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ACID HOUSE STORYTELLING




“You fucking bastard, you fucking bastard Kirk…”


Norman Cook wasn’t really happy with me. Why do I always have to push it? Why can’t I just play it safe and quit while I’m ahead?

 

As an unknown author I had to find a way to make people aware of my book. As you’ve may know, I can work a crowd and enjoy telling stories, so I figured I could offer a different type of author talk than a seated Q and A with some journalist asking questions. But not one literary festival was interested in an unknown, unproven author, so I decided the only person who was going to make it happen was me.

 

My first gig was in front of 2000 people at Fatboy Slim’s ‘All Back to Minehead’ (ABTM) festival in late November 2022. I’d heard his management were looking for someone to interview Norm on stage. I’d worked with Norman at Snowbombing when he played the igloo party I managed, and was confident I could do this, and so offered my services to Katy Ellis, from his management team at Anglo.

 

She suggested I speak with Norman, who called me the next day. He must’ve felt at home with me as he gave me the green light. Katy called me back offering me the gig and asking what I wanted for doing it.

“No fee. I just want to talk about my book before Norman comes on.

“What is it exactly you do?”, she asked.

“I bring my book to life; the same mix of history, humour, and hedonism …

“Anything else?”

It was make or break, “… yes, with some audience interaction, poetry and musical mischief thrown in.”

“Sounds fab, let’s do it”, Katy replied.

I replaced the receiver. The “3 H’s” I could deliver, but audience participation, musical mischief, and poetry? Me and my big mouth.

 

In addition to Norman, Anglo also look after Madness, Chemical Brothers, Pete Tong and Camelphat, and are one of the most respected management teams out there. They’d handed me a fantastic opportunity. I had to deliver.

 

Later that evening I was watching ‘Have I Got News for You?’ and had the idea to use it as a format to highlight the hysterical headlines the tabloids ran about acid house in 1989. This was the audience participation sorted! The next morning my feed was full of videos from friends at the Bora Bora closing party in Ibiza. It was a symbolic moment, the last free beach club to close. I thought about all the crazy times I’d spent there and started writing …

 

Bye-Bye Bora Bora

 

Oh, we did like to E beside the seaside,

We did like to E beside the sea,

Asking what’s yer name, where you from, what you on?

As Spiderman danced to a tribal tom

 

Jeux Sans Frontiers met Eurotrash,

French and Germans on the lash

Italians smuggling budgies in tiny speedos,

circling silicone breasts like thirsty mosquitoes

 

Make sure you inform your next-of-kin.

‘cos just like the tide, the dealers were always in.

lads stood in circles slyly keying their noses,

vogueing pretty boys striking poses,

pickpockets mingling, darting eyes,

waiting for the moment you’re watching the sky.

A mighty roar: the very air vibrates,

never underestimate the joy a Jet’s undercarriage creates.

 

The sun now gone, the night comes swift,

to those looking for an early evening lift,

a tribal gathering, tunes on the dunes,

Gee Moore’s legacy is gone too soon.

 

Oh, we did like to E beside the seaside,

We did like to E beside the sea,

the sun, the sand, the beats, the freaks

best of all – it was free!

 

I learnt it by heart as I walked around the hill where I live each morning, reciting it out loud, drawing strange looks from dog walkers.

 

All that was missing from the mix now was musical mischief. A decade earlier I’d written a song called ‘Sardines in Pacha’ about a hapless character called Stan Antonio, whose Ibiza holiday unravels spectacularly, but I couldn’t find the sound file anywhere and playing it live simply wasn’t an option. My guitar playing is like my homemade cider, fine at home but not fit to be shared with the general public.


 

Then I read a post on a rave forum about misheard lyrics of dance anthems. I collected the best, added some of my own and rehearsed (and rehearsed and rehearsed) a routine which I thought may make for a fun finale to the show.

 

As I walked out on the mainstage at Butlins I noticed Norman taking his seat next to Garry Blackburn. My tour manager and tech angel, Matt Ward grinned, “No pressure, mate!”

 

I was shitting myself. There had been no rehearsals or warm-up gigs, I didn’t have a script, and no one knew who the hell I was. I walked out to the butterfly-inducing Frankie Knuckles ‘Your Love’ and introduced myself. To my relief the crowd were so warm and friendly and, I’m relieved to say, even laughed in all the right places. Backstage Norm and Garry congratulated me on the unique and imaginative way I’d presented the book. Then we went straight into the interview…

He’s the man who invented Big Beat, he possesses more Hawaiian shirts than Hawaii and attracts more people to Brighton beach than Brighton beach itself! He’s straddles underground culture, chart success and gossip columns. He‘s the UK’s only household name dance music DJ and perhaps the World’s biggest DJ. He’s played everywhere from the Olympics and Great Wall of China to the Houses of Parliament and Bondi Beach to an Igloo. Please welcome your host of this “Back to Minehead” weekender - a living legend and National Treasure. He is to dance music culture what Matt Hancock is to the mid-life crisis. Although the World knows him as Fatboy Slim, to us he’s just “Norm”. Make some noise and show some love for Norman Cook!


My research had uncovered a forgotten interview in which he stated his favourite Karaoke song was Charlie Rich’s ‘Beautiful Girl’, so I downloaded a karaoke version and printed off the lyrics just in case ...

 

Despite writing, playing on and producing hundreds of records, no one had ever heard Norman Cook sing outside his shower. If I could pull this off it would reward his most loyal fans and give everyone a special memory. But if it went wrong …

 

I shuddered at the prospect. Should I dare attempt it?

 

After 45 mins it was all going very well, yet no one had asked him the karaoke question, so Matt took things into his own hands, and sneaked into the crowd, caught the ‘ask-it-ball’ and popped the question. Norm answered as I expected him to and then caught a glint in my eye as I produced a lyric sheet and cheekily asked the crowd if they wanted to hear him sing it.

 

Of course they did!

 

On some of the videos posted you can clearly see Norm mouthing the words, “You fucking bastard!” to me as the song started. What if he couldn’t sing? I was potentially embarrassing him in front of 2000 of his most passionate fans - at his own weekender. I could see his management team glance nervously at one another probably asking, “has Norm agreed to this?”

 

Why do I always have to push it? I was risking losing all the goodwill I’d built up with the crowd, Anglo, and Norman. I immediately regretted my folly and signalled to Matt to hit the STOP button …as a rich baritone voice boomed out, “Hey, did you happen to see the most beautiful girl in the world …”

 

For the first time in his career, Fatboy Slim was singing in public … and doing it really well too; in tune, in time and in his own inimitable style. No exaggeration, Norm nailed it. The crowd loved it, giving him a standing ovation. I’d pulled it off. Clips of the moment swiftly went viral, I shuddered at the number of views it received across Facebook as it reminded me how bad it could’ve turned out.

 

The success of my first spoken word show led to offers to appear at Camp Bestival and Wilderness festival. Then I was invited to speak at Ibiza Rocks Hotel. I walked towards the security man in a smiley Hawaiian shirt.   

 

“Hola, I’m playing here today.”

“You're a DJ?” He began scouring his list.

“No”

“A singer?”

“No”

“A dancer?” (looks me up and down before answering his own question), “no”.

“I'm doing a spoken word show”.

(puzzled) “Comedy?

“Not really ...”

“Cabaret?”

I thought for a moment, “Si, señor - cabaret for the chemical generation!”

I was waved through.

 

As I write, I’ve done around twenty Acid House Storytelling shows so far. Afterwards I’ll sign books and chat to former ravers who’ll regale me with their own rave adventures. Everyone has them, they’re what define our lives.

 

As the poet and activist Muriel Rukeyser said, “The universe is made of stories, not of atoms.” If as I believe the universe is infinite, there are literally no end of stories. And as long as people enjoy hearing them, I, for one, will keep telling mine.

I'm expecting to announce May shows in Plymouth, London, Ibiza and Western Super Mare soon on www.ravenewworld.co.uk.


 TOP TUNE: ‘Beautiful Girl’ - Charlie Rich

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