ReCue Album: Grace Jones: 1981
1981: Grace Jones Nightclub (collage by Laura Fedele for WFUV)
Ahead of Thursday, August 26, 1981 WFUV’s Throwback – dedicated to albums celebrating their 40th anniversary this year – all month long on “Album ReCue”, we dive deep into a few 81 releases chosen by our FUV hosts on weekdays. Above listen Alisa alithe conversation with Eric Holland on his selection, Grace JonesThe ambitious, genre-defying fifth album Nightclub, and lower, Kara manningpreview of this version.
Once upon a time, the magic was on at Compass Point Studios in the Bahamas: two of FUV’s four 1981 “Album ReCue” selections this month were made there simultaneously – the eponymous debut of Tom Tom Club and Grace Jonesthe fifth flagship album of, Nightclub.
Forty years after Jones released this behemoth of an album, which is chock full of tense erotica and insatiable reggae, dub and funky rock grooves, it still sounds damn contemporary. Born in Jamaica, nurtured in Paris and conqueror in New York, Jones had as dazzling impact as Jean-Michel Basquiat or David Bowie, reigning over her own planet Grace of music, fashion and the art of performance.
On stage, Jones’ iconic androgyny, towering setting, towering contralto, and theatrical physicality were fascinating to see. She embraced gender fluidity and queer culture as a post-punk Marlene Dietrich; a joyous release blow for Jones, a gender overwhelming black woman who rocked early ’80s rock and pop with breathtaking ferocity.
Produced by Island Records founder Chris Blackwell and Alex Sadkin, Nightclub followed Jones’ ‘disco trilogy’ in the late 1970s (Wallet, Fame, and Muse) and the 1980s Warm faux leather, which marked the first time she worked with Blackwell and Sadkin and waded into New Wave and post-punk. A son Warm faux leather, Jones was ably assisted by one of the greatest backing groups of all time, the self-styled Compass Point All Stars of drummer Sly (Dunbar) and bassist Robbie (Shakespeare), Wally Badarou on keyboards, guitarists Mikey Chung and Barry Reynolds, and “sticky” percussionist Uziah Thompson.
“Chris took all of my different worlds and glued them all together to create the Compass Point All Stars – the French erotic side, tangy rock ‘n’ roller, Jamaican drums and bass, androgynous android electronics.” wrote Jones in his memoirs of 2015, I will never write my memoirs.
On the nine tracks NightclubJones includes five covers, but she didn’t just cover songs; she hauled them up like an installation of barbed wire, smoking cigarettes and soft kisses. With a clever mix of husky wit, regal sensuality, and even a little menace, songs like Sting’s “The Demolisher” or Bill Withers’ “Use me” became thorny deep-sea creatures that roamed the underground clubs in the depths of the night. Jones looked absolutely like nothing – or anyone – else.
that of Jones “Pull yourself up to the bumper” co-written with Kookoo Baya and Dana Manno, is a nagging directive of literal “self” erotica, with double meanings nestled against slips of synths, bass and even cowbell. It is still, even today, a radical rotation. Another Jones original, “Art Groupie”, co-written with Barry Reynolds, came following an argument with her then-boyfriend Jean-Paul Goude, a photographer who also collaborated with Jones on his surprising style. (The song’s lyrics also inspired the title of I will never write my memoirs.)
There are also comeback musings, most notably the fragile revival of Marianne Faithfull and Barry Reynolds. “I did it again” wrapped in muted horns and shimmering touches, which illuminate a deeper dimension of Jones’ voice: her airy, unpredictable beauty.
“Some records, you can hear some sort of influence, sometimes just a sound, sometimes the whole feeling – but that’s not surprising, because so many people still say these are the best records they’ve ever heard, these Grace Jones collections that we made, ”said Sly Dunbar Done Mag in 2014. “And yes, I’m proud of them. If you listen to these songs again, how sweet the vocals are, how each part fits together, you can hear that everyone was just grooving, even the sound engineer – he could balance the song perfectly, even while we played it live. It shows you how everyone who feels good in the studio makes a great record. I always listen to the songs myself all the time, I’m always going to catch people, say “listen to this song!”
The dazzling Jones, the subject of Sophie Fiennes’s 2018 documentary “Bloodlight and Bami” will be the curator of the 27th London edition Southbank Center “Fusion” in 2022 (rescheduled from 2020 due to the pandemic). So far, she has chosen artists like Solange, Peaches and Baaba Maal to perform at the event. (Former Meltdown Conservatives have included David Bowie, Robert Smith and MIA)
But without a doubt, the most anticipated performance will be that of the Incredible Grace herself: vibrant, visionary, and absolutely impossible to emulate.
WFUV’s Recue Album: Grace Jones Nightclub