the i-D guide to the music videos of the rave era
Hardcore… you know the score! Here’s eight awesome rave visuals from the 90s that you need to see. Grab your smily face t and get ready for a serious Smartie party…
The early 90s saw an explosion in technology that meant music and video equipment became accessible like never been before. As a result, underground British rave labels found themselves (after a hit or two at least) able to shoot videos to go with their crazy future music. Inevitably, these artists gravitated towards the things they loved; people dancing, huge raves, computer graphics, nuttiness, and neon. There's only a handful of these videos up on YouTube, but those that are there are perfect snapshots of an innocent time, a place where videos were made with mates rather than models, where people danced anywhere and everywhere, and where the countryside, the city, and the universe were one big playground to party in.
Awesome 3 - Hard Up
Awesome 3 went on to have the massive saccharine sweet cross over hit Don't Go, but this rare video from their early days shows the outfit dropping a slower, more Madchester sound. Weirdly, the video plays like it's been made in 2015 as a retro homage to the 90s. I'm putting this down to the fact that the main footage shows ravers going nuts to a tune that's clearly running at a totally different tempo to Hard Up - it's a pretty dislocating sensation, and along with Hard Up sounding like it could have been made a week ago by a Camberwell art student with an old skool fetish, the whole thing has a timeless bliss.
Rachel Wallace - Tell Me Why
Rachel Wallace, wherever you are; I love you. You are the greatest pop star that never was. Why came out on the Suburban Base label in 1992, at the height of the label's powers. They'd just had a global smash with the kiddie rave genius/nightmare of Smart E's, which is where I'm guessing the funds for this video came from. Rachel was going out with label boss Danny Donnelly at the time, which probably explains why the video has higher production values than most of the other clips Sub Base released. But for some reason, it never crossed over into the mainstream. Maybe it was too mature? Maybe it suffered from not having any of the novelty kid's TV references that were zeitgeisty at the time? Who knows? Most importantly, from the opening key stabs to the dying notes, Why is a beast of a tune, pure UK future soul, a heart break ballad set to a hardcore beat, slayed by Wallace, who never looks less than amazing.
Ragga Twins - Hooligan 69
The Ragga Twins had already been knocking around for a couple of years in the Unity Soundsystem when they made the best decision of their career and got involved with hardcore producers Shut Up & Dance. Whilst other dancehall MCs made little attempt to engage with the rave scene, the Ragga Twins got on it straight away, and ended up delivering a string of bashment breakbeat classics that saw them shut down raves round the world. Still, embracing the rave scene or not, no one was gonna talk them into busting a running man in a video, so the Hooligan 69 shoot has them mooching around a park, going to the pictures, and doing a spot of record shopping, before finally, reluctantly doing a kind of bobbing dance thing at the end. Visually they ain't exactly The Prodigy. Tune's fire though.
Acen - Trip 2 The Moon
Here you go; the real deal. Hyper-speed visual jitter, cartoon characters spitting out one-liners, strobe flash silhouettes of girls dancing through infinity, lazers and neon lighting the world, geometric symbols collapsing and erupting, rockets blasting into the cosmos, primitive computer graphics flickering on your eyeballs, and absolutely zero shots of anyone involved in making the record. Job done.
Skin Up - Blockbuster
Commonly known as 'I'll have an E please Bob', the main sample in Blockbuster was nicked from ITV's game show of the same name, a light entertainment staple where contenders had to pick a letter to move across the board. In the early 90s there was always much hilarity amongst watching ravers whenever anyone asked presenter Bob Holness 'for an E'. What can I say; these were simpler times. This full length video, with shots edited directly from the game show, incurred the wrath of Blockbuster producers Central Television. Killjoys that they were, they objected to being linked with kids going crazy on pills. Apparently, presenter Holness was a pretty open minded old boy who found it all funny, but Central persisted and got the track banned.
Even more remarkable though, is the contenders on the show - these are genuine 90s kids and they look AMAZING. The haircuts, the vibe, everything. The less said about the sweaty gurners later in the video the better.
Sonz of a Loop da Loop Era - Far Out
Another big track from Suburban Base, the video to Far Out is possibly the most joyful thing to ever emerge from the rave scene. From the opening shots of dancers taking over Boogie Times Records--the shop that kickstarted the label--to the jeeps overloaded with nutters ragging through Romford, to the final scenes of a smoke filled rave out in the Essex woods, this is just image after image of kids doing things that look like a fucking great idea. Plus, look at those Suburban Base jackets. Too good.
The House Crew - The Theme
Produced by the criminally unacknowledged Floyd Dyce, who made a string of massive tracks for the Production House label, the video to the The Theme is a mash up of twirling cosmic graphics and shots of kids shuffling round London parks. As ever, none of the people dancing look like models, they're clearly mates of the label bought down to 'ave it - it's a feature that runs through most of the hardcore videos, giving them an energy that hiring some bored dancers from Star Now is never gonna manage…
Altern 8 - Activ-8
It's impossible to round up rave videos and not include Altern 8. This iconic clip was shot in the parking garage of Shelley's Laserdome, the Staffordshire club where Sasha made his name. The ravers in the video had all come out of Shelley's after a night getting right on one, only to be confronted by Altern8 setting up a massive PA in the parking lot. Predictably everyone went nuts, including the band and dancers-in fact one of the backing dancers ended up getting hospitalized with carbon monoxide poisoning from dancing near the diesel fuelled power generators...
Text Ian Mcquaid