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ARTS

The Record Players: DJ Revolutionaries

DJ History, the publishing house behind Last Night a DJ Saved My Life, follows up with a new release on the history of dance music

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Brewster and Broughton both became journalists in the early ’90s. They didn’t meet until 1994, when both were in New York. (“We’re actually both from the same county in England,” Broughton points out via email.) Broughton freelanced full-time, while Brewster worked for DMC, which holds a yearly DJing competition and published some of the magazines for which Broughton wrote.

“We’d both DJed since college, but at that time neither of us were very serious about it,” Broughton says. But they were serious about dance music and soon decided to collaborate on a history of New York disco. That evolved into an overall history of DJing itself. At that point, Broughton says, “Most other British dance music journalists would have started in Ibiza in ’87” – where rave basically began in the United Kingdom and continental Europe. “We knew the story went far earlier than that.”

Last Night a DJ Saved My Life has never gone out of print – remarkable for any book, much less one about a subject that has a reputation in book circles as being a nonstarter, sales-wise. They followed up with How to DJ Right in 2003, but Last Night’s truest successor is djhistory.com, which Brewster and Broughton started to host forums for DJs, dance-music collectors and fans. When the duo decided to expand operations four years ago, they figured publishing books of their massive archives was “one of the obvious things to do,” 
Broughton says.

“These days it’s so easy to publish a book yourself,” he continues. “You just need to know your way around a couple of programs on your laptop and how to get an ISBN number. And now with digital publishing, the sky’s the limit as far as distribution goes.”

Take the Vince Aletti collection. Aletti is a noted photography and music writer, and when he curated a show, Male, at New York’s White Columns gallery, 50 photocopied books of his Record World pieces were made. Brewster received one in the mail; immediately, he and Broughton knew they had their first publishing project. “It was an epic amount of work to turn it from photocopies into proper type, but it was worth it,” Broughton says. “We knew we had a hit on our hands.”

The Disco Files, released in 2009, coincided with a boom in disco revivalism in dance music as well as the house-ification of mainstream pop, rap and R&B. It won’t near the sales of Tom Clancy books, but it received a lot of attention and has sold steadily both online and in the independent stores to which DJ History distributes.

That’s when others started calling. “Gavin Watson literally walked in with a suitcase full of photos,” Broughton says of Raving ’89. “We quickly realized that these were really unique pictures. Just look at the eye contact you get in those photos. He’s a participant as much as an observer. And even though technically they’re a mess – smoky raves and scratched negatives – some of the composition is 
unbelievable.”

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