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13 dance music books you definitely need to read

Free some space on your book shelf

  • Max Penny-Barrow & Dave Turner
  • 5 August 2018

To get to grips with the already vast, varied and deep musical ocean that is dance music it’s important to consider the social and counter-cultural context of its birth. The throbbing lifeblood of it has been the fact it was born as the champion for the disenfranchised and excluded of society. However, tracing the biological musical forefather has proved more elusive. No single genre can be held accountable for its creation, but many writers have attempted to allude to big influences within the scene.

These books attempt to paint a completely immersive subcultural and musical picture of what rave music is, was and will be.

'Last Night a DJ Saved My Life: The History of the Disc Jockey' Bill Brewster

Kicking us off is the classic Bill Brewster and Frank Broughton factual which tracks the rise of the DJ from jukebox jockeys in 1906 to the massive cultural phenomenon it is today. The book discusses a comprehensive history of DJing across all genres from Northern Soul to soundsystem culture in Jamaica to Detroit techno and everything in between. Unmissable.

'Discographies: Dance, Music, Culture and the Politics of Sound' Ewan Pearson and Jeremy Gilbert

Pearson and Gilbert tread a careful path through house, hip hop, techno, drum ‘n’ bass and garage to try and gauge the relevance of rave in contemporary society and assess why dance music is even a counter-culture in the first place. Framed in the context of modern issues such as technology, drugs and gender, the book ties together music and politics harmoniously.

'House Music… The Real Story' Jesse Saunders

Jesse Saunders is a pioneer of house music, responsible for an early authentic house music record in 'On And On'. This memoir includes stories about the late, great Frankie Knuckles and Ron Hardy and how they forged a new genre during the mid-'80s and contains some outrageous stories about '90s celebrities.

'Rave Art' Chelsea Louise Berlin

A scrapbook of rave flyers, Invitations and membership cards, Berlin traces the conception and decline of an entire subculture. Berlin was there from the beginning and she traces how designing flyers was an integral part of not only getting the word out but also how they were evolving pieces of art. These are coupled with misty-eyed, nostalgic quotes from those who were there.

'Love Saves the Day: A History of American Dance Music Culture, 1970–1979' Tim Lawrence

The roots of dance music can be traced back to the early 1970s and the development of disco. Tim Lawrence’s Love Saves the Day: A History of American Dance Music Culture, 1970–1979 not only charts the development of disco but documents the growing cultural impact the genre was having. Lawrence maps the blueprint that much dance music is based on today, discussing how music moulded the political climate of some of the biggest social movements of recent years.

'Class of '88: Find the warehouse. Lose the hitmen. Pump the beats' Wayne Anthony

A reissue of an action-packed insight into the glory days of acid house from one of the top illegal rave organisers Wayne Anthony, head honcho of the infamous Genesis parties. His account tells of not only the collective positive vibes, but of kidnapping, violence and gangsters holding organisers to ransom. A must read.

'The Haçienda: How Not To Run A Club' Peter Hook

If you're thinking of opening a nightclub, this one would be a good educational tool. Even if you're not looking to get in the dance music business, it's a thoroughly entertaining account of the acid house movement and all the dodgy goings on in Manchester around the time. All written by Joy Division and New Order co-founder Peter Hook.

'Rave On: Global adventures in Electronic Dance Music' Matthew Collin

A truly worldwide and underground account of dance music, Matthew Collin’s Rave On… details how rave went from sketchy M25 parties to massive festivals and gatherings. Collin has travelled the world for this and the range of communities he describes is truly astounding, ranging from refugee communities in Abu Dhabi to South Africa and its kwaito and gqom genres. Collin shatters the age-old presumption that a previous zeitgeist is better than the current and covers intriguing organic scenes. Compulsory reading.

'Techno Rebels: The Renegades of Electronic Fun' Dan Sicko

With a focus on the development of the genre in Detroit, Dan Sicko’s Techno Rebels... breaks down what defines techno as techno, its influences and how it first came about. Sicko also discusses how the sound took flight and crossed the pond into Europe. Featuring anecdotes, first-hand accounts and interviews from The Belleville Three, this book is a solid supplement to thumping techno percussion.

'All Crews: Journeys Through Jungle/Drum & Bass Culture' Brian Belle-Fortune

One for the junglist massive, this factual report examines the '90s phenomenon, talking not only to the artists that forged the sound, but pirate radio stations, promoters, ravers, crews and labels. It also features some compelling interview excerpts from some of the big hitters including Grooverider and DJ SS.

'This is Grime' Hattie Collins

Hattie Collins is the pinnacle of grime journalists and this, the first book to really trace the genre’s gravity defying rise into the mainstream, is supplemented by some stark photography from award-winning photographer Olivia Rose. The book discusses how the influence of big-hitting genres such as garage and jungle dripped into the new millennia and formed an unapologetic voice for disenfranchised youth across the country.

'Inner City Pressure: The Story Of Grime' Dan Hancox

Another insight into grime, Dan Hancox's book looks at how it became the voice of inner city life and all the stumbling blocks it met along the way. From the government and police clamping down on it hard, to its 'death' and recent mainstream success. It's jam-packed with interviews from the genre's stars such as Dizzee Rascal, Stormzy and Wiley.

'Porcelain: A Memoir' Moby

The story of how Moby made the transformation from producer to international superstar, straight from the horse's mouth. Millions of albums selling and chart success doesn't always result in happiness, though. In this he details how he tackled alcoholism and drug abuse while experiencing global stardom.

Max Penny-Barrow is a freelance journalist, follow him on Twitter

Dave Turner is Mixmag's Digital News Editor, follow him on Twitter

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