The Tramway Rave 1989

By racket racket

The legendary DJ Dribbler reminisces about a pivotal night in Scotland’s clubbing history and what sounds like one helluva party in Glasgow back in ’89.

Acid House Newspaper Clippings

The acid house movement was totally DIY both ethically and in principle. There were no laws laid down for where raves could happen, there was no set format to rave. The parties were happening in swimming pools, riding stables, back rooms of rural pubs, on boats, in scout huts and the YMCA . For a short time towns had no trouble renting out their halls on a Friday or Saturday night. Sound systems were constructed, PA’s were carted to the tops of mountains and deep into disused transport tunnels.

Ravers would go anywhere to party and the more obscure the location the better. You had to outwit the police then make sure the party did not get discovered and stopped. It’s quite incredible how parties the size of funfairs could just go ahead, set up under the radar, organize for 10,000 people to mobilize themselves and end up without incident.

Ravers would go anywhere to party and the more obscure the location the better. You had to outwit the police then make sure the party did not get discovered and stopped. It’s quite incredible how parties the size of funfairs could just go ahead, set up under the radar, organize for 10,000 people to mobilize themselves and end up without incident.

Of course this wouldn’t last, there were inevitably robberies and accidents at parties that meant the police had to clamp down on what they initially regarded as harmless, trouble free events. Most cops interviewed at the time even supported the parties as they were an easy shift and certainly entertaining for them.

It was a media dream come true, a whole new youth movement dressing differently and adopting a new music called acid. The papers blindly went to lengths to explain that acid was a type of music not a drug when the whole association was there to see. The Sun newspaper in the UK was selling smiley t shirts with acid written on them. It wasn’t long before they realised the error of their ways and changed their tune. Initially welcomed with open arms as a way to sell more copies, the media backlash started and evil started to be associated with acid house. This sold just as many copies they discovered. The initial reports of loved up kids hugging police and each other, dancing to the wail of the sirens as they arrived at what they expected to be a riot, soon gave way to headlines like “acid army gas cops”. The scene was demonized and the public lapped that up too.

Newspapers were shifting thousands of copies, there was a craze on the country’s hands. Soon everyone wanted a piece of acid house. The kids stood firm however and started their own businesses around the scene just like the punks. Before long, entrepreneurial ravers had set up their own shit. Technically minded types stuck to lighting and sound – building sound systems and pirate radio stations were essential to get the music heard. It was a new age undoubtedly and all the best aspects of all the previous scenes and fashions had combined in one with an even better drug and social activity. Guarana was touted as the legal E along with ginseng and a myriad of other semi exotic elixirs. Lucozade went from pick me up to Coke rival overnight because it was the only drink in the Fitness Centre where Shoom was held. That’s the only reason Adamski used it on his record sleeve and Lucozade sued Adamski and disowned themselves from the scene while raking it in from ravers. Record labels, record stores, distributors and pressing plants sprung up. All were essential to spread the new music… and for the djs to get the newest tracks they needed to have test pressings on vinyl. These came from the biggest market and source of employment of all, the people making the music. It seemed that everyone had a role to play in the rave scene. DJing, the music, selling guarana, crystals or illegal narcotics, everyone could adopt a niche of the scene and everyone was able to make the tracks. It was so easy to become an integral part of the scene, easy access fun , your social scene sorted, no wonder the whole thing hit epidemic proportions.

Adamski NRG 12" sleeve

Still left miles behind the game, purely by the sheer force of enthusiasm that had gripped not just an age group or new generation but by everyone who was into partying basically – the police were stranded. Bikers, punks, casuals from different firms, old northern soul boys and girls, jazz heads and basic drug enthusiasts were now ravers. They all felt an affiliation with the new phenomenon.

True to form at the time Slam threw a rave at The Tramway, Glasgow. It’s safe to say that this was a real turning point in house music culture, certainly in Scotland.

True to form at the time Slam threw a rave at The Tramway, Glasgow. It’s safe to say that this was a real turning point in house music culture, certainly in Scotland. The Tramway holds about 1,500 people. All over Scotland these psychedelic posters with “10 weeks to go” were appearing. I mean these got up! The posters were in Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Dundee, Perth… everywhere. They covered every city and noone knew what the hell they were about. The weeks past then, boom!  Another set of posters with “6 weeks to go” written on them covered the country. It was the next set that explained everything. There was to be a party at The Tramway in Glasgow and on the bill were some of the top names in house music, Inner City live, Graham Park and Mike Pickering from the Hacienda, Kevin Saunderson DJing, Slam and 808 state live, Cesare from the Stereo MCs, Mark the 45 King, Rebel MC – this was what every raver in Scotland was looking for at the time. It was summer ’89.

Like I said, The Tramway holds about 1,500 people. The party was starting early so people were getting there for around 7pm. A LOT of people. Buses were leaving constantly from Edinburgh with people from Nottingham and Birmingham on them, (Yogi Haughton gave me my ticket outside City Café). Folk were coming from all over the country and it was becoming apparent that this was a huge event. Buses from Aberdeen, Dundee, Newcastle, all arriving on Glasgow’s southside around the same time with mad bunches of ravers filing out and taking their place in the queue. It wasn’t long before people realized there were far too many heads there to all get in. There were thousands, literally, without tickets who had turned up anyway. The police had no idea how to deal with these situations. How could they? There had never been anything on such a scale like this before. The whole of Glasgow’s Albert Drive was one big, day-glo, bandana clad, smiley faced mob. Unaccustomed as they were, the police treated it like a football riot. The horses charged up Albert Drive and everyone ran for the walls. The cops had batons and the horses were really charging, the thing was none of the crowd were volatile and they did exactly what they were told. Nothing was thrown at the officers, they were obeyed, the crowd completely compliant. This really fucked them up.

A semi-orderly line had formed about 6 deep going right past Pollokshields Station and further up Albert Drive. The police had totally succeeded and the people had seemingly complied. It was just at this moment that another bus pulled round the corner and stopped right outside The Tramway. The doors opened and a wee guy jumped out. He was about 5 foot 4 or something and he had on a huge ski jacket that covered 5 foot 2 of him. It was basically just a huge jacket with Kickers peeping out below. He was wearing a pair of those joke plastic spectacles, the huge ones, u know the ones. He jumped off the bus and surveyed the mob in front of him, thousands of people outside The Tramway and crushed against the wall, thru his plastic green specs, then held up a sleeve. Out of the sleeve eventually emerged a hand with an air horn in it. He let the air horn go with a huge blast, (airhorns and whistles were the norm at raves) and screamed “HACIENDA!!” at the top of his voice.Never at any time in history has an Englishman been made to feel so welcome in Scotland.

Never at any time in history has an Englishman been made to feel so welcome in Scotland.

The crowd erupted, airhorns, whistles, screaming whoops and cowbells. Thousands of people, all previously obedient, went mental. People surged at the door, the line was lost, it was a complete rammy getting to the front. People were snatching tickets too – that was becoming a big problem – as people were showing their tickets to get in and having them grabbed out of their hands from behind. The tickets were laminated, about 10 inches by 3 and easily grabbed. The cops had to move in again. They charged the crowd at the front of the line where the first signs of aggro were beginning. The people at the front had had their tickets stolen and no way were they giving up the night just like that. The Tramway was going to have to open it’s doors, it was getting too crazy the police were saying.

Meanwhile at the back of the line everyone had been watching the events at the front, with the police, and decided it was a mass bust. There and then everyone started consuming whatever they had with them to get them through the night.

It took about 15 minutes.

A lull had descended over the crowd with the imminent bust situation and also the prospect of what was about to happen to their minds. 15 minutes later some whistles started tooting, they were echoed back by other whistles. This led to everyone with a whistle tooting them in some kinda psycho, two step/four four beat. They were joined by alpine style horns brought by the Nottingham crew and within about 20 minutes 5,000 people were dancing in the street to the sound of themselves and the police horns all around them. Girl I’ll House You by Jungle Brothers was THE biggest track of the era and started with a scratch of “Can u Feel It? – Awww Yeah” – then police sirens, also adopted by Todd Terry for another contemporary monster of a tune at the time… and the cops had no idea that the sirens were in fact adding to the acid houseness, not stopping it. There was nothing else for it, Lisa Davidson the manager of The Tramway at the time had to open the doors, Albert Drive was a full scale rave.

Original Flyer

The hall filled in 10 minutes, no warm up required, everyone already psyched and amped to the moon. The DJs hadn’t even started and there were close to 2,000 in already, tickets or not. By this stage all organisation had flown out the proverbial window and it was a survival of the fittest getting into the party.

Slam kicked off the proceedings and the line up to follow really beggared belief at the time. All hats off to Inner City and 808 State who both put on stage shows with dancers and choreography, Rebel MC was Double Trouble at the time and had a more down to earth presentation. Down the front was where people were accustomed to being at shows and this was no different as the front of the stage was packed with people, hands aloft waiting for a performance. All this went out the window however when the first person sailed across the room, 2 feet above the outstretched hands. They had set up a gyroscope in the back right corner of the room, directly opposite the entrance, and right next to this was a harness suspended from the roof with the ability to propel people across the room directly above the crowd. Faces of awe and sheer amazement soon turned to determination as the whole place thought in unison “I want a shot of that!”

While the strobes and moonflowers were cast down upon the masses (moonflowers were the doyen of rave lights at the time) bodies were being slung across the room just above head height by the harness in a style that had never been seen before. The line to get a shot of the harness had formed and people were utilising the thick water pipe stretching up the wall of The Tramway as a temporary seat while awaiting their turn. This was eventually to prove the undoing of the party.

Due to go on all night the whole thing had to be brought to a premature close at around 3 or 4am when the pipe gave way and gallons of water spilled out onto the floor. A disaster loomed with not only the electrical equipment but also the safety of the people at stake. There was nothing else for it but to stop the party. Thousands were cast out onto the street with no public transportation available and no buses due to pick people up for another 4 hours. Word got round quickly that DJ Paul MC was also throwing a party that night in Glasgow’s Warehouse venue and thousands descended upon what had already been a packed night due to the overspill and excess left outside deciding to cut their losses and head there. The garage at the bottom of Albert Drive at Eglinton Toll was the other favoured spot and had completely sold out of cigarettes, papers, Irn Bru and Lucozade. Nobody drank alcohol at the time and the sandwich stall was still completely stacked.

There’s a Woodstock-like air of ‘were you there-ness’ about many events but none so much as The Tramway. Many don’t even realise to this day that Slam were responsible for the party and even more don’t care. If ever the subject of The Tramway rave comes up, no matter how many trials and tribulations they had to personally go through to get there and get in, a wry smile will creep across the face of any attendee that night. It was truly a turning point and set the bar for all future events held north of the border.

8 Comments

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  2. Super stuff. Wasn’t there, but Scribbler’s account sure makes me wish I had been. Loved the moment when the wee guy jumps off the bus and shouts “Hacienda”. Hehe!

    Oh and “the cops had no idea that the sirens were in fact adding to the acid houseness” made me snort tea out of my nose. Great piece, DJ Scribbler. Thanks.

  3. joc

    i was there…scribbler’s got a better memory than me…..i’m sure i went to an all dayer in the plaza the following day…full of beans i was in them days

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  6. Yip I was there with my m8z! Remember double trouble we were at the front:) we all went out that day & bought our illuminous shoe laces to tie around our necks with our whistles!! Loads a cops about,we thought it was cancelled then the bus turned up & we all went crayzeeeeee! I didn’t realize Slam organized this,thought their first 1 was at SECC SLAM 1 ? Been trying to find info on DIRTBOX rave at The Barrowlands,that was the 1st RAVE I went to:)

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