, May 12th, 2014 10:22
Nightclubbing was the accumulation of a work-in-progress, the project being Studio 54 habituee and model Grace Jones' recording career. Having released some largely forgettable disco efforts that operated around the camper end of the spectrum (that's not giving them all total shade, there's some good bits and pieces on them plus Tom Moulton has rarely been involved in producing rubbish), but singing about needing a man in the single dimensional form and thus rinsing the gullible homosexual has never really given anyone much of a career. However, her version of ‘La Vie En Rose’ by Edith Piaf from this era was the seed that Island Records boss Chris Blackwell needed. He saw something that could be formidable, and thus set about helping make that a reality.
While the first fruits of this new direction came with 1980's Warm Leatherette - where Blackwell introduced Grace to Sly & Robbie and the Compass Point All Stars to embark on a new path, ditching the campery and realising new forms around the likes of The Pretenders' 'Private Life', Roxy's 'Love Is The Drug' and The Normal on the title track. Nightclubbing was where all these ideas coalesced into perfection.
And well, that cover. Black, blue, cropped into angles that would actually cut you if you got any closer. That cigarette, hanging there. The genuine 'don't fuck with me' article. Terrifying and entrancing at the same time. In pop music, it takes a lot of effort to look effortless, yet in Grace, Jean-Paul Goude had very little to do really. You look at that iconic image as the point where you can trace the likes of Madonna, Gaga, MIA... so many female artists who have emerged in the last 33 years have elements of Nightclubbing, and Grace Jones in general, in their DNA.
None of them have even got close to repeating this level of detachment and élan. A voice that commands, commanding enough to imagine a certain level of businessman paying millions to be able to grovel at her feet, wanking furiously at each vowel. Rendered helpless as Grace wanders about in full control, flicking fag ash about in an over-designed yet-fiercely-minimal hotel bedroom.
The music - the skank of "Feeling like a woman, looking like a man" of 'Walking In The Rain'; the 'is it about bumming or a car wash, oh no it actually IS bumming' nudge nudge sleekness of 'Pull Up To The Bumper'. The panther-y re-do of Iggy Pop's title track, creating an equal, rather than a pale photocopy of the original. The spindly accordion-lead chanson 'I've Seen That Face Before (Libertango)'. The bit where she goes all French is enough to give anyone the vapours.
One of the key draws to this magnificent package is the unearthing of two previously unreleased tracks. Of those, it's her cover of Gary Numan's 'Me! I Disconnect From You' which is the stunner, and reason enough for anyone to buy this album again. When it debuted two months ahead of the release of this package, it had pretty much everyone in raptures. It's perfect enough to have been in the original tracklisting itself, and the best new old thing on a reissue possibly ever.
As an aside, Gary Numan had also played on Robert Palmer's magnificent Clues album, and Palmer covered 'I Dream Of Wires'. By 1981 Numan wasn't quite as white hot as he had ben, so that may've been the impetus as to why this track wasn't in the original set. Who knows - you could maybe create a playlist that omits Sting's 'Demolition Man' in favour of it. Knock yourself out.
Incredible 33-years-ago. Incredible now - perhaps even more so. Nightclubbing made Grace Jones Grace Jones - the Harty-beating, Conan-starring, James Bond baddie, car-swallowing creature that followed. She could quite simply do whatever she liked after this, and did. It demands a place in everybody's record collection whatever their allegiance, and you'll never really want for anything more than this exhaustive and vital package. What was perfection has become even more perfect.