Tim Lawrence is Professor of Cultural Studies at the University of East London and the author of
Life, Death, and the Hereafter
Rooted in intermixing and synthesis, the sounds and scenes that defined the opening years of the 1980s transformed what was supposed to have been a cooling-down period into the convulsive climax of 1970s inventiveness. The period brimmed with ferociously inventive homegrown music and saw party spaces reach a level of intensity that knew no historical precedent. Thoughts of convergence also seemed to be hardwired into the psyche of promoters. Even those who were most committed to producing singular, authored works were immersed in the scene’s collective personality. The activity multiplied because New York held itself together while negotiating the challenges of a complicated and at times perilous historical conjuncture. But many of the synergistic elements that defined the New York party scene during the opening of the decade weakened during 1984–1988. Real estate inflation, the embedment of neoliberalism, the intensification of the AIDS epidemic, and the onset of the crack epidemic played a major part in developments, creating an atmosphere of increased friction, deprivation, and hostility. The period when dance sounds and partygoers could interact in an open and relaxed environment had passed, even if hope always remains that the example of the 1980–1983 period can influence future developments.