Who’d have thought it, eh? 21 years since the first summer of love gave us acid house and put rhythmic 4/4 music from Chicago onto the nation’s dancefloors (with a little bit of Ibizan europop chucked in for good measure). The thing is that, even after all this time, we still haven’t stopped dancing to the same beats, or taking the same drugs. Of course, when I say we, I mean you lot. Youngsters. Hip young gunslingers. I’m far too old for that malarkey these days.
Seemingly at the forefront of this movement during the whole of that time has been Terry Farley, under one guise or another. Terry originally formed one quarter of Boys Own, the chaps that gave us the fanzine of the same name and threw some of London’s finest parties in the late 80s and early 90s. He subsequently moved on to both make and release records on the Boys Own Productions and Junior Boys Own labels. Terry is currently occupying his time with Faith, going back to the collective approach and again doing parties and the Faith fanzine.
While Terry is well known on the ‘house scene’, he remains strictly underground and committed to the cause. Proper Mag recently caught up with Terry for a chinwag to put the record straight about Boys Own and to discuss House history, present and future…..
I’d always thought of Shoom as being year zero for Boys Own, but it’s obvious that a lot of the people and relationships go back much further than that. Could you describe those pre-Shoom times?
The Boys Own fanzine started in ‘86, I think. I was a rubbish letter writer to the End (I got one published as it goes) and wanted London to have a fanzine that had that style but with a London attitude. We were very much into the clubbing scene at the time which was warehouse parties and places such as the Wag, where a real mix of people were out and about. Posh, black, weirdo, gay, football lads, all dancing about to American black music. Andrew Weatherall was a real indie music fan and he brought that to the Boys Own table, so to speak. We did a few parties in an Earls Court basement where Andrew played records on the factory label and I played Go Go and 70s funk. Even then we had a good mixture of lads from different London football clubs who liked sharing a joint and some whizz with bods who normally they wouldn’t drink or socialize with in a normal pub/bar environment.
So were you and Andrew Dj’ing before Boys Own (the fanzine) or did that come later?.
Only as a hobby. I was always into black music and did spots for a black promoter playing back rooms of West End black nights. The black DJ’s were very conservative in their taste which allowed me to play reggae revival mixed with the more left field stuff coming out of America, such as Prince Charles, Trouble Funk, Kid Creole and music on the ZE label. Andrew lived in Windsor and there was a really healthy alternative scene there and I’m sure he played parties over there in his usual wacky style. The first time I heard him play was at a club in Staines called Jacksons. He swamped the club in dry ice and put on a recording of the theme from the 633 squadron making everyone leave the floor and dive for cover.
At what point did it become less of a hobby and more of a profession?.
About ‘86 a couple of mates started a night called The Raid. I was warm up to Paul Oakenfold and Pete Tong. I did warehouses in Wapping, an all nighter at the 100 club and nights at the Wag. Then at the end of ‘87 both Shoom and Future started and I was going to both as a punter. Oakey then started Spectrum around March ‘88 and gave me a residency in the VIP room playing reggae. I would lose my head in an almighty E-rush, put on King Tubby LPs, run downstairs and dance, letting the record run out.
You played the back room at Shoom, didn’t you (or did I read that wrong?). At what point did you make the switch to House?.
The club (Spectrum) got so popular that it opened another floor. I begged to be allowed to play house and Balearic on the new middle floor alongside a DJ called Roger the Hippie. We kept it lighter and less populist than the main floor, where Oakey was king. We’d play stuff like Its immaterial ‘driving away from home ‘ and Yello ‘the race’, they were huge in that room. In ‘89 the Rampling’s went weekly with Shoom at Busbys. Andrew and myself were the weekly residents, with him playing early 80s electro pop and me soul records from northern to Barry White – in fact anything that had the word ECSTASY in it.
How did Boys Own fit into that – both the fanzine, which had started a couple of years earlier – and the parties?.
Once Acid house kicked off properly in early ‘88 then so did Boys Own. The fanzine was the first to comment about the Ibiza scene of Amnesia/Glorys (in fact the article ‘Bermondsey goes Balearic’ was written by Paul Oakenfold). We went from selling a few hundred copies to quite a few thousand. Our first party during the acid house era was an outdoor do in a fella’s huge garden in Guildford with a small barn. We got him on the E and he ended up surrounded by his kids strumming away on his guitar with Boy George singing at 11am on the sunday morning. The local rozzers turned up and asked us to pick up a few empty beer cans in the drive and ‘what time you all finishing’?… Innocent times.
I’m guessing that crowd consisted of mates?. Was Boys Own a fairly exclusive thing?.
The 4 people involved in Boys Own were all mates but all moved in there own circles. Cymon (who now owns the Griffin and Britannia pubs over Shoreditch/ Bethnal Green) was a real West End ligger who knew all the pop stars and best looking girls. Mazie knew all the South London grafters and their crews, while Andrew got to know all the industry and rock n rollers. So when you added everyone’s crowds you got something unique. You would have all the lot from Nottingham’s Venus Club coming down and Manchester’s ‘Most Excellent’ crowd. Bez and Shaun would bring some right herberts from Salford. We got slagged off for being snotty, but we weren’t. We just knew what we wanted both musically and fashion wise.
I think its fair to say that Boys Own was the major influence on that scene – both in terms of the collective approach (eg Flying) and the fanzine side of things (Duck Call, Spice). Whats your take on that whole ‘Balearic Network’ thing?.
The Balearic network was basically the original acid house crews from each city, who were appalled at what had followed those golden months – big money DJs, Teds in bad lilac, dumbed down music and wrong uns selling piss poor gear to kids. Venus and Back to Basics were my favourites, especially Basics – those Leeds lot were proper mad and cool at the same time. I loved that club and Dave Beer especially.
After that, Boys Own developed as a full on business, what with Boys Own Productions and later Junior Boys Own. How did that come about and did it bring any changes to the ‘firm’?.
The Boys Own Productions label with FFRR was never a business. We never sold any records. The scene was very London centric then, apart from ‘the Balearic network’ – which in truth was half a dozen small clubs and far too early. If we had waited 3 years, I’m sure music such as Bocca Juniors, Jah Wobble and Less Stress would have made more sense and money. FFRR dumped us as we were a liability, so Steve Hall and myself started Junior Boys Own on our own as a way of getting our music out and putting out stuff that our friends were making.
Did Andrew depart from the Boys Own set up around that time?. Was that an acrimonious spilt or just a difference of musical direction?.
Andrew went off and started his own label and nights. He had gotten into heavy techno, which wasn’t our thing, but there wasn’t any grief between us. He just went and did his own innovative thing, which is the Wevvers way.
Prior to that whole Balearic network, most major cities had their own little scenes, based on residents.
The network saw for the first time DJs travelling to other clubs and really kicked off that whole travelling circus of guest DJs. Do you think there was an upside and a downside to that happening?.
Travelling DJs helped spread the word and took the music out of London/Leeds/Manchester and into places you’ve never heard of let alone visited …..unless you supported a division 3 side. However, I’m sure it ended up making it harder for local DJs, but that’s what makes kids start there own nights and how new scenes evolve.
Is Junior Boys Own still going?. If so, do you take an active part in it still?.
Junior Boys Own has a digital deal with Defected Records and has released 4 CDs of ‘classic’ Junior stuff – the Black Science Orchestra and Ballistic Brothers albums and 2 compilations of the early stuff.
I hate downloads, but, like garlic bread, its the future and how most people want there music these days. We have a triple CD of very early Boys Own and remixes of people such as New Order, The Farm and The Happy Mondays coming out in May alongside a compilation of the Boys Own fanzines as a book.
To read the rest of this smashing interview by Anthony Heslop you’re going to have to buy issue 7, you snides.