“A Raleigh Chopper fanatic, sound system supremo, founder member of Kiss FM, former Talkin loud guru, all round celebrity and man of the people What more do you want?”
That was the paragraph that headed yet another great piece in a recent edition of Muzik Magazine acknowledging the influence and Djing accomplishments of the legendary Norman Jay.
A self confessed “Beetle” baby born in London of West Indian parents, the young Jay had nurtured latent Djing ambitions even from the tender age of 8 years old. By then, encouraged by a very musical family background, he had bought his first record and played at his first gig, a 10th Birthday party of one of his cousins. As young as he was, the music scene, especially the powerful and exciting R&B coming out of late 60’ Black America by the likes of Aretha Franklin and James Brown, was to have a profound effect and cemented his love of all kinds of black music forever.
By the late seventies, Jay had become an avid collector of American black music collecting the likes of Motown, Stax, Atlantic and Jazz, including his passion, “The sound of Philadelphia.” He had experienced the rise of the Disco phenomenon first time around, and at first hand having visited his American aunts and uncles for the first time (one of whom was an accomplished Brooklyn DJ himself) in New York, staying for several months visiting all the clubs that mattered, including the legendary Paradise Garage, forging lasting friendships with the likes of the late Larry Levan, Tee Scott and latterly David Morales, Tony Humphries and Louis Vega years before any of them were heard of in the U.K.
It was around this time, inspired by that New York trip, that Jay decided to take his Djing more seriously. He then teamed up with his brother Joey and built the legendary Good Times sound system, playing out at the famous Notting Hill Carnival to much acclaim. By now his reputation was beginning to grow, he had amassed a huge following, attracting crowds of up to 2,000 people wherever he played. This led to an invitation from his long time DJ friend Gordon Mac to start up their own pirate radio station called Kiss FM. Because of his influence and the respect he was afforded from fellow DJs he became the catalyst for attracting the likes of Jonathan More and Matt Black (Coldcut), Jazzie B (Soul II Soul), Radio 1’ Danny Rampling and Trevor Nelson, Talking Loud’ Giles Peterson, Lisa I’Anson (none of whom had much radio experience, being recruited by Jay Long before any of them had become household names) and many other famous DJ names to the station including his original partner and protégé, the ubiquitous Judge Jules.
It was this DJ partnership that led directly to the emergence of the now famous “Rare Groove” scene. A term coined by Jay after his now legendary “Original Rare Groove Show” on Kiss FM. Affectionately known as the “Godfather”, his shake and Fingerpop outfit were the leading purveyors of this scene playing all types of old hard to find and popular new music, including the earliest house records, and were responsible for the very first warehouse parties ever stage in London, preceding the Acid House explosion by some three years.
The nineties had dawned and now it was time to move on. He hosted the very first legal broadcast on Kiss FM, when they won their license, started the very first Garage style club in the UK called High on Hope bringing over the likes of Tony Humphries, Marshall Jefferson, Blaze, Ten City and Adeva for the first time ever to the UK and was responsible for reviving interest in the old skool disco divas, such as Jocelyn Brown, Chaka Khan, Loleatt Holloway, Sharon Redd and the late Gwen Guthrie, all of whom appeared frequently at his club.
By now Jay had become a much respected household name on the U.K dance scene. He was head hunted by Polygram to start a new label called Talkin’ Loud with Giles Peterson, Galliano and Incognito. After three successful years there, he left to pursue his increasing DJ commitments around the world, annually touring places such as Australia, USA, Canada, Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan, and Europe, playing a wide range of dance and black music to ecstatic audiences everywhere. He has played in just about every major city in Europe being one of the first major club DJ’ ever to do so.
He is also the doyen of the “stars”. Their favourite DJ, playing for the likes of Mick Jagger at his fiftieth birthday party, Michael Caine, George Michael, Paul Weller (who is often quoted as saying Jay is his favourite DJ), Lenny Henry (who reputedly modelled his pirate radio DJ character on Jay) Vivienne Westwood and Gaultier and many big showbiz fashion parties during London fashion week and is often booked to play at big film premiers, including 101 Dalmatians, Judge Dredd and Enemy Of The State. He also DJ’d at the launch parties for the new Sky Digital TV Network at Battersea Power Station, Tommy Hilfiger, Elite Models 10th Anniversary and the Brit Awards after party.
With the rise of U.K. dance culture, Jay has again found his niche, being extremely popular with a new generation of dance fans up and down the country whether it’ playing house and garage, drum and bass or plain old skool jazzfunk or hip-hop. He has still managed to maintain his musical roots whilst being right up there with the best of today’ musical roots whilst being right up there with the best of today’ most popular DJ’. Often cited as a major influence on a host of today’ top names in the world of DJ’ and producers, from Farley and Heller to Judge Jules and Seb Fontaine, he truly is “The DJs DJ”. Bands including Jamiroquai, Brand New Heavies and The Young Disciples have all cited Jay as a major influence often inviting him to play at their live gigs.
Featured in Mixmag’ top 100 Dj’ in the world and one of the Face magazine’ most influential club culture figures of the decade, amongst numerous other accolades attributed to him, Jay’ contribution to the music scene is second to none. Featuring regularly on television, radio and magazine programmes about black music or dance culture, Norman Jay, a recognised authority on club culture, is considered by many to be “The People’ DJ” because of the width and breadth of his Djing style. “A clubland institution” the Face once called him.
Apart from a very hectic DJ schedule playing house and funky gigs worldwide, he was again voted club DJ of the year 96/97 by Blues and Soul magazine and is the only DJ featured in the Face magazine’ book on club culture extracts from 1980-1997 called “Nightfever”.
He has also just released yet another eagerly awaited double CD mix album this time for the outrageously glamorous Miss Moneypenny’ in Birmingham. This complements his already hugely successful and cult Philadelphia compilations and Journeys by DJ CDs.
At present he is producing new material for his own imprint, Good Times, and has also resumed a highly successful broadcasting career on London’ GLR radio 94.9 with a hugely popular black/dance music show called Giant 45 (Sundays 7pm – 10 pm).