Reading recommendations (new books)

A selection of new music and culture related books to add to your reading list

As we roll on into the new year that is 2024, it’s round about that time to give a short round up of new music and culture related books, that have been published in relatively recent times (mostly 2023 to be precise).

Dance Your Way Home: A journey through the dance floor – Emma Warren

A social history of the dancefloor, that gets to the heart of what it is that makes us move.

Dance Your Way Home is an intimate exploration and account written of and from the dancefloor – wherever and whenever it may be. Renown author and journalist Emma Warren, who brought us the seminal ‘Document Your Culture’ gets to the heart of what it is that makes us move in her latest work.

The book is about the kind of ordinary dancing we might do in our kitchens when a favourite tune comes on, a set of interconnected histories of the overlooked places where dancing happens.

Asking the some fundamental questions that get to the crux of the issue: Why do we dance? What does dancing tells us about ourselves, individually and collectively? And what can it do for us?

Whether it be at home, 80s club nights, jungle raves or volunteer-run spaces, Warren has sought out the answers to these questions her entire life. Dancing doesn’t just reflect the music and culture in which it evolves, it also generates new music and culture in and of itself.

When we speak only of the music, we lose part of the story. The part that finds us dancing as children on the toes of adults, the half that triggers egalitarian communication across borders and languages. The part that finds us worried that we’ll never be able to dance again, and the part that finds us wondering why we were ever nervous in the first place – an essential read.

Buy a copy of Dance Your Way Home: A Journey Through the Dancefloor

Normski: Man with the Golden Shutter

The author and artists, who describes himself as having been a “young Black British homeboy photographer”, who happened to be in the right place at the right time. A documentarian if you like of the emerging music, community and social movements of Hip Hop and Rap in the UK.

Normski: Man with the Golden Shutter presents his personal journey through that world from the mid-1980s to early 1990s, in some style.

A vital witness to the period known as the Golden Age of Rap, when big US artists like Run DMC, LL Cool J and Public Enemy first made their way across the pond to play in the UK. During that same time, a new British music scene born of Black music and myriad multicultural influence developed: giving birth to Jungle, Garage and Techno.

The book includes Normski’s often previously unseen photographs of Public Enemy, N.W.A., Cypress Hill, De La Soul, Goldie, Ice-T, Run DMC, Wu-Tang Clan and many others, alongside his stories and anecdotes from the centre of what would become a hugely influential cultural movement.

Buy a copy of Normski: Man with the Golden Shutter

Jeremy Deller – Art Is Magic

Art is Magic is artist Jeremy Deller’s attempt to tie up the key works of his career alongside the art, pop music, film, politics and history that have inspired his work.

Much has been written about Deller over the decades but this is the first time he has pulled together all of his cultural touchstones. The book features work from across Deller’s life and art and includes Sacrilege, the inflatable Stonehenge, the Iggy Pop Life Class, The Battle of Orgreave, a recreation of a confrontation from the Miners’ Strike, bats, Andy Warhol (whom he met in 1986), rave culture, hen harriers pecking out the eyes of a Tory MP, and not forgetting a giant Chameleon slide. Art is Magic gives us the most detailed account of Deller and his work to date.

Buy a copy of Jeremy Deller – Art Is Magic

Welcome to the Club: The Life and Lessons of a Black Woman

Manchester legend – DJ Paulette shares the highs, lows and lessons of a thirty-year music career, with help from some of her friends.

One of the Haçienda’s first female DJs, Paulette has scaled the heights of the music industry, playing to crowds all around the world, and descended to the lows of being unceremoniously benched by COVID-19, with no chance of furlough and little support from the government.

In her book: ‘Welcome to the club’, she tells her story, offering a remarkable view of the music industry from a Black woman’s perspective. Behind the core values of peace, love, unity and respect, dance music also harbours a darker side: exclusion, misogyny, racism and classism. But, as she reveals, it’s also a space bursting at the seams with powerful women.

Part personal account, part call to arms, she exposes the exclusivity of the music industry while seeking to do justice to the often invisible women who keep the beat going (on and on).

Buy a copy of Welcome to the Club: The Life and Lessons of a Black Woman

Party Lines: Dance Music and the Making of Modern Britain – Ed Gillett

From the illicit reggae blues dances and acid-rock free festivals of the 1970s, through the ecstasy-fuelled Second Summer of Love in 1988, to the increasingly corporate dance music culture of the post-Covid era. Ed Gillett’s ‘Party Lines’ is a groundbreaking new history of UK dance music: exploring its pivotal role in the social, political and economic shifts on which modern Britain has been built.

Taking in the Victorian moralism of the Thatcher years, the far-reaching restrictions of the Criminal Justice Act in 1994, and the resurgence of illegal raves during the Covid-19 pandemic. Party Lines charts an ongoing conflict, fought in basement clubs, abandoned warehouses and sunlit fields, between the revolutionary potential of communal sound and the reactionary impulses of the British establishment.

Brought to life with stunning clarity and depth, this is social and cultural history at its most immersive, vital and shocking.

Buy a copy of Party Lines: Dance Music and the Making of Modern Britain