Abigail Adams and Movin’ records – The Jersey Sound
I’ve had a really fun week chatting to people about New Jersey. Kai Fikentscher – the author of ‘You Better Work’ Underground Dance Music in New York City – commented that there definitely was a sense in the wider New York club scene of a “Jersey Sound”, even before Tony Humphries went to the UK. I was reading Kai’s book when I decided to start writing this blog, so that got my attention!
I’ve also been chatting with a lovely guy called Gary Jardim who self-published a book called Blue: Life, Art & Style In Newark in 1993. It’s been suggested on a few house music forums that this is the definitive guide to the New Jersey scene in the late 80s and early 90s. Gary has kindly put a copy in the post to the UK for me – can’t wait to get it, should fill in a whole load of blanks!
In the meantime, I’ve come across one article in particular that backs up Kai’s assertion and sheds some more light on the history of the New Jersey sound: this 2010 post by Kris Flowers on the House Music Channel blog about Movin’ Records’ Abigail Adams . Kris puts Abigail right at the heart of the 1980s house scene in New Jersey and arguably makes a case for her being responsible for the “Jersey Sound” itself.
Her story takes her from modelling to opening a custom roller skate shop in East Orange NJ with her boyfriend, who would provide an early 80s New York nightclub soundtrack from behind the turntables. I’m pretty sure I couldn’t make up a cooler sounding place if I tried. Abigail clearly wasn’t lacking imagination though and decided to start selling the music that was making the shop so popular as well. So began Movin’ Records.
It’s clear from lots of interviews that Movin’ was pretty much the daytime home of New Jersey clubland from the start. New Jersey’s DJs would all buy records there, Kevin Hedge volunteered in the shop before starting Blaze with Josh Milan and Chris Herbert (annoyingly i mixed up this fact with Boyd Jarvis in my last post – win some, lose some…) and the next generation would come down after partying at The Zanzibar to buy the records they’d heard the night before (see the bit under The Gypsymen).
With all these great DJs and producers in the store and Blaze already well established, the next step was for Abigail to get into the record making business. Just as the Paradise Garage was coming to an end in 1987, an all-star team of Boyd Jarvis, Kevin Hedge and Tony Humphries produced Movin’ Records catalogue number MR001: “I’ve Got The Music”
Later Movin’ songs and tracks like Phase II’s Reachin (another Blaze record) and Dee Dee Brave’s My My Lover (one of Kerri Chandler’s early productions) would become big house hits around the world, but every release on the label was testament to the love and care Abigail Adams had for the New Jersey scene. Here’s just a few of my favourites – I’m sat here dancing in my chair while I post them!
Astonishingly, Abigail’s role in the development of the Jersey Sound didn’t just stop at owning its best record shop and one of its greatest labels. Kris Flowers wrote this in his 2010 article:
In 1989, during NYC’s New Music Seminar (now known as the Winter Music Conference in Miami, Florida) Abigail, in association with Shelton Hayes and Club Zanzibar created “Jersey Jams”. It was a special dance music event that featured unsigned recording artists and some of Jersey’s hottest dance music stars. That event received major coverage in the entertainment section of NJ’s Star Ledger, various dance music publications and Vanity Fair magazine.
The following year, Tony Humphries would leave The Zanzibar and relocate to the UK, bringing the Jersey Gospel to British crowds that couldn’t get enough of it. Perhaps this was where Tony first heard journalists talking about the “Jersey Sound”, but it certainly appears that the seeds were sown much closer to home. Case closed?