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DJ History Classic Interview: Terry Farley

Terry Farley

DJ History Classic Interview: Terry Farley

Juno has teamed up with the disco dons over at DJhistory to bring you regular classic interviews from the archives. After ten years and a growing number of books, the DJ History ethos aim remains the same as always: to document the rich history of dance music and to collect and share knowledge about fantastic music. First up is British music icon Terry Farley, part of the original Boys Own crew.

Interview: Bill Brewster and Frank Broughton

Let’s start with a bit of biographical detail – where are you from?

I was born in 1958 in Latimer Rd, London. I lived there till I was about 13, then I moved to Slough.

How was it in Slough, how did you get into music?

Well, I got into music living in London because we were the white area of north Kensington. When you got to the bottom of the road you got into Ladbroke Grove and it was very West Indian. Our area was quite white, but you’d still get parties late at night playing reggae with these very old Jamaican guys hanging out. I got really into reggae when I was nine or ten.

So how did you get involved in the soul all-dayers?

We used to go to this northern one in Reading and also one in Yate near Bristol. At Reading they had an upstairs room where they played funk and stuff like that, a lot of black kids. There were 100 people upstairs, and 1,000 people downstairs dancing to fairly commercial northern soul. In about 1977 suddenly it just flipped. I remember walking in there and there was 300 northern soul fans and 1000 London-based soul boys. Then everywhere, everyone was a soul boy.

Where were the first all-weekenders you went to?

I went to the first Caister, 1981 I think. Then I went to the next 11 or 12. I’ve got a picture of Weatherall with a Mohican, Johnny Rocker in full Malcolm McLaren hat, suit, the other people were Cymon Eckel, dressed in full Vivienne Westwood stuff. And the rest of the people were still in silk shorts! But, you know, we liked it. We were living at home, none of us had flats, we all had traditional jobs. I was working for the gas board. Rocker worked in a clothes shop in Windsor. It was somewhere to go where you could stay up all night.

Where did you first hear house music?

We used to go to a shop called Demob which was run by Steve Marney and some northern soul people. They had a warehouse in Roseberry Avenue. Being a record collector, I was getting loads of gigs playing backrooms: sort of leftfield stuff, early rap things like that. We used to go in Demob and he asked me if I wanted to play at a warehouse party. Big thing for me. Maurice and Noel Watson were playing and I was doing the warm-up. They came on and played two hours of records I’d never heard. They were all new New York labels like Sleeping Bag, that real sort of tribal sound. I asked them where they’d got them from and they were like, ‘Oh we got them from New York’. That was my first house moment listening to those two play.

“We were living at home, none of us had flats, we all had traditional jobs. I was working for the gas board. Rocker worked in a clothes shop in Windsor. It was somewhere to go where you could stay up all night”

What was the response like?

It was good. It was a warehouse with a lot of crazy people in it. It was quite fashiony. Londoners’ negative response to house music wasn’t the fact that they didn’t like it, it was due to the rare groove scene. It wasn’t they didn’t like house, they just didn’t need it. London was probably the best it had been since Crackers. Suddenly the dancing was important again. Even though the clothes were seventies-related, they were good. It got back to credible again. People going to warehouses. Anthems. There was always another record to find.

Did the warehouses suddenly spring up or were they always happening?

It was part of the rare groove thing. Without the rare groove scene London wouldn’t have exploded in the way it did when house came along, because you already had everything there, you had the sound systems, you had the people in the clubs. They just switched the music and, instead of there being a thousand people, suddenly there was 10,000. It was already there.

The first time I heard house as something different was at the Raid. I used to warm up there and Pete Tong and Oaky (Paul Oakenfold) were the main DJs. It was just around the time when Tongy was just trying to get that thing together with London Records and he’d play a half an hour of house and people didn’t know how to react to it.

Did he clear the floor?

Well, people just never danced. Go-go was big at the time. I remember him having two copies of something which he’d cut up and he was pretty good at it. Then things like Love Can’t Turn Around would be played and people just didn’t know how to dance to it. It didn’t go with how people were dancing, with the little jazz moves. You could play a Def Jam record next to a go-go record and a James Brown record, but then you played a house record and it was like ‘what am I supposed to do to this?’ It didn’t fit in with anything else. It only worked when it was only house. It didn’t work as part of the tapestry of what was being played.

We used to go to Rockley Sounds where the music was fantastic. You could hear jazz records from the 60s next to Public Enemy. First time I ever saw Danny Rampling was there. He’d been trying to get a gig with Nicky Holloway, who was a mate of his, but he wouldn’t let him play. Johnny Walker was playing George Kranz’s Din Daa Daa and Rampling jumped on the stage and started doing this Shoom dance.

Did you go to the early Shooms?

I missed the first month. My main problem or my main asset is when I get into something I go in with two feet and I’m really enthusiastic. The Boys Own magazine was going which was totally rare groove. I had the big trousers and the hat. We had pictures of Rockley Sands, pictures of guys in rare groove stuff. Then suddenly – boom! – there it was. And I was like, ‘right we’re changing. This is amazing!’

But it was also an end of something and a start of something else, because the Elmses and Bananaramas belonged to the previous generation of elite clubbers.

Well, they tried it. I remember Robert Elms in the mid ’80s walking round at the Wag Club in a Gaultier suit and he looked fantastic. And suddenly he’s coming up to me in Shoom, in shorts, looking a knob. (laughs) Graham Ball was running around in there in Mambo shorts, as well, it’s like… steady on!

What were you wearing?

I was into that distressed casual look. The first people who forged that Ibiza thing were kids from this estate called Roundshaw. They were living in Ibiza. That band Natural Life, they were part of it. One of their dad’s was a bass player. They went on to do Naked Lunch and Monkey Drum. They were all basically in old Chevignon jackets, Lee dungarees and Converse. That’s where that look comes from.

Was there was an undercurrent of working class kids who’d been out there working?

We did a party at the Raid club underneath this hotel in Marble Arch. Massive venue. Me and Weatherall did the door. We were on the door dressed up and a group of kids come up and one of them was from football, he was Millwall… and we were like, “No, you can’t come in like that”. I went to Shoom and suddenly I realised all the people in Shoom were the people who I didn’t let in six weeks earlier. A week later I’ve got dungarees on and looking a right pudding! That’s the way it was.

“Suddenly you were talking to people outside of your class and it didn’t matter that they were from up north or what clothes they had on”

What about Spectrum?

When Spectrum first started I was playing reggae in the VIP room. Oaky played. He played the top 20 Alfredo records. There was people running round with flowers on the dancefloor. It was brilliant. Second week, it was brilliant, but only 100 people in there. Third week they were saying they were gonna shut it. I think the fourth or fifth week they were like I can’t pay you your £20 wages. Then the last week it was gonna shut, we turned up and there were 400 in the queue. Within a month it was however many it holds, 3,000.

What was the difference between Spectrum and Shoom?

Class, I’d say. Once Shoom was in full swing, it was split between working class, middle class and upper class people, whereas Future was south London and it was quite moody in there. By the time Shoom had kicked off the people at Future were looking down at them. There was a lot of sort of fringe characters who wouldn’t have gone in at Shoom, because they wouldn’t have gone to the rigmarole of getting the clothes and dancing round to Danny. They were too cool for that. So there were a few plazzy gangsters in there and a few real ones as well. Spectrum, though, was just full of potty kids. Probably the same as the Hacienda and Cream. It was pretty racially mixed for the time, as well, because Shoom wasn’t. Future wasn’t either.

How did Boys Own start? You were plugged into the End in Liverpool weren’t you?

Well, I used to write silly letters to them! And they’d print them, stuff about football fashion. We were living in Slough and the kids in Windsor, it was nicer over Windsor, a few posh birds over there so we used to go over there. We met Cymon Eckles and Andy Weatherall and I said I’d like to do a fanzine like the End but about London. Weatherall was up for creating this monster and he was very clever. My schooling and Steve Mayes’ schooling was pretty non-existent, and Andrew, of the first half a dozen magazines, he did nearly everything.

What did house change?

It meant we didn’t have to change clothes! (laughs) I remember talking to Jonathan Richardson and meeting his friends and he said “Yeah, we all met at Cambridge University. Where did you go to school?”

“Er, I went to Broomfield comprehensive in Slough.”

House was the first time them barriers broke down. I thought that was a good thing. Suddenly you were talking to people outside of your class and it didn’t matter that they were from up north or what clothes they had on. Shoom was very sexually mixed, gays, straights, all sorts of gay palaver going on which some of the kids in there, who were football hooligans, would never have seen. But Danny was all important to that.


The dance. The whole acid house dance is Danny Rampling. Waving his record while he’s playing. Until then DJs used to just put records on. They didn’t do anything. During the rare groove thing you wouldn’t acknowledge the crowd. They wouldn’t even smile at the crowd. The crowd wouldn’t smile at the DJ. There was no connection. Suddenly Danny’s standing there and he’s waving his record around, shouting and people shouting at him and hugging. That was his dance. Then it became the Shoom dance then the Shoom dance became the Spectrum dance, then the whole of the country! I’m sure he stole it from Ibiza. I’m sure of it. For me that whole movement came pre-packaged. You had the dance, which was so different from everything else. You had the drug. You had a series of records that were totally overlooked by everyone, and they’d already been hits in this club in Amnesia.

“It was about 8.30 in the morning, and Boy George was singing “Karma Chameleon” … some bloke yelled ‘this is the greatest moment of my life!'”

How did you start the Boys Own parties?

We did a few small ones before acid house. But early on in ’88 we said we wanted to do a party and we asked Danny to play. We found a guy who owned a big house in Guildford. He had a really small barn and a big garden. Danny couldn’t do it ’cos he didn’t want to shut Shoom down so we got Steve Proctor to play. We got 200 people down. The bloke who owned the place was sitting there at about 6 in the morning with Boy George. Boy George was singing Karma Chameleon and this bloke says, ‘this is the greatest moment of my life!’. It got to about 8.30 in the morning and everyone was really going for it. There was not one complaint. The police turned up. They said, what’s happening here then? “Oh, we’re from London, we’re on these coaches here and we’re having a party.”

They went, “Right, there’s beer cans in the street, can you pick them up.”

So we walked over there, off our nuts, picked up the beer cans.

They said, “What time are you finishing?”

We said, “Er…. Eleven?”

“Alright then. See you lads!”

A year later they’re using truncheons!

The Complete Fanzines: Acid House Scrapes & Capers’ has been published by DJ History and you can buy it here.

Pics: Defected and DJ History