The funniest passage in Grace Jones’s autobiography I’ll Never Write My Memoirs recalls the time producer Trevor Horn called her in a huff to get her ass to the studio, just as she was setting fire to her boyfriend Dolph Lundgren’s trousers.
The recording of her 1985 LP Slave to the Rhythm was spiralling to a cost of $400,000 per track, and Horn needed her over to record some vocals.
Grace recalls: “Trevor said, ‘I need you now, please get down here.’ The studio was only 15 minutes away from my apartment. It wasn’t like I had to cross the Atlantic. I made it three days later. I had some things I needed to clear up. A few more items of clothing to cut up and burn. When I got to the studio, though, I was in a very good mood.”
Slave to the Rhythm is her biggest-selling album, and the song itself is her calling card. And a naked and body-painted Miss Jones singing Slave to the Rhythm while hula-hooping through the whole song at last year’s Electric Picnic is one of the most giddy, surreal, brilliant things I’ve ever seen in the flesh.
Slave To the Rhythm was marketed as a ‘concept album’ – a full record based on one vocal track, with off-the-scale versions. But there’s a good chance they blew the budget on recording time, with Trevor Horn on damage limitation duties. Maybe the vocal booth was largely empty while Grace was off bullying Dolph Lundgren, a set-up even funnier when you remember that he played the actual He-Man on screen two years later.
Despite the absurd studio costs and pants on fire daftness, the album is one of the best pop albums of the decade – full of crisp, metallic synths, processed horns, sparse electro bleeps and Grace’s voice contorting, roaring, leering and chopped into smithereens. And even if they stretched one track out to fit an album, at least they made sure that song was a total belter.
As well as the various Slave versions, Horn padded the album out with snippets of an interview with Paul Morley and narration from Ian ‘Lovejoy’ McShane – including the iconic introduction, “Ladies and gentlemen… Miss Grace Jones”.
McShane also narrates on The Frog and The Princess – reading from Jungle Fever, the memoir of Grace’s former lover and artistic director Jean-Paul Goude. Laid over a mid-tempo Belgian new beat synth bassline, Goude, through McShane, recounts how he became intoxicated and addicted to her: “An intense, hysterical romance developed between Grace and I… I decided, deliberately, to mythologise Grace Jones…”
Of course it doesn’t all end well for ‘The Frog’ Monsieur Goude: “I am no longer sure what I fell in love with; Grace or my idea of what Grace should be. I discovered that what I was making was simply too far beyond what was there. By the time our One Man Show reached the US, I knew I’d lost her.”
At the time, The Frog & The Princess was probably sniggered at as a piece of extreme narcissism, but that’s the sheer brazen beauty of it. As a piece of self-mythology it’s up there with the unwavering self-belief of Prince multiplied by a hundred rappers.
Ladies and gentlemen, MISS GRACE JONES…