Road traffic laws in London circa 1992 must have been quite different to Melbourne today. Saturday nights would see six or seven of our crew piling into my yellow escort, Daisy. There were no seatbelts in the back, and whoever got to the car last in the race from the pub would be in the boot for the entire journey to South East London.
image credit: retro-rides
The year prior had seen the introduction of a new club to the rave scene in my then-country’s capital, and the buzz within the dance community (and Daisy) was electric. Ministry of Sound was the first New York-style nightclub in London, and music was the only thing the organisers, the DJs and the punters cared about. Literally, nothing else mattered.
“My concept for Ministry was purely this: 100% sound system first, lights second, design third (in that order); the reverse of everyone else’s idea.” – Justin Berkman
Its location, Elephant and Castle, was thankfully a short drive away from our local – we’d queue up in the cold for an hour or so before the clock struck midnight and the doors opened. From 12am to 9am, ravers were enraptured by this run-down, derelict bus depot with breezeblock walls. The warehouse and surroundings were indeed grotty, but the sound system was f-ing incredible. I still have not experienced bass in a venue like the main room they called ‘The Box’; you could feel the noise vibrating through every speck of your body, shuddering as you moved with each beat. There was even a warning sign – “Caution: Excessive Sound Levels”– as you entered the room, and our ears would be still ringing for days after.
But how did an alcohol-free weekend bash in a large shabby garage end up as the world’s leading dance music brand?
THE JOURNEY: A FEW HIGHLIGHTS
Justin Berkmann returns to London after a stint DJing in New York and is introduced to entrepreneur James Palumbo. The pair spend 21 months working on Berkmann’s vision of a superclub. They call it Ministry of Sound.
September 21, 1991
The unused bus depot in SE1 opens its doors on Friday and Saturday nights, hosting London’s first American House Music-style nightclub. There is no alcohol license.
image credit: Ministry of Sound
June 6, 1992
I celebrate my birthday at the club and an actor from Eastenders asks me for a light. He was a bit of a jerk.
Ministry of Sound launches the first ever DJ mix album. The brand also makes national news when their logo is projected on the Houses of Parliament and Battersea Power Station.
image credit: Ministry of Sound
Volume 1 of The Annual compilation series is released, mixed by Pete Tong and Boy George.
The label scores its first number one single on their new trance label, Data Records, with ATB’s 9PM (‘Til I Come).
The first Chillout Sessions album is released, and sells half a million copies.
Ministry releases single Call On Me by Eric Prydz, which spends five weeks at number one. The ’80s aerobic extravaganza music video received as much attention as the track itself.
The love of retro club classics is alive and well, as the first MoS Anthems release sells 650,000 units.
Plans are announced to build a 41-storey residential building beside the Elephant and Castle venue. The massive ‘Save Our Club’ campaign is launched in protest.
December 19, 2013
A landmark deal is struck in which property developer Oakmayne is able to redevelop the tower block opposite the venue without jeopardising the club’s future. Huzzah!
March 29, 2014
The Godfather of House, Frankie Knuckles, plays his last set at Ministry of Sound before his death three days later. R.I.P. legend ♥
image credit: Daily Beat
Sony takes over the MoS record label. In a history-making move, Dolby Atmos surround sound is installed inside the club.
February 2, 2018
The brand’s latest album Ministry of Sound: The Annual 2018 is released in Australia.