Is acid house a new musical movement or simply a front for drug trafficking? Tim Goodyer discusses the power of the press over music.
ALMOST AS FAR back as you care to look you'll find connections between the worlds of music and drugs. It's a sad fact, but it's a fact all the same. And as in music, fashions in drugs change. Drugs such as opium, LSD, pot, heroin and cocaine have all taken their turn as part of youth culture, as has music such as soul, psychedelia, glam rock, reggae and punk. And should we choose to believe all we read in The Sun, acid house parties - with their suggestion of the bygone days of psychedelia and its involvement in the use of hallucinogens like LSD - are presently attracting dealers in, and users of acid in droves.
As a result, the BBC have adopted a cautious approach to acid house music - on both Radio 1 and Top of the Pops they are likely not to play any record with the word "acid" in the lyric, or title of the song or band. The recent appearance of D.Mob, with their single 'We Call it Acieed', could be acid house's only exposure on the UK's most influential pop television programme.
Let's look at the drugs scene for a moment. In spite of the use of the word "acid" in all this hysteria, if there is a currently fashionable drug it's the so-called "designer" drug Ecstasy, or "E". Four faults against the tabloid press. Furthermore, aside from obtaining supplies of a drug to distribute, the biggest problem facing drug dealers is distribution. Where do lots of people go looking to score drugs? Well if they read the tabloids, they're probably all making their way to the nearest acid house party. Problem solved, courtesy of The Sun.
Now the heavy hand of the law enforcement agencies comes into play, looking for any evidence of drug dealing as an excuse to close down acid house parties, and nightclubs holding acid evenings, and adding credence to the original accusations of the press in the process. An ugly picture, to say the least.
Of course drugs can be found at certain acid house parties - just as they can be found in other nightclubs, pubs and street corners. The advent of acid house music itself has done little or nothing to promote the misuse of drugs. The hysterical reaction of the tabloid press, on the other hand, has assisted drug pushers immensely.
A successful ban on airplay of acid house is likely to do little to discourage drug abuse but a lot to oppress a new musical style. Are the BBC also going to ban other styles of music containing references to drugs - The Beatles' 'Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds', Helen Reddy's 'Angie Baby', Joni Mitchell's 'Blue'? I sincerely doubt it. It is, however, going to seriously affect the development of a musical style.
The bottom line for music is not whether you like acid house music or like going to clubs where it's played, it's the fact that one newspaper, in its unabating search for sensational headlines has unnecessarily stigmatised a musical movement.