Happy Hardcore is without doubt one of the best music genres around, a bold statement I’m sure you’ll say but for those born in the late 70’s and early 80’s it came to prominence slap bang in the middle of our teenage years and with it a culture and legacy that in reality hasn’t been seen since.
For many of us we’ll never let go of those wondrous years of bomber jackets, raves, tape packs, Vinyl and awesome all-nighters and the memories with your mates that pop-up from time to time to remind us how lucky we were to have been alive at the right age and the right time!
Let’s start with the music itself, Happy Hardcore is fast, frantic, euphoric and futuristic. It was hugely melodic and original and at the same time took the music our parents listened to and gave them a new lease of life with remixes of 70’s and 80’s classics that now you could not only sing to but stomp to as well, or a cheeky rip of the latest 90’s dance track that you could dance to at 180 bpm!
It threw in ear-splitting kick drums and techno stabs with earthquake inducing bass and challenged you to last the night, stomping away without a care in the world all to the sweet vocals, piano breakdowns and euphoric melodies that got stuck on a loop in your head for years to come. These tracks made us who we are today!
Happy Hardcore is the epitome of youthful exuberance and positivity. It took you away from your mundane and humdrum existence and amplified who you could become and when the music was playing you didn’t have to wait, the future was here, our future, not anyone else’s version that was being forced upon us to accept and with that anything was possible, you could literally be whoever you wanted to be.
There was no pretentiousness, there couldn’t be as everyone else who didn’t get it was ridiculing us ravers. We were called Cheesy Quavers or the music itself was called Nappy Hardcore and whilst Drum & Bass went on to have mainstream acceptance we were left to simmer in suburbs up and down the land. Did we care? Hmm, maybe a little but did it stop us in any way, hell no!
This ridiculing only pushed us harder into the music’s embrace and because it was underground and not accepted by the masses, we didn’t get as much trouble or fights as other genres attracted at the raves because everyone was here for the music. It wasn’t to say that it wasn’t there but generally the worst thing that could happen to you if you accidentally bumped into someone at a rave was a handshake and a smile, an apology back or most likely a big old pilled-up hug!
The speed of the music and the often cartoon and fairground-esque melodies were the main barrier to entry for many and thankfully, mainstream acceptance. Whilst many teenagers wanted to be grown-ups, we didn’t, and we embraced our youth, because after all, you’re only young once.
With Happy Hardcore, you could either handle it or you couldn’t and its thanks to this tempo that made it a pretentious free environment. It wasn’t about looking good, it was about feeling good inside. Evil looks and ‘OMG what is that person wearing’ never came to the fore because we were too busy dancing and having a collective good time and pulling a moody pout whilst Toytown is blasting away would be met with mirth as someone having a weird gurning moment.
Looking back at when it came to prominence, the mid-90’s was a time when if you went out on Saturday night in town you couldn’t get in anywhere if you weren’t wearing shoes, trousers or a shirt, stuff that! Who wants to dance in shoes! Going for a night out shouldn’t be like going to wedding!
Thankfully, going to a rave meant comfy trainers (sneakers to our US readers), jeans or tracksuit bottoms and of course the coveted bomber jacket with its multiple (and very handy) stash pockets emblazoned with your favourite rave organization boldly on display. Hardcore and proud of it!
No one cared what you wore, no one cared how you danced either! Dress for comfort and dance for your life! Refreshing was an understatement and whilst the rave generation before us did this, we carried it on.
Going to a rave wasn’t about going on the pull, getting bladdered on lager and sauntering home at 2am with a greasy kebab in hand to mitigate the painfully inevitable bleary-eyed hangover the next day. Sure, we all did that from time to time with our non-raver mates and it was fun and part of growing up but the excitement of our first big moments of freedom and being allowed out to whenever o’clock was and only could be taken to the highest level by travelling far and wide to the raves of the day.
If you were lucky there was one locally, if not then off to Happy Hardcore Mecca’s like The Sanctuary in Milton Keynes, Hastings Pier or Bagleys in London it was then and the laughs and excitement the journey had for you and your mates where you took the train or coach to the venues.
It felt like the equivalent of the best school trip ever but without adults and you could be as naughty as you wanted to be in the cheekiest way possible. The journey back maybe not so much, although some crazy and random adventures happened on the way home and it was all part of the experience and it never stopped us from doing it time and time again.
We could see our DJ idols up close, slamming out classic anthems and the freshest dub plates alongside those unknown tracks that only years later you finally find out what they were on a random YouTube nostalgia trip where you jump for joy at getting that tune ID you always wanted and neeed to know.
You were there making noise with a whistle or horn, no one telling you to stop, in fact the opposite with the MC’s telling you to make more noise! This was freedom, and this was our way of expressing our glorious new way of life.
Looking back, it was a great way of exhausting our abundance of adolescent energies in a way that harmed no one and fulfilled our desire for belonging and conformity amongst our peers whilst still being individual in the eyes of the masses outside the scene, of course.
Outside of the raves, we were in the record shops of worth, you know, the independent ones that sold Hardcore records and rave merch and we were hunting down and snapping up the latest UK releases from the likes of Essential Platinum, Hect-Tech, Go Mental Records, Evolution Records, Next Generation and Blatant Beats alongside Dutch bangers from BabyBoom, Dwarf, Trashcan and Mokum to name a few. Happy Hardcore was international after all!
We popped into the local music Megastore for the latest Bonkers compilation, always on tape, for your Walkman, of course, and to be handily available for when you get in your mates Metro or equivalent with the sub box in the boot feeling awesome and free as you drove about the suburban locales blasting out the Happiest sounds, always loud and always proud.
At home we didn’t need wallpaper, we had flyers, some of the best-looking one’s ever made. Bright, distinctive and adorning our walls like a church has fresco’s. Happy Hardcore was our religion after all and our bedroom walls were our personal shrines to the Lords of Hardcore and we anticipated their next 60-minute vinyl spinning sermon with a religious zeal that any devout worshiper of an actual religion would no doubt understand.
If you couldn’t make it you brought the tape pack for it and if you were there you brought it on the off chance you and your crew had a shoutout.
Sure, there were drugs and without them for many it would have been hard to manage a 12-hour marathon stomp at 170+ BPM, it was all part of the scene as it is with all scenes. For good or worse, it’s nothing new, it was rebellion and escapism for many of us.
Happy Hardcore for many of us was there during the best times and helped us through the darkest times of our young lives, it helped with breakups (and provided the best soundtrack for makeups) and listening to certain tracks now will evoke memories long after they happened.
The happy and often romantic lyrics about love, life and happiness, the piano breakdowns, the mental crescendo’s all entwine with memories that made us who we are today.
Happy Hardcore gave us lifelong friends, gave us a positive way to vent our frustrations and angst, gave us an identity and most importantly gave us something that was solely ours, that is until it was handed over to the next generation to meld in their own way, for their own time which, we may not quite understand, but, that’s progress whether we like it or not.
We were lucky to be the first to embrace it for all it quirks and awesomeness and fund its evolution and be thankful for being at the forefront of this era whether you were at the raves or lapping it up at home because we were to young to go at the time and thankfully we won’t be the last because, as all ravers know…
Hardcore never dies!
What are your memories about this awesome era? Share them below in the comments and don’t forget to share it out to your old raving mates and reminisce together.