One of England's foremost DJs ever since his Jamaican-style Good Times Sound System debuted at London's Notting Hill Carnival in 1980, Norman Jay pioneered the sound of rare groove, house, and acid jazz during the heady days of Britain's increasing ascendancy in the global dance scene. A native of London (though he was born of first-generation West Indian parents), Jay began buying reggae and soul singles at an early age and first DJed at the tender age of eight. During the early '70s, he branched out into funk as well, even as his brother Joey built a reggae sound system named the Great Tribulation in 1975. He also earned valuable mixing skills witnessing sets by the legendary Larry Levan at New York's Paradise Garage (while staying with relatives) and soul weekends in Northern soul hotspots like Wigan and Blackpool. Eventually, Joey and Norman got together, merging their interests in DJ sets that ranged from soul and funk to reggae and dub to disco, broadcast over Joey's re-christened sound system Good Times. After several years playing the Notting Hill Carnival, the brothers' sets became legendary themselves and Norman made the move into radio in 1985. With Gordon Mac, he co-founded Kiss FM, London's best-known pirate station, and Jay's quickly spreading fame helped the station lure in other soon-to-be-famous DJs like Gilles Peterson, Danny Rampling, Trevor Nelson, Jazzie B, and Judge Jules. His own program, "Original Rare Groove Show," helped spawn a movement around the capital, as younger club-kids began looking back to the sound of '70s funk maestros like Roy Ayers, Fela Kuti, and Lonnie Liston Smith, among others.
During the mid-'80s, Jay hosted some of the first warehouse parties -- later to morph into the rave scene -- under the promotional handle Shake and Fingerpop. And along with Gilles Peterson, Jay was one of the most important trendsetters as rare groove became acid jazz during the late '80s and early '90s and once London's club underground went mainstream during the mid-'90s, Jay assumed the role of elder statesman, as apt to be found playing out at one of England's far-flung super-clubs as at a general day-out like the Notting Hill Carnival itself. In 2000, the dance cultists at Nuphonic Records released a compilation of Joey and Norman's top all-time tunes as Good Times with Joey and Norman Jay. ~ John Bush