A farmer named Stuart MacIntosh is The Summer of Rave 1989’s true hero. A brief scene in the 2006 film has him looking back on a massive outdoor event that found 20,000 ravers congregating on his fields in Buckhamingshire. In the aftermath, “if I ever went into the Red Lion, which is a very nice pub, they would all move to the other end,” he says, referring to his neighbours. “But looking back on it, I’m quite proud of what we did. It made a lot of people have a lovely weekend. And I bet a lot of them still remember it, to this day.”
The rave that MacIntosh helped facilitate was the climax of the summer spent at 120 BPM and the squelching sounds of acid house. A disaffected generation in the UK—sick of a decade of rule by Margaret Thatcher, inspired by the Tiananmen Square protests in China—surrendered themselves to the power of rave. Ecstasy had become widely available, but as music journalist Sheryl Garatt notes, it was rarely combined with alcohol, leading to euphoria instead of aggression. Madchester mutated into its own version of the party with bucket hats bobbing to the Happy Mondays at the famed Haçienda Club. Even football hooligans from opposing teams put their rivalries on pause to join each other in a blissful escape.
Yet as 1989’s raves became big business, unwelcome visits from drug cartels and police crackdowns led to the party finally crashing. All good things must come to an end, but the spirit of ‘89 lives on forever in clips of Bez shaking his maracas on Top of the Pops.