King Bee Records - since 1987 - Wilbraham Road, Chorlton-c-Hardy M21

I was wandering past Kingbee Records in Chorlton the other day when I spotted this in the window:

The Deaf Institute website explains that the event is a ‘launch party’ for a compilation of the same name being released by Strut.

The ‘launch party’ will, doubtless, be another ‘The DJ Is The Star’ event, with the crowd jetissoning their own response to the music in overwhelming deference to the taste-maker whom they have paid £10 to listen to. Mind you – £10 isn’t too steep given Norman Jay’s reputation.

I only became aware of Norman Jay extremely late (…after the queen, judging by his MBE) when my continued searches for a copy of The Voices Of East Harlem’s ‘Wanted Dead Or Alive’ drew my attention to ‘Journey By DJ – Norman Jay’, a compilation released in 2003, which I bought as soon as it came out for this one track:

Voices Of East Harlem – Wanted Dead Or Alive (1971)

I knew the song because my brother played it at Man Alive in the early ’90s and Revolution (Oxford Road) in the late ’90s.

I was entertained to discover a Hall & Oates’ track ‘Maneater’ on Norman Jay’s ‘Journey By DJ’ album… although to be honest the mix isn’t up to much… but it highlights the most attractive aspect of his approach, which is his open-mindedness.

Strut’s website includes this film which is a potted documentary of Norman Jay’s career. I particularly love the ego-puncturing observations made by his brother.

Norman Jay MBE And The History Of Good Times

(Edited from the film ‘Good Times’ 2001 courtesy of Terry Walsh.)

The film describes Jay’s adaption of reggae sound system culture in London to play soul (often old and imported), influenced by New York hip-hop culture… and his progress, via the Notting Hill Carnival and warehouse parties, to radio DJing for Kiss, which enabled him to reach a mass audience down south with his ‘rare groove’, ‘uncommercial’ soul music.

In the ’80s and ’90s, Manchester also had a thriving soul/jazz/funk scene, in which clubs like The Reno, Man Alive, Berlin and Boardwalk all played a part, as did radio stations like pirate FLR Soul (Frontline) and legal independent Sunset. But sadly Manchester was unable to generate home-grown bands or record labels to reflect this movement, as happened in London with Talkin’ Loud and Acid Jazz.

The launch of Sunset Radio in 1989 was very exciting; I imagined that with soul DJ Mike Shaft at the helm, Sunset was destined to become a vehicle for promoting black music in Manchester. However this isn’t quite what happened… Sunset was a community radio station first and foremost, rather than a music station as I had originally assumed, and I would tune in to hear Lainey D’s incessant chit-chat, programmes made for the Chinese or Irish communities, or 808 State’s non-stop house music… exactly the type of music I was trying to escape from. Mike Shaft left in 1990 and the whole thing had folded by ’92 – a wasted opportunity and a bad omen for musical diversity in Manchester.

Norman Jay comments in the film that his London parties were racially and socially very mixed… the same was true of the soul/funk/jazz/hip-hop nights I went to in the ’80s and early ’90s in Manchester, although by the mid ’90s, crowds and events had become more segregated… partly because of the rise of gangsta culture, which was a local problem (within all racial groups) arising out of club/drug culture but was unfortunately reflected and inflated by trends within American R&B/rap music.

I wonder what kind of crowd Norman Jay will attract on October 22nd 2011?

Apparently The Deaf Institute is expecting a ‘reverential’ crowd, which is a bit worrying – it’s a music venue, not a church.