Sound system legend and rare groove originator Norman Jay helped us to christen reopening in style over the Easter bank holiday. With some uncharacteristically sunny weather and tropical rum-based cocktails, Mr. Jay brought carnival vibes to Stratford on Good Friday. If Pitch had a roof, he would’ve raised it.
Norman Jay started his journey to being one of Britain’s best and most-loved DJs like so many other young music enthusiasts: by raiding his parents’ record collection. Jay’s first introduction to music was his father’s Otis Redding records, and with the advent of The Record and Tape Exchange in his native Notting Hill, Norman Jay quickly began expanding his record collection and his musical horizons.
Starting the Good Times sound system with his brother Joey Jay in 1980 at London’s Notting Hill Carnival, the young Norman Jay quickly started making waves in Britain’s underground music scene. Coming from a Caribbean background and playing mostly afro-Caribbean-centric events, what set Norman Jay apart from the other DJs of the time was his eclecticism and his innovation.
Speaking to Clash magazine in 2015, Jay noted:
“Where I went there was only black music played, but I liked other stuff as well, including The Clash. It was only when I became more confident as a DJ and started running my own events in the mid to late 80s that I threw caution to the wind, broke all of those rules and became probably the first black guy to play those records with impunity.”
It wasn’t simply through such live performances that Jay’s ambition, scope, and rebelliousness became apparent. In 1985 Norman Jay became a founding member of London pirate radio station, Kiss FM. Eventually becoming the mainstream radio-powerhouse we know today, when Kiss started in the 80s it was a very different breed of station.
With sound system culture slowing down and raves enjoying increasing popularity during the early to mid-90s, ever the innovator, Norman Jay moved with the times and began hosting a series of legal and illegal warehouse raves playing everything from Acid House, to the funk and soul he’d grown up with, in legendary venues across the country including Dingwalls in Camden.
Jay’s contributions to music were rightly recognised in 2002, when he was awarded an MBE. Today, when he’s not tearing up stages across the country or running his still-functioning Good Times sound system, Jay manages his Talkin’ Loud record label alongside Giles Peterson.
If you weren’t lucky enough to catch him on Good Friday down at Pitch, he plays regularly across the country and has shows coming up in Brighton, London and Edinburgh over the next few months so be sure to check him out if you get the chance.
All Photos © Dean Chalkley 2018