From the first time a record was played over the airwaves in 1906, to a modern club economy that totals $3 billion annually in New York City alone, the DJ has been at the center of popular music. Starting as little more than a talking jukebox, the DJ is now a premier entertainer, producer, businessman, and musician in his own right. Superstar DJs, from Junior Vasquez to Sasha and Digweed, command worship and adoration from millions, flying around the globe to earn tens of thousands of dollars for one night's work. Increasingly, they are replacing live musicians as the central figures of the music industry. In Last Night a DJ Saved My Life, music journalists Bill Brewster and Frank Broughton have written the first comprehensive history of the mysterious and charismatic figure behind the turntables -- part obsessive record collector, part mad scientist, part intuitive psychologist of the party groove. From England's rabid Northern Soul scene to the birth of disco in New York, from the sound systems of Jamaica to the scratch wars of early hip-hop in the Bronx, from Chicago house to Detroit techno to London rave, DJs are responsible for most of the significant changes in music over the past forty years. Drawing on in-depth interviews with DJs, critics, musicians, record executives, and the revelers at some of the century's most legendary parties, Last Night a DJ Saved My Life is nothing less than the life story of dance music.
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The DJ has been at the center of music history for the last forty years-from the first time a record was played over the airwaves, through reggae and Northern Soul, the births of disco, hip hop, house, and techno, to the current global underground. The club economy now brings in billions and superstar DJs like Paul Oakenfold and Fatboy Slim are overtaking rock stars in popularity and earning power. Last Night a DJ Saved My Life is the first comprehensive history of the disc jockey, a figure who has revolutionized the way music is conceived, created, and consumed. Drawing on in-depth interviews with the world's most important DJs and the revelers at some of the century's most legendary parties, this book is nothing less than the life story of dance music.
"Brewster and Broughton...have written a lively and--to anyone with a more than casual interest in the history of popular music in the latter half of the 20th century--necessary volume."--The New York Times Book Review
"A riveting look at record spinning from its beginnings to the present day, the authors show that the history and art of deejaying makes for a grander and more fascinating story than one would think..... The book is intricately detailed and informative, filled with grand themes and historical anecdotes, all leavened with a wiseass humor that keeps the whole thing from getting too pretentious."--Time Out
"What makes [Last Night a DJ Saved My Life] so good, besides the crisp, lucid writing, is that it also gives a fascinating, episodic history of the jive-talking radio DJs and Parisian discos that established the themes that would play out in hip-hop, disco and rave culture."--Salon
"These British music-mag writers deliver the goods with humor and a basic sense of good storytelling."--Vibe
"Brewster and Broughton exhibit considerable skill in rendering the meta-story seamless, subtly turning what is essentially an oral history, culled from original interviews and other published sources, into an orchestral piece."--Hartford Courant
"Very informative...takes you way back into the 'true roots' of dance music and hip hop's culture, then smoothly brings you into the future."--Danny Tenaglia
"This is for anyone who has ever found themselves lost on the dancefloor."--The Face
"Exhaustive yet entertaining...a definitive history of the disc jockey.... The book lovingly captures a host of compelling stories from every seminal DJ across the last century.... Energy jumps from the book's pages."--iD
"From counterculture to mainstream leisure, the DJ has always been at the heart of clubland.... An illuminating, thoughtful, and insightful tome."--Muzik
Excerpts Last Night a DJ Saved My Life:
"Today (no offense to priests and ministers, who try their best), it is the DJ who presides at our festivals of transcendence. Like this witchdoctor, we know he's just a normal guy really--I mean, look at him--but when he wipes away our everyday lives with holy drums and sanctified basslines, we are quite prepared to think of him as a god, or at the very least a sacred intermediary, the man who can get the great one to return our calls.
"In a good club, and even in most bad ones, the dancers are celebrating their youth, their energy, their sexuality. They are worshipping life through dance and music. Some worship with the heightened levels of perception that drugs bring; but most are carried away merely by the music and the people around them. The DJ is the key to all this. By playing records in the right way the average DJ has a tremendous power to affect people's states of mind. A truly great DJ, just for a moment, can make a whole room fall in love. Because, you see, DJing is not just about choosing a few tunes. It's about generating shared moods; it's about understanding the feelings of a group of people and directing them to a better place. In the hands of a master, records become the tools for rituals of spiritual communion that for many people are the most powerful events in their lives."
Bill Brewster has been editor of Mixmag's Update USA. His writing appears regAbout the Author:
Bill Brewster has been editor of Mixmag's Update USA. His writing appears regularly in Mixmag, The Face, Time Out, The Big Issue, and The Guardian. He currently lives in London.
Frank Broughton has been deputy editor of Mixmag's Update USA and iD, and also writes for Details, Rolling Stone, The Face, NME, Hip Hop Connection, and Time Out New York, where he was founding clubs editor. He currently lives in London.
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