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.
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The twentieth edition of my ‘Discotheque Archives’ series for DJ Mag is now online, featuring more landmarks in pre-Rave club culture:
Howard Marks, one of the great British anti-heroes, has just made his struggle with cancer public via an interview in the Observer over the weekend, his condition unfortunately inoperable. The 69 year old former cannabis smuggler and author of the bestselling autobiography ‘Mr Nice’, which was subsequently made into a movie with Rhys Irfans taking the lead role, is setting up a charitable foundation – funds raised going towards Howard’s ongoing treatment, as well as the completion of a documentary about him directed by the filmmaker Sam Rowland. You can read the full Observer piece here:
Just finished a captivating and, to my mind, long overdue book, which covers the history of black music in the capital spanning (almost) 100 years, the recently published ‘Sounds Like London’. By bringing all the threads together, its author, Lloyd Bradley has made a telling contribution to our understanding of how British black music evolved, following the lineage of its direct influences in the Caribbean and Africa, in juxtaposition with the impact of African-American innovation throughout the 20th century.
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.
Daft Punk are sitting pretty at the top of the UK singles chart for the first time. The track in question, ‘Get Lucky’, taken from their forthcoming album, ‘Random Access Memories’, came as something of a surprise, for instead of hitching itself to the current EDM juggernaut that’s sweeping America, the French duo have completely bucked the trend by drawing their influence from Disco, featuring its most celebrated guitarist, the great Nile Rodgers of the Chic Organisation (as well as R&B vocalist, Pharrell Williams). A media sensation, it’s everywhere at the moment – on the radio, on the TV, in the clubs and, of course, all over the internet, becoming the most streamed new release in Spotify history. It’s already been re-edited by a whole host of DJs and is pretty much nailed on to be the single of the summer.
Last month I was over in Chicago chilling out in my hotel room ahead of my first gig in the city, at Smart Bar, a venue with a rich tradition, which opened back in 1982. Chicago is, of course, along with Detroit, Philadelphia and New York, revered as a key US city when it comes to the evolution of dance culture (and, indeed, black culture, with, way before House, a deep heritage in Rhythm & Blues, Blues and Jazz, dating right back to the ‘great migration’ of black workers from the southern states, beginning just over 100 years ago).
I started writing this before I headed off on my travels to Hong Kong, Australia, New Zealand and back to Australia again (concluded on my return home, having made notes along the way). I’ve been very preoccupied with time, or, to be more precise, the lack of it – this is where my head was at:
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:
I got involved with Vintage on the back of ‘Music Played In Discotheques’, the mix of tracks I put together from the years leading up to when I stared deejaying in the clubs in late 1975, illustrating an era when disco music wasn’t a genre as such, but the music played in clubs and discotheques. This was something Wayne Hemingway and his son Jack (who’d been to some of my DJ dates) had asked me to do for the silent disco space they’d curated at Liverpool’s Tate Gallery, the centrepiece being an underlit disco dancefloor.