Looking for the Perfect Beat: The Art and Culture of the DJ by Kurt B. Reighley
“A reliable DJ knows how to balance entertainment with education, underscored by his or her own individual aesthetic.”
That’s a quote from this book that explores the culture of deejaying. Today we take it for granted that people dance when someone plays music for them in a club, a bar, and even at home in the kitchen, but this wasn’t always the case. People used to dance to bands. Dancing to a record was not something that anyone even considered.
Everything changed during World War II, however. According to Reighley, while France was under Nazi occupation and live performances were prohibited, nightclubs began to play records out of necessity.
Modern deejaying as we know it, started to take root in 1969. That’s when “DJ Terry Noel, was spinning at a club named Salvation in New York city. “His program included funk, Latin, and soul . . . rock, spun without interruption. Rather than fade tracks in and out, DJs were beginning to try to keep the beats going constantly . . . One night, Noel failed to show up for work. Dance Francis Grasso, a turntable novice from Brooklyn, filled in; when Noel finally materialized, he found himself out of a job.
Grasso’s secret weapon . . . was a technique he’d developed called slip-cueing . . . By placing a felt pad between the turntable platter and record, he could hold the latter in place with his finger while the former spun at full speed, unencumbered beneath. Adjusting the LP or single with his finger while the record kept moving, he’d isolate the perfect point of entry for the next song, then drop it on top of the music that was already playing.
Francis Grasso’s innovative mixing, his knack for isolating points of intersection between two records to create spontaneous minicompositions, made him the first prominent American DJ to raise his art to an original musical discipline.”
I love when DJing is referred to as an art and a true form of music, because it truly can be that. A good DJ does more than just press play on a record player. He or she is a musician who manipulates sounds to create a mood, to get people dancing, and creates something brand new every single night.
“Depending on how you present music to the crowd, that’s how you’re going to influence what they dance to, what they like, and so forth. I don’t think a lot of DJs really understand that responsibility.” – Jesse Saunders
I love that responsibility and the art of deejaying. It’s one of the reasons that I read books about it. If you want to do the same, grab this one. I enjoyed reading the quotes from other disc jockeys, and the way Reighley put it all together. It was a great read. And if you know me, hit me up and I’ll let you borrow it.
My List of 2020 Reads – coming soon
Looking for more great reads?