Rewind album: Nightclubbing by Grace Jones (1981)

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 06 September, 2014, 10:11pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 06 September, 2014, 10:11pm

Grace Jones
Island Records

The story might vary slightly depending on both who tells it and what state they were in on the night in question, but if ever proof was needed that Grace Jones was more force of nature than simply artist, look no further than the Unity party that helped bring down the curtain on British rule in our fair city in 1997.

If you were brave enough and able to bust your way through the members of boy town who had commandeered the area at the front of the Hitec Hall, you would have caught Jones in all her magnificence as she strode the stage throughout her set that night - and then stalked over to fellow headliner Boy George to land a flashing hook to his cheek when he had the temerity to begin spinning his set before Jones had taken her final bow.

Some might question now whether the event was real or imagined, but the story simply added to the aura of one of music history's true enigmas. Jones first emerged from Jamaica as a model and muse to the likes of Yves Saint Laurent in the early 1970s before becoming a fixture of the New York disco scene.

An ice-cool take on the Edith Piaf classic La Vie en Rose in 1977 first alerted the world to Jones' talents as a singer but it was the release of Nightclubbing in 1981 that brought her greatest fame as she mixed elements of disco with the new wave electronics that was sweeping the globe. It helped that her many and varied connections meant the likes of rhythm masters Sly and Robbie came along for the ride, and also that she had a magic touch when it came to finding other artists' songs.

On the catwalk, Jones had been a willing participant in the games played by designers who liked her image to lean towards the androgyny that her long limbs and angular features readily embraced. And Jones' music seemed to want to leave us a little baffled by what, exactly, was going on, with its driving beats and high drama.

Jones would take the work of other artists - either tracks that were known, such as the Iggy Pop-David Bowie collaboration that provided the title number, or lesser known efforts such as Flash and the Pan's Walking in the Rain - and make these songs seem entirely her own, such was the power of her personality. And there seemed to be something a little sinister to the seduction we were being treated to, like Jones was daring us to be just like her, to be a little wild.

That the album charted high all over the world reflects the musical genius at play but there has always been more to Grace Jones than the music. On record or live - whether on stage or even on the big screen - Jones simply demanded your undivided attention.