Origin of 'rave' (1950s–1970s)
In the late 1950s in London, England the term "rave" was used to describe the "wild bohemian parties" of the Soho beatnik set. Jazz musician Mick Mulligan, known for indulging in such excesses, had the nickname "king of the ravers". In 1958, Buddy Holly recorded the hit "Rave On," citing the madness and frenzy of a feeling and the desire for it never to end. The word "rave" was later used in the burgeoning mod youth culture of the early 1960s as the way to describe any wild party in general. People who were gregarious party animals were described as "ravers". Pop musicians such as Steve Marriott of The Small Faces and Keith Moon of The Who were self-described "ravers".
Presaging the word's subsequent 1980s association with electronic music, the word "rave" was a common term used regarding the music of mid-1960s garage rock and psychedelia bands (most notably The Yardbirds, who released an album in the US called Having a Rave Up). Along with being an alternative term for partying at such garage events in general, the "rave-up" referred to a specific crescendo moment near the end of a song where the music was played faster, more heavily and with intense soloing or elements of controlled feedback. It was later part of the title of an electronic music performance event held on 28 January 1967 at London's Roundhouse titled the "Million Volt Light and Sound Rave". The event featured the only known public airing of an experimental sound collage created for the occasion by Paul McCartney of The Beatles – the legendary Carnival of Light recording.
With the rapid change of British pop culture from the mod era of 1963–1966 to the hippie era of 1967 and beyond, the term fell out of popular usage. During the 1970s and early 1980s until its resurrection, the term was not in vogue, one notable exception being in the lyrics of the song "Drive-In Saturday" by David Bowie (from his 1973 album Aladdin Sane) which includes the line, "It's a crash course for the ravers." Its use during that era would have been perceived as a quaint or ironic use of bygone slang: part of the dated 1960s lexicon along with words such as "groovy".
The perception of the word "rave" changed again in the late 1980s when the term was revived and adopted by a new youth culture, possibly inspired by the use of the term in Jamaica.
Birth of acid house (1980s)
Rave – Juiz de Fora – MG, featuring bright psychedelic theming common at many raves.
In the mid to late 1980s, a wave of psychedelic and other electronic dance music, most notably acid house music, emerged from acid house music parties in the mid-to-late 1980s in the Chicago area in the United States. After Chicago acid house artists began experiencing overseas success, acid house quickly spread and caught on in the United Kingdom  within clubs, warehouses and free-parties, first in Manchester in the mid-1980s and then later in London. In the late 1980s, the word "rave" was adopted to describe the subculture that grew out of the acid house movement. Activities were related to the party atmosphere of Ibiza, a Mediterranean island in Spain, frequented by British, Italian, Greek, Irish and German youth on vacation, who would hold raves and dance parties.
Growth of the scene (1990s–present)
dancing at a rave in 2007
By the 1990s, genres such as acid, breakbeat hardcore, hardcore, happy hardcore, gabber, post-industrial and electronica were all being featured at raves, both large and small. There were mainstream events which attracted thousands of people (up to 25,000 instead of the 4,000 that came to earlier warehouse parties). Acid house music parties were first re-branded "rave parties" in the media, during the summer of 1989 by Genesis P-Orridge (Neil Andrew Megson) during a television interview; however, the ambience of the rave was not fully formed until the early 1990s. In 1990, raves were held "underground" in several cities, such as Berlin, Milan and Patras, in basements, warehouses and forests.
British politicians responded with hostility to the emerging rave party trend. Politicians spoke out against raves and began to fine promoters who held unauthorized parties. Police crackdowns on these often unauthorized parties drove the rave scene into the countryside. The word "rave" somehow caught on in the UK to describe common semi-spontaneous weekend parties occurring at various locations linked by the brand new M25 London orbital motorway that ringed London and the Home Counties. (It was this that gave the band Orbital their name.) These ranged from former warehouses and industrial sites in London, to fields and country clubs in the countryside.