Remembering My First Pill: Blaises, Middlesbrough 1991

People talk about their first ecstasy experience breaking down barriers, and in early '90s Middlesbrough with Carl Cox on the decks, that couldn't have been more true...
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Back in 1991 the mechanics of drug buying was certainly different to the clasp to fist event it is today. Ecstasy was an exciting, exotic secret, and especially in the hyperbole that was surrounding it in the tabloid press at the time, also a very paranoid one. You had to know a man who knew a man who knew a man, that sort of thing. More often than not you drove to various secret addresses only to have a door slammed in your face before you even acquired your psychotropic potion.

A spurious connection was what you required. Eventually like all people around at that time, me and my friends spent enough time sweating on a specific dancefloor for the clubs drug dealer to turn his paranoid meter off. These were the days of fifteen quid a pill too. Maximum profit and maximum custom base. Dealers didn't have to hustle for a sale. They sat back and watched the throng with a knowing alligators eye. If you didn't look right and didn't feel right they simply didn't sell to you. Clubs weren't flooded with pills back then. The punters were pushing their money on to dealers rather than the other way way round.

The feeling of finally getting those small white pills pressed slyly into your hand for the first time in fact was almost as much a buzz as the drug themselves. The first time it happened to me I felt a mixture of danger and excitement as I was about to enter that secret elastic reality. I'd watched jealously for weeks as people had literally lost their minds on the dancefloor of Blaises in Middlesbrough. Blaises was one of those club nights that perfectly captured the energy flash of rave culture for four mental hours on a Saturday night. About the size of a cloakroom, it had none of the sheen or vainglorious glamour of those future house clubs - but it was one of the most astonishing spaces I've ever stood in. You could literally see the electricity cracking like a bullwhip through the air and the sweat running up the walks to the ceiling and back down again. It was the epicentre of working class fervour and escapism. It was fucking perfect.

A lot of it at the time was due to the brilliant ecstasy of the day. Pills like triple xxx's and phase four's - MDMA tablets that cut to the core of the rave experience without the zombie side effects. Mine was a Triple xxx. I remember swallowing it quickly in the toilets and getting a knowing wink from some guy with dilated pupils who was bobbing and weaving like a dervish in between the cubicles. I nodded back a little too enthusiastically, trying to act cool and knowing and walked out on to the dance floor which I'd stood on a hundred times but now seemed slightly altered somehow. People were stood on the edges of it, waiting for their pills to kick in I suppose. For the next twenty minutes I waited with them, trying to second guess any change in my physical being, but pure ecstasy isn't like that. It creeps up on you like a thief. A flicker of light from across the room that suddenly zooms across the dance floor like a shooting star for instance. Did I really see that? Or the floor, which seems to shimmer and bend slightly a little more every time you look at it. Subtle shifts in time frames too. Elastic world, where every rumble of bass is a giants heartbeat and every sampled piano stab seems to sweep like a soft wind across the senses with an erotic haze.


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I think Carl Cox might have been on the decks that night too. The Hendrix of the Technics. There's never been a DJ before or since who's quite held the centre light of escapism in his hands and covered a dance floor with it. I can distinctly remember him cutting in out of mixes for ages, technically perfect, when suddenly from out of nowhere a tune began to emerge which was a staple fist puncher at the time. Two Bad Mice' 'Bombscare' - a breakbeat classic that was pretty much the Blaises anthem at the time. I'd heard the track a hundred times before only this time it seemed to crackle around my skin. It was as if it were a physical presence. I actually felt it travelling through my body, warm, elated, hitting the base of my spine when.....whoooooosh. The jolt of soft electrics and a feeling of well being that bordered on the religious. It was incredible. It dismissed in an instant any social dissidence with a sweep of its chemical palm. Shyness. Anger. Embarrassment. All gone forever it seemed into the straight world of mortgages and dead fists.

Over the next four hours I locked into it. My whole body swayed like a vine in a harsh wind. Every groove and percussive shift seemed to shift me further on to the dance floor. The main nerve. Like minded souls with beatific smiling faces were everywhere. There was no gurning like the puppets from the Jim Henson workshop. This was the class of 91. The MDMA kids. Breaking down barriers and listening to music that  seemed to speak directly to them. Give them an erection of the heart. The comedown would come later, but not now. Now I felt hands clasping mine and the energy of maniacs everywhere. Carl Cox on the decks and the ghosts of Detroit and New York being whipped into a whirlwind. The only depressing thing was how fast it all seemed to go.  A minute in a second. An hour in a minute. Trying to hold on to the feeling as it kicked. The shivers through the spine as all the troubles of the universe were beaten down by an insistent, brilliant groove.

Too soon in fact I was stood again back outside staring at the rain on the taxi windows and the outline of the stars. It hardly mattered though. My first pill had broken down so many barriers - I knew I'd be back in this strange, narcotic miracle pretty soon. I knew things would never ever be the same again.