The 'smiley' was the ubiquitous face of the hippy movement. It was also an emblematic icon of 1980's acid house culture. Here we take a look at why the smiley was so significant at the genesis of acid house history ..... The yellow smiley first began to develop a new role as the face of acid house at the very beginnings of the UK acid house scene. When Danny Rampling had it printed on a flyer for 'Schoom' in 1987, it suddenly became a definitive embodiment of the budding acid house philosophy. Acid house didn't just arrive out of the blue in 1987;

During the earlier 80's, a warehouse party scene had already begun to develop in London, mostly featuring hip-hop, disco, rare groove and jazz. But it was only in 1987, that this party scene made the vital transgression into the realm of acid house. The instrumental move in this evolution happened when 'Schoom', which started out as a South London soul-party collective, got together with another party group called 'Psychic T.V ', and started to throw all-night house parties.

The small parties began to kick off, quickly attracting trendy clubbers and, of course, the infamous 'love drug'. In 1988, the then unknown Danny Rampling turned 'Schoom' into a nightclub, and as if by magic, acid house was born, with the yellow 'smiley' as its beaming luminary ... ... So what was so significant about this smiley symbol of the swinging 60's and the psychedelic 70's to this new age of 80's acid house? In an era when Thatcherism was in full swing in the UK, the overriding attitude of mainstream society was geared towards fierce ambition and getting rich quick. As youth culture began to explore the possibilities of an acid house subculture, it became increasingly feared by 'respectable' society: this, however, was nothing new.

Take the late 60's era, for example. The whole hippy movement was a resistance against mainstream society. Acid house culture was by no means revolutionary in the same sense as the hippy movement, which actually attempted to upturn and challenge 'the system'. Acid house culture didn't have anarchic aspirations; it didn't want to overturn the mainstream way of life. It merely wanted to escape from it ...... Nevertheless, the ideals that began to surface as the culture blossomed were resonant with a kind of hippy nostalgia. Late sixties fashion made a comeback - tyedye and flares were worn and there was much talk of love, peace and unity. Acid house flyers were printed with images of 70's psychedelia, which is where the infamous 'smiley' comes into the picture. It was as if the UK's acid house disciples were attempting to re-incarnate the hippy era, because it seemed like the only time that could compare to the magic evolution they were experiencing. UK DJ, David Holmes, was there at the start of it all. 'I suppose 1988/89/90/91, that was our version of the late '60s, the hippy movement, Woodstock, you know?' he said, '... going to these places where it was just something so new so and so exciting that you just ... it was almost as if you wanted to keep it a secret. You didn't want anyone to know about it because it was so fucking amazing. It was like, 'Wow', you know?

This is like nothing I've ever seen before...... As the pioneers of this avant-garde movement called 'acid-house' began to embark upon the legendary 1988 second 'summer of love', the acid yellow smiley face that was emblazoned across the T-shirts, pendants and flyers embodied the spirit of free love, magic, peace ... all the ingredients that made the original 'summer of love' into such a legendary time. In September of 1988, The Village Voice said 'The craze over acid house music has a strange symbol - the yellow smiley face ...' It wasn't strange. That little yellow smile made perfect sense to the first acid house generation. They merely wanted escapism from the aggressive politics of the time, and the 'smiley' symbol signified their desire to invoke the spirit of brighter days gone by. 

 

 

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The Smiley Face meets Acid House

The inventor of the acid yellow 'smiley face', a world-recognised symbol of happiness, has died at the age of 79. Graphic designer, Harvey Ball, who created the smiley face for a local company in 1963 was paid just $45 for the design that was to become infamous, appearing on everything from clothes and jewellery to adverts and stamps.

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