Norman Jay MBE is no less than a UK DJ icon. A first generation Black Briton born into a Notting Hill-based Caribbean family, Norman first came to wider attention via London’s mid-‘80s Rare Groove scene, underpinned by his ‘Original Rare Groove Show’ on the city’s then pirate dance music station Kiss FM, having initially set out his stall via annual appearances at the Notting Hill Carnival, where his brother, Joey, re-branded his Great Tribulation Reggae sound system to the Funk / Disco / Soul-geared Good Times Roadshow.
DJ Les Adams, regarded as one of the UK’s mixing pioneers, died suddenly last Monday of a heart attack – he was 63.
When I was over in Australia last November I was interviewed by Gilles Peterson for his series ‘The Psychology Of DJing’ as part of the Sydney Electronic Music Conference. It was an interview that covered many aspects of my career, much of which I’ve spoken about on numerous occasions previously. However, there was a different context to this – most of the time the interviewer is much younger than me, so they didn’t personally experience the times I’m talking about and the way things worked back then in the specialist areas of black music, whereas Gilles comes from the same roots as me, part of the next wave of DJs that followed-on from the Jazz-Funk era, when I first emerged on the specialist scene.
John Grant, one of the UK’s leading black music DJs of the late-‘70s / early-’80s died last month – he was 71. Apart from his family and close friends, his passing went largely unnoticed – his legacy somewhat forgotten. This is because he retired from DJing in 1981, right at what was seemingly the peak of his powers, completely disappearing from sight as he moved to the South coast, as the legend at the time was told, to become a lighthouse keeper, or, in another version, a harbour master (the truth seems to be that he moved to Peacehaven to work for a Hovercraft company).
In the summer of 1978, when I was 18, I went out to Denmark and then onto Norway, plying my trade as an ‘International DJ’, having secured bookings via I.D.E.A. a Copenhagen-based agency specialising in bringing British DJs out to Europe on monthly contracts – of which there were many, Norway seemingly invaded in the process, the English language deemed authentic with the microphone still a DJ essential. Having stopped off in Denmark (via Holland and West Germany) I’d taken the car ferry across to Norway. I wasn’t supposed to head to Skien, the small Norwegian city I ended up in, but after arriving there the police had searched my car on the docks, undoing bits from under the bonnet but not putting them back, which caused problems for someone of my limited ability when it came to the workings of an engine. As a consequence, 50 miles on my car broke down on route to the North of the country, resulting in my agency hastily re-arranged things so I could play somewhere closer to hand while my car was repaired. So, by fate or accident, Skien by default became my destination, initially playing a few times at a venue called Galaxi, whilst I waited to start a one-month residency at a club called Lines (pronounced Lena’s).Continue Reading →
Running Back, the German dance label headed up by DJ Gerd Janson, re-issue one of the first tracks I ever worked on today, 34 years on from its original release in 1984.
The Queen is dead. Aretha Franklin, born in Detroit 76 years ago, and destined to be acknowledged as ‘The Queen Of Soul’ following her late-‘60s breakthrough, was the daughter of minister C.L. Franklin, developing her vocal prowess in the church, before embarking on a secular career in 1960, when she was 18.
Dave Haslam’s new book, ‘Sonic Youth Slept On My Floor’ has just been published by Constable. It’s an ode to his time in Manchester, from 1980 when he arrived in the city from his Birmingham home to study English Literature, right through until what he’s been up to in more recent times, but as you’d expect given Dave’s Haçienda legacy, particular emphasis is placed on his time as DJ at the much-hallowed venue, and the clubs that orbited around it.
I received a copy of the new Late Nite Tuff Guy remix 12” through the post recently. Issued by Salsoul, the classic New York label that unleashed numerous dancefloor gems between 1974-84, including the very first commercially available 12”, ‘Ten Percent’ by Double Exposure (1976). LNTG’s 12” included another Double Exposure favourite, ‘Everyman’, plus ‘Dr Love’ by First Choice, both of which have been huge for me, having received digital copies in the last couple of years – ‘Everyman’ topping my ’20 Choice Edits & Reworks’ selection for 2017, whilst ‘Dr Love’ featured on the 2016 list:
Tony Williams, the accidental UK catalyst for the fusion of Jamiacan Dub and New York dance music during the early-‘80s, sadly died on April 30th. Tony has received scant acknowledgement for this, and it wasn’t until I interviewed him in 2004 that he became aware of this legacy, resulting from the underground popularity of the self-released ‘(Money) No Love’ (artist credit Bo Kool, and arguably the first UK rap recording) and its instrumental flip side ‘Love Money’ (artist credit Funk Masters) pressed up in 1980 on a label named after his daughter, Tania – his production debut. When I commenced my Discotheque Archives series for DJ Magazine, the first edition featured ‘Love Money’ as the Classic Single: