Dusting Off... Grace Jones' Nightclubbing
What is it?
Released in 1981, Nightclubbing is the fifth studio album by the model, singer and actress Grace Jones. Born in Jamaica, Jones moved to New York at the age of 13 and a few years later began a career in modelling, where her striking looks soon lead her to stints in Paris working for the likes of Yves Saint-Laurent alongside with some legendary photographers, such as Jean Paul Goude and Helmut Newton.
By 1977, Jones had become involved with the disco scene that was emerging around clubs like New York's famous Studio 54, bagging herself a record deal on Chris Blackwell's Island imprint and releasing a trio of disco albums – Portfolio, Fame and Muse – in the three years that followed. By the turn of the decade, however, a backlash against disco was well underway and its popularity was on the wane, and in 1980 Jones released Warm Leatherette, a covers album that represented the beginnings of a change in direction for the singer, mixing reggae, new wave, funk and R&B.
By the following year, Jones had teamed up with production team Compass Point Allstars, based at Blackwell's studio in Nassau, Bahamas, where work began on Nightclubbing. Comprising a mix of cover versions by a range of artists from Bill Withers to Iggy Pop, plus some of her original compositions, Nightclubbing was a more mature offering than any of her previous records, continuing to blend the reggae, funk and R&B vibes on Warm Leatherette with electro and disco influences.
One of the highlights among the album's nine tracks is 'Demolition Man', a track originally written for Jones by Sting, before later being re-recorded by The Police and included on their Ghost in the Machine LP, released the same year. Perhaps the most famous track from Nightclubbing though is one of Jones' own songs, 'Pull Up To The Bumper'. Although it performed well in German-speaking countries on its initial release as a single, many radio stations refused to play the track due to its suggestive lyrics and their sexual connotations: “Pull up to the bumper, baby / In your long black limousine / Pull up to the bumper, baby / And drive it in between...”
Despite the radio ban in several countries, the song's popularity grew on the club scene and became one of her biggest hits when it was re-released in 1985, helped by a boost in popularity following her appearance in that year's James Bond film A View to a Kill, playing the part of Mayday alongside Roger Moore and Christopher Walken.
Why should I revisit?
For a long time Grace Jones was somewhat overlooked as a recording artist, better known to most for her modelling and acting careers, but in recent years she has begun to receive the recognition she deserves. Along with the Trevor Horn-produced Slave To The Rhythm, Nightclubbing is one of the decades most influential albums from a female artist and although it barely grazed the UK Top 40 on its initial release, it was well received by critics, even being named as the NME's Album of the Year in 1981, and its popularity as a cult classic has grown over the decades that have followed.
Pre-dating the likes of Madonna by several years, Nightclubbing's influence can be traced to a host of artists like Lady Gaga and M.I.A., not just in terms of its musical qualities but also in terms of Jones' whole style and appearance. The iconic cover features a typically androgynous Jones dressed in a shoulder-padded Armani jacket and she became a true icon for female artists looking to express their individuality.
Who will enjoy it?
With so many styles on offer there really is a bit of something for everyone here, but if you're a particular fan of disco, funk, reggae and electro, or even the new wave scene, you'll enjoy Nightclubbing more than most.