The SL2 years

I don't really do regrets but, one I certainly have come to swallow in the last 18 months is that I packed the SL2 box in the music industry box, pushed it to a corner of my mind and marked it do not open. I don’t really believe in regrets because I don’t have the ability to turn back time but, if I had mine again, this is one area I would definitely have done differently. Not the actual time of SL2 but that I packed it away and didn’t speak about it, for a very very long time. I have loved reminiscing over the last 18 months. I have nothing but good memories of SL2, remembering makes me giggle like I am young again and energises me like I never aged.

When we joined SL2 Jay J was already friends with the boys. Now to put this into context Jay is a year younger than me to the day! So must only have been just 18 when we started as I was just 19. Matt and John were a few years older than us. John did most of the gigs with us. Matt joined us for some but it was mainly John who had the pleasure of organising us. It must have been like herding cats. Although, I think I might underestimate us here as I don’t recall us ever missing anything, so maybe we were better behaved than I think.

I started a group chat in WhatsApp after meeting up with Matt and Jay and I called it Mischief. This time of my life was pure mischief. My sub title is that I wiggled and giggled my way around wherever and never stopped laughing.

So, to share some memories and stories.

Most of what Jo and I wore, we made! I can not pretend we had skills at clothes making but this scene didn’t care. We wore white a lot because of the UV lights and went through many different versions of whatever was going on in our heads. To our credit though, there were never wardrobe malfunctions, so again, maybe we were better than I thought.

In SL2 we were part of the line up from the beginning. I have learned more from Matt about the process of them getting signed now than I ever knew then, but the boys had been signed to XL Recordings when they asked us to join.

The early days were funny but hard work too, fun hard work though. Dj’s Take Control charted. It was the first breakbeat house track to chart and we got booked for many performances. A group with only one hit has to start the hard way for sure. I wouldn’t have it any other way, you play the up and coming and you remember how lucky you are when you get to the next tier. You learn a lot about stage before everyone is watching. We played to some amazing crowds but I remember venues with very few people in the early days. I can’t pretend it is easy to perform to 20 people. Huge crowds are actually much easier than small crowds. When crowds are small, they are close, you can hear what they say, it feels very intimate. When the crowds are big, they blur, you see a group more than one person's eyeballs.

We stayed in some of the dodgiest bed and breakfasts in the land. I regularly slept with my clothes on but we loved it, we were living the dream. Travelling all over the country, dancing and earning money too. I did work at the insurance company for as long as I could stay awake whilst trying not to get sacked. I tried to do both for so long I was regularly falling asleep at work. I quit my promising job in accounts to become a rave dancer. This is one of several decisions in my life that I call FTS moments, you can work it out. Yes I could have had a very promising career in insurance, I was earning a good salary and my job was secure, but FTS, I am going to be a rave dancer.

I do not recall a single argument in SL2, not one, no crossed words. I do remember an absurd amount of taking the piss out of each other. We called it ripping and it never stopped, but it was never personal, we all had little things that the others would rib us for.

I had dinner with Matt and Jay a few months ago and Jay and I dropped straight back into ribbing Matt because we never had an XL Recordings Jacket, all of the Prodigy got one, Matt and John had one, but not the dancers and MC. I think secretly, we would still have liked one but we belly laughed ribbing Matt in the same way we did more than 30 years ago and were very entertained by ourselves for ripping as if no time had passed.

We performed at most clubs and most raves around the UK in 91 and 92. There is an amazing video of us doing a Radio One roadshow and the whole crowd singing On a Ragga Tip. Very odd to be dancing in our white rave clothes in the middle of the afternoon but that is something I am definitely going to have to get used to this time around. Well, maybe not the white home made rave clothes but performing in daytime is very new to me.

Most of the UK remembers Dance Energy, this aired on BBC 2 and was hosted by Normski and gave a more authentic home to this “alternative music”. I don’t remember reading the newspapers at the time but can only imagine how this era was portrayed as demonic and the downfall of our youth. How dare we all unite and live to dance. The age I am now, I call “conscious adulting” being able to clearly see the dynamics of our countries set up. Conscious adulting is dull as shit. What we all need to do is go back to this era. Anyway, I digress, back to the good stuff.

On A Ragga Tip charted, charted high and then sat at number 2 for weeks and weeks. We would come home from gigs on a Sunday and were on one of the motorways when the charts were counting down on Radio 1. I remember us all bouncing up and down in the car and other people from our scene seeing us and bouncing along. We would listen to it hoping this week it would climb that extra spot, but it didn’t. 

It truly deserved to be Number 1

We shot the video for On A Ragga Tip around London. We had a big American car to drive round in and found several different random streets to dance on. We went to City Sounds, which is where you see us around the vinyl. City Sounds was crazy cool in that era and if you were into the scene, you went to hear new music. In one of the other scenes you can see us dancing in the middle on a busy road. This was outside Kings Cross station, late afternoon and it was approaching rush hour. We had a good speaker and On A Ragga Tip was blasting out, people were beeping their horns and cheering at us. I can still feel it today and my smile is wide sharing about it.

A definitive memory I have is of us performing at Camden Palace for Kiss FM. On a Ragga Tip was still number 2, but Shut up and Dance had released I’m raving’ I’m raving that week and had a midweek prediction of Number 1. We performed and brought the house down and shortly after they were on stage chanting “number 1 in the national charts, number 1 in the national charts”. Unfortunately they didn’t make it to number 1, they had not got the permissions to change the wording from Walking in Memphis and were stopped from producing anymore copies. I was told they were only allowed to release the ones they had pressed by agreeing the proceeds would go to charity. I loved Shut up and Dance and loved this track but when I say it was definitive it is because the restrictions around it intrigued me. You can make an original cover of a track 3 months after it’s official release date, but you can not change the words without permissions. This stayed with me for a very long time and the rules really haven’t changed that much. I learned the hard way to study the business, know the law and lead with it and as long as you do that, there is little others can do about it, even if they really want to. I love the law and don’t get me started on taxation. I digress again.

San Felipe Mexico.

We were booked to do a gig in Mexico, wow, amazing. We flew to LAX and were met by the fun bus. It was a good size motorhome and the 2 guys driving it were full of energy. They stuck flowers all over it and we all headed to San Felipe. After a good amount of driving we got there and there wasn’t an event, or if there had been, it was over. So we got back in the fun bus and headed back to LA. At the Mexican border we were detained by the Mexican border control. They had searched the fun bus and the drivers had illegal substances. Somehow this was our problem and as John was the one with money, it was his problem. I don’t remember being concerned in anyway, I think we knew John would sort it. We were allowed to leave the Mexican cells just as soon as John handed over $500. Now stop for a second and take that in, this was 1992, $500. They took John to get the money and he handed it over and we were all free. Amazing right!. I have always thought it was a set up. John did get his money back and we did get paid for the gig. All is well that ends well hey. I have a picture of us bumping into Guru Josh at a service station on either the way there or back, too funny.

Los Angeles.

We had an interesting experience of LA. We went for several days and it is a bit of a blur to me. Not because I was doing drugs as I have already covered that I didn’t, but I found wine coolers. I wasn’t keen on the taste of alcohol and this was the first time I found something that tasted sweet. So I drank them at lunch, afternoon and dinner. Probably a good thing they didn’t sell them here. We went to Venice beach, did an interview at a radio staton and had an amazing few days (I don’t remember a gig, but it is a bit of a blur). None of us wanted to leave, we were having an amazing time. John looked into extending our stay but the costs were crazy, so we had to go home. I know the date we came home, it was the 29th April 1992. I know this because by the time we landed, the Holiday Inn we had stayed in had been burnt out to the 3rd floor along with a lot of LA. The Rodney King riots had broken out in the time we were travelling. Mad to this day to imagine what might have happened had we stayed.

The Eastenders and Grange Hill sets.

Top of the pops was at filmed Elstree studios, where Eastenders and Grange Hill were filmed too. I still have the dressing room key, I kept that as a momento after the first SL2 appearance and kept it with my rave stage passes. I still have it.

The studios were hilarious as they were filming the programs whilst we were there and we went to the canteen at lunch and all of the actors were having their lunch dressed as their characters. After we had finished filming, somehow we split into 2 groups but all did the same thing. We broke into the Eastenders and Grange Hill sets and took pictures of ourselves on all of the famous sets. We didn’t get caught but who in the name of rave isn’t having a good explore whilst there.

Small SL2 Top of the Pops point. There is one that the flooring was made of perspex squares. I trip, mouth “oh Fuck!” And then carry on dancing. I thought "they will never put that in", but ofcourse they did.

An interesting thing about TV shows performances back then. As a dancer you could register with the Musicians Union and be paid around £250 per TV show performance, now back in the early 90’s that was very nice indeed, but, if you got yourself an Equity card you could earn best part of £500. It was simple, if I was going to spend my time doing something and there was more money on offer, I needed to get me an Equity card. I didn’t do it alone, I had the kind help of Louise at Concorde. I got an Equity card and I earned the additional money for TV performances. I might have been the first ever rave dancer to have an Equity card.

On a Ragga Tip also charted in the Benelux countries so we travelled to Holland a fair amount. I remember staying on a beautiful house boat at the end of the main street. The accommodation definitely improved with a huge hit single.


We went to Japan to do a showcase for XL Recordings. This was the first time I went to perform in Tokyo and the first time at Julianas. I loved Japan and got to travel around a lot of it a couple of years later but this trip was so much fun. I mentioned this chapter is self entitled mischief. Eamonn from Liquid of Sweet Harmony fame (what a tune) was with us and must have only been as young as me. We were all staying on the same hotel floor and we found fire extinguishers hilarious. We (being, I am only admitting to the part if played in it and would never grass anyone else up) knocked on Eamonn’s door and burst in to let off the fire extinguisher. Well it wasn’t an ordinary fire extinguisher and not one we had ever seen before. It filled the room with a type of powder and sucked all the air out of the room. Eamonn couldn’t sleep in there that night, he had to have a new room. 2 things. Eamonn didn’t tell on us :) and we were responsible from that point forward. We always checked that the fire extinguishers only had water in them going forward.

Raindance in Spain!

Now I don’t remember us performing but I remember everyone else performing. I know it was a novelty to go abroad with so many others from the scene. Shades were there and I have pics of Rayan doing an impromptu fashion show of anything he could find in the middle of the afternoon. I also remember Otis, who did a part of the show in a white sleeve and he fell off the stage. I am not really sure Spain was ready for the UK rave scene but we sure did have a few nice days. Talking of Shades, I used to carry a sound box that played at a good volume and when we went through customs they used to make me power it on. I used to set it so that Extacy played at full volume. It never once became dull, to me.

Slippers confirmed that SL2 was less than 2 years. Wow we did a lot in 2 years. We were so sad when John wanted to stop gigging. The music and scene was heading in another direction, we had seen through 3 hit singles and it was time to stop. I started at 18 and it was over by the time I was 20. SL2 is nothing but good memories. The most amazing way to be young. The music was immense, we all loved the scene and worried about nothing. I don’t really understand how I didn't stay in touch and am embarrassed that it lasted 30 years. I thought that maybe when you have spent so much time together it is natural to have space but the boys were always together and are still friends. I definitely boxed the 2 scenes together and I shouldn't have done that. When I reached out to Matt, I was instantly welcomed and I have loved being back in touch with them. I have seen Jo for the first time in 30 years and we laughed like no time had passed. We talk about us then, where on earth did that dancing style come from?. Like everything in the rave scene, it came from within. It wasn’t dance like no-one is watching, it was dance like no-one cares, do whatever the music makes you feel and love every second. 

Part of my 360 degree twist is to have now made Take me away and Matt doing a remixed version, this is sublime to me.

Next week, how on earth did I go from the comfort and luxury of the rave scene to Cappella?!