20 March 2009

"When DJs Ruled the World" Really?...

Leading UK newspaper The Independent recently published an interesting article about British super clubs, curiously titled "When DJs Ruled the World". The sub headline reads: "These superstars had it all – fame, money, drugs. But come the millennium, the party was over. Dom Phillips, former editor of Mixmag, tracks the boom and bust of the great mixmasters." (March 13 2009).

Despite a few rushed passages, it highlights important moments in the history of clubbing in UK, from the mid-1980s "acid house" parties, to the meteoric rise of megaclubs and superstar DJs in the mid-1990s, to the fall of corporate clubbing in the early 2000s. It is quite interesting to see the notion of "clubbing bubble", "boom and bust" resonating with the current economic recession.

Now, take a look at the title again. "When DJs Ruled the World". Given that all examples refer to a handful of British clubs and British DJs, the allusion to "rulling the world" smacks as ethnocentric and imperialistic. (Substitute "DJs" by "Great Britain" or "The Queen", and you get the picture. Well, Americans too are prone to such exaggerations...).

There is nothing wrong in picking a few selected cases. But the history of clubbing is much more than superclubs and celebrity DJs being co-opted by the big press and record industry, as described by Mr. Phillips. Not for nothing, Mixmag was actually a central player in all that, thus the heavy bias. (Think of Wall Street brokers telling the history of banks...).

We should not forget the long tradition of countercultural movements in the UK, connecting and influencing the outside world. Within this larger picture, it becomes clear that the history of clubbing is much more than the Mixmag's line subculture-becomes-corporate-and-decline-period. Maybe back to the underground in UK, yet corporate in several other countries. "The beat still goes on".


  1. I agree with you completely. The magazines and radio stations make it seem like although there is a global phenomenon, the real party is always in Europe. Meanwhile- although the game has changed, the culture is still going on throughout the world. This continues to evolve and grow just as the music has still been both progressing towards an elitist production concept and fringe underground or homemade dance music.

  2. thanks for the link with the insti2te keep up the good work , your blog rocks

    fancypunk from insti2te.wordpress.com

  3. I concur with your thoughts.

    Rave culture still exists even if it can't be mass produced, put in a box and sold by the capitalist.