Acid Tracks

Q (UK) - - Girl Ray -

In early-’ 80s Amer­ica, disco still ruled the dance­floor. Ev­ery­where, that is, ex­cept Chicago. There, under the guid­ance of DJ Frankie Knuck­les, a pre­dom­i­nantly black gay club called the Ware­house had given its name to a tougher, more rhyth­mic style known sim­ply as “house”. Yet when Knuck­les left the club in 1982, it was Ron Hardy, res­i­dent DJ at Muzic Box, who pi­o­neered the sound that in­spired the UK’s acid house ex­plo­sion at the end of the decade. Hardy would of­ten in­clude demo tapes in his mixes and in 1985 played an 11- minute in­stru­men­tal cre­ated by lo­cal trio Phuture. A drum track embellished with a strange, “squelchy” synth riff, In Your Mind be­came a sta­ple at the Muzic Box and was soon re­named “Ron Hardy’s Acid Track”. LSD was pop­u­lar at the Muzic Box, but the psy­che­delic ref­er­ence didn’t come from Phuture, who were all staunchly anti-drugs. Three young mu­si­cians from the sub­urbs, they’d been ex­per­i­ment­ing with a sec­ond-hand Roland TB- 303 bass synth. The mind-al­ter­ing “acid” sound was an ac­ci­den­tal over­load caused when founder mem­ber DJ Pierre started twist­ing the knobs on the TB- 303 as it was play­ing. But its po­ten­tial was ob­vi­ous once heard over a club soundsys­tem. “Peo­ple were go­ing ba­nanas,” he re­called later of its ef­fect on the Muzic Box dance­floor. “It was sur­real.” Re-recorded with pro­ducer Mar­shall Jef­fer­son and re­leased as Acid Tracks in 1987, Phuture hoped they might have a lo­cal hit: “We thought it was just pop­u­lar in Chicago,” says Pierre. But across the At­lantic, their acid ex­per­i­ment was about to trig­ger the UK’s big­gest youth cul­ture revo­lu­tion since punk.

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