Party Lines: Dance Music and the Making of Modern Britain by Ed Gillett

Any informed opinions about the value and veracity of this book?

Got a “rave” (sorry!) review in The Grauniad, but I wonder what any of the highly experienced members of this forum think of it. After reading it, or at least looking at it, please. Guess you’d probably need an advance copy or wait awhile, so I’ll be patient.

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Ed sent me a copy three months ago. It’s really good. Well written, zippy, and v good on the politics of UK dance music. It doesn’t cover any other countries, but he’s unearthed plenty of previously unseen information and documentation, particularly from college papers etc.


Good to know… i bought one a couple of hours ago!

Good to know. Thanks for the word. I’ll take that as an I-need-it book - just when I swore not to buy any more books until I’d made a substantial dent in the several piles of unread and partially read tomes that I live with.

Sounds a bit like it has the granular detail and research that Charlie Gillett brought to music writing with The Sound Of The City all those eons ago.

Did you see the TV documentary ? He goes into a school & explains the story to a load of 14yr olds who appear very enthralled (as you should be!!).
Basically linking the UKs social & political struggles with the Acid house explosion and subsequent criminal justice bill. I found it absolutely fascinating & an angle very well researched by old Ed there. Thumbs up here.


Hard to find such TV here in “the land of the free.” I’ll search around. Thanks for the word.

It is this:
Everybody in the Place: An Incomplete History of Britain 1984–1992

Directed and presented by Jeremy Deller, but Ed worked on it.
I still need to watch the whole thing myself but I’ve seen that school bit, complete with standard Youtube comments such as “typical leftie view” and “he doesn’t once mention football hooligans taking e!!!”


I wonder whether there is a single original source for the urban myth that ‘E ended hooliganism’. My impression at the time was that the drug of choice for the lairy elements tended to be coke or speed, and definitely not E, so it strikes me that the myth originated from somewhere that wasn’t close to football crowds.

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I was 17 in 88 and a regular at West ham, not in a hooligan way but being from Essex knew a few characters from just you know being there. Everyone knows the story with Centreforce but there was another crew called Genesis and Pacha running out from west ham that ran parties. They came to basildon once late 88 for an all dayer. Everything was fine until later in the night things went very sideways very quickly.
Basically half the crowd were local and the rest coached in from east london. Guys with satchels of pills as soon as you got in the door. Was all sweet until they started helping themselves to the bar and all the takings. The manager got rolled over in his office. All the staff left & Police got called and locked us all in. The crowd then split into 2 but the music kept playing. Funny thing was though these were not your typical hard geezers but pony tailed acid house ravers with all the clobber at the time. Mc is on the mic . We won’t let them shut the rave down type thing. We had to fight our way out a barricaded door only to find all the bouncers in tuxedos all lying on the floor outside with knife wounds and people running everywhere trying to not get nicked. Was like the wild west ! so yeah a long winded way of saying not sure the message of E love and harmony had hit with this lot


I can honestly say i used to drink and then go raving with quite a few of the younger Exeter football lads and can remember being in Plymouth Warehouse with them one side of me and Plymouth TCE hoolies the other side of me and thinking if this was 5 or 6 hours ago they would be killing each other… Nights out were definitely less violent and I saw much less violence in pubs and in the street than in the 80s.

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Lots of my contemporaries at school were involved in football violence until they discovered E. Some never went back and others did (as you say Charlie entered the scene).


It’s bound to have played a part for some people, but various factors were in play around that time - several bad events in 1985 culminating in the Heysel disaster all conspired to dent the dubious glamour associated with the ‘firms’, and the resulting improvements in police tactics and marshalling, all-seater stadia, then Hillsborough in 89 all played their part. I got the sense that only a hard-core of nutters really wanted to keep that stuff going, most of whom were politically-motivated crazies associated with the far-right. I felt that football violence increasingly became more overtly linked to politics from around that point.


It’s very interesting to me as a long-time expat to read these various opinions about events that I know almost nothing of. My few visits back over the years did little to really fill me in on the finer details of what was going on and to read some first-hand accounts of particular experiences here is fascinating. Thanks.

Slight change of direction here, but Café Royal just published one of their books on the Notting Hill Carnival of 1983, another somewhat epochal event if I have my history even vaguely organised. Certainly appears to have some relevance to the longer history of deejaying in all its varieties and perhaps to the Party Lines book.

Café Royal’s books show close-up photographic evidence of parts of the UK - and the lives of its inhabitants - that I never saw in my own rather sheltered background. Very valuable.

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Something on the somewhat academic side here:

A bit more entertaining and the pointer to the above:

Wikipedia has a different opinion:

Incidences of disorderly behaviour by fans gradually increased before they reached a peak in the 1970s and 1980s. Between 1946 and 1960, there were an average of 13 incidents reported per season, but between 1961 and 1968, the number had increased to 25 per season.[11]Hooliganism in the modern age has been attributed by some sociologists to the decline of the British Empire.[13][14]

There are other Wikipedia entries on football hooliganism around the world for those truly obsessed by the subject. Easily found.

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Interesting to see those photos. I remember Carnival when it was like this - an anarchic ‘happening’ in which residents just took over the streets. The plus side was the excitement that comes with that sort of anarchy (albeit managed). The negative was the crime (petty and sadly sometimes not so petty) that can accompany the absence of order.

I noticed the book contains an image of a sound system playing out of the upper floor of the Mangrove Restaurant. The Mangrove occupied a very special place in the history of British race relations. For anyone who’s interested, I’d strongly recommend a compelling British TV drama series called ‘Small Axe’ directed by Steve McQueen (of ‘12 Years A Slave’ fame), an episode of which is devoted to the story of the Mangrove.



Here’s a link to the episode on BBC iPlayer, in case anyone’s interested:


Yes, somehow the Small Axe series played in the US. Probably on Amazon. Very strong filming and storytelling.

It’s all a little weird for me in that when I was a good little middle-class hippy we basically hated reggae and identified it totally with skinhead bovver boys, whose favourite recreation, we believed, was beating the shit out of us hippies. Not that that ever happened to me. This was all before Bob Marley hooked up with Chris Blackwell and Island Records. Still making his magnificent work with Lee Perry. Which I never heard until years later.

In 1971/72, I lived in a grotty flat on Westbourne Park Road, a couple of streets away from Island’s studios. We bought out veg on Portobello Road, saw films at the Electric Cinema, but rarely ventured further west to Ladbroke Grove or north past the motorway overpass to the nether reaches of the market. For a short while I sold Frendz on the streets - I was very bad at it - but that involved going to the office which was up that way. I recall seeing completely burnt-out saucepans for sale on a market stall, which puzzled me. All of which is to say that we didn’t have really any interaction with the West Indian community and I don’t recall any obvious presence on their part. The place was crammed with hippies and boarded up rows of houses, but squatting was not yet widespread, although there was talk of it.

Once, before I lived in London, I bought some “grass” on a day trip to Portobello for that purpose from a Jamaican I accosted pretty much at random on the street. I was such an idiot back then! But that was about the sum total of my experiences with black culture and life.

Ten years later (or so), I went overboard for reggae, but it was something of a long process. Today, if forced to choose only one genre of music to listen to forever, I might pick reggae and/or dub. Still a tough choice to make. African rumba, juju, salsa/Afrocuban (particularly African expressions of it) would also be strong contenders.

I often wonder how my life would have gone if I’d stayed in England. Would I have been involved with punk? Been in the music business, which I had dabbled in with unimpressive results? Although I have a story or two. Or would the white middle-class world and family have absorbed me back into some dreary bourgeois life?

As far as this topic is concerned, I’m always fascinated by what did happen in the UK in my absence. Pre-internet news was relatively scarce, although I got almost every issue of NME for years and a few copies of The Face and Straight No Chaser, bought the new imports the week of release even if US release was imminent - I was a trendy little bugger! But it all felt somewhat remote and like the real show was going on back in England. Still does in some ways.