Edinburgh ’88 (The Kangaroo Club and birth of Acid House)

It was in the music paper the  NME that we first read about it. A new music scene was causing a stir in London and it’s name was Acid house. Me and my friend Ian (Suds) poured over the article at collage one Wednesday. We were there to sit our City and Guilds in printing. On reflection two less likely tradesmen you couldn’t find this side of a Smiths B side.

We were pure indie types at the time of reading, although that does cover a very wide church. We both sported flattop haircuts and the look of folks who were into the fringe music of Psychobilly. We were both more into the look than the music him being more into the darker fair of Killing Joke and Dead Can Dance, me The Stranglers and late 70s new wave Bowie, Talking Heads etc. It’s worth mentioning we were into that stuff to give you an idea of how our taste in music was about to be shifted so far leftfield we’d soon be in the countryside surrounded by sheep.

The thing that struck me about the article was the pictures of the crowd attending these nights. It was very multicultural and they were dressed like nothing you’d ever seen on a scene. The one image that struck me was of a black guy in a rainbow stripe jumper and flares. I remember thinking, “Wow check him…he’s dressed like a white guy.”

Skip forward a couple of weeks and Ian,myself and another mate Roger are on the bottom floor of a three tier Goth club in Edinburgh’s Cowgate known as The Mission. A club so historically stringent in the type of punter it wanted to pull that it had actually named itself after a popular Goth band of the time. They might as well have called it self harmers, black clothes and petula oil only beyond this point. In this venue before us had come the punks and now the doom and gloom of your latest angst and gaze at shoes  movement.

As I said the club took place on three tiers. The bottom tier was the main night and on the other two you could find a middle tier of more specialised stuff and on the top a small bar and dance floor where folk probably mainly went for some air. For reasons I’ve forgotten we wondered up to the top tier that night. It was a fateful decision because as we discovered later we’d wandered into the very first attempt in Edinburgh of trying to replicate what was happening in London. We’d actually wandered into a different night with separate tickets called The Kangaroo Club. However they were so desperate to get folk in that the doormen let slide that we didn’t have tickets and let us pass.

I’ve only vague memories of what was going on that first night. I certainly remember some very weird noises were emanating from the DJ booth, and between the weird noise tracks they were playing excellent fun to dance to tunes like The Theme from Starsky and Hutch Stevie Wonders Superstition. And that was that. Within a month Goth and doom was dead and dressing up like a pirate was in.

We got really lucky. We landed on a proper underground youth movement that lasted for a good six months before the mainstream media landed. Every week it was the same 40-50 folk in this room. dancing a new dance and improvising a look that still didn’t have any set rules. I had an acid house smiley T-Shirt months before anybody knew what it was. By bizarre coincidence the yellow smiley was also the corporate logo of the printing firm I worked for. Everybody at work just thought I was getting really into my job.

It’s now very important to point out one major factor of the embryonic Acid House scene of Edinburgh at this point in time…there were no drugs involved. They hadn’t arrived yet. Ecstasy as a nation wide thing was still a year or two away. Acid was kicking about but it wasn’t a major factor of the night. The most hedonistic thing the youngsters wanted to do attending this particular night was dress up, dance and feel part of something new and unknown. Ironically because we were from out of town and had to pay for taxis at the end of the night we were often skint and could only drink water. Ha little did we know how popular that would become.   We danced to  weird and unheard of tunes like Baby Ford Oochy Coochy or Acid Man by Jolly Roger. There wasn’t enough actual Acid House music at the time to fill a night so these tracks would often get multiple plays mixed with the soul funk I mentioned earlier. Manchester still didn’t have a clue!

I remember a phrase I said often on these nights. “This is what punk must have been like. This is our punk” And it was. It was pure youthful we know something you don’t know bliss. It was at least a year before Joe Strummer described the scene in exactly the same way on telly.

And then one fateful day ITV news at One did a feature on the new “threat” to a generation. The Evil of Acid House. We turned up at the Kangaroo that week and instead of the usual 40-50 well hip kids there was a queue going from the door like Jesus himself was on the decks that night. The only nice bit of that was the doormen were letting in the regulars without queuing. Made you feel special until you got inside. Then you got inside and the place looked like a football match. Where the fuck did these plebs come from. And that was the end of that…sort of.

I’ll never forget those six months. It was awesome at that age to be part of something nobody knew anything about. Of course once that news article went up there were a lot of questions being asked at home and at work. And as for We call It ACEEEEED. I could have personally strangled the shills that made that particular song. Where once we got bemused looks and asked if we were off to a fancy dress…now a certain word plagued you everywhere. Ah well at least The Mondays were just around the corner…

And I don’t care what you say. This is still out there…bloody hell it’s only got just over 1000 hits on YouTube.

Author: Dissent

the meanderings of comedian John Scott

One thought on “Edinburgh ’88 (The Kangaroo Club and birth of Acid House)”

  1. Yes you are so true about the kangaroo club a hidden gem of a club pumpin out Detroit house and rap many happy memories of doc martins with grolsch bottle tops with ablack pilot jack with the famous VW badge was the order of the dress code wheres my time machine lets crank the dial bac to 1988 this is a journey in to sound ha u all know the tune


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