Tuesday, May 01, 2012

BOOK WEEK: The Deejays

The book The Deejays by Arnold Passman was first published in 1971. I own it in hardback and my copy is a former property of a library complete with tape parks, tears and missing pages. This single book has probably led to most blog posts than any other. It's a radio history from 1911 to about 1970 told as a narrative about DJs and radio programming as vectors of cultural change. Everyone knows what Alan Freed did for Rock n' Roll but there are thousands of lesser figures who also contributed to incremental change. It is a kind of book that no one else has ever tried to write and honestly, The Deejays is so thorough there isn't much need.

Billboard magazine raved over the book. Reviewer Claude Hall wrote: "The book is must reading for everyone in radio. Record Promotion men and those men who've been closely associated with radio over the years will find the book fascinating too." Passman has been quoted in probably hundreds of other music industry books. He even appears in the Encyclopedia Brittanica.

What's most interesting is that the author, Arnold Passman, isn't even a radio man. He was a staff writer for playboy and Scanlaris  magazine. He's also been a freelance writer and a publicist. I wish I knew more about him, but from the text I'd assume he was a rock fan. The book has been lightly criticized for ignoring country radio and soul, to focus on rock n roll but for a book covering multiple decades I think it's as comprehensive as can be expected.  The Deejays has come back into print this year in a digital edition with a new afterward by Passman.