Infusion picked nine of our favourite music & clubbing books that have helped define the scenes, tell unbelievable stories (in Keith Richards’ case, they’re true) and give you goosebumps as they recount the history of dance music. As the saying goes ”Get Reading”
How Music Works – David Byrne
Part autobiography of the Talking Heads star, part anthropological music theory and part indispensable music bible, How Music Works is a fascinating, brilliantly written book that covers everything from why birds sing to the punk rock music. The non linear structure takes a while to get used to, as it flits around from fascinating Talking Heads stories to lecture-like dissection of music as an art form. Stick with it, as the book rewards you with intelligent debate.
How Music Got Free – Stephen Witt
Or the demise of the music industry, as Witt traces the journey from the creation of the MP3 (which took a team of German scientists over a decade) to content sharing sites like BitTorrent and Napster, and then how the record industry adapted to the seismic changes (hint: they didn’t). With plenty of gonzo glee, and some excellent character studies – including Dell Glover, one of the first uploaders who literally stole 20,000 albums from his record processing plant – it’s a fascinating take on the pre-Spotify era of music.
Kill Your Friends – John Niven
Ignore the recent film adaptation and instead read this coruscating, brutally dark and funny account of Stephen Stelfox, a late 90s record label A&R who drinks, snorts and maims his way through the music industry. Imagine American Psycho but with more Britpop and you’re not far off. An utterly despicable character – and one (very) loosely based on period research – Stelfox’s antics get ever more debauched as he searches for the next pop hit, stopping at nothing to get his way.
Last Night A DJ Saved My Life – Bill Brewster & Frank Broughton
Indispensable reading for any DJ, Brewster and Broughton form a formidable double team as they trace the history of dance music including soul, reggae, hip hop, disco, house and techno. The book is full of interesting facts: did you know that, technically, Jimmy Saville was the world’s first DJ? First released in 1999, the latest releases come with updated chapters, with The Observer calling Last Night one of the greatest music books of all time. Their follow up, How To DJ Right: The Art and Science of Playing Records is well worth a read as well.
Energy Flash: A Journey Through Rave Music and Dance Culture – Simon Reynonlds
Part personal memoir, part cultural history, esteemed music journalist Simon Reynolds charts the rise of the rave scene in the 80s and 90s, with interviews from Goldie and Aphex Twin providing a valuable insight into one of the most explosive periods of dance music history. Covering everything from Detroit techno to Dutch gabba, this is an authoritative, insightful analysis that was recently updated in 2013.
Turn The Beat Around – Peter Shapiro
The big bang for house music, Peter Shapiro lovingly delves into disco’s rich history. He analyses everything: from the social and economic conditions that allowed disco to flourish to the key players that got disco to the dancefloors (including, as convincingly argued by Shapiro, post-Nazi Swing Kids in Germany). Well researched and written with real energy, this book is the nearest you’ll get to stepping foot into Studio 54.
The Hacienda: How Not To Run A Nightclub – Peter Hook
Bassist for New Order and Joy Division, Peter Hook was also one of the driving forces – and benefactors – in the Hacienda, the cult 80s nightclub that helped bring about the acid house revolution. In total, New Order had over half a million dirhams siphoned out of their accounts to fund the Hacienda dream, which initially at least, was mired in mis-management, poor turn outs and gang violence. Hook is charmingly chatty throughout, and amazingly candid – notably describing when their NYE takings were set alight by indoor fireworks. As Tony Wilson, co-owner said: “Some people make money, others make history.”
Margrave of the Marshes – John Peel
A broadcasting icon, John Peel’s death in 2004 not only prompted a world wide outpouring of grief but also meant that his unfinished autiobiography had to be finished by his wife Sheila. Written with in his trademark self depcretating style, it’s a book full of personal revelations – he was raped as a young boy at his boarding school, and had a cold upbringing where he found meaning, love and life in music. At a young age he emigrated to America, and faking a Liverpudlian accent – the Beatles had just broken through – he managed to get onto radio, and the rest, as they say, is history. His Fabric Live set still stands out as a testament to his all encompassing love of music, and this book is still as relevant now as when he first started turning a nation of radio listeners onto weird and wonderful music.
Life – Keith Richards
To pick just one story out from Keith Richards’ incredible autobiography is to do the others dis-justice, but this is one of our favourites. ‘We would record from late in the afternoon until 5 or 6 in the morning, and suddenly the dawn comes up and I’ve got this boat. Go down the steps through the cave to the dockside; let’s take Mandrax to Italy for breakfast. . . . No passport, right past Monte Carlo as the sun’s coming up with music ringing in our ears.” All the while listening to freshly cut tapes of tracks like ‘Rocks Off’ and ‘Shake Your Hips’ with the sun rising over the crystal blue waters of the Mediterranean. How rock and roll is that? Life is essentially, Keith telling you every little detail – every sordid, outrageous, incredible detail and told with real flair. It’s wildly entertaining, and should be essential reading for any band member and music fan.