Apr162018| April 16, 2018
Featuring his iconic breakdancers.
Two panels from a mural that artist Keith Haring painted during the eighties have been installed in a Chinatown storefront, reports Its Nice That.
Haring originally created the 30 panelled, 300 foot mural along the FDR highway in 1984.
The artwork features Haring’s famous dancing figures, barking dogs, and TV set heads.
“In keeping with Haring’s desire to make art available to everyone, rather than in a gallery, we are presenting two of these steel panels that once lined the FDR Drive in a storefront in Chinatown, a neighbourhood Haring frequented from his nearby studio on Broadway.” shares 99 Cents Fine Art.
Untitled (FDR NY) #3 & #4 will be on display through the 30th April at 99 Cents Fine Art’s temporary location at 167 Canal Street. Head here for more info.
(Keith Haring mural photographs by Eric Kroll. // Grace Jones photographs by Robert Mapplethorpe.)
Jan122017| January 12, 2017
From gay disco Queen to badass Bond Girl, Grace Jones is one of the most outré and outrageous artists of our time. With a new BBC documentary on the slate for 2017, Wrongtom collates her unlimited capacity for dub with this one-hour tribute mix.
I think I was eleven when I came home from my local video shop with a massive cut-out advert for a film called Vamp. For the uninitiated, Vamp is a lurid slice of ’80s schlock starring an entirely mute Grace Jones as the titular vampire who adorned the cut-out which soon sat at the foot of my bed. I’d doze off with a green-skinned Grace Jones, baring her bloody fangs and leaping at me.
My love affair with Miss Jones’ music started later but I was already fascinated. Pop anomaly, dub chanteuse, go-go queen, and Zula out of Conan The Destroyer. Chart music has rarely been so good.
I’d later discover Sly & Robbie were behind so many of my favourite Jones moments, and as I delved into music production myself, I found the hidden depths to those Compass Point recordings an endless source of inspiration.
I often spin yarns and ponder my fantasy collaborations but top of my dream jobs list would be a crack at those tapes, I’d kill to get my dubby hands on tracks like ‘Private Life’ and ‘My Jamaican Guy’. Grace Jones Meets Wrongtom? Just saying.
01. Grace Jones – ‘Send In The Clowns’ from Portfolio (1977)
02. Grace Jones – ‘Nipple To The Bottle (Club Cut)’ from 12″ (1982)
03. Grace Jones – ‘Warm Leatherette’ from Warm Leatherette (1980)
04. Compass Point Allstars – ‘Peanut Butter’ from 7″ (1981)
05. Grace Jones – ‘Pull Up To The Bumper’ from 12″ w/ Island’s Genius Of Rap comp (1982)
06. Grace Jones – ‘Party Girl (Extended Remix)’ from Party Girl (1987)
07. Grace Jones – ‘Pars’ from Warm Leatherette (1980)
08. Grace Jones – ‘Feel Up (Extended Version)’ from 12″ (1981)
09. Grace Jones – ‘My Jamaican Guy’ from Living My Life (1982)
10. Grace Jones – ‘Living My Life (Long Version)’ from 12″ (1981)
11. Grace Jones – ‘I’ve Seen That Face Before (Libertango)’ from Nightclubbing (1981)
12. Grace Jones – ‘Me, I Disconnect From You’ from Nightclubbing (1981)
Jan052017| January 5, 2017
Over ten years in the making.
A new documentary about music and fashion icon Grace Jones is set to be released in 2017. Directed by Sophie Fiennes, who has been working with Jones on the film for over a decade is described as having created “a multi-narrative journey through the private and public realms of the legendary singer and performer”.
Grace Jones – The Musical of My Life has been called a “doc-biopic” charting the singer, model, actress and all-round icon’s work with a mixture of intimate personal footage and staged musical sequences.
Featuring footage shot over two dates at Dublin’s Olympia Theatre in September 2016, Fiennes said of the collaboration: “This project with Grace has been an extraordinary journey ‘following the Yellow Brick Road’. We look forward to welcoming her audience to participate in our film and contributing to conjuring the Grace magic.”
The BBC and BFI-backed film looks set to be screened at UK cinemas after Picturehouse Entertainment acquired the rights, Screen Daily reported in 2016.
Jul262016| July 26, 2016
One of the most significant, if not recognised, musicians of the decade, Wally Badarou’s fluid fingers played keyboard runs on classic ’80s records by Grace Jones, Herbie Hancock, Talking Heads and Tom-Tom Club. We asked the man himself to help tell his story in 10 essential records.
Words: Ben Murphy
“I was only doing my music all the way through, the eclecticism of which happened to fit many styles and genres,” says synth pioneer and musical polymath Wally Badarou. You can say that again: this French electronic wizard made an indelible mark on many of the most significant records of the 1980s.
Working with Grace Jones, Black Uhuru, Tom Tom Club, Gwen Guthrie, Robert Palmer, Herbie Hancock, Manu Dibango and Marianne Faithfull, a member of British jazz funk band Level 42, and author of some hugely influential solo records, Badarou’s personality is intrinsically part of ’80s music, his characterful keyboard runs and dreamy pads running like a flawless seam through an immaculate pastel green suit.
A law student before being bitten by the music bug, the Parisian Wally — born to physician parents originally from Benin, West Africa — had no formal musical training and taught himself how to play when a piano was introduced to his family home. Starting out as a session musician, he quickly became an integral player and musical contributor on many key tracks and albums, which would have sounded quite different without his subtle style.
With Grace Jones’ classic Warm Leatherette LP just reissued through Island as a deluxe edition vinyl box set — an album on which Badarou lent his charismatic flavor — we decided to get in touch with the elusive musician and find out more about his journey, while guiding you through some of the key records he’s played on.
‘Pop Muzik’ from 12″
(MCA Records, 1979)
One of the earliest tracks on which you can hear Badarou’s distinctive playing, this funky synth-pop classic is probably one of the best known tracks he’s contributed to. Listen closely, and you can detect that inimitable synth brilliance all over this archetypal, proto-’80s piece.
‘Private Life’ from 12″
Appearing on Grace Jones’ classic album Warm Leatherette (and the follow-up Nightclubbing) was career-changing for Badarou. Though his sublime keys and ethereal synths lift the entire record, there are few moments more perfect than the reggae/post-punk conflation of ‘Private Life’. Grace in insouciant form; Sly & Robbie pulling influences from all contemporary sources; and Wally adding those somnambulant electronic touches, sounding astonishingly futuristic — and Balearic — for the time.
“It was unreal,” Wally says. “One day I was sessioning in Paris, France, usual stuff. The day after, I was meeting Barry Reynolds (of Marianne Faithfull’s Broken English fame) on board the plane that was to land in Nassau, Bahamas, to record then disco diva Grace Jones’ next album, with the likes of reggae aces Sly & Robbie, under guru Chris Blackwell’s direction. Unreal, from start to finish. Needless to say, I didn’t think I really belonged to the picture at first. It took ‘Private Life’ to start making things a bit more real. But even today, I still can’t figure out how we managed to make it all happen, so little was my understanding of what was at stake back then. We just went for the situation, and so did Grace, gracefully.”
‘Starchild’ from 12″
They later became known as a pop band with big UK hits such as ‘The Sun Goes Down’ and ‘Lessons in Love’, but Level 42 started out very much imbedded in the jazz funk dance scene. Wally Badarou was an irregular member of the band, and his funky, futuristic and metallic keyboard work is all over this club hit, helping it ascend to suitably celestial heights. Today, Wally sees his work with the band as being just as important as his solo records.
“I will not compare what my own music – all of it, no favourite, and Level 42 included – means to me, to what does any other contribution. One is my spirit, flesh and blood, and the other, well, as successful as it may have proven, is just a contribution, as honorific as having been a part of it may stand today.”
Lizzy Mercier Descloux
‘Lady O K’ Pele’ from Mambo Nassau
Spirited away to Nassau to work with a crack team of musicians at the legendary Compass Point Studios must have been a tough gig for Wally Badarou. Not. Combining with Sly & Robbie at the recording complex opened by Island Records’ impresario Chris Blackwell, Wally played on this wonderful cover of Bob Marley’s ‘Sun is Shining’ by French post-punk kook Mercier-Descloux, embellishing the keyboard flourishes of the original with an even more Gallic, almost chanson flavour.
“It was a strange combination of relaxation and a hardworking situation [at Compass Point],” reflects Wally. “All within Chris Blackwell’s catalystic and mesmerising environment, that made everyone want to surpass themselves. We hardly expected it to represent what it represents today.” The Compass Point sound, typified by these sessions, was a rich roux of reggae, funk, disco and subtle synths. It was the must-have sound for many artists in the’80s, who upped sticks to appealing Caribbean climes to cut records there.
‘Chill Out’ from Chill Out
As if to prove the influence of that studio – and its expert in-house band – this lead track from the Black Uhuru album of the same name offered a fresh take on reggae. In its digital production, it’s early dancehall really, but Wally’s funky keys lend it that Grace Jones vibe, setting it apart. The album was actually recorded in Jamaica at Channel One, but with Sly & Robbie providing the rhythm, it’s definitely got that Compass Point stamp.
‘It Should Have Been You’ from 12″
(Island Records, 1982)
Another disco diva to record at Compass Point, the late, great Gwen may have been a little more conventional than Grace, but she had more than her share of essential cuts. This number from her self-titled album is a glorious boogie cut brought to vivid neon life by Wally’s sparkling, funky keyboard licks and soothing pads.
‘Mambo’ from Echoes
(Island Records, 1984)
Badarou’s classic solo album Echoes has been a best-kept secret for a long time, though that’s beginning to change. Todd Terje opened his Essential Mix with the track ‘Voices’, and Massive Attack sampled the breezy ‘Mambo’ for Blue Lines standout, ‘Daydreaming’. Characterised by its drum machines, and layered melodic interplay, the Bristol group pretty much lifted the track wholesale, which says a lot about how far ahead Badarou was before the ’80s were even halfway through.
In its entirely electronic makeup, Echoes pre-dated the electronic dance music revolution that was around the corner, while bearing little resemblance to the synth-led boogie or electronic disco tracks that were around at the time. As to the track being sampled, Wally is completely in favour of the practice, providing it’s with the artist’s sign-off.
“On the legal side of things, it was all done with my negotiated approval, nothing wrong with that, to the contrary: I view it as a tribute, and complaining would be the last thing I would think of. There is absolutely nothing wrong with sampling, as long as the creator’s approval has been sought and duly acquired.”
‘Chief Inspector’ from Echoes
(Island Records, 1984)
In truth you can pick every track off Echoes as a highlight of Badarou’s discography, but we can’t ignore this one. Contrary to the rest of the record, ‘Chief Inspector’ is a dancefloor cut, albeit an idiosyncratic one. Prized by jazz funk and rare groove dancers and DJs on its release, the glimmering iridescent sheen of the synths on this cut, combined with its slinky, lowdown electroid bass and thumping 4/4 beats, make it sound like the product of a deep Detroit techno production session rather than something from the mid-’80s.
“The beauty in music – instrumental music especially – is, there is no limit in how it can be interpreted,” Wally claims. “It is, as such, an ‘open work’, as [acclaimed novelist] Umberto Eco would brilliantly put it. It can be quite flattering to realise Echoes is being viewed as a classic, whatever genre fans believe it belongs to. My gut feeling is, it belongs to none, and never pretended to belong to – nor pioneer – any. The primary motivations were never to set a cornerstone in forthcoming dance, acid, cool, Balearic or the likes. As with the rest of my instrumental work, it had more to do with a soundtrack of an imaginary movie really.”
‘Teacher Don’t Teach Me Nonsense’ from 12″
Badarou isn’t just a gifted musician. He turned his hand to production too, perhaps none more brilliantly than with his work on Nigerian funk king Fela Kuti and Egypt 80’s album, Teacher Don’t Teach Me Nonsense. Bringing a great clarity and spaciousness to the brilliant band leader’s performance, the title cut (one of two mammoth tracks on the record in traditional Fela style), imparts a dreamy, horizon-chasing vibe that has Wally written all over it.
‘Wolves in the Urals’ from Words Of A Mountain
(Island Records, 1989)
New age music was deeply uncool for many years but that’s changed lately, with many newer electronic acts such as Oneohtrix Point Never extolling the virtues of the scene, and labels including RVNG Intl. reissuing classics of the genre. As such, Wally’s 1989 album Words of a Mountain is ripe for rediscovery, full as it is with deep synth atmospheres. Wally, a synthesizer wiz from the beginning, has always loved the endless possibilities afforded by the most magical keyboards of the 1980s, and just recently has been creating preset synth sounds for music software company Arturia, and their series of virtual recreations of classic ’80s outboard kit. Just as new age music – and Wally’s later music does conform to this category – has passed back into fashion, so have synths themselves, the favourite analogue kit of past decades fetishised by young producers keen to recreate their timeless sound.
“Synths have endured a love/hate situation from the beginning, only to be now openly accepted as one instrument, here to stay aside their venerable acoustic predecessors,” Wally says, sagely. “Like any genre in music, there is now room for everything, and it is all for the better.
“Regarding the synths of the ’70s-’80s, we could call it vintage-mania. I myself do not indulge in it, and I only kept a very few of them, mainly for ergonomic reasons: the musicians I admire are those capable of creating fantastic music out of any instrument. So I’m quite happy with plug-ins nowadays, they sound better and better, even though prone to obsolescence, like anything in the computer world. To finish describing how mixed everything is, I was thrilled to be recently contributing to the design of Arturia’s new Synclavier V plug-in, the re-computerized version of one of the first computer-based synths in history, at a microscopic fraction of the size and price.”
Jun172016| June 17, 2016
Compass Point and the making of Grace Jones’ Warm Leatherette.
Released in 1980, Warm Leatherette was the first of Grace Jones’ “Compass Point trilogy”, a collection of covers recorded at Richard Blackwell’s famous studio in the Bahamas with one of the last great rhythm sections, the Compass Point All-Stars. Jones “picked songs by the best writers in rock and worked them over good,” the press release read. “Pushing them hard, singing them tough, whipping them into great shape.”
Making the transition from ’70s disco diva to ’80s icon, Warm Leatherette was the record where Grace Jones found her voice – “low and proud and gutsy” – full of patois attitude and a new-found self-confidence.
Taken from the liner notes of the new box set reissue of the album, Daryl Easlea returns to Compass Point to chart the making of Warm Leatherette.
Words: Daryl Easlea
The hamlet of Compass Point is situated on the northwestern coast of the isle of New Providence in the Bahamas; the island is often named in shorthand after its capital city, Nassau, which lies around 10 miles east of the village. Situated next to the St. Peter’s Native Baptist Church (est. 1856) and opposite a shack selling the local delicacy, conch fritters, is Compass Point Studios. Founded by Chris Blackwell, Compass Point Studios opened as a recording facility in 1978. Blackwell was later to suggest, “Nassau has no character. That’s useful for a studio because you can make a record for anywhere your head imagines. If you’re recording in London or Kingston, the environment is bound to influence you. Nassau’s like a blank canvas . . . there’s a high ratio of original records made there.” There is, indeed, little to distract you. And it was here that the new Grace Jones emerged.
Blackwell assembled the remarkable band for what was to become Warm Leatherette. In came this strange ensemble cast, all with something incredible to bring to the table. Inspired by the sounds of recent Island signing Black Uhuru, and impressed by their legendary rhythm section of Lowell ‘Sly’ Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare, Blackwell wanted to develop a reggae sound that had an interesting midrange. “I was after a mix of the very Jamaican, a very organic groove with something technologically brand-new.” According to The Face in 1980, Jones was aware that Sly and Robbie had “a very good reputation” but was “surprised to hear how vital a role they occupy in Jamaican music.”
Sly Dunbar at Compass Point
It was their astonishing playing that provided the bedrock for the sessions, and it came from years of experience. “It’s never hard,” Shakespeare told The L.A. Times in 1982. “We used to play Top 10 music where you have some disco, some funk, reggae and soul all the time on the bandstand in Jamaica. From the moment you hear a singer start singing, you kind of know automatically what kind of feel is right.”
And so, the Compass Point All-Stars came together. Complimenting the duo were keyboard player Wally Badarou, guitarists Mikey ‘Mao’ Chung and Barry ‘White’ Reynolds, percussionist Uziah ‘Sticky’ Thompson. It was, as Jones was to say in 1981, “the united nations in the studio”. These players can be seen as arguably the final great rhythm section after the Funk Brothers, Muscle Shoals, Phil Spector’s Wrecking Crew and the Chic Organization Ltd.
It was, as Jones said to Creem Magazine in 1983, “The first time they had ever played together – and they’ve been playing together ever since – it was such a success. Magic, inspiration. The combination was perfect for me, I got so much from all of them. I don’t think they can make magic for everybody, it depends on the personalities.”
Badarou was key to this mix, effectively the All-Stars MD. He was a Parisian-African, and as a child in west Africa, he had absorbed all musical styles and was as conversant in James Brown as salsa, Santana and samba. Blackwell noted, “he’d played on a few anonymous disco records, which he saw as funk for the masses. He didn’t look down on them.” Badarou added in the variety to the mix, which was further complimented by guitarist Reynolds, a veteran of English blues bands and who had provided such striking, jarring guitar to Marianne Faithfull’s Broken English album. Blackwell was understandably delighted and could see the boundless possibilities of this cauldron. “There were different histories and styles – the reggae rhythm, the rock energy and the new electronic element coming from someone with an African background and yet a European touch.”
Portfolio it was not. As Jones said in 1987, “That was totally different from the way I’d been working before, where all the tracks would already be done and I would just go in and put the vocal down. So when it clicked, there’d be these incredible highs in the studio from doing it like that.” It was the mixture of strange fellow travellers that created this music that did not belong anywhere. It was almost like a musical Esperanto that was cross-border. Was it funk, was it rock, was it new wave, was it reggae?
It was all of these and none of these.
It was Jones herself who added the personality and therefore the magic to these sessions. Her decision to dispense with her previous, more conventional approach to singing was probably THE key factor in the album’s success. Realising that a conventional soul vocal would not work, Jones added her voice as if another instrument to the sound – like her gently plaintive calling for her baby four-and-a-half minutes into ‘Breakdown.’ She was to say this style was “somewhere between half-speaking and half-singing, between expressing emotion and not expressing anything, between telling a story and remembering a dream. It would be better for me to have a voice that suited my appearance, and once Chris had put together these musicians, I found my place.” Anita Baker’s singing with Chapter 8 was a key influence in enabling Jones to “go low and proud and gutsy too.”
It was simply unique: “What I like about my voice is that it really cannot be duplicated,” Jones told NME in 1981. “It is what it is. I couldn’t change it in any other way. Which is good in this business.” Her voice carried the experiences of her life to date: “I think I was just coming more into myself,” she said in 1987. “I found that singing in patois and singing reggae just brought me closer to my roots. Since I’d come from Jamaica in the first place, the style seemed to even fit my voice better. So I used a combination of that with Paris, that sort of urban life feel, fused together.”
This voice that changed everything. As writer Sean O’ Hagen was to say it was a “mixture of the deadpan and the defiant, with a trace of aristocratic hauteur thrown in for good measure – lent this already heady sound a darker, almost Germanic edge.”
“Grace Jones is unmistakable,” guitarist Barry Reynolds told Brian Chin. “The qualities Grace brought were for one, her incredible voice. She has a wonderful voice, a very unusual voice. Grace brought everything – Grace brought Grace to a song. No one else could do a song like Grace Jones, the way no one else could do a song like Billie Holiday.”
Recording began in November 1979, shortly after Jones had given birth to her and Goude’s son, Paulo, who was a constant presence in the studio, being breast-fed by Jones during the recordings. The production partnership of Chris Blackwell and Alex Sadkin, put the classic ideas man pushing the sound along into new shapes with the archetypal desk producer who could capture the moment, mixing as he went along knowing something truly special was being recorded. This strange otherworldly, never-quite-to-be recaptured alchemy happened, the space around the groove, the clarity, the precision, are all there to hear. They were assisted by engineers Kendall Stubbs (who would later briefly be in the band Set The Tone) and Harold Dorsett.
Most of the album was recorded live in the studio, with Jones very much part of the group. This was the absolute beginning – they had not played together before, and they were forming around her. As Blackwell was to note, “there was a tension between each faction in the group that gave the music both its tightness and its looseness.”
Grace Jones’ Warm Leatherette has been reissued as a luxury 4xLP box set and is out now on Universal. Click here to order your copy.
You can hear the full album on an audiophile sound system in London at Classic Album Sundays on Tuesday 21st June. Click here for more details.
Mar162016| March 16, 2016
4xLP set includes unreleased mixes, dubs, instrumentals and remixes.
Grace Jones’ iconic 1980 album Warm Leatherette is to get a deluxe vinyl reissue. The first in a trilogy of LPs recorded at Compass Point Studios in Nassau, the album marked a defining moment in Jones’ career and image, heralding the birth of the ’80s with camp style and a formidable musical attitude.
Brought together by Island records Chris Blackwell, Warm Leatherette was the first iteration of the band Jones would make her own, featuring legendary reggae rhythm section Sly & Robbie, unsung Compass Point star Wally Badarou, guitarists Mikey ‘Mao’ Chung and Barry ‘White’ Reynolds and percussionist Uziah ‘Sticky’ Thompson. Dressed by Issey Miyaki and styled by Jean Paul Goude, with GI cut and padded shoulders, Grace Jones as 1980s icon had arrived.
Released via Island and UMG, this latest reissue will feature the newly remastered original album alongside b-sides, rare and unreleased in-era mixes, long versions and instrumental versions to paint a complete picture of the legendary Compass Point sessions across a 4xLP set.
Pre-order the vinyl here and check out the tracklist below:
WARM LEATHERETTE: ORIGINAL
1. WARM LEATHERETTE
2. PRIVATE LIFE
3. A ROLLING STONE
4. LOVE IS THE DRUG
5. THE HUNTER GETS CAPTURED BY THE GAME
9. WARM LEATHERETTE (LONG VERSION)
From WARM LEATHERETTE cassette ICT 9592 and b-side of 12” single
12WIP 6645, released September 1980.
10. PRIVATE LIFE (LONG VERSION)
From WARM LEATHERETTE cassette ICT 9592 and a-side of 12” single
12WIP 6629, released June 1980.
11. A ROLLING STONE (LONG VERSION)
Issued as a-side of 12” single 12WIP 6591, released April 1980.
12. LOVE IS THE DRUG (LONG VERSION)
From WARM LEATHERETTE cassette ICT 9592 and a-side of 12” single 600
198 (Germany/Netherlands), released May 1980.
13. THE HUNTER GETS CAPTURED BY THE GAME (LONG VERSION)
From WARM LEATHERETTE cassette ICT 9592 and a-side of 12” single
12WIP 6645, released September 1980.
14. PARS (LONG VERSION)
From PRIVATE LIFE: THE COMPASS POINT SESSIONS, released June 1998.
LONG VERSIONS, SINGLE VERSIONS AND REMIXES:
15. PRIVATE LIFE (LONG VERSION 2)
Previously Unreleased Mix.
16. PRIVATE LIFE (DUB VERSION)
From PRIVATE LIFE: THE COMPASS POINT SESSIONS, released June 1998.
17. SHE’S LOST CONTROL (LONG VERSION)
Issued as the b-side of 12” single 12WIP 6629, released June 1980.
18. SHE’S LOST CONTROL (DUB VERSION)
From PRIVATE LIFE: THE COMPASS POINT SESSIONS, released June 1998.
19. LOVE IS THE DRUG (SINGLE VERSION)
Issued as the a-side of 7” single 101.819 (Germany/Netherlands), released May 1980.
20. PRIVATE LIFE (SINGLE VERSION)
Issued as the a-side of WIP 6629, released June 1980.
21. SHE’S LOST CONTROL (SINGLE VERSION)
Issued as the b-side of WIP 6629, released June 1980.
22. THE HUNTER GETS CAPTURED BY THE GAME (SPECIAL SINGLE VERSION)
Issued as the b-side of WIP 6645, released September 1980.
23. BREAKDOWN (U.S. SINGLE EDIT)
Issued as the a-side of IS 49603 (US), released October 1980.
24. PARS 4.22 (SINGLE VERSION)
Previously Unreleased Mix.
25. PARS (DUB VERSION)
Previously Unreleased Mix.
26. LOVE IS THE DRUG (12” SINGLE REMIX)
Remixed by Paul “Groucho” Smykle at the Fallout Shelter.
Issued as the a-side of 12” single 12 IS 266, released February 1986
27. PRIVATE LIFE (12” SINGLE REMIX)
Remixed by Paul “Groucho” Smykle at the Fallout Shelter.
Issued as the a-side of 12” single 12 IS 273, released May 1986
Jun032015| June 3, 2015
Our June show.
Our monthly residency on Soho Radio is an all-vinyl excursion into the deepest corners of the VF magazine, interesting bits and pieces released from the label and loads of records from our own collection. Catch us every first Monday of the month from 12pm-2pm on sohoradiolondon.com
Listen to the VF show:
About this show:
Inspired by this visual introduction to Jamaican sound-system culture in Bristol and our Crate Diggers interview with dub-wise producer Wrong Tom, the first portion of this show is dedicated to reggae sounds. We take a look at the grey area between punk and dub before heading into Grace Jones‘ extensive back-catalogue.
We give a couple of new VF releases a spin too: Jeremy Shaw’s hypnotic score to his acclaimed film installation Variation FQ and a song from legendary Clash guitarist Mick Jones’ solo album Ex Libris.
For the second half of the session we turn our attention to revolutionary black poetry, spoken word activism and blaxploitation soundtracks. The very last section features new music from across the board including Nozinja‘s debut album and a recent Dego (4hero) 12″, plus the latest from Paradise Bangkok and Invisible City Editions.
1. King Tubby v The Upsetter – “Blood Of Africa”
2. The Tamlins – “Baltimore”
3. Soul Syndicate – “Stop The War”
4. Wailing Souls – “A Day Will Come”
5. Exiles – “Fussing & Fighting”
6. Linton Kwesi Johnson – “Inglan Is A Bitch”
7. Grace Jones – “Me! I Disconnect From You”
8. Grace Jones – “She’s Lost Control”
9. Grace Jones – “Love Is The Drug”
10. Grace Jones – “Slave To The Rhythm”
11. Wally Badarou – “Chief Inspector”
12. Tom Tom Club – “Wordy Rappinghood”
13. The Mothmen – “Afghan Farmer Driving Cattle”
14. Glaxo Babies – “Who Killed Bruce Lee”
15. Mick Jones – “Bad Mood”
16. Jeremy Shaw – “Variation FQ”
17. Bama, The Village Poet – “I Got Soul”
18. Gil Scott-Heron – “H20 Gate Blues”
19. Lightnin’ Rod – “Sport”
20. Curtis Mayfield – “Pusherman”
21. Melvin van Peebles – “A Birth Certificate Ain’t Nothing But A Death Warrant Anyway”
22. Nozinja – “Mitshetsho We Zindaba”
23. Dego & Kaidi – “Adam Rock Dissed!!”
24. Jeancy – “U Turn Me On”
25. The Paradise Bangkok Molam International Band – “Kwang Noi Chaolay (Manesseh Dub)”
26. Steel An’ Skin – “Afro Punk Reggae Dub”
May282015| May 28, 2015
Supermodel, disco queen, glam rock star, Bond girl, muse and work of art; it’s no surprise that Jones has changed a few lives. From Meshell Ndegeocello to Kim Ann Foxman we invited 11 artists to select their favourite Grace Jones records and explain why.
Almost twenty years ago, Graces Jones played the Wicked Witch in an all-black musical retelling of The Wizard Of Oz. It was a brilliant casting choice but when it comes down to it Jones sees herself as more of a Dorothy kind of girl. “I just go with the flow, follow the yellow brick road. I don’t know where it’s going to lead me, but I follow”, she once explained.
Her carefree attitude has taken her on all kinds of twists and turns. And it’s lead her to trouble, where trouble is public outrage at slapping a television host or a lifetime ban from Disney for indecent exposure. And that’s Jones in a nutshell – she lets the music, and everything else, take her wherever it takes her, even if it means taking off all her clothes.
Growing up in Jamaica she was teased for her ‘skinny frame’ but the yellow brick road took her to the catwalks of Paris, spawning Grace Jones the supermodel. Her striking square-cut look and androgyny also struck a chord in downtown NY, where she performed at Studio 54 and became Andy Warhol’s friend and muse. Success in the club scene paved the way for a record deal with Island in ’77: the formal kickstart to her career in music. Working with Tom Moulton, she released three disco albums (Portfolio, Fame and Muse) in as many years, and garnered a strong gay following with her sexual live show, inspiring the title ’Queen of the Gay Discos’.
The Eighties presented new pastures. By ’84 she had broken into film, working with Arnold Schwarzenegger in Conan The Destroyer and playing Bond girl in A View To A Kill. On the music front, as disco waned, the constantly evolving Jones followed the road to new wave and experimental territory. The result was some of her best known releases: Warm Leatherette, Nightclubbing and Slave To The Rhythm.
Following a relatively silent period in the ‘90s, Jones made a comeback with Hurricane in 2008, almost two decades on from Bulletproof Heart. Long-time collaborators Sly & Robbie were called upon but Wally Badarou, Tricky, Brian Eno, Tony Allen, amongst others, weighed in to help produce a terrific return to form.
To this day, Grace Jones is known as much for her unusual look and fiery character as she is for her music. For this feature, as with previous ones on Prince, Sun Ra, Kraftwerk, Arthur Russell and Bob Marley, we’ve chosen to zero in on the influence Jones has had on specific musicians at specific times of their lives.
Acclaimed genre-hopping bass player and singer-song writer Meshell Ngegeocello is credited with igniting the neo-soul movement. In turn, listening to Grace Jones albums for the first time ignited something deep within Meshell.
Slave To The Rhythm was my invitation to the beauty of interpretation, the power of production and the importance of a clear vision. It’s a fully formed idea, from its musical and sonic approach to the powerful imagery. The interviews felt like small intimacies, listening to her enunciation and her aura of grandeur, I eroticized her, her features, her beauty, her complicated androgyny.
“I was amazed when I first saw Grace Jones. She was the first to take radical fashion out of its predictable Parisian context and bring it into music, where I always thought it belonged…” Jean-Paul Goude goes on to describe their romance as intense and hysterical, he divulges that his money ran out and when he had to go back to work, Grace was the ideal vehicle for his ideas. Work that 30 years later still thrills and excites conceptually, inspiring countless generations and imitations. Most recently, Kim Kardashian’s inspired Paper magazine cover still wowed.
I was living in D.C. when I heard these albums for the first time. D.C., the fertile ground from which the rhythm of this recording originates. GO-GO MUSIC often existed in dark, dank urban landscapes where sex, fashion, competition, comedy, jazz and crime mingled tightly together. We played and we danced with the rhythm and pulse of a unified chain gang, slaving for the hedonistic pleasures I so yearned for, all while I attempted to escape the shackles of obedience to a society that didn’t seem to care about me or a certain category of people and their creations.
Grace Jones was the recipient of adoration and lust by many, including Jean-Paul Goude. My own lust and admiration were inspired by the way he disembodied her, contorted her body, enlarged her head, and exalted her image. Accompanied by a sonic adventure based on a resonant theme, it was intoxicating. I listened non-stop, each track allowing me to place myself in alternate realms: the art world I hoped I would one day encounter, the secret meeting places where men and women where able to escape the drab constructs of gender, paradises I couldn’t even imagine.
More importantly, it was embraced by the proprietors of GO-GO itself. I believe these albums were a testament to a music that Grace Jones truly seemed to feel as deeply as if it were her own. Grace Jones, like Nina Simone, had that gift – to make something other sound and feel like her own. She so embodied the song, and whether singing or speaking, her voice is a vibrant instrument and the connective force between a killer track and someone dying for connection, someone outside “normal”, someone looking for an inside of their own. I am a Grace Jones disciple, and one who still appreciates those who can navigate the burden and beauty of pop songs without losing themselves along the way.
Apr172015| April 17, 2015
From cosmic disco to after-hours techno, Phonica Records have spent the last 10 years refining their wall of vinyl to become the most on it resource for DJs.
Ahead of Record Store Day tomorrow, we dropped into Phonica for the inside tip on the best dance-oriented RSD exclusives to add to our 2015 shopping list.
There are a handful of unmissable 7″s going around including a Loose Joints (Arthur Russell) rarity; some classic Dilla; and Jamie xx, Four Tet, Koreless and John Talabot all crammed onto one record. The 12″s are just as nice: Todd Terje reworking KC And The Sunshine Band, brand new night-time deepness from Mr G, essential Larry Levan remixes of Grace Jones and Gwen Guthrie, and a splash of synth-soaked funk from William Onyeabor.
Words: Michael Fitzpatrick
Pop Your Funk
Classic Arthur Russell 7″ from the depths of West End’s vaults. Remastered and rereleased for the first time on a 7″ vinyl. It also includes the uptempo freakout ‘Instrumental Mix’. Original 7″s going for up to £200 on Discogs and only 12 people in the world showing they own a copy. Serious rarity.
J Dilla is one of the undisputed kings of hip hop and downtempo production and should need no introduction. ‘Love’ ft Pharoahe Monche was featured on ‘The Shining’ compilation and is now being released for the first time on a beautiful little 7″.
Held/ Burnt (Dauwd & Lumomyr Melnyk Remixes)
Two of the biggest tracks off Kiasmos’ latest album get exclusive remix treatment. UK electronic producer Dauwd takes on ‘Held’, and fellow Erased Tapes artist Lubomyr Melnyk performs a unique re-interpretation of ‘Burnt’ on two pianos in his signature “Continuous Music” mode.
Grace Jones, Gwen Guthrie (Larry Levan)
Four classic Levan disco edits which were Paradise Garage anthems way back when. Taken from the forthcoming Larry Levan compilation Genius of Time, this 12” sampler includes the coveted ‘The Rock’ by Tramaine plus more essential remixes of Grace Jones, Syreeta and Gwen Guthrie.
Amir Alexander, Nicson & An Gelo, Thomas Wood
Subwax RSD Series 2015
The always on point record store from Barcelona releases three stripped back house grooves from Chicago’s Amir Alexander, Spain’s Nicson and Thomas Wood. A well rounded EP that will work on any crowd from sunset to sunrise.
Everyone’s favourite synthed-out Nigerian, William Onyeabor gets remixed by Hot Chip, John Talabot, Love Fingers, Secret Circuit, Oorutaichi and Ikon for one truly international packaged.
Mr. G presents a very special 12″ for the annual record store celebration. A heavyweight piece of wax that has a special message carved in the run out. ‘Music For All’ should be the RSD 2015 house anthem while ‘Hothorpe’ on the other side is a hazy tool for adventurous club situations.
Bring Joy (Youandewan Warehouse Dub) / Youandewan ’93’
Rising star Youandewan takes the reins here with a remix that does exactly what it says on the tin. Perfect for those late nights in dark rooms. On the flip, Youandwean remixes the classic hip-hop anthem ’93 ’til infinity’ from Souls of Mischief. It’s emotionally charged and reminiscent of the golden years of hip-hop. Limited to 300 copies and never to be repressed.
KC And The Sunshine Band (Todd Terje edits)
Record 1: I Get Lifted
Record 2: I’m Your Boogie Man
The Norwegian’s versions of 1975’s ‘I Get Lifted’ and 1977’s ‘I’m Your Boogie Man’ have both seen unofficial release before: the former came out as a white label in 2009, the latter appeared on a Mindless Boogie 12-inch in 2007 credited to Terje’s Wade Nichols alias. This time it’s all official: through Miami’s TK Disco, the ’70s disco label founded by Henry Stone. Both records will feature the original tune on the A-side and Terje’s edit on the flip. ‘I Get Lifted’ is out on yellow vinyl, while ‘I’m Your Boogie Man’ is pressed to green wax.
Jamie XX / Four Tet / Koreless / John Talabot
Continuum is a creative call and response between Sofia Mattioli and Brit music vanguards Jamie xx, Four Tet and Koreless, and the Spanish experimentalist John Talabot. The London-based artist and writer presented her performative silent film made with long-time collaborator Rebecca Salvadori to the four kings of understated electronic music, who in turn wrote an original score inspired by each contiguous two-minute visual excursion. The 7″ also comes with a DVD of the film.
Mar142015| March 14, 2015
A new look at Jones’ pre-Compass Point disco phase.
Before her turn towards reggae-meets-new wave, Grace Jones made her name with a trio of disco albums released between 1977 and 1979. Portfolio, Fame and Muse were produced by disco forefather Tom Moulton and recorded at Sigma Sound, the home of Philadelphia International Records.
The three albums will be remastered and reissued as a vinyl box set titled The Disco Years, offering a disco “time capsule” that is miles — literally and figuratively — from the Compass Point trilogy of Warm Leatherette, Nightclubbing and Living My Life.
The four-LP set includes the original LPs plus an 8-song singles compilation drawn from the 3-CD set; the vinyl tracklist is below. [via FACT]
For more Grace Jones, Joe Muggs looked back on Grace Jones’ iconic Nightclubbing with the people who made it happen. You can also explore The Vinyl Factory’s previous collaborations with Grace Jones, including the vinyl edition of her 2010 LP Hurricane, here.
1 Send In The Clowns 7:33
2 What I Did For Love 5:15
3 Tomorrow 5:48
1 La Vie En Rose 7:28
2 Sorry 4:00
3 That’s The Trouble 3:38
4 I Need A Man 3:25
1 Do Or Die 6:43
2 Pride 6:27
3 Fame 5:35
1 Autumn Leaves 7:03
2 All On A Summer’s Night 4:18
3 Am I Ever Gonna Fall In Love In New York City 5:31
4 Below The Belt 4:55
1 Sinning 5:07
2 Suffer 4:15
3 Repentance (Forgive Me) 3:51
4 Saved 7:09
1 Atlantic City Gambler 5:48
2 I’ll Find My Way To You 5:16
3 Don’t Mess With The Messer 4:51
4 On Your Knees 6:24
1 Sorry (Long Version) 6:45
2 That’s The Trouble (Long Version) 7:01
3 I Need A Man (Long Version) 7:37
4 La Vie En Rose (Short Version) 3:36
1 Do Or Die (12” Disco Version) 6:16
2 Comme Un Oiseau Qui S’Envole (Long Version) 4:31
3 On Your Knees (12” Disco Version) 6:32
4 Don’t Mess With The Messer (Long Version) 6:33
I’ve seen that face before: Looking back on Grace Jones’ iconic Nightclubbing with the people who made it happen| May 3, 2014
Originally published on FACT.
Words: Joe Muggs
Just as you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone, sometimes you don’t know what you’ve been missing til it arrives.
Take the new remastered issue of Grace Jones’s 1981 Nightclubbing for example. The album is one of those things in life that it’s easy to take for granted as A Great Thing – the grooves of ‘Pull up to the Bumper Baby’. ‘Walking in the Rain’ and the rest the perfect distillation of early 1980s cool, the meeting point between the Paradise Garage, the Blitz Club and the dancehalls of Jamaica, and Grace herself is utterly unique: half disco diva, half David Bowie. It IS a near perfect album, dammit. But actually, all the editions of it that existed to date have not really done it justice.
The new release (out now) is given a full remaster spit and polish, now sounding as majestic as it always should, and includes the extended versions that were so important to the album taking its place as part of the nightlife it celebrated. There are also two long-lost tracks from the album sessions: the original song ‘If you Wanna be my Lover’ (nothing to do with the Spice Girls) and the absolutely killer Gary Numan cover ‘Me! I Disconnect from You’.
To celebrate the album finally getting the respect it deserves, I spoke to three people with unique insight into what makes it so special. Drummer Sly Dunbar (of Sly & Robbie) and French synth expert Wally Badarou were two members of the band that was pulled together for the sessions that would lead to Nightclubbing, and which would quickly become The Compass Point Allstars, named after the studio in the Bahamas where they took up residency, and featured on a whole series of classic recordings. Mark Wood, product manager at Universal Music and long time DJ as half of the legendary London Readers Wifes, was the man with the tenacity to make the new edition of Nightclubbing happen.
Are you happy to hear that Nightclubbing is getting its due again?
SD: Yeah yeah yeah, I really am, it’s something I’m proud of – a really great album.
It’s incredibly coherent, and tightly structured. In the original sessions, was there a masterplan for how it should sound?
Well no, but there was a plan for all those albums we recorded there [in Compass Point], which was Chris Blackwell’s plan. Before that, we had been working on a Black Uhuru album called Sinsemilla; Chris had listened to it and he heard it and was knocked out by the sound of it. So you know what happened? With Alex Sadkin the engineer, he said “listen to this record album and take some of these sounds and let this be the Grace Jones sound because this is good!” And from there everything was set for the sound of Grace Jones.
He [Blackwell] called up me, and Robbie, and Mikey Chung [guitar], and Sticky [Thompson, percussion], all from Jamaica, he got Wally Badarou from France, Barry Reynolds [guitarist for Marianne Faithful] from England. We said “what we gonna play?”, he said “I dunno!” – but he had the engineer in, so we went in with Alex and start playing in the studio, we got a groove, and we thought well, let’s just record what we do instead of wasting time going in and out of the studios. So the first song we did was called ‘Warm Leatherette’ [cover of The Normal’s synth classic which became the title track of the album before ‘Nightclubbing’] and the second one was ‘Private Life’ and we thought “wow!”. So the sound had developed and it was there, just like that.
So Chris specifically wanted the reggae sound, but there was also all the disco, electro, New York club music coming into it – did you know that stuff already?
Oh yeah. We loved dance music, we’d listen to everything, because we were always working and wanting the reggae we did to move a bit forward, so anything that we could drag to it, we would bring that – as ideas, or as musicians coming to play with us.
And what did you think about the European synthesiser stuff that Chris Blackwell got you covering – Gary Numan, The Normal and so on?
We knew the sound. We didn’t know those individual songs, but we listened to them, then we made a great sound. Versions. A funny thing: when we were in the studio with Grace, there was a big picture of her – a big picture, going right across – on the wall of the studio, then she’d be standing there singing, so when we were playing and getting a groove all we could see was her. We took it on that reggae kind of trip, but always with Grace in mind.
I gather you worked fast in those sessions?
Sure. Whenever we got down to do a session we’d stay a month, and sometimes we’d cut 16 songs each time. Sometimes one would stay there for year before it got used, like ‘Pull up to the Bumper’ was cut in the first sessions but didn’t come out ’til ‘Nightclubbing’ a year later. But yeah, lots of stuff was cut!
So you didn’t really have any sense of the album you were making? You weren’t involved in the compiling?
Nah, we didn’t have anything to do with compiling. All we do is go in the studio and get the best groove we could for the record.
For the new release of the album they’ve found these two tracks that sound incredible and could easily have been on the album – did you get a sense of why they weren’t used?
No, I dunno why they never used them! Maybe they just had too many…
Do you think there are more to be found?
Maybe not whole songs, but maybe there’s some other stuff that we didn’t mix but just laid down the rhythms for, a guide vocal there or something like that. There was a lot of that for when Alex Sadkin and Chris Blackwell were deciding the tracks they want.
There was such a wild range of artists that came through Compass Point and collaborated with the Allstars after that – Ian Dury, Talking Heads…
…and Gwen Guthrie – ‘Ain’t Nothin’ Goin’ on but the Rent’ was cut there in Nassau, so was ‘It Should Have Been You’ and some of her other stuff… and Joe Cocker, ‘Sheffield Steel’ was cut there… and Black Uhuru Anthem, the record that won the first ever reggae Grammy, that was cut there too. Yeah, it was a big variety, a lot of different stuff.
And did you have a favourite out of all those sessions?
Well… you know, I generally enjoyed the Grace Jones sessions. It was free, it was so loose and so groovy you know. I enjoyed it all the time we were there.
That sound you got with Grace Jones has kept on influencing other musicians – do you ever hear things on the radio and go “ahhh, that’s our sound”’?
Sure, some records you can hear a kind of influence, sometimes just one sound, sometimes the whole feeling – but that’s no surprise, because so many people still say that those are the best records they ever heard, those Grace Jones collections that we did. And yes, I’m proud of them. If you listen back to those tracks, how smooth the vocal is, how each part fits in, you can hear that everybody was just grooving, even the engineer – he could balance the song perfectly, even while we were playing it live. It shows you how everyone feeling good in the studio makes a good record. I still listen to the tracks myself all the time, I’ll still grab people, say “listen to this track!”
As a kind of house band, did the Compass Point Allstars see each album you were working on as separate projects, or did you just see each track as a new job?
WB: They were separate projects generally, apart from Warm Leatherette and Nightclubbing: back early 1980, we were called upon to work on a single album initially, but things went so fast so well, we ended up recording far more material than could fit one LP. Chris Blackwell decided to keep some for a second album, which eventually became Nightclubbing. Final overdubs and additional songs were recorded during ‘81.
What was the atmosphere like in those sessions?
Strange at first, as initially no one but Blackwell really knew what we were to expect. I flew from Paris, meeting Barry on board the connecting flight in London. We both knew Grace Jones as a disco diva, and thought we were in for something not too far from that genre, even though knowing we were to work with Sly and Robbie should have left us a bit dubious. They, in turn, were questioning our ability to play reggae. Things were a bit tense at very start, to be honest. After recording ‘Private Life’ for Warm Leatherette, things went far more easy: mutual respect was definitely established. But it took ‘Pull Up To The Bumper”s success for most of us to realise something special was happening. Today we are the best friends in the world, even though we never really communicated outside the realm of a recording studio or a concert stage.
Nightclubbing was the intersection of so many threads from disco to reggae to new wave to this kind of Bowie influenced rock – how conscious was this stylistic mixing during the arrangement and playing of the tracks?
I suppose Chris Blackwell and Alex Sadkin were fully aware of it, as they fostered the making of the recording band. We did not individually aim at anything but doing what we knew we were good at, with role models in mind, some of which we could share sometimes: I could talk James Brown, Stevie Wonder, Earth Wind & Fire, The Ohio Players, Kool and the gang, etc, with Sly & Robbie, for example. At that time, we honestly did not realise we were creating a distinct sound that would be looked at as a classic, decades after.
Our multiple activities outside Nassau made us bring in what we brought: as far as I am concerned, playing on M’s ‘Pop Muzik’ made me part of Euro-UK-electro-new-wave from the beginning anyway. That was my music, I didn’t have to look elsewhere. When merged with Sly & Robbie’s phenomenal drive and Barry’s rock approach, the end result could only be expected. Chris expected it, and got it loud and clear. But, apart from those of us who could shuttle between Nassau and New York, little did we know we were having an impact in the US.
Did you feel that the album was conceptualised before recording began, or did its character emerge gradually?
It emerged gradually, from the songs Chris and Alex finally decided should be kept from each of the 1980s sessions. Overdubs had also their impact on the concept, which never was verbally expressed nor discussed. We were not in to make music talking about nightclubbing, we were in to make the best music we could.
Sly Dunbar told me you had a huge poster of Grace in the studio as you were recording tracks – what influence did that have on you?
As far as can remember, we only had a huge poster in 1980, one which eventually became the Warm Leatherette artwork. Jean-Paul Goude did not have the Nightclubbing artwork till late into the mix, the year after. Both artwork had very little influence on me personally, as I looked at each song as its own universe. Personality had a much greater influence on me, rather, starting with Grace’s obviously.
How much personal contact did you have with Grace herself?
Very little at the beginning, more and more throughout the years of course, as mutual respect did not stop growing.
What influence did this record have on you yourself, musically? Were any later projects you worked on directly inspired or informed by it?
The album itself as a whole did not leave much influence on me musically, apart from certain specific things I was unaware I could do till then, like the solo in Walking in the rain, the high pitch introduction to ‘I’ve Seen that Face Before’, the eerie ambience in ‘Nightclubbing’, the funk stabs in ‘Pull up to the Bumper’ and ‘Use Me’, and so on. If anything, it was all the albums put together, and particularly Alex Sadkin’s approach to sound recording and mixing that left a profound impact on me ever since: make everything sound pristine from second one, never wait to “fix it in the mix”. There is not one album I produced ever since which I did not apply that very demanding discipline, it was vital back in the the days of analog recording, when total recall was not mainstream yet.
Do you remember the recording of the newly found “missing” tracks? Were you surprised that they didn’t make the cut for the final album, and are you glad they’re released now?
I completely forgot about them quite honestly. Nothing surprising about it: we had a go at about three times the amount of tracks than that of the songs which eventually made it to the final albums. Some of them we did not even bother having a second attempt to, or fixing the rhythm tracks, others we went as far as doing complete overdubs and singing. I won’t be surprised if they were some more…
As great as those two may sound today, when put into perspective with the rest, I quite respect the fact that they did not make it to the album because, judging the way we were judging back then, they kind of lacked the purposefulness one can find on the initial album tracks. Things have changed since, because any single item belonging to that era is now being perceived with different ears and eyes. I always had mixed feelings about inserted missing material like cut scenes in a song or a movie I used to like without them: it is like underlining things I fully understood without explanation. But in the other hand, I am glad I can re-discover them, and I am glad fans who enjoy bonus tracks can be satisfied with them.
So you think there was more left on the cutting room floor (maybe that you wish had been completed)?
If there was anything like that, I’d be glad to be reminded of it: I really don’t have a clue, but wouldn’t be surprised if there were some. This was over 30 years ago after all, and I don’t even know if Chris ever wrote down the list of the songs he suggested we had a go at: he would come to the studio with a pile of home recorded cassettes, play the first of them and let us try a couple times. If we didn’t have it cooked by the third or fourth attempt, we would simply forget about it, and he would play the next cassette in the pile. It was as basic as that.
Was this a project that you chose, or did it drop in your lap?
MW: Oh god I pursued it! I was after getting this done for a long time – back in 2003 was when I first started looking into it and got the [studio] tape reports. This is before I’d even joined Universal, I’d pitched for it and would be looking after it as an external consultant. All this was purely because I was dissatisfied with the copy I had basically, and because you couldn’t get it!
Sounds like the best reason to do something like this…
Oh and also, there were various versions kicking about. Particularly, various versions of ‘Pull up to the Bumper’ had surfaced, but the version that I’d bought back in 1981 – bought the day I discharged myself from hospital from having my tonsils out, I remember – you just couldn’t get. So it was partly that, and then the packaging on the CD that was available was really really basic, it had never been remastered so it sounded really quiet and thin compared to other things coming out. And, well, it was the NME’s greatest album of 1981, it’s one of the best records ever made by anybody, and I’d always had a bit of a beef with the fact that it just looked a bit sad and neglected.
2003 was a good time to get it underway I guess – that’s just when the whole renewed interest in new wave and post-punk was at its peak.
Yes – and it would’ve been amazing to get it out right then, but the thing is it’s such a timeless record there’s no problem doing it now at all. And who knows, maybe it wouldn’t have been such a nice package if we’d done it ten years ago – as it is, Catherine who put the package together for our international team has made it just really, really sexy. So who knows if it would’ve been better? It did feel like the right time then, but it still does now. What I’m trying to say is, it’s always the right time for Grace.
Appropriately enough, it’s nightclub play that’s kept interest alive, and you’re a DJ too – was this re-release partly aimed at that market?
Well as a DJ I don’t play vinyl any more, but the vinyl edition is on really very beautiful heavyweight vinyl, and we’ve managed to get eight of the bonus tracks on to it – not the full complement, as then we’d have had to make it triple vinyl which would’ve been pushing it a bit – so lots of those extended versions are on that second platter, to use an old-fashioned DJ word. The long version of ‘Demolition Man’, the long version of ‘Walking in the Rain’, which is beautiful, ‘Pull up to the Bumper (Party Version)’, and the unreleased bonus tracks too – so I’m sure that will suffice for vinyl DJs.
I went myself to see it being cut at Abbey Road, the bloke did it on that same lathe they used for all the Pink Floyd and Beatles albums. And if you’re a CD or digital DJ, it now finally sounds as bright and bold as it should do and will stand up against absolutely anything you want to put next to it. It’s always been one of the greatest listening pleasures anyway, and now with the new technology, the mastering finally does it justice.
And aside from the production and mastering, what makes these such good club tracks?
There’s stuff on there for any time, basically. You’ve got warm up tracks like ‘Nightclubbing’ itself, you’ve got ‘Feel Up’ which is a nice kind of slow-burning thing for a midtempo bit of the night, ‘Pull up to the Bumper’ obviously never, ever fails to fill up a dancefloor – it’s never let me down yet in years of DJing – it’s just the kind of record that does its job absolutely perfectly. It hasn’t dated one bit, it doesn’t sound clattery and overproduced like so much stuff from the eighties, it just sounds really classy and cool still. In fact not just Nightclubbing, but pretty much Grace Jones’s entire career has that quality, she’s a really astute artist in the way she’s always managed to make stuff that is just so completely… timeless.
When did the lost tracks come to light?
Well as I say I had the tape reports when I first did the research in 2003, 2004, and what they do is bring the tapes out of the vault and put them onto CDR for you. So I lived with those for a year or so while we were trying to get them out the first time. But what didn’t surface at the time was ‘Me! I Disconnect from You’, the Numan cover, so we assumed that’d been wiped or lost or something. That didn’t surface til the end of last year when some really clever bloke in New York found it; we were completely gobsmacked when we heard it, because it had became a sort of “did it ever exist?” thing.
Was it a mistake on the tape reports? Had they recorded it then wiped it straight away but left the report? As for ‘If you Wanna be my Lover’, nobody knows anything! It sounds like an original song, it’s not a cover by anyone else, it’s just a great little Grace record – either of those two tracks could easily have sat on the original album, and a few of the reviews have even suggested it would’ve been better with them. People really love that Numan cover.
From speaking to the musicians, it sounds like they did a lot in that time, so they just had an embarrassment of riches when it came to compiling.
Well they must have been working so quickly – Warm Leatherette to Nightclubbing to Living my Life is only a period of a couple of years, so they must have been hunkered down pretty continuously creating it as a body of work. And they certainly sound like a family, don’t they? There’s a slight progression between the three, which is interesting. I guess Chris [Blackwell] executive produced, putting all the tracks in front of them, and Alex Sadkin, who’s sadly no longer with us, did a wonderful, wonderful job making the record come to life.
Do you live in hope that there are more hidden treasures?
We’re hoping! We’re constantly looking at ways we can breathe life into catalogue, particularly for our iconic artists, and I will be looking at the tape reports for the other albums… I can’t say anything about what might actually come out, but we’re constantly looking at what we have to work with.
Apr152014| April 15, 2014
Holding things together in Manchester since 1978, Piccadilly Records has rightly garnered a reputation as one of the country’s most vibrant and important record stores. Kicking off our countdown to Record Store Day, manager Philippa Jarman enlists the help of Patrick Ryder to rundown the shop’s top 5 recommended special releases from the 600+ on the list. Look out for the next instalment of our Record Store Day rundown tomorrow.
Long time shop favourites, aquatic spiritualists and new age explorers Seahawks celebrate RSD14 with a special edition of their latest LP Paradise Freaks. Born out of late nights and early mornings under the influence of a lysergic cocktail of Iasos, Woo and our very own psychedelic shaman Matt Ward, Paradise Freaks explores the land beyond the crystal ocean, marrying horizontal drift with organic chug. As ever, the ‘hawks deliver the complete package, chakra aligning sound and brain tingling vision on this weighty pressing.
Down In California (Albion / Psychemagik Edits)
Albion’s extension of The Kingcats’ west coast groover was one of the highlights of Psychemagik’s flawless Magik Cyrkles compilation, and has since become my girlfriend’s favourite song, which is lofty praise indeed. It seems that the head honchos over at Leng are equally enamoured, commissioning an unreleased edit by none other than Psychemagik themselves to share this double A-side. The duo trade the breezy shimmer of Albion’s rework for a purpose built dancefloor excursion with a weighty kick and a long arrangement.
Last year we were blown away by the charm, passion and funk of Big Willie’s style, voting the mystery man top of the tree in our Reissue/Collection of the Year category. Needless to say we were chuffed to see Luaka Bop follow up with this double pack of covers and remixes from a diverse selection of musical talents. Highlights include Hot Chip’s tropical dub version of “Atomic Bomb”, JD Twitch’s dark disco interpretation of “Why Go To War?” and the Daphne classic “Ye Ye” with that electrifying Onyeabor sample running through it. It looks just as good as it sounds with Kevin Harris’ technicolor sleeve and is released in conjunction with Moog, which is almost too much for the nerd in me.
‘Me, I Disconnect From You’
It’s hard to remember in these days of extended deluxe double packs that vinyl LPs used to have five or six tracks squished onto each side of a single disc. Recorded at the same sessions as her classic 1981 album “Nightclubbing”, Island Records just couldn’t fit this made-for-Ms Jones disco-not-disco cover version of Tubeway Army’s alienated synth classic “Me, I Disconnect From You” onto the same piece of wax as “Pull Up To The Bumper”, “Use Me” et al. Not only that, but the track has remained totally unreleased, lost in the Island archives – until now. Cue much salivation from the Balearic / disco massive about this RSD 12″ issue.
XL Recordings boss Richard Russell’s original idea for Scott-Heron’s post-rehab album I’m New Here was going to be re-recordings of Gil’s old classics in a sparse, stripped down, acoustic style. As the soul-jazz legend worked his way through a back catalogue that includes such gems as “Did You Hear What They Said”, “Pieces Of A Man” and “Blue Collar”, the session morphed into brand new tracks, which were then released on long player to much acclaim (Piccadilly’s Album of the Year 2010). Finally those first heart-rending remakes get top billing on this one-off RSD album issue, a fitting tribute to an amazing singer-songwriter / musician.
Illustration: Ben Lamb for Piccadilly Records. Click here fore more info.
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16-18 Marshall Street
London W1F 7BE
Registered in England and Wales under no. 04184222.