Photographs of 80s nightlife at the height of acid house
Dave Swindells new book celebrates a pre-smartphone era of carefree hedonism during the "second summer of love".
Photography Dave Swindells
“My enduring memory of the acid house scene is that it couldn’t be contained,” says photographer Dave Swindells. “It started off in relatively tiny illegal parties and clubs but it exploded, first in a wave of new club nights that transformed London nightlife in a matter of weeks, and then out of the clubs and into the street (as well as parties in barns or beaches outside of the city).”
It’s that uncontainable energy that’s celebrated in the photographer’s new book, Acid House As It Happened, released by IDEA and launching today at Dover Street Market London. A nostalgic look back at the club scene of the summer of 1988, the book is a chronicle of an unforgettable summer, when rave, ecstasy and a new way of partying took over the UK.
Redefining nightlife for years and generations to come, the so-called “second summer of love” might have had Balearic influences, but it was also definitively British, as Dave’s images of battered Adidas, chewed jaws and parties spilling out onto the streets of London and Manchester – “a spontaneous response as people wanted to carry on partying when the clubs closed at 3am”, Dave explains – can attest to.
Most explosions are caused by chemical reactions, and so too, Dave says, was acid house. “You didn’t have to be on ecstasy or acid to enjoy the experience,” he adds “but evidently it helped; it certainly added energy to the explosive impact.” That explosive impact bled into 90s rave culture in Britain too, and its effects are felt in the other titles chronicling the era from the photographer; such as Ibiza ‘89, that documents the hedonism of the island’s club scene, and Spike Island, which follows the Stone Roses heralding in the infamous peak of the Madchester era in 1990. “The events in 1988 were a kind of template for that, not in scale but in spirit, and some of the most influential events aren’t included in this book because either I couldn’t get to them or, more significantly, because they had a ‘no photos’ policy.”
All of Dave’s photos from that era capture young people lost in the music and the drugs and the moment, unselfconscious and removed from the now ubiquitous phone cameras that dominate nightclubs and parties. “The obvious consequence of all this social media imagery is that people behave differently because they’re aware that they can be recorded at all times and from all angles,” says Dave of how partying has changed. “The club promoter, fashion designer and performance artist Leigh Bowery used to roll around on the floor at clubs in the mid-1980s, drunk on the good times. It’s hard to imagine anybody in a similar position doing that regularly now, as their bleary-eyed image would be all over the web before they’d even got home.”
Back in 1988 though, the impact of acid house was felt not only at the parties themselves but also in the social shockwaves that reverberated from the second summer of love, channelling the distinctly 60s ethos implied by the phrase. “Admission into most clubs had previously been determined by what you wore and how you looked,” says Dave ahead of the book’s release.
“Suddenly divisions based on clothes or class or colour, or based on where you lived and which football team you supported, hardly seemed to matter.”
‘Acid House As It Happened’ is published by IDEA and launches on 12th May 2022 at Dover Street Market London with an exclusive signing by Dave Swindells.