I love trance. I’ve loved it since I first heard it back in 1998. Twenty years later, here’s a quick look back at how it started for me.
A lot of the music I listened to while growing up came from my parents. My parents split before I was a year old; I lived with my mum, my brother and my sister. From quite a young age, I’d see my dad almost every weekend. I’m sure my parents played music with all of us in earshot, but I’d say that I listened to it the most closely of my siblings.
Many great albums followed. After devouring the entire discography of The Beatles and Dire Straits, plus a scattered group of albums from the likes of Mike Oldfield, Elton John, Bruce Hornsby, Status Quo, Genesis, and Pink Floyd, I was hungry for more.
It was my mum who played Jean-Michel Jarre – I don’t think it was ever a full album though, just a track or two from a compilation. Around the time I started my first part-time job and therefore earned a bit of money, I remember buying three Jarre albums: Oxygène, Oxygène 7-13, and Odyssey Through O2. I’m pretty sure I bought the first two together in late 1997 or early 1998; I spotted the third when it came out around the middle of 1998.
While I did enjoy the first two albums a great deal, it was Odyssey Through O2 that resonated with me the most. I played tracks 7-10 the most; this run of four tracks representing my first experience of a trance mix – although to be picky, track 10 is more of a breaks track. Still, this section of the album was always my favourite. I still enjoy it to this day.
(Sadly, Odyssey Through O2, isn’t on Spotify, but here’s the Oxygène Trilogy, at least.)
At this point, I was still at the stage of discovering music at the artist level. My parents had introduced me to several artists as I mentioned above, and this was an continuation of that. For now, I’d continue exploring each artist’s catalogue a bit more deeply, aiming to collect every album by many of the artists I enjoyed. However, I’d discovered something a little different with Odyssey Through O2 – something deeper than the artist-by-artist music exploration I’d been on up to that point.
Sometime in 1998, a friend was playing a CD that I recognised as being similar in style to Odyssey Through O2. Actually, it didn’t start that way, as the mix had a couple of tracks that weren’t as trancey as the rest – such as Da Hool “Meet Her At the Love Parade”. Next up was Three Drives “Greece 2000”, which was more up my street. However, the track that really did it for me was Energy 52 “Cafe Del Mar ’98”.
Bloody hell. This album was awesome!
Of course, these tracks (and others on the album) became very well-known and massively overplayed over the next few years in particular. But imagine hearing them for the first time. This was one heck of a good mix.
Incidentally, that was the Paul Oakenfold mix of Essential Selection ’98 – guess what, that’s not on Spotify either. Dance compilations are the primary reason I haven’t completely moved away from CDs, much as I would like to. Anyway…
Once I’d figured out that I wanted to find more trance music, I asked my siblings (yes, them again!) as we shopped in HMV one day. We scanned through several compilations; I’d already picked up Essential Selection ’98, but wanted to get one more CD. I think my sister picked up an album, pointed to Binary Finary “1998” and said that was a good track; admittedly, we didn’t recognise the other tracks, but I took a chance and picked it up.
That album turned out to be Reactivate 13, which led to a long and somewhat obsessive relationship with pretty much anything on the React label. My 19-20 year old self made a prat of himself by flooding the React online forums with endless posts (and I rather stupidly used my real name); I think a few people there thought I was a bit of an idiot. But hey, the music’s what it’s all about, and I still have Reactivate 9, 10, and 12-18.
Here’s a playlist of my personal favourites mostly from Reactivate 12-17, with a couple from earlier volumes.
I was never a massive London clubber, but I did go to a few clubs, especially during trance’s heyday. I distinctly remember hearing several of my favourite trance anthems in either 1998 or 1999 at Camden Palace. And I could just about deal with the long, sweaty night, getting gradually more tired – not to mention hungry – as 6:00am approached, with the club drawing to a close, and the first trains starting to run in the morning. However, I was less keen on the volume of the music, and the ringing in my ears for the next 24 hours. On my first visit to a London club, the pounding in my ears was so intense, I felt like I was going to throw up within the first five minutes.
Despite that, London clubbing when trance was big was absolutely incredible.
I may be 20 years older, and I may not listen to trance as much these days, but I still love it. Maybe one day I’ll go back and do it all over again.