Book review: Calvin Harris: The $100 Million DJ

Calvin Harris performing at T in the Park last year. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
Calvin Harris performing at T in the Park last year. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
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Premature tribute to Scots DJ needs more in the mix, writes Fiona Shepherd

Calvin Harris: The $100 Million DJ by Douglas Wight | Black & White Publishing, £9.99

CALVIN Harris has been in the public eye for less than a decade and is still only in his early thirties but that figure in the title appears to be reason enough to spin out this story-so-far biography, which traces his rise from supermarket shelf-stacker in his native Dumfries to highest paid DJ in the world and subsequent “brand” transformation from self-confessed “lanky geek” Adam Wiles with his collection of garish hoodies, home-made fly-eye shades and battered Amiga computer to the tanned, Armani-wearing, LA-domiciled Calvin Harris, now as slick and streamlined as his music.

The problem, however, is that the statistics are more remarkable than the story – breaking Michael Jackson’s record for most top ten singles off one album, let alone his net worth in comparison with other more “starry” artists or his extensive reach on social media. Beyond this, journalist Douglas Wight does not have a wealth of material to draw on, landing few interviews with anyone who could provide much insider insight, and feels obliged to fill pages by inflating the significance of forgotten social media spats, Jedward japes and dry anecdotes.

Thanks to the impressions of a couple of former Dumfries pals, he manages to sketch a picture of a pretty ordinary adolescent, obsessed with football and music and self-conscious about his height. But the rags-to-riches story which follows is entirely conventional – the early single-minded dedication to his ambition, the rejection letters and disillusionment, his accidentally astute use of Myspace, then sudden success within a matter of months – enough to make a pretty banal montage should they ever make the film of Harris’s life.

Harris’s voice is present throughout in the form of harvested quotes from his early unguarded interviews and, later, his unfiltered outbursts on Twitter, which suggest a quick temper and an outsider’s sense of inadequacy – that old motivation – but, like many a premature biography, the story cuts out just as Harris is hitting an interesting chapter, as one half of an unlikely but undeniably powerful couple with Taylor Swift.