The last few days I’ve started into Last Night A DJ Saved My Life – The history of the disk jockey. To be honest I approached the book with a bit of trepidation as the title does sound incredibly dry. I thought I’d end up reading a chapter and putting down for a month, before tackling a bit more. But it turns out to be anything but. This is book written by two very passionate authors who have reached their subject such that they can describe how DJs have evolved painting pictures for the minds eye with words.
The book is really concentrates itself on DJ in terms of clubs rather than Radio DJs which would seem not to have changed hugely. From the evolution of radio DJs just doing their radio thing in halls to the development of mixing, the lust for for obscure versions of songs and being innovative musically and visually.
The irony of the fledgling years of the DJ is that every time powerful organisations or government tried to squeeze out developments in contemporary culture (in those days as a view to suppressing what we now know as Rhythm & Blues) they actually end up fueling the change through a different channel, something we still see today – for example with our friends the RIAA. An illustration of this was with radio broadcasting in the late 40s and early 50s had to be with live musicians with very limited amount of ‘needle time’. Then the musicians unions started striking for an entire year – so radio stations would get strike busting musicians to record music to LPs, which they’d distribute to radio stations – and this was the birth of the LP. The jukebox took off at the time as well.
Its fasinating (andy maybe a little scary) to discover how important Jimmy Saville is to DJing as well. As he appears to have been the first to use a dual deck setup and little or no chatter between songs just playingin one after another – this was the late war years and into the early fifties. Then the Northern Soul’s need for stompers lead to the revival of some artists careers off the back of this very British scene. Northern Soul also laid down the seeds for styles such as garage and so on. The book also gives an intriguing insight into music tribalism going way back to the 30s & 40s.
Worth an investigation.