alternative hero winners!

For the second half of December, we held a contest with Knopf to give away copies of Tim Thornton‘s The Alternative Hero. Tim had been kind enough to make us a mixtape, and it serves as a companion to the book. People could enter by commenting and/or retweeting contest messages on Twitter. Here are the four lucky winners!

For Twitter, each RT got an entry, competing for one book. I put all the retweets in a list, then randomized it at Then, the winner was picked using the integer generator:

Congrats, @tylerlawman!

At M|H, each individual comment got an entry. They too went in a list and got randomized, then I had the integer generator pick three:

Hooray for Rick, Lindsay, and Matt!

To sweeten the deal, I promised one winner a yet-to-be-posted mixtape. Same deal, random list, integer winner:

Lindsay is our grand prize winner!

I’ll be contacting winners to coordinate getting them their prizes. Thanks to all who entered, and be sure to check out The Alternative Hero even if you didn’t win!

‘that guy’ has a name – adam coil

The Boy Who Cried FreebirdYou’ve all heard him. At more of the shows you’ve gone to than not, there’s that guy. The one who insists on yelling “Freebird!”, regardless of appropriateness of the request. In the first section of his book, The Boy Who Cried Freebird: Rock & Roll Fables and Sonic Storytelling, author Mitch Myers personifies this shady character into the fictional Adam Coil.

Utilizing both straight fact and outright fiction, Myers gives readers a blend of history and tall-tale, often blurring the line between the two. Anti-hero Adam Coil serves to put a personal spin on various musical experiences, such as giving “Freebird”-guy a name and giving a fresh perspective to the hippie-tastic era of The Grateful Dead in San Francisco as a time-traveler from 2069.

Other fictitious tales include a musical face-off between a DJ and jazz drummer for club supremacy and bringing about the world-wide destruction of aliens posing as humans with Black Sabbath recordings (*coughMarsAttackscough*). There are several pieces that are more or less straight-laced music history essays, and a smattering of probably true but most likely embellished stories (like getting locked into a Tower Records overnight).

Though The Boy Who Cried Freebird would tip toward ‘enjoyable’ on a scale, the fuzzy line between real-life and make-believe can get a bit tedious. Also, Myers’s narrative voice skews toward middle-aged male, both in tone and reader appeal. There’s nothing wrong with either of these traits, but it does have the potential to turn off some readers.

make believe ballroom

Last Night A DJ Saved My Life CoverWhen I picked up Last Night A DJ Saved My Life: The History of the Disc Jockey, I expected it to be a history of popular music on the radio. After all, when one encounters the term “disc jockey” the mind generally doesn’t jump to an image of a man behind a set of turntables, pulsing lights and thudding bass abound – but this is in fact the type of DJ authors Bill Brewster and Frank Broughton are referencing in their 1999 release.

The radio DJ does get a fair shake in the book, providing context for the history of bringing music to the masses.The focus, however, is a thorough history of dance music and its accompanying culture in the US and UK.

Northern soul is the first trend to be covered, revealing a culture of obsessive collecting of obscure tracks partying until the break of dawn. A celebrated example of northern soul is R. Dean Taylor’s “There’s A Ghost In My House” – a surprisingly gritty Motown track from 1967.

Next to be covered is raggae, with its early remixes and soundclashes. Elements from both the raggae and northern soul scenes paved the way for the two most expansive genres of DJ-led phenomena, disco and hip hop. Brewster and Broughton set the record straight on the origins of these genres and shine a light on their far-reaching impact on both culture and music.

Later forms such as house and techno are also covered, with the final portion of the book tying everything together and offering commentary on the then-current state and future of dance music. At the book’s press time, late-90s dance music was cracking into the American mainstream with acts like Fatboy Slim, Moby, and the Chemical Brothers, but the authors did not comment on the trend, instead focusing on the more established UK/European success of acts like Sasha and Paul Oakenfold.

Though I’d consider myself a dabbler at best in the field of dance music, Last Night A DJ Saved My Life was a a great read. Brewster and Broughton make even the most foreign of experiences seem accessible while seamlessly providing snapshot after snapshot of cultural history.