the history of dance music is no longer as elusive as it was. Several books and many Internet sites have attempted to condense 30 years of DJ action into a coherent story. But most have been written by Europeans, and while they may give a short version of the genre's American roots, they leave the reader with the impression that dancing was invented in 1988 by British youth on vacation in Ibiza.Tara McCall's version of events is of particular interest to Torontonians. She's based here and makes a point of including details and stories that will be familiar to older heads and might explain a few things about the current scene to newbies.
She also goes further back into the origins of the music, describing the underground disco roots of the Loft and Paradise Garage as well as England's 60s northern soul scene.
Much of the book is made up of quotes and anecdotes from partiers, DJs and promoters, a method that allows McCall to be neutral in her examination but also exposes the inherent contradictions of the rave ideology and reality. Fortunately, she doesn't shy away from talking about drugs, and gives an honest account of their role in the scene and the problems involved. Some of the stories from the post-honeymoon period of Toronto's rave scene are horrifying tragedies that have never really been openly discussed before.
The details will be vividly familiar to readers who've been to raves -- and for those who haven't, this is probably one of the best ways to find out what you missed. It's too bad history is only written after the fact. The scene would have benefited greatly from this kind of honest discussion from within.
THIS IS NOT A RAVE: IN THE SHADOW OF A SUBCULTURE by Tara McCall (Insomniac Press), 211 pages, $19.95 paper. Rating: NNNN