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

4.22  ·  Rating details ·  1,729 ratings  ·  90 reviews
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 Sa ...more
Paperback, 336 pages
Published July 1st 2000 by Grove Press
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Meredith Enos
May 13, 2011 rated it liked it
This book is clearly well researched, but the prose bogs it down. It takes a fascinating subject and makes it sometimes painful to read about--painful as in laden with pedantry and cliche. It feels like it was written by one of those fanboys who loves "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and knows why Angel was wearing that bracelet in that one episode and will tell you about it for 15 minutes got turned on to hiphop.

The interviews were good, though.
Jan 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
(My apologies for mistreating the English language)

Four and half stars.

If you have seen my profile you may think that this book is quite far from the usual, but not so much if we consider my interest in popular culture and, in addition, for my studies of sociology (although I am not working in this discipline) that has left me "installed" the curiosity about social phenomena. Of course as a young “dancing king” I frequently attended nightclubs, so from my own experience this is familiar to me.

Oct 02, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Music and non-music lovers
A super interesting history of the DJ and his record collection. This book basically covers the time when a man or woman played a record in front of an audience. It covers stuff from the 20's to of course the Disco era to the Northern Soul.

I am not into dance music or DJ culture, but saying that this is truly a fascinating history of records and the role it plays in individuals lives as well as social groups of all sorts. The Northern Soul cult is beyond fascinating. DJ's locating old Motown, St
Anna Bogdanova
Jun 08, 2020 rated it liked it
So I'm in two minds about this book. On the one hand, it's truly unique and it tackles an important and undernarrated history. On the other hand, it really shows that the authors can't really handle either the popular non-fiction genre, or the genre of the academic essay. It's a bit all over the place: the structure goes by musical genre, but you end up skipping decades back and forth. Instead of offering analysis, it usually devolves into listing names of DJs and clubs. And don't even get me st ...more
Gregarious cline
Nov 02, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: re-reading
This book is my bible. I reread it every couple of years and get something new and vital out it every time. I'm glad I initially read it years after I started DJ'ing or it might have over loaded my circuits. It's fascinating that the principles that made these historic DJs, DeeJays, and DiscJockeys amazing still hold true today. A must read for anyone who has ever attempted DJ'ing once or more. ...more
Chuck Pee
Jan 02, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I teach "electronic music history" because of this book!!! ...more
Tony Calder
Mar 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: pop-culture
This excellent book does what the title claims - it presents the history of the DJ from the very first time a record was played on a radio broadcast (in 1906) through to a century later when the revised edition of this book was released.

While it does look at the role of the DJ on radio, the vast majority of the book is devoted to the DJ in clubs and parties. In doing this, what it also does is provide a comprehensive look at the history of dance music from the rock n roll era onward because much
John Defrog
Jan 02, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A lengthy history of the disc jockey, tracing the evolution from radio and the concept of playing records in dance clubs (both of which enraged musician unions everywhere, claiming it would put them out of work) to the rise of disco, techno, house and superstar DJs. At 600 pages, it’s a bit of a slog, but the thesis of DJ as shaman leading celebratory dance rituals – along with the idea that DJs have done as much if not more than music artists to shape the evolution of music – is rather convinci ...more
Caden Mccann
Nov 29, 2020 rated it really liked it
A entertaining and well-researched history of DJing, ending with the onset of the new millennium. Reflecting my own tastes, I particularly liked the sections on the disco scene in New York, and the techno scene in Detroit. I would recommend this book for anyone with an interest in club music.
Bill Stepien
I cherry-picked chapters around my musical tastes, so I can heartily recommend the parts on reggae and hip-hop. The authors admit that their treatment isn't comprehensive, but focused on their experiences and connections. Still, great stuff on the origins of DJing and the musical forms it spawned. ...more
Kirk Chantraine
Nov 24, 2011 rated it did not like it
Do you mark a book as read when you have to stop reading since it makes you so angry? Sexist, inaccurate, pretentious and condescending - if you have any attachment to DJing or appreciation for music stay away. Gag...
Nov 30, 2007 rated it really liked it
This is the other half. Read "The Oral History of Punk Rock by Legs Mc Neill" before during or after reading this book. The characters, music, moods and ideas all collide. ...more
Daniel Hood
Aug 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Serves as a view on the evolution of subcultures as well a history on the music scenes within them.
Jovaughn Brown
Jul 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
Last Night a DJ Saved My Life is a comprehensive history of DJing over the last century and how innovative techniques spawned new genres of music. It's also a testament to the artistic merit of DJing which is commonly despised by people who think that DJing is nothing more than playing one record after another, without any sort of musicianship or skill. DJing is, in fact, a momentous artistic force that has helped to define eras in musical culture.

This book goes well with other music history bo
Maarten Wagemakers
You could divide this book into two parts basically: the historical, canonical history of the DJ in eras and settings that the author wasn't part of (featuring lots of talking heads, well-researched facts, song name-drops that paint a very clear picture of the scene), and the more modern UK-era from the eighties on that he seems to know *very* well. From major DJ movements being described with a mostly objective and detached style, we suddenly move into numerous UK micro-genres and spin-offs (no ...more
Dec 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
An incredibly robust and well-rounded history of DJing, popular music, and especially dance music culture. However, Brewster often writes about women (whose contributions to DJing and dance music are given a mere two pages in the five-hundred-plus page book) with a sexist bent, and though he highly reveres the music, the way he writes about people of color behind many of the music styles showcased in the book is rather insensitive and results in more than a few eye-rolls.

There are quite a few bo
Maya Angelica Hernandez
Very knowledgeable about the music world, nice prose, but history itself seems to repeat itself too much: new music comes out, initially people reject, then embrace, lots of dancing in clubs, then becomes too mainstream, some new music brewing underground somewhere till it resurfaces, and etc. Got tiring after a while, but that’s not the writer’s fault.

Made me appreciate DJ’s a lot more though.
Gary Fowles
Jun 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
Damn fine doorstop of a book that attempts the almost impossible of charting the history of the DJ. From it's humble beginning in the scratchy age of valve radio right the way up to the Digital DJ. Of course there are areas that don't get covered as much as one would like, but when it's good, such as the rise of Hip-Hop, the Jamaican sound clashes or the Disco era, it's pretty much perfect. ...more
Daniel Field
Oct 14, 2019 rated it it was ok
Informative, and at times pretty interesting, but I thought the prose was terrible, and the writing style was pretentious and frustrating. It felt like the writers wanted to get through the first couple hundred pages so they could name-drop house and techno DJs that they got to interview for the later chapters, which was mostly why they wrote the book.
A game of two halves. The pages about the early days of it all are superb. It's also interesting to read about the European scene. However, the later UK scene chapters descend into cliche and error which feel far less researched.

One day someone will treat the UK rave scene with a little more respect.

Asheg Brom
Jul 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I read this many years ago, but I remember it being staggeringly thorough in its knowledge of genres that I knew very little about, and where, when and why these genres emerged. When I discovered many years later that it's seen as a venerated text within musical circles, I wasn't surprised at all. Very highly recommended. I would class it as one of the essential texts of sociomusicology 101. ...more
Brian Gee
Apr 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The amount of new musical knowledge I've gained from this book is unbelievable! It also features well told stories about the clubs and dancers where musical history was made. Very inspiring and sent me on many journeys of musical research. ...more
Michael Shpilkovsky
Aug 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The books tells the story of the 20 century DJ up until these days. Lots of information about DJs, music styles, clubs, eras, people and so much more! A must book to whoever loves music and history. Really helped me to step up as a DJ.
Jonny Brick
May 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I wonder if future editions will remove the fact that Jimmy Savile invented the Disc Jockey. Key voices explain why they deserve praise for essentially creating vibes in otherwise vibeless rooms. Superstar DJing is the latest wheeze.
Francisco Manzano
Jul 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
The best book I've ever read about electronic music. It doesn't only show you the story and evolution of it, it shows the story of one of the most important person at a party/club, etc...The DJ, if you are into being a DJ, produce music, or want to know more about these things, this book is a must. ...more
Dec 04, 2020 rated it liked it
interesting primer on DJing and the development of different club cultures, prose was at times painfully heavy handed and long-winded. spotify playlist of every song mentioned in the book definitely elevated the reading experience
Jan 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Really in-depth and fascinating take on dj and electronic music in all forms.
Incredibly well researched.
Brett McDowall
May 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Brilliantly detailed book about all things DJ covers so many genres and era’s

Kayleigh Robinson
Jul 19, 2020 rated it really liked it
This book took me SEVERAL months to read but I learned a LOT. I wish I was alive for raves pre-cell phones :(
May 29, 2020 rated it really liked it
A history of club culture and dance music the people who made it happen.
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Bill was originally a chef, working first in London and then Geneva, before returning back to the UK in 1981. His first break as a writer was in 1988 working for cult football magazine When Saturday Comes, where he remained until 1993.

He moved to New York in 1994, where he soon met his writing partner Frank Broughton. Within a fortnight of their meeting they started plotting their first book toge

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Twists, turns, red herrings, the usual suspects: These books have it all...and more. If you love mysteries and thrillers, get ready for dozens...
126 likes · 29 comments
“the DJ plays the feelings of a roomful of people.” 1 likes
“Opium? No! Cocaine? No! The Great American Brain Killer Is Dance Music!’ – Portland Oregonian, 1932 T” 0 likes
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