Books

Ssshhhhh! It's a library. Here you'll find our reviews of over 100 books on the subject of dance music, DJs and club culture – in its broadest sense. We're adding new titles all the time so if a book you've loved (or written) is missing, send us a copy and we'll add it to the shelves.

A unique time capsule of the early years of hip hop and house, pulled from the super-collectible fanzine. 440 pages of fresh writing on dance music and clubbing in London Manchester and New York, with fantastic articles on everyone from KRS-1 to Bobby Konders. The Sound Factory, warehouse parties, the first raves, the birth of acid jazz, not to mention about 200 brilliant charts.
  • 1989 was the year it all changed – when raving took the country by storm and British dance culture as we know it exploded into being. Gavin Watson's photos capture the revolution like no others, with intimate portraits of people having their lives changed forever. For sheer nostalgia this collection can't be beaten. It's all here: the smiles, the lasers, the villains, the crimes against fashion...
  • The story of dance music told by the people who made it happen. Bill and Frank come correct with in-depth interviews with almost 50 of history's most significant DJs, largely previously unpublished. Like the ones you've read on DJhistory, these are intriguing meetings – honest and revealing portraits, funny too. Plus memorabilia, discographies and great photos of all the DJs as young firebrands.
  • The Boy's Own crew were having so much fun that in six years they only managed to loose off 12 issues. But these 440 pages depict acid house culture – the slang, the parties, the tunes, the humour – better than anything, as captured in the words of Farley, Mayes, Weatherall, Oakenfold and many more key players. As well as every page of every fanzine there’s a great interview with all the Boys.
  • With reviews of every disco record worth knowing about, weekly reports from New York’s club scene, classic magazine articles and 800 contemporary club charts, this is the definitive chronicle of disco. It's the personal memoir of Vince Aletti, the very first writer to cover the emerging scene, bringing to life the clubs, the characters, and above all the music. The first book from DJhistory.com
  • Whether it be writing on opium in London's fin-de-siecle East End, or the works of Timothy Leary, Ken Kesey or any of America's other psychedelic fuelled merry pranksters, Marcus Boon charts a path less trodden through great and not so great works of literature written on, or about drugs. Whilst the scholars point to the romance and the literary genius of the Canon, Boon points to writers high on speed writing non-stop for days and the fact that Coleridge may be considered one of the great poets and he was also partial to the odd draft of opium.
  • Talking Heads main man and all around music demi-god David Byrne waxes lyrical across the whole spectrum of what we call music (he even tackles the bits he says that he won't). Dispensing with jargon and giving frank, down to earth opinions Byrne doesn't try and baffle us with science, this only music after all. Particularly current is his argument that whilst the music industry that created the excess of the '70s and '80s may no longer exist, music is still very much alive and kicking.
  • The Vocoder started life as a phone scrambler for Churchill – five tons of valves and some self-destruct double decks, went on via late funk, early electro, Kubrick, Stalin and the Muppets – and ended up as the autotune chip that powers X-Factor and wibbles out of every sodcaster’s mobile. A fabulous story, but an exhausting read – as if in tribute to his subject Tompkins writes so obliquely you have to decode every sentence.
  • ‘We are ninja, not geisha’. Ninja Tune was always about stealthy insurrection more than anything else, as it snatched the hip hop aesthetic for the UK and took it into the future and beyond. From Coldcut to Scruff to Roots Manuva, the label’s big guns paved the way for legions of research mixologists. The best labels have an unmistakeable identity, and this jam-packed retrospective nails it beautifully.
  • The 1994 original was issued to Japanese fashion students at the UK border. Now this classic spotters’ guide to ye olde street tribes of England is repacked and beefed by the lovely folk at PYMCA. Insightful essays about the evolution and importance of street fashion, and stacks of brilliant pics. Thanks to Ted Polhemus all Japanese cities now have a shopping mall crew for each chapter of the book.
  • Why settle for just learning to DJ when you could learn the secrets of positive thinking at the same time? A comprehensive DJ manual written by a spiritual figurehead of house music, filled with clear tutorials and solid insider advice. Turn to the second half and it’s a self-help programme written by The Danny Lama himself. Mr Rampling says: “I personally GUARANTEE your life will take on a whole new level of depth, happiness and success.”
  • The reason Ewan Pearson makes such great dance music is because he’s thought about it really HARD, and along with his blog, this book is proof. Like Stephen Hawking dissecting time, it gets philosophical on the dancefloor, musing on how dance music gets thought of and written about, whether it’s even possible to do so, and why it raises so many issues of politics, gender and identity. It's all wrapped up in critical theory and given a good hard Foucault-ing.
  • By day a mild-mannered ethnomusicologist; when night falls whooping it up with the banjee queens at Shelter. Fikentscher goes deep with participant observation to give the social scientists their field guide to the ’90s New York underground: the DJ’s plumage, the calls of the different dance species, and the mating rituals of the lesser-spotted Garage-head. Best on the essential blackness, gayness and churchiness of it all.
  • Leloup has the perfect name for the job, and a spiffy line in extended metaphors, so marvel at his “swirling magma” of music, DJs, producers and listeners. He reckons today’s electronic music – virtual, networked, playlisted and raved to – is a handy guide to how we’ll do everything in future. Hard to deny, really. If you like flowery academic language this is for you; if you decode it you’ll realise he’s not actually saying anything very radical. David Toop’s intro is nice.
  • Thrilling history, challenging lazy disco facts and giving convincing new perspectives. Great detail on disco’s ‘crash’ and intriguing thoughts on how the scene gained velocity from the changing self-image of gay Americans. Now we’re allowed to take disco seriously this is an important work. Especially fun is her riposte to the simplistic view that early disco was gritty and real while late disco was tacky and fake.
  • Every sub-culture has its drug of choice. In fact some have a load more than just the one. For ravers the drug of choice was E. It fuelled a revolution of happiness and togetherness, it made being nice cool again. But the history of MDMA is not solely linked to dungarees and smiley Ts. Pilcher tells of the chemical, its history as well as the social impact of E: 'Are you sorted'?
  • We were somewhere around Brighton on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold. Morrison’s low-level international mayhem is not quite as out-there as he thinks. Still, he writes with real panache and the scenery flits by too fast for you to care. As he lurches between far-flung clubs and surreal celebs (Judith Chalmers) he turns a phrase like an intoxicated David Attenborough.
  • It’s great looking at pictures from your rave-past, great to make a personal album with flyers and stories. But to give it a 30 quid price tag? Sam runs RaveReunited.co.uk and this is her time capsule, mostly of the early ’90s free parties. It's zigzaggy jpegs, and acres of average snaps. But though the images are flat the moments are timeless, and hey, isn’t that what it was all about?
  • Those expecting salacious stories à la Hit Men by Frederic Dannen will be disappointed (Harris challenges this version of events). Despite this, it's still an energetic story of the rise of Neil Bogart, documented by his Casablanca lieutenant (and cousin), from the last great era of the music industry. However, it would have been enhanced by a lot more Donna Summer and Gloria Scott and less Kiss.
  • This labour of love by Cotgrove is somewhat let down by structural defects, spelling errors and grammatical faults that suggest a book put together quickly rather than the ten years he supposedly took. Interviews with the likes of Chris Hill and Paul Murphy are savagely edited leaving the reader feeling short-changed. A book for the true aficionado rather than the faintly curious.
  • As definitive a book of long-haired German Kosmiche freaks as anyone could desire, packed with great photos, smart essays and a wealth of information: band by band, label by label, plus enough tripped-out psychedelic artwork to set off most smoke alarms. Its only fault is a lack of discographies, but an ausgezeichnete Buch nonetheless. Worth buying alone for a shaggy shot of pre-haircut Kraftwerk.