PACHA, IBIZA (1973 – TODAY)
In 1973, Spanish brothers Ricardo and Piti Urgell opened their second Pacha club on a quiet Balearic island, and helped to kickstart the evolution of Ibiza from a sleepy, hippy isle into the revered dance music destination it is today.
42 years later, Pacha Ibiza is still going strong as one of the world’s biggest clubbing brands. The original Ibiza venue – which pioneered the idea of clubs having sprawling, outdoor spaces as well as dark rooms – has grown from an old rural farmhouse into a labyrinthine, Frankenstein mega-club, and the Pacha Group can now lay claim to franchise clubs in 14 countries.
It’s truly a pioneering monolith, and part of Pacha’s lasting-power has to do with its willingness to embrace changing music trends and fun themes; “a great party is one where everybody participates," founder and original resident DJ Piti Urgell says. Like at the first ‘White Party’ that Urgell ever threw, in which every participant had to wear white. “Everybody made a really big effort [and] when we put the UV lights on, the clothes glowed…so everyone took them off and danced in the nude.” Sounds like Ibiza to us. [Photo by Erek Ridgers]
SHOOM, LONDON (1987 – 1991)
A lot of people daydream about still being on holiday at the end of their vacation, but not many use it as the fuel to launch a nightclub; least of all a club that would go on to make history, by spearheading early acid house and rave in the UK, and kickstarting the beginnings of the PLUR movement.
Danny Rampling had been trying to break into DJing for several years without much success, but after a heady week-long party on the White Isle for Paul Oakenfold’s birthday in 1987, where he found himself discovering both DJ Alfredo’s Balearic mixing style and a certain illicit substance known to inspire dancing, Rampling had an epiphany.
Returning to London, he worked with his then-wife Jenni to try and re-capture the Balearic dance paradise by the ocean back in a gloomy city gym, and thus Shoom was bor, transporting Ibiza’s anything goes, everyone’s welcome attitude to South East London.
Shoom arrived at just the right time: in the middle of a recession, when young people were grasping for escape. It became a space where class, race and sexuality meant nothing, not to mention the place where you could hear game-changing new tunes from all over the world.
In a much more literal sense, Shoom changed the face of dance music in another way, by giving us the bright-eyed yellow smiley face logo we’ve come to associate with acid house and rave. The first flyer for Shoom featured the iconic imagery (as designed by George Georgiou), and it’s been the two-dimensional face of rave ever since.
CREAM, LIVERPOOL (1992 – 2002)
While Ministry of Sound went down the commercial record label route, Liverpool superclub brand Cream was one of the first to turn their club experience into an outdoor music festival.
The early ‘90s rave scene in the UK was defined by illegal outdoor raves, which would usually kick off after the clubs closed at 2am; so it was a logical progression for Cream to take their weekly knees-up at Liverpool venue Nation from indoor to outdoor.
Over its ten years existence as a weekly club night, Cream cemented its place firmly within the dance music pantheon, hosting the era’s superstars from Paul Oakenfold, Sasha and Carl Cox to The Chemical Brothers; but the marquee-name parties weren’t enough. Cream began stretching out internationally, with parties in Ibiza (from 1995) and across the rest of Europe, and in 1998 launched the first Creamfields festival, the biggest dance festival in the world (at the time), travelling across Europe and South America (and even reaching Australia for three festivals between 2010 and 2012).
While mega-festival brands like Ultra, Tomorrowland, EDC and their ilk are defining the scene in 2015, back in 1998 Cream changed the game by taking dance music culture from out of the clubs and surreptitiously set-up outdoor raves, and into the music festival major leagues. [Photo of Cream Ibiza via The Guardian]
LIMELIGHT, NEW YORK (1983 – 2007)
New York’s Limelight took over a deconsecrated church in 1983, and eventually became a pioneering place to hear darker shades of techno, goth and industrial. But the club’s enduring legacy has less to do with its music policy, and more to do with the home it gave to an outrageous, eccentric, heavily-medicated crew of queer hipsters.
These strangely dressed polysexuals called themselves the Club Kids, and their leader was Michael Alig, who only recently got out of prison in 2014 after serving 17 years for accidentally murdering his heroin dealer, then slicing up his body and throwing it into the Hudson River.
Gruesome deaths aside, at their peak the Club Kids were the biggest thing going, throwing debauched parties fuelled by disco, house and vast quantities of illicit substances. One of the most prominent Club Kids, James St James, described their hedonism (in his memoir ‘Disco Bloodbath’) as fuelled by “fear and hysteria”.
“There was a prevailing sense that you and your friends might not be around this time next week – so enjoy the now! Don’t think about tomorrow,” he says. “So we partied too hard, drank too much, laughed too loud. We danced on the lip of the volcano, so to speak.”
Everybody wanted a piece of the Club Kids’ action, from New York’s fashion crowd to Joan Rivers and the talk show circuit. But the party couldn’t last: Alig went to prison (but only after he bragged publically about having committed murder and gotten away with it). The resulting bad publicity forced the club to shut and its owner Peter Gatien (dubbed the “King of New York Clubs” and the owner of other storied ‘90s venues like Tunnel, Palladium and Club USA) attracted the attention of the authorities and was later arrested and deported back to Canada after being busted for tax evasion.
But almost 20 years later, people are still obsessed by those crazy Club Kids and their excesses; their influence on fashion in popular dance music can still be seen in the experimental style of every chart-topping pop star, from Madonna and Lady Gaga (the meat dress, anyone?) to Nicki Minaj.
STUDIO 54, NEW YORK
In 1977, Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager took over New York’s Galla Opera House and created arguably the most famous nightclub to have ever existed, setting the template for every glitzy club to follow.
The pair transformed the former theatre’s interior into a celebrity playpen with epic props, a laissez-faire attitude to debauched behaviour, and a clientele handpicked by owner Steve Rubell at the front door. The notoriously selective door policy, Rubell said, was partly to keep out the “undesirables”, but mostly “like mixing a salad, or casting a play… If it gets too straight, then there’s not enough energy in the room. If it gets too gay, then there’s no glamour. We want it to be bisexual. Very, very, very bisexual.”
As the legend goes, the cocaine use was flagrant and free flowing: a benevolent Man in the Moon sculpture hung over the dancefloor and would light up when its coke spoon came to rest under its nose. Bartenders and busboys served drinks – and carried out ‘other tasks’ – in just their underwear, while the theatre’s upper levels also – allegedly, and infamously – hosted orgies.
Legendary disco DJ Nicky Siano set the party mood, while Grace Jones, Donna Summer, James Brown, Stevie Wonder and more all played live at the club, which Rubell turned into a safe haven for celebrities where they could dance and party without being hassled (you’ll still find photos of Woody Allen hanging with Michael Jackson, or Dolly Parton petting a white stallion in the club).
Eventually, Steve Rubell put his foot in it by bragging in an interview that only the Mafia had made more money than Studio 54; the FBI (unsurprisingly) raided the building and found cocaine and bin bags full of cash hidden in the walls. Rubell went to prison for tax evasion, and while Studio 54 has been reanimated many times in the years since, it’s never quite recaptured that era defining decadence of its early years.