On April 11th 1988 the vast space that was (and still is) Heaven opened its doors to an ‘Acid House’ night. The problem was apart from around 200 people who frequented Shoom and Future nobody knew what Acid House was, let alone how to dance to it. The promoters were Ian St Paul and Paul Oakenfold and the club held around 2,500 people. On the first night there were 124 people and everyone passing through the doors got a free E. Two weeks later there were still a hundred or so people wearing an odd mixture of Ibizan hippie and mid 80s football casual clobber trance dancing to music imported straight from Alfredo’s playlist of the 87 season at Amnesia.
Week three saw an influx of curious souls and young kids who had heard whispers around town. The following week the queue went up the hill onto the Strand. The next week had 1200 bods, and then by the following one the 2500 club was packed to the rafters. London had never, and never has since, had a clubbing phenomena like it. The club had a sound system unmatched by any other in the UK and a lazer show straight out of NY’s finest gay clubbing culture. The queue started 2 hrs before opening, and at 3.30 am when the club finished the Strand became a huge party with thousands of kids on E jacking on car roofs and stopping the West End traffic. This was the club that heralded Acid House as an explosion of biblical proportions and its legacy still lingers on today around the world. Fucking awesome…
It was also the start of the superstar dj cult with Oakenfold perched high above the massed crowd in a huge dj booth playing mad classical orchestral recordings of Wagner mixing into heavy Detroit beats with Fini Tribe’s ‘De Testimony’ and Nitzer Ebb’s ‘Join in the Chant’ jostling for peak time action alongside House hits such as Black Riot ‘A Day In The Life‘ and Derrick May’s seminal ‘Strings Of Life.’
The main room also ended up as the birth place of the Acid Ted with bandanas and smiley t shirts replacing Chevignon and Chippie as the look of the sweaty fledgling foot soldiers. On the middle floor the kids who considered themselves too cool for downstairs, the three month Acid House veterans, danced to the more Balearic grooves of Roger the Hippie and Terry Farley. Big anthems up there ranged from Yello’s ‘The Race’, The Woodentops ‘Why Why Why’ to the Mamas and the Papas ‘California Dreaming’ and even Jackie Wilson’s 60s hit ‘The Sweetest Feeling.’ The look up there was more ‘future’ inspired – baggy jumpers, Lee dungarees and beat up Kickers.
Text: Terry Farley
Photograph Chris Abbot