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Last Night a DJ Saved My Life: The History of the Disc Jockey [Paperback]

Bill Brewster
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
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Book Description

May 13 2014
Last Night a DJ Saved My Life was the first comprehensive history of the disc jockey, a figure who has become a powerful force shaping the music industry-and since its original publication, the book has become a cult classic. Now, with five new chapters and over a hundred pages of additional material, this updated and revised edition of Last Night a DJ Saved My Life reasserts itself as the definitive account of DJ culture, from the first record played over airwaves to house, hip hop, techno, and beyond.

From the early development of recorded and transmitted sound, DJs have been shaping the way we listen to music and the record industry. Bill Brewster and Frank Broughton have tracked down the inside story on some of music's most memorable moments. Focusing on the club DJ, the book gets first-hand accounts of the births of disco, hip hop, house, and techno. Visiting legendary clubs like the Peppermint Lounge, Cheetah, the Loft, Sound Factory, and Ministry of Sound, and with interviews with legendary DJs, Last Night a DJ Saved My Life is a lively and entertaining account of musical history and some of the most legendary parties of the century.

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From Publishers Weekly

Beginning with the contention that the disc jockey is "dance music's most important figure," Brewster and Broughton persuasively argue that the contemporary DJ is the epitome of the postmodern artist and that disc jockeys have long influenced the evolution of American musical tastes. Brewster and Broughton's ardent history is one of barriers and sonic booms, spanning almost 100 years, including nods to pioneers Christopher Stone, Martin Block, Douglas "Jocko" Henderson, Bob "Wolfman Jack" Smith and Alan "Moondog" Freed. Along the lines of Kurt B. Reighley's recent Looking for the Perfect Beat: The Art and Culture of the DJ, this is an obsessively unabridged and ever-unraveling (the authors will offer updates at www.djhistory.com) chronology of DJs and the musicAnorthern soul, reggae, disco, hip-hop, garage, house and technoAthey have fostered, and, more accurately perhaps, the music that has fostered them. So as not to miss a note, the authors, both former editors at Mixmag USA and contributing writers to The Face, interviewed more than 100 DJs, dancers and scenesters and elicited some vibrant, pull-quote anecdotes, especially in the hip-hop chapters. What comes to light makes sense: readers learn that the DJ is a distinctly American invention (Reginald A. Fessenden in 1906), but they came into their own, and into wealth and fame, in Britain (case in point: Paul Oakenfold). Brewster and Broughton's subtext is refreshing: rather than draw curt lines between American and British contributions, they show how intimate the countries were in forging a communications phenomenon. (Aug.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

From the Inside Flap

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 reg --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.


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Back when man was stumbling around the dusty savannahs figuring out the best way to surprise a woolly mammoth, he found his experience divided sharply between night and day. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Lecture essentielle July 9 2005
By Ruby
Format:Paperback
Au début, je ne voulais pas lire ce livre à cause du titre. Je croyais que c'était pour être un autre livre sur les raves bonbon djs plogués etc... Surprise, j'ai adoré du début jusqu'à la fin. C'est une lecture essentiel pour tous les djs, amateurs or animateurs de radio, étudiants en communication et sans oublier les journalistes (qui trop souvent radotent n'importe quoi) bref tous les gens intéressés par la diffusion de musique enregistrée au public. Ça ne parle pas que de la musique électronique, mais de toutes les musiques. C'est vraiment l'histoire du DJ. C'est un excellent livre. Une lecture essentielle.
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5.0 out of 5 stars awesome Oct. 5 2011
By lostluc
Format:Paperback
The book was in good condition @ a fr
action of the retail cost.
Orde processing and shipping was quick.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Despite flaws, an excellent book. June 13 2004
Format:Paperback
Last Night A DJ Saved My Life lives up it's billing as the definitive history of the disc jockey, as well as that of club culture. Brewster and Broughton presented an extensively researched and well connected history through a number of key genres, from sock hops, Jamaican sound systems, soul, disco, hip hop, and into house and techno. Through interviews with survivors of these scenes, the reader is given a good deal of first hand information, and gets a real feeling for most of the music presented, regardless of how familiar you are. In fact, one of the greatests aspects of this book is that it centers on the underground cultures: hip-hop before it became rap, disco before it became mainstream, etc.
However, the book is not without it's faults. Very early on, the authors slam academia, claiming that such an approach is incapable of providing a passionate or meaningful account. Certainly, this is both true and false, and it is unfair to make such a claim. My other main complaint with the book is that once it moves into the more modern genres of house and techno, the writers seem to lose their steam. One gets the feeling that these chapters were included in an effort to be definitive, not a level of deep-rooted passion for the music by the authors. Consequently, these chapters are not very interesting reads.
Still, this is the definitive book on the subject. Despite the aforementioned flaws, it is extremely informative, and overall, very well researched. A must for anyone interested in deejaying, club culture, or general music history.
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5.0 out of 5 stars BEST BOOK EVER Nov. 3 2003
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
For those interested in EVERY aspect of DJ culture and its rich history, this is the book for you. Every DJ should read this book to know where you've come from so that you know where you're going. VITAL.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The definitive history of the DJ June 11 2003
Format:Paperback
After almost 30 years in the music industry and reading all the other accounts of "how it was", I can truthfully say someone got it right. While tending not to overly focus on any sub-genre of dance music, this book is an excellent read of the history of the DJ and where it all came from, traveling through the turbulent 60's right through to the creation of dance music in the 70's, it's subsequent death and rebirth in the 80's and its' continuing refinement today. The most important part, the authors have truly done their homework and gotten the right names and the right facts to give an honest and thoughtful overview of the nightclub disc jockey while making sure to pay their dues to those who got us where we are today. More than any other book, I recommend "Last Night A DJ Saved My Life" to the new, up and coming DJ who wants to know about our history and the selfless people who created a movement.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent. Sept. 13 2002
Format:Paperback
I found this book to be a great read. Very well written, thorough, and extremely interesting! It's exactly what I was looking for when I went searching for information about the origins of the modern club DJ.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Comprehensive--not techno obsessed March 31 2002
Format:Paperback
Frankly, I bought this book because I was interested in learning more about techno/trance DJs, and was initially disappointed by the relative dearth of discussion of current trends (a discussion of these comes only in the last quarter of this book). However, my disappointment turned into appreciation as I realized this book truly is a history of the DJ, from way back in the early 1900s to today. This history offers a vast amount of information about who the first DJ pioneers were, and it is divided up into sections on the first radio DJs, northern soul DJs, reggae, disco, rap, and--finally--techno.
The authors point out that they're not doing any academic, high-fallutin' theoretical study of the DJ, but I think they took this anti-academicism too far. The DJ is a fascinating figure because s/he challenges so many of Western culture's ideas about what constitutes "music" and what constitutes "artistry." This book could have been much enriched by delving into the ways the DJ changes how we think about music.
As it is, the history in this study is admirably exhaustive; but because it doesn't connect this history to a larger history of music and aesthetics, it sometimes becomes just exhausting.
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5.0 out of 5 stars best book ever Dec 9 2001
Format:Paperback
i am a professional disc jockey who has been spinning for 12 years, mostly hip hop. this book changed the way i look at music and the mixing of it, forever.
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