Just as rock albums get a second shelf life by dint of deluxe reissues featuring bonus CDs of live performances, outtakes, remixes, B-sides, and other aural paraphernalia, so pop-music histories are increasingly augmented by volumes of Q&A sessions the authors conducted for them. Simon Reynolds’ Rip It Up And Start Again is now abetted by Totally Wired; Jon Savage’s The England’s Dreaming Tapes is nearly 100 pages longer than England’s Dreaming itself. Now Bill Brewster and Frank Broughton, the London authors of 2000’s definitive disc-jockey history Last Night A DJ Saved My Life, present 46 of their sit-downs for that book and its 2006 update, as well as a few more recent talks taken from their DJ History website.
Sequenced in rough chronological order, from Jimmy Savile, who hosted the first records-based dance party in England, to modern producer-DJ crews like Shut Up And Dance and Dreem Teem, The Record Players is breezy and convivial. That sometimes means references to obscure records that will fly past less-informed readers—some of these interviews do require the context that Brewster and Broughton’s earlier book provided, though the DJ playlists at the end of several chapters do help. (Others get perfunctory discographies.) Not everyone here is a raconteur—Italian “cosmic disco” kingpin Danielle Baldelli speaks partly through a translator, which shows, and Dutch trance star Tiësto is agreeable but bland, not unlike his music. But most of Brewster and Broughton’s interviewees are as savvy, passionate, and opinionated as their profession’s stereotype paints them.
Not to mention hedonistic. In particular, the early disco DJs are a font of wild stories: Francis Grasso, who devised the slip-cue (putting a felt mat between the record and turntable to start and stop a record with pinpoint precision), discusses DJ-booth blowjobs (“I would tell the girls, ‘Bet you can’t make me miss a beat.’ Give them a little challenge and away they go!”), while Nicky Siano (who managed to get fired from Studio 54, of all places, for taking too many drugs) describes the late David Rodriguez, a fellow jock, passing out in his booth after overindulging in ethyl chloride and ruining a mix: “I was like, ‘You did this on purpose you fat fuck!’”