Acid house

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Acid house (also simply known as just "acid") is a subgenre of house music developed around the mid-1980s by DJs from Chicago. The style is defined primarily by the squelching sounds and basslines of the Roland TB-303 electronic bass synthesizer-sequencer,[1] an innovation attributed to Chicago artists Phuture and Sleezy D circa 1986.

Acid house soon became popular in the United Kingdom and continental Europe, where it was played by DJs in the acid house and later rave scenes. By the late 1980s, acid house had moved into the British mainstream, where it had some influence on pop and dance styles.

Acid house brought house music to a worldwide audience.[3] The influence of acid house can be heard in later styles of dance music including trance, hardcore, jungle, big beat, techno and trip hop.[4][5]


The Roland TB-303 bass synthesizer provided the electronic squelch sounds often heard in acid house tracks.

Acid house's minimalist sound combined house music's ubiquitous programmed four-on-the-floor 4/4 beat with the electronic squelch sound produced by the Roland TB-303 electronic synthesizer-sequencer. The sound is commonly produced by raising the filter resonance and lowering the cutoff frequency of the synthesizer, along with programming the 303's accent, slide, and octave parameters, to create variation in otherwise simple bass patterns. "Exploration of texture" is preferred over melody; "a refusal of the metaphysical priorities of western music discourse."[6] Other elements, such as synthetic strings and stabs, were usually minimal. Sometimes tracks were instrumentals such as Phuture's "Acid Tracks", or contained full vocal performances such as Pierre's Pfantasy Club's "Fantasy Girl", while others were essentially instrumentals complemented by the odd spoken word 'drop-in', such as Phuture's "Slam".[3]


There are conflicting accounts about the origin of the term acid. One self claimed account by members of Phuture points to their own "Acid Tracks". Before the song was given a title for commercial release, it was played by DJ Ron Hardy at a nightclub[7] where psychedelic drugs were reportedly used.[8] The club's patrons called the song "Ron Hardy's Acid Track" (or "Ron Hardy's Acid Trax").[7] The song was released with the title "Acid Tracks" on Larry Sherman's label Trax Records in 1987. Sources differ on whether it was Phuture or Sherman who chose the title; Phuture's DJ Pierre says the group did because the song was already known by that title,[7] but DJ Pierre says he chose the title because the song reminded him of acid rock.[9] Regardless, after the release of Phuture's song, the term acid house came into common parlance.[7]

Some accounts say the reference to "acid" may be a celebratory reference to psychedelic drugs in general, such as LSD, as well as the popular club drug Ecstasy (MDMA).[10] According to Rietveld, it was the house sensibility of Chicago, in a club like Hardy's The Music Box, that afforded it its initial meaning. In her view "acid connotes the fragmentation of experience and dislocation of meaning due to the unstructuring effects on thought patterns which the psychedelic drug LSD or 'Acid' can bring about.[11] In the context of the creation of "Acid Tracks" it indicated a concept rather than the use of psychedelic drugs in itself.[12]

Some accounts disavow psychedelic connotations. One theory, holding that acid was a derogatory reference towards the use of samples in acid house music, was repeated in the press and in the British House of Commons.[13] In this theory, the term acid came from the slang term "acid burning," which the Oxford Dictionary of New Words calls "a term for stealing."[10][14] In 1991, UK Libertarian advocate Paul Staines claimed that he had coined this theory to discourage the government from adopting anti-rave party legislation.[15][16]

The name of acid jazz is derived from that of acid house, which served as one of the inspirations for the genre's development.[17]



Before the term "acid house" was introduced, rawer early acid house was "hi-NRG",[18] a type of bassline-driven electronic music that began with disco music that discarded its funk element, starting with Giorgio Moroder productions for Donna Summer. However, the earliest recorded examples of acid house are a matter of debate.

Sleezy D's "I've Lost Control" (1986) was the first to be released on vinyl, but it is impossible to know which track was created first.[19]

In the 21st century, attention was drawn to Charanjit Singh's album Synthesizing: Ten Ragas to a Disco Beat, featuring Indian ragas fused with disco.[20][21] The album released as early as 1982, featured a TB-303 prominently, Singh being one of the earliest musicians to use it on a commercial release.[21] The record predates the famously known "Acid Trax" by 5 years. It was initially a commercial failure in India and eventually forgotten. Following its rediscovery and eventual re-release in early 2010 some music journalists compared the music to that of acid house music, even suggesting it might be the first example of the style.[20][21][22]

Chicago movement (mid-1980s–late 1980s)[edit]

The first acid house records were produced in Chicago, Illinois. Phuture, a group founded by Nathan "DJ Pierre" Jones, Earl "Spanky" Smith Jr., and Herbert "Herb J" Jackson, is credited with having been the first to use the TB-303 in house music (the instrument had been used earlier in disco records by the earlier mentioned Charanjit Singh in 1982,[23][24] in hi-NRG,[25] Alexander Robotnick in 1983).[26] The group's 12-minute "Acid Tracks" was recorded to tape and was played by DJ Ron Hardy at the Music Box, where Hardy was resident DJ. Hardy once played it four times over the course of an evening until the crowd responded favorably.[27]

Chicago's house music scene suffered a crackdown on parties and events by the police. Sales of house records dwindled and, by 1988, the genre was selling less than a tenth as many records as at the height of the style's popularity.[28] However, house and especially acid house was beginning to experience a surge in popularity in Britain.[29]

UK house scene (late 1980s–1990s)[edit]


London's club Shoom opened in November 1987[30] and was one of the first clubs to introduce acid house to the clubbing public of the UK. It was opened by Danny Rampling and his wife, Jenny. The club was extremely exclusive and featured thick fog, a dreamy atmosphere and acid house.[31] This period began what some call the Second Summer of Love, a movement credited with a reduction in football hooliganism: instead of fights, football fans were listening to music, taking ecstasy, and joining the other club attendees in a peaceful movement that has been compared to the Summer of Love in San Francisco in 1967.[32]

Another club called Trip was opened in June 1988 by Nicky Holloway at the Astoria in London's West End.[33] Trip was geared directly towards the acid house music scene. It was known for its intensity and stayed open until 3 AM. The patrons would spill into the streets chanting and drew the police on regular occasions. The reputation that occurrences like this created along with the UK's strong anti-club laws started to make it increasingly difficult to offer events in the conventional club atmosphere. Considered illegal in London during the late '80s, after-hour clubbing was against the law. However, this did not stop the club-goers from continuing after-hours dancing. Police raided the after-hour parties, so the groups began to assemble inside warehouses and other inconspicuous venues in secret, hence also marking the first developments of the rave.[34] Raves were well attended at this time and consisted of single events or moving series of parties thrown by production companies or unlicensed clubs. Two well-known groups at this point were Sunrise, who held particularly massive outdoor events, and Revolution in Progress (RIP), known for the dark atmosphere and hard music at events which were usually thrown in warehouses[34] or at Clink Street, a South East London nightclub housed in a former jail. Promoters like (The Big Lad) Shane McKenzie and the gang back in 1987 were doing small parties in NW London, moving raves from the streets and the fields to the clubs of London 1990–2005 which saw the future of raves in clubs all over the UK and Spain.[35]

The Sunrise group threw several large acid house raves in Britain which gathered serious press attention. In 1988 they threw "Burn It Up", 1989 brought "Early Summer Madness", "Midsummer Night's Dream" and "Back to the Future". They advertised huge sound systems, fairground rides, foreign DJs, and other attractions. Many articles were written sensationalizing these parties and the results of them, focusing especially on the drug use and out-of-control nature that the media perceived.[36]

Once the term acid house became more widely used, participants at acid house-themed events in the UK and Ibiza made the psychedelic drug connotations a reality by using club drugs such as ecstasy and LSD.[35][37][38] The association of acid house, MDMA, and smiley faces was observed in New York City by late 1988.[39] This coincided with an increasing level of scrutiny and sensationalism in the mainstream press,[40] although conflicting accounts about the degree of connection between acid house music and drugs continued to surface.[41]

Manchester and 'Madchester'[edit]

Acid house was also popular in Manchester. The Thunderdome (which was generally advertised as a techno night) in Miles Platting was at the epicenter of the scene and gave rise to acts like A Guy Called Gerald, 808 State, Jam MC's, Steve Williams and Jay Wearden. A Greater Manchester-based producer called Peter Ford teamed up with Richard Salt and recorded a record called "Oochy Koochy", regarded as the first British acid house track. Released by dance indie Rhythm King Records as "Oochy Koochy (FU Baby Yeah Yeah)" under the name Baby Ford, the record peaked at number 58 on the UK Singles Chart on September 24, 1988, and was followed by Baby Ford's "Chikki Chikki Ahh Ahh" hit.[42][43][44][45][46][47][48]

The genre was extremely popular with the city's football hooligans. According to Manchester United football hooligan Colin Blaney in Hotshot: The Story of a Little Red Devil, the acid house venues were the only place where rival hooligan gangs would mix, without coming to blows with one another.[49]

The Madchester and baggy movements saw acid house influences bleed into the Mancunian rock scene. Prominent Madchester bands include the Stone Roses, Happy Mondays, the Charlatans and Inspiral Carpets.

Media attention[edit]

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, British news media and tabloids devoted an increasing amount of coverage to the hedonistic acid house/rave scene, focusing increasingly on its association with psychedelic drugs and club drugs. At first, promoters like Tony Colston-Hayter[50][51] tried to monetize the scene by promoting his Apocalypse Now parties (organised with Roger Goodman)[52][53] on the ITV News (ITN) in the same way that a latter-day popstar such as Gary Barlow would promote his album on the news (generally in the "...And Finally" part of the programme).[54]

However, these reports soon changed from positive promotion to a negative viewpoint, with the sensationalist nature of the coverage contributing to the banning of acid house during its heyday from radio, television, and retail outlets in the United Kingdom. The moral panic of the press began in late 1988, when a UK 'red-top' tabloid called The Sun, which only days earlier on October 12 had promoted acid house as "cool and groovy" while running an offer on acid smiley face t-shirts, abruptly turned on the scene.[51] On October 19, The Sun ran with the headline "Evils of Ecstasy", linking the acid house scene with the newly popular and relatively unknown drug. The resultant panic incited by the tabloids eventually led to a crackdown on clubs and venues that played acid house and had a profound negative impact on the scene. Any records that mentioned the word acid, such as Dancin' Danny D's record with scene promoter Gary Haisman (D Mob's "We Call It Acieed"), were taken off radio and television playlists just as they were climbing towards the top of the UK chart.[55][56][57][58][59][60] By the time Colston-Hayter had invited another ITV news team down to promote his latest party (this time from Granada's current affairs show World in Action),[61][62] acid house was being described as a "sinister and evil cult" that was just encouraging people to take drugs.[63][64][65]

Despite this, one tune broke through into the mainstream in November 1988. "Stakker Humanoid", produced by Brian Dougans (later of Future Sound of London), was a hit not just at influential clubs like The Haçienda in Manchester or Shoom in London, but was championed by mainstream stalwarts such as BBC Radio DJ Bruno Brookes and record producer, Pete Waterman. It went on to reach number 17 in the UK in November 1988, leading to Dougans' appearance on Top of the Pops on December 1, 1988.[66]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Acid House Entry". AllMusic.
  2. ^ "Electronic Musician." (1992). 7-12 (8), Polyphony Publishing Company/University of California, p. 7, ISSN 0884-4720. Quote: "[House] derivations include deep house (an integration of Chicago house and New York R&B), acid house, a hybrid of hi-NRG and conventional dance music), and hip house (a mixture of house, hip hop, and rap)."
  3. ^ a b Vladimir Bogdanov, ed. (2001), All Music Guide to Electronica: The Definitive Guide to Electronic Music (4 ed.), Milwaukee, WI: Backbeat Books, pp. vii, ISBN 0879306289
  4. ^ "Trance". AllMusic. Retrieved July 9, 2012.
  5. ^ Shapiro, Peter (2000). Modulations: A History of Electronic Music. Caipirinha Productions Inc. pp. 76–77. ISBN 0-8195-6498-2.
  6. ^ Gilbert, Jeremy (September 19, 1999). Discographies: Dance Music Culture and the Politics of Sound. Routledge. p. 175. ISBN 9780203012062. Retrieved August 7, 2020. {{cite book}}: |work= ignored (help)
  7. ^ a b c d Cheeseman, Phil. "The History Of House",
  8. ^ Bidder, Sean (2001) Pump Up the Volume, Channel Four – see also the first episode of the accompanying television series
  9. ^ Hillegonda C Rietveld (1998) This Is Our House: House Music, Cultural Spaces and Technologies Aldershot: Ashgate. ISBN 978-1-85742-242-9
  10. ^ a b The Oxford Dictionary of New Words (Knowles, Elizabeth [ed], Elliott, Elizabeth [ed]). Second Edition, Oxford University Press, 1997. ISBN 0-19-863152-9.
  11. ^ Rietveld, H. C., This is Our House: House Music, Cultural Spaces and Technologies, Ashgate Publishing, Aldershot, 1998 (ISBN 978-1857422429).
  12. ^ Rietveld, H.C., This is Our House: House Music, Cultural Spaces and Technologies, Ashgate Publishing, Aldershot, 1998 (ISBN 978-1857422429), p. 143.
  13. ^ Quoted in the British House of Commons Hansard, March 9, 1990, column 1111.
  14. ^ Rushkoff, Douglas (1994, 2nd ed. 2002). Cyberia: Life in the Trenches of Cyberspace. ISBN 1-903083-24-9.
  15. ^ Staines, Paul (1991). "Acid House Parties Against the Lifestyle Police and the Safety Nazis" article in Political Notes (ISSN 0267-7059), issue 55 Archived October 30, 2012, at the Wayback Machine (ISBN 1-85637-039-9). Also quoted in Saunders, Nicholas with Doblin, Rick (July 1, 1996). Ecstasy: Dance, Trance & Transformation, Quick American Publishing Company. ISBN 0-932551-20-3.
  16. ^ Garratt, Sheryl (May 6, 1999). Adventures in Wonderland: Decade of Club Culture. Headline Book Publishing Ltd. (UK). ISBN 0-7472-5846-5.
  17. ^ Price, E.G.; Kernodle, T.L., eds. (2011). Encyclopedia of African American Music. Santa Barbara, California: ABC-CLIO. pp. 479–482. ISBN 978-0-313-34199-1.
  18. ^ Luke Bainbridge (2014). The True Story of Acid House: Britain's Last Youth Culture Revolution. Music Sales Group. ISBN 978-0857128638. Retrieved August 7, 2020.
  19. ^ Cheeseman 1992. "I've Lost Control" was made by Adonis and Marshall Jefferson and was certainly the first acid track to make it to vinyl, though which was created first will possibly never be known for sure.
  20. ^ a b Pattison, Louis (April 10, 2010). "Charanjit Singh, acid house pioneer". The Guardian.
  21. ^ a b c Aitken, Stuart (May 10, 2011). "Charanjit Singh on how he invented acid house ... by mistake". The Guardian.
  22. ^ William Rauscher (May 12, 2010). "Charanjit Singh – Synthesizing: Ten Ragas to a Disco Beat". Resident Advisor. Retrieved June 3, 2011.
  23. ^ Pattison, Louis (April 10, 2010). "Charanjit Singh, acid house pioneer". The Guardian.
  24. ^ Aitken, Stuart (May 10, 2011). "Charanjit Singh on how he invented acid house ... by mistake". The Guardian.
  25. ^ Luke Bainbridge (2014). The True Story of Acid House: Britain's Last Youth Culture Revolution. Music Sales Group. ISBN 978-0857128638. Retrieved August 7, 2020.
  26. ^ Shapiro, Peter (2000). Modulations: A History of Electronic Music. Caipirinha Productions Inc. p. 32. ISBN 0-8195-6498-2.
  27. ^ Cheeseman, Phil. "The History Of House",
  28. ^ Shapiro, Peter (2000). Modulations: A History of Electronic Music. Caipirinha Productions Inc. p. 34. ISBN 0-8195-6498-2.
  29. ^ "Rave New World - Dissertation on the Acid House & rave scene". November 2, 2011. Archived from the original on November 2, 2011. Retrieved January 9, 2022.
  30. ^ Reynolds, Simon. Generation Ecstasy. pg. 59
  31. ^ Shapiro, Peter (2000). Modulations: A History of Electronic Music. Caipirinha Productions Inc. p. 60. ISBN 0-8195-6498-2.
  32. ^ Shapiro, Peter (2000). Modulations: A History of Electronic Music. Caipirinha Productions Inc. p. 64. ISBN 0-8195-6498-2.
  33. ^ Reynolds, Simon. Generation Ecstasy. p. 61.
  34. ^ a b Shapiro, Peter (2000). Modulations: A History of Electronic Music. Caipirinha Productions Inc. p. 62. ISBN 0-8195-6498-2.
  35. ^ a b Reynolds, Simon. Generation Ecstasy. p. 63.
  36. ^ Unknown. "Sunrise Profile". Fantazia. Archived from the original on December 2, 2007. Retrieved January 15, 2008. Youngsters were so high on Ecstacy and cannabis they ripped the birds' heads off;
  37. ^ DeRogatis, Jim (December 1, 2003). Turn on Your Mind: Four Decades of Great Psychedelic Rock, 436. Hal Leonard. ISBN 0-634-05548-8 (accessed June 9, 2005).
  38. ^ Donnally, Trish. (October 17, 1988). Article published in the San Francisco Chronicle and distributed via the Los Angeles Times Syndicate to other newspapers and published under various headlines.
  39. ^ Foderaro, Lisa (December 18, 1988). "At some Manhattan nightclubs, 'X' marks the 'inner circle's' perfect drug". San Diego Union. p. A–45. This article was distributed by the New York Times News Service and published under various headlines in several U.S. newspapers.
  40. ^ Takiff, Jonathan. (December 14, 1988). Philadelphia Daily News—BBC banned all records that mentioned acid
  41. ^ Leary, Mike. (November 24, 1988). Philadelphia Inquirer.
  42. ^ "BABY FORD | full Official Chart History".
  43. ^ "Official Singles Chart Top 100".
  44. ^ Bradwell, David (December 7, 1988). "Acid Radical (MT Dec 1988)". Music Technology (Dec 1988): 82–84.
  45. ^ "Rewind: Baby Ford - 'Ooo' The World Of Baby Ford · Album Review". Resident Advisor.
  46. ^ "Baby Ford". August 29, 2011.
  47. ^ "Madchester". December 6, 2019. Retrieved January 9, 2022.
  48. ^ "Getting To Know Baby Ford". Attack Magazine. January 13, 2016.
  49. ^ Colin Blaney, Hotshot: The Story of a Little Red Devil, Milo Books, p. 157
  50. ^ "Tony Colston-Hayter: the acid house fraudster". The Guardian. January 15, 2014.
  51. ^ a b "The 80s with Dominic Sandbrook - 3. World in Motion".
  52. ^ "Summer of Love Part II – Ecstasy, rave explosion, underground parties". September 25, 2018.
  53. ^ " → UK Rave Flyer Archive → Rave History".
  54. ^ "Frodsham's Gary Barlow talks lockdown and new album with ITV Granada Reports". ITV News. December 3, 2020.
  55. ^ "Official Singles Chart Top 100".
  56. ^ "Official Singles Chart Top 100".
  57. ^ "Obituary: Gary Haisman 1958 – 2018".
  58. ^ "'We Call It Acieed' singer and London club figure Gary Haisman dies · News". Resident Advisor.
  59. ^ "'We Call It Acieeed' vocalist Gary Haisman, dies aged 60". December 3, 2018.
  60. ^ "Rave's relationship to the Media". Fantazia Rave Archive. Archived from the original on October 24, 2007. Retrieved October 23, 2007.
  61. ^ "Tony Colston-Hayter".
  62. ^ "A Trip Round Acid House". December 5, 1988.
  63. ^ "Music". p. 24. Retrieved January 9, 2022.
  64. ^ "A Trip Around Acid House". January 14, 2012.
  65. ^ "You Won't Believe This BBC Scare Report on Acid House from 1988". October 2015.
  66. ^ Stuart Aitken (November 11, 2013). "Stakker Humanoid: how the Future Sound of London won hearts and minds". The Guardian.


  • Bainbridge, Luke (2014). The True Story of Acid House: Britain's Last Youth Culture Revolution. London: Omnibus Press. ISBN 978-1-7803-8734-5.
  • Collin, Matthew (2009). Altered State: The Story of Ecstasy Culture and Acid House. London: Serpent's Tails. ISBN 978-0-7535-0645-5.
  • Reynolds, Simon (1998). Energy Flash: A Journey Through Rave Music and Dance Culture. London: Faber and Faber. ISBN 978-0-5712-8913-4.
  • Shulman, Alon (2019). The Second Summer of Love: How Dance Music Took Over the World. London: John Blake. ISBN 978-1-7894-6075-9.

External links[edit]

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