Norman Jay on Robert Elms



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Norman Jay is one of the biggest dance DJs in the world. His new compilation album, ‘Good Times: London’, is out now on Azuli Records and he will be DJing at Plan B on August 23 and at Notting Hill Carnival August 23-25

  • Norman Jay on Robert Elms

    Norman Jay

  • Between us, I’m sure me and Robert Elms could write the ultimate London clubland history. We’ve known each other for 12 years, since we worked together at BBC London, but we’d heard of each other for a decade before that. He was a budding fashionista, writing for The Face, club promoting. I was doing my illegal warehouse parties, which attracted lots of his friends like Steve Strange. Crackers, at the top of Wardour Street, was the meeting of the tribes.

    New_81 MFL ELMS.jpg
    Robert Elms

    Robert was born two years after me in ’59 but we’re both children of Thatcher’s era and the winter of discontent. We both saw the Notting Hill riots of ’76. Then, in the ’80s, we went our separate ways: he went Spandau Ballet – he actually gave them their name and he would read poetry on stage before their shows. I went James Brown and acid house.

    Fashion is really important to Robert. He wrote a book about it called ‘The Way We Wore’, which I was interviewed for. I know what it was like to buy my first Ben Sherman, my first Fred Perry, so when I hear him talk about it, I think: Yeah, he’s absolutely right, ’cos I was there. He’s always been a sharp dresser. He says he went to Shroom in a suit and was freaked out ’cos all the kids around him were ten years younger and wearing smiley T-shirts. I was at Shroom at that time as well. It’s just that I got with the smiley thing and Robert didn’t. We’re both Westies. Robert comes from Shepherd’s Bush, Latimer Road, and I was born in The Grove and lived in Acton.

    But it wasn’t until I started at BBC London that we shook hands and the circle was closed. Robert’s one of the most listened-to broadcasters in London. He’s great at articulating trivia about London and he’s made me really keen on history. I remember one show: he was talking about how, when they made the Underground, the cutting tools kept getting blunted on bones from people who died in the Black Death. I always remember that when I’m on the tube.

    Whenever I couldn’t do my show on the radio, Robert was the only one I’d want to do it. He DJed at some of the New York clubs like The World and Palladium before I did. I’m a Beatles fan and he can’t stand them – he hates John Lennon and says ‘Imagine’ is the worst album ever – but we both like ska and reggae, the Philly sound, Bowie.

    Robert gets a lot of criticism for his show. Maybe he comes across a little bit self-obsessed, but I know he’s not like that. To me he’s the only person who reflects the London I come from, the London I miss, the London I reminisce about. He is white London, he is black London. He loves reggae, loves ska. We’re both men of the world and, y’know, you don’t become the London cab driver’s favourite broadcaster by being a dickhead, let me tell you. It takes an awful lot. Even I don’t have that level of respect.

    Get Norman Jay's exclusive Notting Hill Carnival podcast.

    The Good Times Carnival Afterparty is on Aug 24.

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ron white
ron white

I was born in 1959 and i am glad i grew up in the 70s i used to go to the 100 club on saturday lunch times does anybody remember the dj his name was ronnie l . He was my hearo at the time along with robbie vincent and greg edwards, i later became a dj doing mainly soul and disco. There is no soul anymore ! i mean the music and the atmosphere that it created those days were great. you dont get soul on the radio .radio 2 has golden oldies on steve wright in the aftrenoon but how often do you here someones soul choice never! it seems the bbc are reluctant to play anything that has any soul anymore just the dross that was pleyed on radio one years ago.. Many people in london iin the 70s were into the philly sound and classy disco. i even go to so called soul funk nights where the djs are nervous about playimg good philly soul and salsoul stuff... kind regards ron white ( the philly soul man }