The Summer of Rave 1989 (BBC, 2006)
The Summer of Rave is a 2006 BBC documentary dedicated to the so-called Second Summer of Love in Britain in 1989. A summer filled with smiley faces and marked by a shift from Thatcher’s individualistic preachings to a younger generation’s desire for collective experiences, positive emotions and dancing.
Now, bear in mind that if you expect a deeper look into the music – its roots, travels, aesthetic, key figures, technicality and all the other things that us music snobs get off on – this is not the documentary for you (but we’ll give you some other suggestions soon!).
This is the type of documentary that focuses on the socio-economic, political and pop cultural context of the time. The frame is wide and clearly aims to explain things to a more general audience.
It might even seem like it’s not about late 80’s rave culture at all.
There’s Jason Donovan, Kylie, Neighbours and other celebrity shenanigans. There’s Thatcher talking about herself in third person and there’s the Hillsborough disaster. There are the events in the Eastern Block and the ones in China. And then there’s the obligatory drug talk. The topic of ecstasy comes in before minute 7 and continues with a seemingly shallow discussion of fashions and unflattering dungarees.
However, more closely related topics include the posh boy promoters and raves’ business side, the police’s attempts at busting raves and, of course, the media’s coverage of rave culture – the tabloid instilled panic, once again having to do with made up drug claims rather than with anything else.
I can see how this particular film may bug you but you’ve been warned. You should also be warned that some of the people being interviewed might not seem super relevant to the topic but fear not! It is important to see events from different angles and not stay stuck into our bubbles of know-it-all music snobism. It’s an opportunity to put ourselves in the shoes of the general public and to understand where their often negative views on the subject matter stem from (that will actually give you an unexpected advantage in out-of-nowhere arguments).
As long as you don’t press play with the idea that you’ll be watching a documentary focusing on the music and the kind of people who were living it, but one about context and a wider frame – you’ll be fine.
And there’s some nice old footage!
There are several uploads of the documentary on YouTube but this one seems to be the best quality. So watch and share your thoughts!
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