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.
Tag Archives | Mike Shaft
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).
This weekend Colin Curtis celebrates his 50th anniversary as a DJ with a special event at The Exchange in his home city of Stoke-On-Trent. Colin started out in his mid-teens at Newcastle-Under-Lyme’s Crystal Ballroom, before making his all-nighter debut at Stoke’s hallowed Golden Torch, one of Northern Soul’s foundation venues, eventually becoming one of the scene’s leading figures as a result of his legendary ‘70’s partnership with Ian Levine at the Blackpool Mecca. Info about the anniversary date here:
I’ve written / adapted some sleeve notes for the new Joey Negro / Z Records compilation, which I’ve reproduced below. The album is available now on CD and digital, whilst there’s also a vinyl double-pack available, featuring 8 of the tracks, 2 per side. You can purchase the various formats here:
Having just marked the 10th anniversary of my DJ return, I’ve now reached the 30th anniversary of when I cut out first time around at the end of ’83 – my last Wigan Pier appearance on Tuesday 28th December, before rounding things off at Legend the next night. During the same week my final mix for Mike Shaft’s show on Piccadilly Radio was broadcast. Following on from the previous year’s ‘The Best Of 82’, which had caused such a stir, ‘The Best Of 83’ did what it said on the tin, bringing together the biggest tunes I was playing that year. My successor, Chad Jackson (a future DMC World Mixing Champion) would continue the ‘Best Of’ tradition on Piccadilly, with the baton later handed on to Stu Allan – these end of year mixes continuing until 1992.
During recent times I’ve been intrigued to hear about the growing schism on the House scene here in the UK, brought about by the introduction, primarily by young black dancers, of ‘foot shuffling’ (aka ‘cutting shapes’), an increasingly popular style of dancing that has been met with much hostility in certain quarters, and, somewhat bizarrely, resulted in shufflers being banned from some clubs for dancing in this way. The accusation is that not only do they take up too much dancefloor space, but there’s a general ‘moodiness’ with regards to their attitude. Although it no longer seems to be online, there was even an ‘Anti Foot Shuffling Campaign’ page on Facebook, with some of the posts suggesting underlying issues of racism. As one person commented, “It’s not that all these people on here hate shufflers, they just don’t like fact that black people are into House music now.” Although this comment may be well intentioned, it’s also somewhat misguided given there are, and always have been, plenty of black people in the UK who are big into House – it’s just that their presence is usually to be found away from the mainstream, in more specialist avenues like the Deep and Soulful House scenes. Furthermore, some of the older black crowd are also resistant to this new wave of shuffling, so to present it as a purely black / white issue would be wrong.
Exactly 30 years ago today, on 25th February 1983, I appeared on Channel 4’s influential music show, ‘The Tube’, demonstrating mixing for the first time on live TV in the UK – just my luck that the very point I was encapsulated in a cultural moment, it coincided with a brief phase where I looked like an extra from the Hair Bear Bunch, but that’s the way the mop flops. The footage is nowadays fondly regarded as part of British dance heritage, illustrating how the New York innovation of mixing was finally finding favour on this side of the Atlantic, where the microphone was still a key component of the DJs approach. For a full account of how UK DJs gradually put down the microphone and embraced mixing, check out ‘How The Talking Stopped’, an in-depth step by step account of its British evolution:
EDM (electronic dance music), as they like to call it in the US, has never been bigger, America now fully embracing it, having previously regarded it as a little more than a side-issue, always the bridesmaid and never the bride. Now, the more curious minded dance music enthusiasts Stateside, wishing to avoid the mainstream commercialisation of a previously more underground club culture, are, often for the first time, excavating the mid-late ’80s period, when Chicago House and Detroit Techno emerged (finding far more love at the time in the UK and Europe, than in the country of its origin).
One of the defining moments of my DJ career took place exactly 30 years ago, on Monday May 10th 1982, when my first radio mix was broadcast on Mike Shaft’s show, ‘T.C.O.B’ (Taking Care Of Business), on Manchester’s hugely influential Piccadilly Radio, which played a major part in bringing black / dance music to wider attention during the ’70s and ‘80s – from Soul, Funk and Disco, through Jazz-Funk and Electro, and on into Hip Hop, House and Techno. I go into its rich legacy in greater depth here:
You don’t know how happy I am to be able to tell you that, after months and months of chipping away, the new redesigned revitalized Electrofunkroots website is now live and kicking, having undergone a complete overhaul, with loads of new content added. Full menu here: