Published on February 27th, 2012 | by Mark Doogan
NORMAN JAY MBE
I do bang on a bit about Notting Hill in my writing, and what?! It’s a musical hub. Without Notting Hill, some of the greatest music ever to grace planet earth wouldn’t exist. There is one man I consider to be the musical face of Notting Hill, some of the best days and nights out I’ve ever had have been when he has played; Norman Jay be his name. Most people with half a Scooby about music know who Norman is. Him be the man with the Rastafarian hat playing big tunes to every man and gyal dem.
Norm is well known for having a deep and diverse knowledge of music. What distinguishes him from his peers is his refusal to be restricted to playing any single genre, if you have ever heard the phrase ‘rare groove’ before, then you can think Mr Jay for that. It was when he joined radio station Kiss that he came to prominence. During the stations pirate days, he presented shows alongside station founders, Gordon Mac and George Power and when, in 1990, Kiss was granted an FM license, he hosted the first of his now legendary ‘Musiquarium’ shows. Not long after that he joined Gilles Peterson at his then new and now highly influential label Talkin’ Loud. Having also had a decade with BBC London where he had a loyal following with his show for well over a decade, he became a face on the radio.
But what he is best known for these days is his legendary Good Times Sound System. Norm always had a sound system at the Notting Hill Carnival in some way, shape or form and in the late 90’s he started the Good Times brand with his brother Joey. He came up with the novel idea of getting an open top double decker bus, sticking some turntables on the top deck, stacking a sound system either side of it and toying with up to six thousand revellers over two days of the Notting Hill Carnival. He gets bumba claarts shaking all day on both days, ripping through every genre you could imagine. His genre blending skills are unmatchable in my opinion. Nowadays Good Times is a brand, the concept has now spawned a series of CD compilations mixed by the man himself and numerous club nights fronted by Norman himself.
Now a few people will know that I’m currently on my travels and whilst in Sydney for Christmas and New Year, I had one of the best days of my life. Guess who was responsible for that?! You guessed it! Story goes, just before New Year’s, in Time out Sydney, in the gig listings, I saw a photo of the Good Times bus and next to it, it said, Norman Jay and the Good Times bus @ Sydney Festival, 6th January. I literally came in front of my travel buddies. One of them very nearly got a pearl necklace, the other one would of got a pearl tiara has she not been as excited as me. Norman Jay, in the sunshine, epic 8 hour set right up until 11pm. SAVAGE!
Savage it was, I arrived in Hyde Park, Sydney and there ya go, Norman Jay, double decker in tow, sweet. Arriving, I heard ‘Ghost Town’ by The Specials. 8 hours of boogaloogaling had begun. A big crowd had turned up and all day long he had us all (which was 12 thousand strong by 11pm!!!) bubblin’ the day away. Highlights were, being able to smoke herb without the overly busy Sydney PD being their usual busy cuntish selves and Norm playing Amy Winehouse ‘Tears Dry On Their Own’, so many people singing such a great sing sent shivers up my spine. Truly amazing.
At Carnival, Good Times ends at around 7pm as the surrounding residential area dictates that the music can’t go on too late out of respect to the people that live in the area. But being in the middle of the central business district in Sydney negated this early finish malarkey and the sun set to an amazing laser and light show. This is when Norm upped his game; he started unleashing dome serious jungle riddims. I wondered if half the people there had ever heard of jungle? Doubt it. Suitably stoned and pissed out my face I put my shades on and raved the night away, only stopping my swinging leg movements to cheer when Norman got on the mic to say ‘were straight from the streets of Notting Hill’…….proud? Hell yeah I was. Reppin’ all manors bread bin!
Finally, I dare anyone to challenge Norman Jay in a musical quiz. You would not win. He knows more than you, never ask why, he just does. Everyone can learn a lesson or two from this man. Check out his lecture for the Red Bull Music Academy below and make sure you hang on his every word. Only then will you realise why his name is Norman Jay MBE.
What’s your view? Let us know in the comments section below…