makers suitcases and brought back to London and planned for mass consumption. Legends like Danny Rampling, Nicky Holloway and Paul Oakenfold have well deservedly etched their names into UK house music folklore. Returning from their life changing trips to the white isle they set about changing the face of London’s club scene. And then beyond

Word spread north of the Watford gap about this new and original brand of hedonistic madness quicker than you could say ‘What’s your name? Where you from? What you had?.’ Once the northerners got their hands on the things though that’s when the monster that was Acid House was truly unleashed. Now don’t shoot the messenger here but the impression has always been that when it comes to clubbing. Those from the north are stereotypically much more unreserved and willing to push themselves to the absolute limits than our cousins down south. With that, when they got their hands on the combination of house music and this new revolutionary drug called ecstasy. They, as could've so easily been predicted, made the most of it. Quite the understatement, that!

What originated inside sweaty and rammed full London clubs like Shoom and Spectrum we then saw equally packed sweatbox’s further up the map such as Liverpool’s Quadrant Park, Shelley’s in Stoke and the world renowned clobbers cathedral that was Fac 51, The Hacienda. Thing’s were happening outside during this period, on much larger scale. Hand in hand with the north’s club scene was the outdoor illegal party operations being carried out by party “entrepreneurs” like Manchester’s Donnelly brothers. Anthony & Christopher, who made the national news by staging “Joy” in Rochdale and “Live The Dream” in Blackburn. By putting on Joy they, against all the odds had thousands turn out at Stand Lees Farm despite the protests from Rochdale Council and well known local politician Cyril Smith. An ex member of parliament since posthumously outed as a part of a high level paedophile ring. Not exactly someone who possessed the moral high ground over preventing the working class British youth from partying all night long each weekend.

Also in Blackburn there was the much more gritty guerrilla style low budget parties put on by Tommy Smith and Tony Creft. For a time Blackburn city centre was busier at two in the morning than it was at two in the afternoon due to these two. Hundreds of cars converging all making sure they were going to be part of the convoy to the as yet unknown destination. Of which you didn’t really know until the sun came out before you found out which warehouse you had been dancing in since the middle of the night. If you were lucky you’d find that it wasn’t an abattoir or worse! Much like Joy and Live The Dream, the Blackburn warehouse parties were the stuff of legend. Thousands dancing inside a warehouse in the middle of an industrial estate while the rest of the “normal” people across the region were tucked up safe in bed. An example of the depth of the northern spirit, what happened when a regional attitude met a life changing moment like Acid House and MDMA. They of course accepted it with open arms.

What about Scotland though? Despite what some people might wish for either side of the border, we’re still all stuck together on this island. With that we were having our defining moments involving these mdma filled pills (and to you young un’s reading this? They really WERE mdma “filled” ) to a backdrop of tunes like Lil Louis ‘French Kiss” and Jomanda’s “Make My Body Rock.” Do you really think that up here in Scotland we were just passing the time eating haggis, playing golf and tossing the caber?! Pre internet, no twitter or facebook, no message boards. Illegal all night parties, hardly being in with a remote chance of having an advert in the national or local press. There was inevitably a trickle down effect. London to the north then spreading from the north to, well, further north! It inevitably found its way.

Speaking obviously, from a Scot’s perspective I can say that there were elements of the Scottish people who never stood a fucking chance once Acid House made it’s way across the border. As a nation of people we like to think of ourselves as friendly and outgoing a country that you’ll find anywhere else on planet earth . Throw some white doves and electronic music into the mix and for a while at least, it led to some of the most memorable parties staged throughout the whole of the UK. From agricultural fields to conference centres right through to international airports (no, really) thousands of Scots were congregating, dancing from dusk to dawn while still well under the radar of the Scottish tabloids which by default equalled pretty much the entire country as a whole.

For a period of time before the rest of the country woke up to what was going on right under their noses, going to these 8pm - 8am all night parties felt like you were part of some secret society, well, secret as up to 20 thousand clued up party people could possibly be! Being someone privileged enough to have witnessed the transcendence of the Scottish house music scene from small underground events to the large scale behemoths of overnight parties. Through these large scale gatherings of like minded hedonistic souls a subculture sprung up overnight and one that, like England. Would go on to impact the whole of the nation in some way or other.

This piece is dedicated to some of Scotland’s most defining events that spawned from the early days of Acid House back at the end of the 80's which paved the way to a scene that is still going strong today.

It would be nothing more than pure sacrilege were I to start this doffing of caps to the legendary all night parties in Scotland if I started with anything other than Technodrome. An event that, at the time, was the largest of its kind in Europe let alone Scotland. Staged at the Dalvennan Shooting Ground, Kirkmichael Ayrshire. This was the watershed moment for Scotland when things went from small clubs to the great outdoors. On the largest of scales, legally. Alongside some of the up and coming techno local DJ's such as Marc Smith the English invasion of "vinyl deck technicians" who had already began making their names in the Acid House scene like Fabio, Grooverider, Dave Angel & Mickey Finn took Scotland by storm. A near 20'000 crowd willing recipients.

An unbelievable turn out at the time for a scene that was still in its early days in the country but slowly starting to grow. With PA's from crowd pleasers including N. Joi & Shades Of Rhythm on a cold October night in a mud bath that made your average Glastonbury weekend look dryer than a nuns lady part. Not that anyone even cared or no doubt for some, even noticed. Over the initial years of the Scottish party scene growing I witnessed and experienced many things but the crowd that night was something that was never, ever replicated. When N.Joi launched into their biggest of tunes "Anthem" there were genuine and well founded concerns that the energy from the crowd was going to take the roof off the big tent there and then.

Despite Technodrome being the first of large scale legal allnight parties in Scotland and the inaugural, in a scene that was only going become bigger. It was to be a party that would never be beaten for the size of sheer numbers that attended in addition to the innocent, non judging and raw attitude everyone brought with them that night when walking through the entrance. As the scene grew and grew, Technodrome gradually became the stuff of legend with those who were there that night wearing that fact like a badge of honour. In some ways the benchmark for what was to follow while never quite being surpassed. Proving that they were there at the ground level of the Scottish house music party scene. Those that weren't there? Of course, they ALSO said they were in attendance that night! Still spoken about in hushed tones to this day by the old guard. It was a night that was to define and pave the way forward for a fresh subculture without ever allowing itself to be bettered. It was what can only be described as Scotland’s “Woodstock” when it came to Acid House.

Only 6 days had passed from the last record being spun at Technodrome and with barely enough time for heads to fully clear. Things went back indoors again all be it on a slightly smaller scale than the week before in Ayrshire when thousands converged on Edinburgh's Ingliston conference centre for the Scottish event debut of Coventry's legendary club "The Eclipse." Signaling the end of their UK summer tour, the people behind Britain's first all night rave club venue in England’s Midlands, brought the curtain down on the tour by finishing with their first ever visit to Scotland.

With the mildly patronising named "Highlander" event they took Edinburgh by storm bringing their own unique brand of madness to a crowd still trying to come to terms with the levels of euphoria they'd experienced less than a week before at Technodrome. Frankly, “patronising” was tolerable if it involved putting on the calibration of DJ's with the talents of American, Joey Beltram and Londoner, Carl Cox in addition to resident Eclipse MC, the complete maniac that was Man Parris. The Eclipse were never to return to Scotland on such a grand scale but for what they brought to Edinburgh that night it was a case of “job done” in helping the Scottish house scene grow.

With the longer nights kicking in it was the chance for Scotland to, for the first time, experience outdoor parties in the summer sun as opposed to the the initial outdoor parties like Technodrome had been held. Enter Earthquaker. Staged in the west of Scotland in Ayrshire across the sprawling fields of Dalleagles Farm. The, by now clued up Scots were treated to the delights of American DJ’s Derrick May and Kevin Saunderson alongside mainstays of the British House scene including Leicester’s DJ SS, London’s Kenny Ken and Scottish favourites Marc Smith and Michael Kilkie on a scorching hot June night.

Accompanied by PA’s from Shut Up And Dance and Dream Frequency it was a night where everything seemed to click into place. The setting, the music and the crowd. By now elements of the Scottish media were starting to suss out what was going on as was evident by the appearance of an STV news crew who rolled up with their cameras and proceeded to interview some revellers slap bang in the middle of the party. Unfortunately, myself included which led to an ill advised appearance on “Scotland Today’s” Monday night news bulletin of which, still a teenager at the time caused me more problems than was worth.

With a mic and TV camera stuck in front of me midway through the night it seemed like a good idea at the time to tell the reporter what I thought of the all night party scene sweeping the country. It wasn’t that good an idea as far as ideas go! Sadly, regardless of the 9,000 crowd that attended that night it wasn't enough to make the organisers numbers work and by the next week the company had went into receivership. It has never been forgotten though how important their swan song was however with regards to reinforcing the party scene in the most northern part of Great Britain.

Out of all the party organisers that laid on events throughout Scotland during the early stages of the Scottish party scene. Newcastle based Rezerection, along with Scotland’s own Streetrave from the west of the country, were the people that invested the most money not to mention blood, sweat and tears into the scene. When the Geordies at Rez gave the growing army of party people The Castle it truly was a case of them laying down a marker and showing that they weren’t fucking about when it came to making their intentions known.

This wasn’t their first all nighter by any means but it was undoubtedly the one where their brand came together in the eyes of the Scottish public. It cemented their reputation on a night that proved that they were here for the long haul. Having already put on nights at the same Edinburgh venue as Highlander with mixed success it was apparent that they had listened to the feedback from their initial foray in the country and assembled a mix of dj’s that was to suit the tastes of Scottish ravers.

Their earlier debut, despite being mightily impressive visually and audibly was not to the publics (at the time) less than discerning and still primitive tastes and was met with mixed reviews. This was due to the fact that they had followed the tried and tested formula that promoters like Fantazia and Dreamscape had already deployed down south which was to fill the bill mainly with wall to wall English jungle Dj’s. Something which, musically went the way of the lead balloon. My everlasting memories of that debut all nighter was of thousands of ravers full of ecstasy but mostly complaining all night long about the tunes that were being spun.

With Scotland coming on board moments after England they simply were’t ready for this type of music and in truth they never quite took to the genre apart from a small minority. The Castle changed that and all was instantly forgiven. With an unbelievable stage constructed as, well, a castle. The crowd went absolutely ballistic to PA’s like Bizarre Inc and Love Decade which were safe pairs of hands to hold the Scottish raver in. The DJ’s? There was the obligatory plethora of top drawer spinners with the highlights being Andy Carroll from Quadrant Park and a special extended 3 deck set from Carl Cox taking everyone up to 8am.

Despite it being a scary 23 years ago now, my stick out memory, like it was only yesterday, isn’t the mind-blowing set from Coxy but the moment Andy Carroll dropped Sister Sledge’s “We Are Family” to the unsuspecting thousands of party goer’s. Whether he knew it or not this was a risky strategy in Scotland but after an initial few moments of confused looks between the crowd they embraced his originality shown and soon were dancing in unison with the biggest of grins that I witnessed throughout the night.

For years afterwards “The Rez” kept coming back repeatedly to the capital city but the feeling was that the night of The Castle was the moment that Rezerection gave its greatest gift to the Scottish scene. Soon the brand grew into the mainstream monster that it did and with that the magic was lost forever in a sea of glow sticks, white boiler suits, undesirables and badly cut drugs. By bringing the The Castle to the country of castles though no one can deny how much of a mark those Geordies made that night.

The last day of 1992 brought the unique, outlandish and without question THE most surreal party venue for not just an all night rave in Scotland but the entire United Kingdom, possibly Europe. Eurodance, presented by the Streetrave team of ex Motherwell FC casuals Ricky Magowan and James Mackay didn't take place in a farmers field, nor a shooting range or major conference and exhibition centre. This legendary pair pulled off the seemingly unthinkable by hosting their new years eve bash inside one of Scotland's main international airports?! No one came remotely close to consistently and persistently giving the Scottish scene more than the Streetrave crew did so it was fitting that it was these same lads who with their gallus and innovative attitudes to bringing bigger and bolder and ruffer and tuffer parties to the nation were the same people who topped anything ever to be put on previously and up to present day for originality. The feeling that night handing over your ticket and entering Glasgow Prestwick International Airport was one of anticipation that you were about to attend something truly special, which was undoubtedly the case.

That you, along with the rest of the 5’000 crowd were about to experience something that would would be remembered long after the scene had either evolved or moved on. That this simply wasn't going to be just another by the numbers 8pm to 8am night of hedonistic madness that had already been going on over the country up until then. It felt that you were participating in a piece of history. And it’s due to this that it will forever take it’s place as one of the best, memorable and important house parties ever held in Ecosse. Nowhere in the terminal was off limits. For example. My own personal story from that night was that I spent half of it dancing on top of a British Airways check in desk that on any other given day would've been the scene of scores of passengers handing over their passports to some sweet smelling and overdone with make up BA check in assistant handing over their passengers boarding passes. The irony of the offices of Her Majesty’s customs being just around the corner while 5’000 ravers were going completely mental was such a beautiful thing to witness. Compared to the line ups of the other parties included in this piece, the bill wasn’t exactly that stellar but on a night like this inside a unique venue like an international airport, it simply didn’t matter.

To complain about the lack of A list DJ’s would've been the most obvious case of missing the point. Between Streetrave favorites like Jon Mancini and Boney and respected English DJ’s like Trevor Fung and Simon “Baseline” Smith the crowd never skipped a beat or dipped until the last tune was spun at 7.55am. To this day Ricky Magowan and James “Jamsy” Mackay are still doing their thing and still as important to the scene in Scotland. Years back they wisely changed the company name from Streetrave to Colours due to the by then altered view of the word “rave.” Continuing to bring the best DJ’s from over the world to their nights at Glasgow’s Arches club and their larger scale events at the Braehead Arena across the city. They could've retired after that initial night at the airport and their legendary status would've been secured due to the cojones they showed in giving their customers such a night when seeing in the new year of 1992. The Scottish public young and old salute them for sticking at it!

Read 5515 times Last modified on Monday, 23 October 2017 16:20
Rate this item
(3 votes)
Johnny Proctor

Johnny Proctor

About Us

ZANI was conceived in late 2008 and the fan base gradually grew by word of mouth. Key contributors came from those of the music, film and fashion industry and the voice of ZANI grew louder. So, when in 2013 investor, contributor and fan of ZANI Alan McGee* offered his support to help restyle and relaunch the site it was inevitable that traffic would increase dramatically and continues to grow. *Alan McGee co-founder of Creation Records and new label 359 Music..


What We Do

ZANI is an independent online magazine for readers interested in contemporary culture, covering Music, Film & TV, Sport, Art amongst other cultural topics. Relevant to modern times ZANI is a dynamic website and a flagship for creative movement and thinking wherever our readers live in the world.