Visual Energy  |  Rave Flyers Index  |  Hyperreal
contents  |  intro  |  chapter 1  |  chapter 2  |  chapter 3  |  conclusion  |  bibliography  |  pics

Visual Energy   (Simon Parkin, May 99)


Dance music in Britain is presently more rife than at any other time in its history. Currently, over fifty percent of the top forty singles in Britain are dance music hits.(1) However, this only shows the commercial end of the market. The many diverse manifestations that dance music has taken, until recently, have existed on the boundaries of British culture.

The different variations of dance music prevalent today can be seen to have many different historical sources. "Jungle", for instance, has roots in ragga and dub; "trip-hop" has influences in hip-hop and jazz. However, these various cultures all have roots in a subculture that happened in Britain in the late eighties:

Acid House combined house music with Ecstasy and the resulting phenomena was to be the driving force in British youth culture for almost a decade.(2) The hedonistic release, the pure pleasure for pleasure's sake that Acid House enabled, provided a release for Britain's youth, an escape from their everyday existence through the medium of dance. And it is this appetite for danceability that would be at the heart of following music cultures such as jungle and trip-hop.

In 1991 I went to my first "rave" (a name now often used in derision, but at the time it was the popular term), a scene that had evolved directly from Acid House. I had never experienced anything like it - relentless, pounding music that filled the whole body; blinding strobes flashed on the smoke-covered dance floor; wild looking faces popped out of the white fog and just as quickly disappeared again. It was a completely disorientating experience and I couldn't quite believe that Birmingham was still there when I came out. But it was, and when I got outside I was handed some flyers. These flyers found their way home with me and after three years of repeating the above experience, I had a big collection of memories.

Flyers are an integral part of the experience of any dance music night. They have, since Acid House and before, been the preferred method for club promoters to advertise their nights. For this dissertation I intend to study the flyers that are such a special part of dance music culture.

I intend to show how flyers operate within dance music, I want to show how they are indelibly linked to their culture, music and social background. To do this I will relate the characteristics of flyers in general to the culture of Acid House as I see this subculture as being at the start, and as being the underlying basis, of all dance music cultures in Britain. The array of flyers that have been produced over the last decade of dance music is huge and wildly various. Because of this, I have chosen to disseminate a cross section of flyers from my own collection which were collected from 1991 - 1994, a time when club culture and "rave" music had come directly and immediately from Acid House. Although it is difficult to make generalisations about flyers that, by their very nature, are transitory, quickly changing items of ephemera, certain aspects of them can show ideas and theories about their design that are endemic to Acid House and dance music culture.

In Chapter 1, to begin this study, I will chart the development of Acid House culture showing how it came as a result of the political and social background of its day. I will go on to outline the different features of the music and culture and show why these aspects appealed to the young people who were becoming involved in Acid House. I will relate Acid House to the sixties Psychedelic movement and show how they both performed as a youth subculture. Throughout, I will relate Acid House to the status quo and finally show how the ideas and aesthetics of it continued into dance music culture.

In Chapter 2, I will show the role that flyers took in relating their subculture to its participants and give some of the ideas and issues that surrounded their design. I will then study specific flyers showing why their different features existed and on what level they worked. Throughout, I shall relate flyers to the culture, music and style of Acid House, and through the information given in Chapter 1, I will show them in their social and political context.

Finally, in Chapter 3 I will briefly show how aspects of Acid House, and in turn, all underground dance music, were diluted and re-emerged in popular culture. I will then show how, as always, graphic design forms a parallel to its culture and music by discussing how its style was also assimilated by popular culture.

I am not studying flyers as pieces of high art, neither am I disseminating them merely as marketing material. I am showing how flyers reflected club culture, how they relate to the status quo of their day and how they will always be evocative of the era that they were produced in.


1. Gallup Charts, NME, April 1999
2. Matthew Colin, Altered State, Serpents Tail, 1998, p.4

contents  |  intro  |  chapter 1  |  chapter 2  |  chapter 3  |  conclusion  |  bibliography  |  pics
Visual Energy  |  Rave Flyers Index  |  Hyperreal

comments to
revised 24 September 2008