Ears To The House has been at the forefront – alongside the mischievous Michael James – at questioning the so-called Belleville Three story that has emanated from Detroit’s direction for decades now. The city itself, tellingly, has had little to say in response – although Juan Atkins did try to threaten our legitimate journalism last year.
We did, however, consider it was time to expand our horizons a little. There are many other stories about the early days of house music – and we believe it’s time those tales were put under the microscope more thoroughly than in the past. So today, we’re going to begin this mission by looking at the history of house music in Britain.
Now, house music came out of the USA. That much is clear – but for reasons that we’ll no doubt explore further at a later date, it didn’t catch on Stateside until the EDM era. However, the music was embraced on British shores – and if the story is to be believed, it’s because of a trip to the White Isle in the 1980s.
The story goes that in 1987, Danny Rampling, Paul Oakenfold, Trevor Fung, Nicky Holloway, Ian Saint Paul, and Johnny Walker went to Ibiza to celebrate Oakenfold’s 24th birthday. A quick search reveals Paul Oakenfold’s was born on 30th August 1963, meaning the trip most likely took place towards the end of the summer – we can’t find any precise dates for the trip.
Whilst in Ibiza, the men heard about two things – a drug called ecstasy and a venue called Amnesia. Obtaining the drug proved straightforward, but getting to the venue was less so – it was in a remote area. The accounts we’ve read suggest they pooled their resources to get to the area, although we can’t quite establish exactly what this meant in practice.
An Argentinan DJ called Alfredo was playing at the venue – and despite being high on drugs at the time, the story goes that the men remembered music from early US house labels like Trax and DJ International being played alongside more commercial pop records. Numerous interviews over the years that Ears To The House have read confirm this to be accurate.
Whilst some details of the story remain a little vague, it’s certainly true to say that the trip happened – and that the men were obviously deeply influenced by what they experienced. However, the next part of the story – all about how they brought the house sound to the UK – are more, to use a modern word, problematic.
Now, it’s true that Danny Rampling launched Shoom after his trip – accounts vary, but most say it began in either November or December 1987. It’s true that Paul Oakenfold launched Spectrum in April 1988 at the Heaven nightclub – whilst Nicky Holloway launched Trip in May 1988.
But were they the first to bring house music to the UK? In a word, no. The earliest house music radio show in Britain that we’ve been able to find was run by Michael Schiniou – better known as Jazzy M. He hosted The Jacking Zone on pirate station London Weekend Radio between 1986 and 1990.
They were also unlikely to have been the first nightclubs in the UK to play this music – although we readily concede that they did much to popularise it. From what we’ve been able to deduce, Nude at Manchester’s The Haçienda, and Nottingham’s The Garage started playing acid house from 1986 – potentially making them contenders for the first.
We expect we’ll be coming back to this one…