Reading recommendations

A short selection of music related books to add to your reading list

Long Relationships: My Incredible Journey From Unknown DJ To Small Time DJ

Harold Heath

Written by former DJ/Producer and long time journalist Harold Heath, ‘Long Relationships: My Incredible Journey From Unknown DJ to Small-time DJ’ is a must read (book) in 2021.

A wonderfully candid biographical account of his experience in and beyond the booth, fuelled first and foremost by his deep love for music, Heath illustrates exactly what it’s like for 99% of enthusiasts who do what they do for the love – driven by their passion, without ever making it to the so called ‘big time’.

Filled full of tales of clubs, raves, warehouses, music, production, record deals, shady promoters, dodgy security, all illuminated by magical dance floor moments – this is a story of one person’s individual triumphs as much as it’s a love letter to the art and craft of spinning discs.

As he puts it: this is a story dedicated to every DJ who never made it to the major leagues, but whose life has been made all the richer and improved through the joy of owning, playing and sharing music with others. Whether you’ve DJed or not, lost yourself on a dance floor, fell in love with the potential of a dark basement, strobe or sound system: this story is yours.

Bass, Mids, Tops : An Oral History of Sound System Culture

Joe Muggs, Brian David Stevens

A quintessential oral history of the evolution of the UK’s soundsystem culture researched and written by respected dance music writer Joe Muggs, accompanied by dramatic portraits shot by London based photographer Brian David Stevens. The book features a whole raft of interviews with influential players such as Dubmaster Dennis Bovell, Norman Jay MBE, Adrian Sherwood, Mala, Skream, Krust, Dego (4 Hero), Jumpin Jack Frost and more.

Charting the years that followed the arrival of the Windrush generation and the impact that soundsystem culture went on to have, becoming one of the most important influences on contemporary pop music since rock and roll. Pumped through towering, home-built speakers, directly onto the thronged streets of events like the Notting Hill Carnival, there’s no denying the pulsating bass lines of reggae, dub, rave, jungle, trip hop, dubstep, and grime have shaped the worlds of several generations of British youth culture.

Muggs captures in-depth a real insight into the day-to-day workings of dance culture and makes clear the overlapping relationships between those players who keep the culture alive and kicking.

Turn The Beat Around: The Secret History Of Disco

Peter Shapiro

As part of the Faber Greatest Hits books that have taken writing about music in new and exciting directions in the twenty-first century. Critic and journalist Peter Shapiro traces the history of disco music and culture.

Described as a shotgun marriage between a newly out and proud gay culture and the first generation of post-civil rights African Americans, all bound together by the serenade of the recently developed synthesizer.

Shapiro maps out these converging influences, as well as disco’s cultural antecedents in Europe, looks at the history of DJing, explores the mainstream disco craze at it’s apex, and details the long shadow cast by disco’s performers and devotees on today’s musical landscape.

As a genre, disco radically re-defined the sensibility of the seventies to the extent where reactionaries felt the need to launch a ‘Disco Sucks’ campaign at the end of the decade.This seminal book features artists such as Chic, Sylvester, Donna Summer and Frank Grasso, illustrating why and how disco changed the face of popular culture whilst steeping the music and movement in the political/economic/social context of the 1970s.

Liberation Through Hearing: Rap, Rave & the Rise of XL Recordings

Richard Russell

In 1994, Richard Russell a rap and rave-loving high school graduate from suburban London became the boss of a fledgling independent UK dance music  label, XL Recordings.

25 years on and Russell has seen the likes of Radiohead, Adele, M.I.A., Prodigy and many others place their trust in him and his label to release some of their biggest albums.

Liberation Through Hearing, is a first hand account of his career written in lucid prose, paying attention in meticulous detail to that of a crate-digging music fan. More than just a juicy set of industry anecdotes, the author offers a real introspection into his own life that is as equally engaging as he delves into his Orthodox Jewish upbringing, struggles with mental health and a debilitating bout of illness – that makes the book as resonant as the albums he has helped to release. Peppered with great insight into how to find creative and financial freedom whilst living a life in sound, the author and his collaborators offer commentary that doubles as great advice for everyday existence too.

Andrew Weatherall – A Jockey Slut Tribute

Paying one last grandiose salute to the Guvnor, ‘A Jockey Slut Tribute’ celebrates Andrew Weatherall‘s creative spirit and life in this 160-page tribute that includes interviews for the former magazine Jockey Slut from 1993 to 2004, alongside articles from the mid-1980s to 2020, along with a collection of new writings.

Acid house generation’s most inspiring DJ and producer, Weatherall is renowned and revered for his work on Primal Scream’s ‘Screamadelica’ along with that of his bands: Sabres Of Paradise and Two Lone Swordsmen. As a DJ, he was peerless – often unpredictable, helming club nights that played techno, rockabilly or music that “never knowingly exceeded 122 bpm”.

Covering the tenure of his professional life, the book takes in everything from his beginnings at the influential Boy’s Own fanzine, DJ sets at landmark nights Shoom and Sabresonic and the plethora of ventures he still had running including: the Woodleigh Research Project, A Love From Outer Space and festival Convenanza.