How great it was to be young at the end of the 1980s! Though, for every friend united by a love of rock, a schism was growing. On the one side were those who thought the genre had been chasing its tail for a while, so were opening up to the revolution of hip-hop and electronic music. On the other side, the hardcore fans of the electric guitar, for whom disco was a dirty word. Their delayed interest in the changing scene would only kick in once producer Andrew Weatherall gave Primal Scream some happy pills. The summer of 1988 rather passed them by therefore, as ungrateful rock was freed from its shackles by acid house.
The madness of the New York disco scene and the fevered explosion of techno and house in Detroit were moving across the Atlantic, stopping off at the clubs in Ibiza. On holiday in the Balearic islands in the summer of ‘87, UK DJs like Danny Rampling, Paul Oakenfold, Nicky Holloway, and Johnny Walker brought it home in their suitcases. Marshall Jefferson, Frankie Knuckles, Steve ‘Silk’ Hurley, and DJ Pierre became the new heroes, as did projects by techno producers such as Rhythim Is Rhythim for Derrick May. A new party culture was invading UK shores, to be found as much in the clubs as in warehouses, where news of illegal raves was only communicated a few hours before the doors opened.
The summer of 1988 was the summer when this phenomenon exploded in the UK, where producers such as Coldcut, Bomb The Bass, A Guy Called Gerald and Electribe 101, took over the genre, taking it into pop and thus the charts. The visionary Pet Shop Boys gave themselves over to the pleasure of house music. With its festive spirit summed up by the smiley face, the music quickly spread throughout Europe, where parties were a pretext for large-scale intermingling. The tracks contained the spirit of celebration, sharing, and freedom, reviving the first Summer of Love of 1967 where a counter-culture emerged from California in a great wave of opposition to the Vietnam War, advocating for peace, freedom, and pleasure – whether with one another, something more artificial, or perhaps even both at the same time.
More than twenty years later, the economic crisis is still pushing young people to look for ways out through partying and drugs, notably with ecstasy, a euphoric pill known as ‘the love pill’ because it inevitably makes you want to jump on your neighbour’s back. It remains inseparable from the movement because it allowed clubbers to last all night and intensified tenfold the hypnotic side of acid house. DJs triumphed in mixing classics, current hits, and new releases – as long as they fitted the hedonistic spirit of this magical summer. That could mean a funky groove, the wonderful piano of italo-disco, or a soaring ballad like Carly Simon's “Why” which she could have written in Ibiza. Bringing together metallic beats, smooth grooves, and songs to aid the comedown after a night of dancing, these were the promises made by the second Summer of Love - that actually lasted much longer than the summer of 1988 -, a great wave of optimism and bliss that hasn’t been seen since.