How Clubbing Changed The World is an in-depth documentary that focuses on the evolution of dance music, nightlife culture, and the dissemination of its associations throughout the world. Idris Elba — who you may also know as ‘Stringer Bell’ of The Wire — the 97-minute film will be a trip down memory lane for older ravers, and an approachable history lessons to newcomers to the genre. Things start out with John Travolta’s Saturday Night Fever, a controversial flick at the time which managed to score a PG-13 rating and caused a seismic shift in the norms of the time. As American musician Nile Rodgers put it, “When he’s on the dancefloor, everyone’s equal.”
The flick is essentially a countdown of the most important events in the history of clubbing, and incorporates interviews and footage from places around the world like Chicago, New York, and Ibiza. It talks about the birth of dubstep in Croiden, South London — which “didn’t make sense… but it did” — and how New Order’s “Blue Monday” was able to break through given the group’s roots in Joy Division. “It was okay for people in the new wave to like dance music,” as one interviewee in the film put it.
Also prominent in the film is Paul Oakenfold, who went to Ibiza for the first time to celebrate his birthday in 1987. He describes being at Amnesia Ibiza as “the first time I felt like I was in an environment that felt free,” and continues to go on about how he and his friends were hell-bent on bringing those same vibes back to the UK.
We’re also reminded of a time before Facebook and Twitter, where “getting to raves was a mission,” and could often be as exciting to get to as the party itself. People would call phone numbers to find out locations, and hopefully make it to the party before it was shut down or raided.
The UK-made movie also contrasts the rise of club culture with Margaret Thatcher’s London. Clubbing and dance music provided for something that anyone could be a part of — it was “a party for everyone.”
American producer Armand Van Helden is also featured in the film, especially talking about his respect for Daft Punk — “the Led Zeppelin of dance music, as far as I’m concerned.” He talks about his experience remixing tracks and bringing these new sounds to America, at a time when London didn’t want it to escape.
Other topics covered in the movie are the rise of acid house in Chicago way back when, and Pete Tong even talks about how Madeon “made making music look like a multi-level Xbox game,” in relation to his impressive “Pop Culture” mashup on YouTube. Folks like Carl Cox praise The Prodigy for giving a face to dance music, others talk about how they enabled “dance music to get in the charts without compromise.”
Things end with more current influential figures like David Guetta and Will.I.Am, who talk about “I Gotta Feeling” and how it changed American pop music.
“Dance music and the DJ helped resuscitate a dying industry,” Will proclaims towards the end of the flick.
We are just at the beginning of a new era in dance music, and the brightest days are still ahead. No one can be sure what the future holds, but sometimes taking a look at the past can provide us with insights. “How Clubbing Changed The World” is an excellent documentary for anyone who considers themselves part of the rave culture — or anyone trying to understand what gives it that undeniable allure.