Essential Reading: Superstar DJs Here We Go!, Dom Phillips (2009)
Dom Phillips’ ‘Superstar DJs Here We Go!’ is not another gooey-eyed account of the Superstar DJ phenomenon, nor is it another dance music sermon preaching about the golden years of the scene to us, unfortunate 20-something-year-olds, who’ll never know what it was like.
It’s not another ‘everything was about peace and love and respect and just totally having fun’ pink-glassed ballad about the honesty and positive vibrations of the 90’s.
It’s a straightforward book that doesn’t stray away from sharing unglamorous events, uncomfortable stories of deep personal issues and, most importantly, it’s very upfront about one thing that tends to get swept under the rug of the idealized nostalgia surrounding every repeatedly retold legendary story from Those Times – the scene has always been about making a shitload of money and it has always been unapologetically conscious about constantly wanting more.
I recently spent a day in Mixmag’s office, buried in the archives and looking for clues I can use for my journalism dissertation. I took photos of the really bold, captivating, critical and analytical articles from the early 90s that caught my attention, that I wanted to re-read later and that I maybe wanted to steal something from.
As it turned out, most of them had been written by Dom Phillips, then Mixmag deputy editor, later editor and today – Washington Post Brazil correspondent. It was a type of music journalism that I hadn’t seen in recent years but always felt was noticeably missing. The type that initially, to an unfortunate 20-something-year-old, might seem bold but that, on second inspection, is just proper, unrestricted journalism, unconcerned with the 21st century politics of niche entertainment journalism, press releases, native advertising and good business relationships. It was brilliant.
So it was an immense pleasure, both from a fan’s and a journalist’s perspective, to continue my dissertation research with ‘Superstar DJs…’, two weeks after my magazine dive into the past. It was even better to find the same style of telling-it-like-it-is writing intact throughout the whole book. There’s no sugarcoating, there’s no ass-kissing, there’s no issue with calling people out on their bullshit or asking the tough questions. It was exactly the way I always thought music writing should be and the lack of which I had kinda started to find disheartening through my admittedly scarce experience in London so far.
‘Superstar DJs…’, while sharing some previously untold and usually harsh details of past events, doesn’t tell you things that you already don’t have some general knowledge of. It’s not a new story, it hasn’t changed, it’s in the past and we’ve all heard bits and pieces. But it is the way it’s being told here that makes the book’s topic a whole different story.
From the infamous Ibiza trip by Paul Oakenfold and co. and Sasha’s ‘Son of God’-era days, to the drugs, the downfalls, the highs and lows, both literal and metaphorical, the personal relationships, the incidents, the legal matters, the greed, the egos – everything is presented without a hint of neither glorification, nor judgment. (I need to give a special shout out to my university teacher Paul Lashmar, whose investigation into Pete Tong’s earnings in 1999 was featured in one of the two chapters on dance music and the establishment.)
The conclusion of all of this is that I highly recommend you read ‘Superstar DJs Here We Go!’ if that wasn’t already made obvious by the fact that I’m writing about it under the category of Essential Reading.
I’d finish this with an invitation to share your thoughts on the book but I am aware that, as ironic as it is, 70% of this blog’s hits come from people googling ‘superstar djs diplo‘, ‘superstar djs fatboy slim‘ and ‘superstar djs disclosure’, and that if you’ve ended up on this post it was probably another thing you were looking for.
Now ain’t that meta.
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