It's commonly held knowledge that most YouTube comments rank up there with Houellebecq novels and Somme fatality statistics as some of the most depressing things you can read. But, thankfully, there are a few diamonds of decency in that online hate-pit...
A playlist of all the rave/hardcore tracks people in this blog have commented on. You should probably listen to it as you read.
It's commonly held knowledge that most YouTube comments rank up there with Houellebecq novels and Somme fatality statistics as some of the most depressing things you can read. Even if it's a video of an elephant cuddling a pug or a Philip Glass recital, you'll usually find yourself greeted with the same shitstorm of racism, homophobia, misogyny, accusations of n00bery, and somebody who says they'll put a curse on you if you don't repost a story about a girl who died in a car crash to at least ten of your friends.
Thankfully, there are a few diamonds of decency in this online hate-pit, and they usually arrive beneath music videos. Sometimes you read stories about aging couples who had their first kiss in a Wisconsin diner as "Tiny Dancer" played on the jukebox. Sometimes you see really enthusiastic Europeans thanking the uploader of a death metal track with a smiley face. And sometimes, just sometimes, YouTube commenters prove they're capable of being funny.
However, if you want to find the most inspiring and poignant posts on YouTube, you could do far worse than loading up a rave/hardcore playlist comprised of tracks from the late 80s and early 90s.
A comment on "Sweet Sensation" by Shades Of Rhythm.
Because the comments on those videos are genuinely some of the most beautiful things I've ever read.
Both comments on "Everybody" by Shades Of Rhythm.
If you were being cynical, you could probably say that these comments are just the MDMA-warped memories of a generation of thirty-something men who resent their wives, boring children, mortgages, jobs, and the responsibilities that come with them. You could dismiss their exhortations of the "old days" as merely the rueful people who can't grasp the modern dance world, with its live streams, forum trolls, and LiveNation wristband raves.
And that may or may not be true. But it doesn't matter, because what these people are expressing through the unlikely medium of YouTube comments is pure romance. Regardless of what Positiva release caused their Proust-on pills recollections, these people seem to be genuinely conjuring up fragmented glimpses of a lost past, something that is infinitely more life-affirming and valuable than anything spat out by the usual "Hey, remember Pogs!?" school of internet nostalgia.
At some points, it feels like you're witnessing the outbreak of a new—or at least unrecognized—movement of unwitting outsider poets. While I don't doubt that some of the people watching and commenting on these vids are highly educated types who ended up running the country and maybe even producing youth culture shows for PBS, a lot of them are almost definitely written by regular people who probably don't get a chance to express themselves so candidly in their day to day lives.
I like to imagine misty-eyed men and women staying up late in their newly built homes, waiting for their kids to go to bed before they can transport themselves back to their carefree, wide-eyed, hands-in-the-air youths spent blissfully blowing holes in their psyche in New York warehouses and on Balearic beaches. It might be a bit tragic if they were still showing up at Warehouse Project three speckled Doves deep, still losing their shit to "Voodoo Ray" as Joy Orbison plays it 25 years later. But they aren't, I don't think. These are people who know that their raving days are over, and are looking back on them rather than trying to recreate them in some Hacienda historical reenactment society. In that way, these are examples of wistful longing rather than regressive nostalgia.
Of course, you're going to see as many broken dreams as you are sentimental recollections of clubs these people danced, fucked, drank and drugged in, but those have long since gone the way of all things. But even somebody as dispirited as MrCockPirate here can look back on these days with positivity. And in the age where people cringe at photos taken six months ago, that's pretty cool.
One of the most impressive things you come to realize about rave and hardcore through looking at these comments is its relationship to time and place. It seems that the combination of music, scenario and chemicals created genuinely unforgettable moments in people's lives, and these videos act as portals back to that time. Who knows, maybe in 25 years tons of people will be talking about the first time they heard "Where Dem Girls At" by Flo Rida and David Guetta. But let's face it; they won't be, will they?
This is probably my favorite one. It doesn't just tell you about a club or a banging remix, but hints at the entire span of some unknown relationship that Phil Davies from Nantwich and Johnny from Coventry once had. A relationship that was subsequently snatched from them, presumably by responsibility and the post-rave diaspora that responsible adulthood created.
Whether they briefly became best friends, whether they put the world to rights in a wire-jawed, late-night session of serotonin fuelled telekinesis as the sun came up at Fantazia, or whether they indulged in some kind of tryst as the piano break came in on "Better Days", we'll never know. But the fact that something as ostensibly banal as a YouTube comment can make us ponder such possibilities, acting as a personals ad for a relationship that is long past, is a testament to the evocative power of the internet.
More than anything though, these comments serve as the world's least effective antidrug PSA. Scan over them (and believe me, I have) and there's literally no one who claims that ecstasy ruined their life or bank balance and there's no macho boasting of how much they could handle. Obviously there are dangers to all drugs, and these people aren't talking about the crystal fear that is chemlab Molly. But if you ever need convincing that nights spent on E can be worth the comedown, you're gonna find it here.
It's amazing to think that through browsing the top-rated comments of a few piano house tunes you can see the hopes and dreams of an entire generation laid out before you. I've got a feeling that cultural historians will come back to look at comments like this in the same way that military historians look at testimonies from Stalingrad. It was a time that was never documented very well. Sure, there's the Doncaster Warehouse vid, Human Traffic, Irvine Welsh's The Acid House, and a smattering of badly shot rave videos, but as someone who was too young to be there at the time, there's nothing that feels like it might capture the era's true spirit quite like these.
Obviously nostalgia is bullshit, and for every "Pacific State" there were a hundred terrible "big fish, small fish, cardboard box" novelty records. And for everyone who looks back on it with fondness, there is probably a casualty. And we probably all need to remember that patterned board shorts were de rigeur back then. But you can't help but feel these people had the right idea.
If these comments are true—and why would you doubt that they are?—going out in those days was about unity and euphoria rather than wearing T-shirts that define your pecs and trying to compete in some kind of Moet-pissing competition. Maybe these comments comprise a history lesson that modern clubbers would do well to heed.
Follow Clive on Twitter: @thugclive
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