On my eleventh birthday I received a copy of a tape called “Rave ’92” through the post from my sister Grace, who was away at university. It was the second tape she had made for me whilst she was away, (the first being a random mix of grebo, soul, indie and ‘Love Shack’ by the B52s) and the 4th tape I owned in total – tapes 2 and 3 being the Best Of The Seekers and Roxette’s Joyride.
The inlay sleeve for my new tape had the tracklisting neatly written out in capital letters: black biro for the track title and red for the artist name all the way up until track 2, when the track titles were black and the artist names were red. On the inside of the inlay was written:
“HAPPY BIRTHDAY KATHERINE!!
p.s. Mum & Dad will really hate this! So PLAY IT LOUD“
Grace had taped the continuous mix from a CD (I didn’t figure this out for some time) and as such there was no side A or B on the tracklisting, which confused me greatly. How would I know where one track started and one ended? Where was the mysterious break in the middle? Who were this ‘Tinted Oval Window‘ band, whose ‘Cassette Shell’ album Grace had cruelly taped over? I could hear their indie warblings on the space at the end of the tape, and decided to scribble ‘???‘ at the end of the tracklisting, for completeness.
The technicalities were important to me: a few months previously, Dad had hooked up a 2-deck tape player to an old amplifier he had made himself years ago* and a pair of speakers. Now I had my own disco! Music whenever I wanted! The vinyl downstairs had always been deemed too precious for my grubby mitts to put on the turntable, so this was a new freedom! I obsessively studied my meagre collection of tapes, rearranging them in the drawer and inspecting every detail. I spent hours trying to transcribe the words to ‘It’s The End Of The World As We Know It’ on my pink notepaper** so I could sing along properly.
Despite my paltry tape collection (ah, the materialism started young!) I was no stranger to pop. I had watched Top Of The Pops since the age of five, under the close supervision of Grace – Thursday night was Mum and Dad’s ballroom dancing night, and my conscientious babysitter said I was allowed to stay up and watch it as long as I went to bed straight afterwards. I clearly remember asking Grace a) whether Vanessa Paradis was actually French or not, and b) what on earth was she talking about taxis for? Then when Grace left for uni I inherited her old clock radio and happily listened to Kiss FM every morning before school.
By 1992, the concept of ‘Rave’ excited me much more than the ‘Indiebop’ on Grace’s first tape. I knew who the Prodigy were all right. I sang along to Ebenezer Goode and 2 Unlimited in the playground with my mates and I was certain that my sister was having the time of her life going to crazy discos every night and having fun. One day I marched up to Mum and semi-seriously asked, “When I’m twelve, can I go to all-night raves?” This being at (unbeknownst to me) the height of the media furore following the Castlemorton Common Festival, Mum calmly replied: “We’ll see.” I made sure to remind her of this when I was twelve. Her answer? “Ask your father.”
As you can probably guess, at the age of ten I couldn’t tell you what Acid House meant. I had never heard of ecstacy, or any of the clubs my sister was too skint to go out to. I thought ‘rave’ was just another word for ‘party’. But all that didn’t matter to me. The music was fantastic, and when Grace asked me what sort of tape I would like for my birthday, I confidently said “RAVE!”
And… that’s what I got. The cassette is sat on the sofa next to me as I type this; the tape itself has a hole in it, worn through furious rewinding back to the beginning of The Orb’s ‘Blue Room’. To my joy, a friend found me an original CD copy on ebay a couple of years ago. Though I owned most of the songs separately, it felt very good to be ‘reunited’ with my favourite compilation ever.
Which I plan to tell you all about, track by track, in a new 24-part FT series!
*Random pieces of electronic equipment reside and multiply within Dad’s cluttered study to this very day. It drives Mum potty.
**I once wrote a poem about Nigel Lawson’s resignation on the same notepaper. I rhymed his surname with ‘awesome’.