James Peter Barton was born on 28th August 1968, in Liverpool, and grew up on a housing estate that has since been raised to the ground. James has three brothers, two of whom, together with his father, work for Cream, a company that he started in the Annexe at Nation (formerly the back room of the Academy) in the autumn of 1992.
James Barton had always been streetwise. After working on Liverpool's markets selling socks with his dad, he left school at 16 with one CSE in Home Economics. A year later he became a ticket tout. Travelling across Europe, he saw Prince's very first European show in Stockholm and U2 in the South of France. His experiences of big productions like these would help to define Cream in the years to come.
James' first taste of nightclubs had come when he was 15 years old, on Friday nights at Liverpool's State Ballroom. He followed two pioneering club DJ's Mike Knowler and Andy Carroll, and the club's atmosphere left him hooked. James would hang out with Dave Bleasdale (brother of Cream resident Paul Bleasdale) and dance to 'Heroes' by David Bowie. It was visits to London's Trip Club, though, that made him realise that Acid House was were it was at.
On Monday 12th September 1988, James Barton launched a club night at the Stated Ballroom called 'Daisy' nicking the name from the Daisy Chain night in London. It was the first time in Liverpool that an outside promoter had taken over a night from the club owner. And it was also Liverpool's first House night. The first people through the door were a local lad called John Kelly, and James' brothers in their Acid House t-shirts.
Advertised on the flyer were DJ's Andy C & Mic Microdot (alias Andy Carroll and Mike Knowler). Andy had just come back from a trip to New York's New Music Seminar (where Mike had been the year before) and had a couple of boxes of new upfront House music; and it didn't take much convincing for James to get Mike and Andy to play the night. At 11 pm there were only handful of people in the club and the owner, Bernie Start, was convinced that he made a terrible error in letting James take control of his club. Then, out of nowhere, hundreds of people turned up, and House music was born in Liverpool.
However, the 'Daisy' night soon became a victim of its own success when the Monday crowd turned up at the State on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, ousting the incumbent crowd, who were more into dancing to the likes of Echo & the Bunnymen, the Smiths and the Cure. Seemingly, the Liverpool club scene had changed overnight. And the local police were amazed (alarmed?) by the change in the spirit of this macho city, as young kids dropped formal wear, and a violent drunken attitude for jeans, kickers (or Timberland boots) and acid house t-shirts.
In 1989 James Barton and John Kelly sub-let a Ritzy venue in Liverpool called Nights Alive and turned it into a House music club called The Underground. With the injection of a little money they started a small basement vibe offering an alternative to the State on a Saturday night. At this point James had heard Mike Pickering and Graeme Park at the Hacienda on Fridays, and the wild Blackburn rave scene was kicking off.
Walking around the city, seemingly stickering every lamppost, James dedicated his life to the Underground. Named after the Tube system in London, it was like a social club where the beer would run dry and the sound system would continually break down. James, though, could see that House music was crossing over into the mainstream, and became addicted to playing the upfront records that he'd fought for over the counter at Liverpool's own 3 Beat Records. He soon became a real face in town. James and Andy Carroll booked early keyboard acts like Adamski, N-Joi and Guru Josh to play live at The Underground on Thursday nights, but they felt the music industry did not take them seriously because of the relatively small size of the club. James did, however, meet Mick Jones from the Clash, a big hero and an early innovator in dance music with Big Audio Dynamite. They remained close friends for six years with James promoting BAD's Liverpool shows and DJing with the band. Mick Jones also fascinated James with his stories of the Clash selling millions of records in America.
The Underground filtered into Liverpool's mainstream music scene. The Farm, Pete Wylie and Ian McCulloch all became regular visitors. At the same time James and Andy promoted the Prodigy and Orbital's Liverpool gigs by setting up a promotion company called Hax Promotions.
By 11th November 1989 the Police had forced the State to close; and it wasn't too long before they mounted a drug raid at the Underground. And following that raid the Underground, too, was forced to close its doors, and John Kelly found himself in the dock. This court appearance, and the charges brought against him, forced John Kelly out of the Liverpool scene for a while.
Following the closure of the State, Mike Knowler and Andy Carroll had moved to Quadrant Park in Bootle. And, as resident DJ's, they played there four nights per week, between them. However, James Barton and John Kelly didn't get to play at the Quad until August Bank Holiday Monday in 1990. The night was a Hax promotion and featured a live P.A. by LFO. In addition to the Quad resident DJ's, the line up included, Trevor Fung (London) plus James & JK. James Barton became one of the resident DJ's at Quadrant Park when the All-Nighter opened in November 1990. The Quad All-Nighter differed from other all night raves in that it was completely legal, was on every Saturday and played proper House music, rather than Techno or Hardcore. James made a real contribution to the Quad DJ line up, playing lots of upfront US and Italian House music. However, his residency was to last only 40 weeks because, in July 1991, the Police forced the Quad All-Nighter to close due to licensing irregularities. Around the same time, a gig called Live the Dream, in the Lancashire Valleys, convinced James that his future was maybe not in DJing.
Following his nine month residency at the Quadrant Park James Barton was asked by club owner John Smith to become one of the resident DJ's (the other being Andy Carroll) at the newly opened 051 Club. And James Barton was to play at the 051 for about a year before starting Cream.
Meanwhile, a guy called Paul Roberts had been a regular at the Quad, along with the other members of his band K-Klass, and their song Rhythm is a Mystery was a massive tune in the Quad , and was also a Hacienda classic. The idea for promoting a night at Liverpool's Academy Club arose when Paul Roberts invited James, Andy and Darren to his birthday party in the back room of the Academy (better known latterly as the Annexe at Nation). According to legend, this was the beginning of Cream.
James Barton and Andy Carroll announced that they were leaving Club 051 on, or around, the first birthday of that club. And within one year of Cream being launched the 051 closed its doors. James Barton and Andy Carroll would be the Cream resident DJ's, and they also brought in their friend Paul Bleasdale whose DJing they loved. The rest, as they say, is history.