ack in l‘)7(). a pictttre of a woman hangs on

the wall in the main studio of Compass Point

in the Bahamas. Athletic and balletic. this androgynously muscular black woman stands on one leg with tlte other stretched ottt hiin behind her. A microphone ostentatiously held to her mouth. her upper torso is twisted at an improbable angle. l.ook closer and it is clear that this figure. so fixed in our minds as an expression of its titne. so thoroughly of the fills. is actually anatomically impossible. It is either a piece of sexual fantasy or art. depending on your perspective.

(irace Jones thinks it is art. ‘lt's a painting] she says in her gorgeous Jamaicartatnericanenglish lilt. ‘lt took Jean-Paul |(ioude| three months to do it. I don't have favourite pictures of myself bttt I think that one is really beautiful.'

The way (ioude describes the process of playing with the picture is less heautifttl. 'I cut her legs apartf writes (ioude in his hook Jungle Fever. making the act of manipulating a picture sound like molestation. '[Then I] lengthened them and turned her body completely to face the audience like an ligyptian painting.‘

And so are icons painftilly born. Bttt (irace Jones doesn't see it like that. 'I love what Jean-Paul did to me.' she says. ‘lle is an artist. He has a different way of seeing the world and you have to respect that.’

It has been something of a torture trying to track (irace Jones down. I finally find her in Miami after press officers have chased her tip and down the eastem seaboard for a fortnight. all the time expecting her to be an aggressive interviewee. It then takes two hours after the arranged interview time to find a portable phone so she can talk by the pool of her favourite hotel on South Beach. When I finally talk to her. however. she greets me like art old friend. She's irt town to do a one- off of her famous cabaret performance she calls ()IH’ Man Show at an exclusive club venue. and see her twin brother John. ‘I need some sun] she says when I finally get through to her on her PA's tnobile. ‘So I‘m wearing what yott could call a "naked bikini“. From the back I look naked and from the front. it’sjust three little patches.’

Grace Jones is from another planet. Although she was born (irace Mendoza in Spanishtown. Jamaica in l948. she left for New York at If) and began the nomadic life of the international jet-setter. She now has bases in Paris. New York and Italy although she still calls Jamaica home. Paris was where she first made her name. however. becoming the first black woman on the cover of liigue. She lived the life of a successful model bill as we all know. it was music that made her an icon.

It was disco that took her otrt of the fashion world. specifically the A-list world of Paradise (iarage and Studio 54 in New York in the mid-70s. Jean-Paul Goude remembers the first time he saw her in 1977 at Les Mouehes. ‘She was singing her hit song. ‘I Need a Man'. to a room full of shrieking gay bobby sosers. The ambiguity of her act was that she herself looked like a man. a man singing ‘I Need a Man' to a bunch of men . . . the strength of her image. then as now. is that it swings constantly from the near grotesque from the organ grinder‘s monkey to the great African beauty.’

Goude made it his mission to ‘deliberately mythologise Grace Jones'. Was he successful“? ‘We were together of course [Jones had a child with (‘ioudel and he had me on a pedestal.‘ she says. ‘I was his muse. bttt he was mine as well. It was a pedestal romance and we inspired each other.‘





She attributes her success to the combination of all the artists she worked with rather than one. She met ('hris Blackwell head of Island Records and reggae producer —v at the Rttssian Tea Rooms after he'd heard ‘I Need A Mair. “I remember the feeling of seeing her for the first time.’ he writes. ‘She was land still isi absoluter stunning.‘

A Blackwell-orchestrated session at ('ompass Point followed. swiftly producing lliimi l.(’rll/I('l'¢'ll(' in two weeks. According to (irace herself. 'llc‘ blew the "nigger arabesque" picture to the si/e of the studio wall attd hung it up. He pointed at it and told the musicians: “Make an album that sounds like that."' She laughs. 'The picture was pretty scat'y.'

The albums are. too; languid with what Blackwell calls ‘a sense of \ iolence'.

‘\\'e were looking at her image every day.' says Sly Dunbar. drummer on the album. ‘So we were actually making the record in her image. It was like making a movie soundtrack and the image was the script.‘

'It went so fast and so well.' adds Blackwell. ‘that we went straight into the next record. .\'t'glilrJuli/ting. We really did two records at the same time.‘

It was the height of her artistic success; her commercial success came after a hiatus. having a child with (ioude. ‘I had a ball doing both Bond and ('omm l/If’ l)('slovr'r.' she says. 'I got to explore two sides of my character. In (‘onan I rode around naked on a horse. A View to u Kill was racier and more sexual. It was more sophisticated too. ol'cotlt‘se.‘

All the time. though. Jones was performing the live club shows she had devised with Jean Paul (ioude. She's still playing with the most avant garde end of fashion: now performing in hats by Irish designer Philip Treacy. ‘l'm not a model or a singer or an actress] she says. ‘l'rn an entertainer. That's what I enjoy doing.‘ But she makes it clear that she's a special kind of entertainer. 'l'm an art groupie. dahling. Don't you listen to my songs."

l-Ier appetite for collaboration with artists has been voracious. ()ne of her closest friends was the artist Keith Haring who painted her body for her solo show. She occasionally paints. btit mainly confines her own visual art to Polaroids. 'I got that from Andy |Warhol| when he was working with Jean-Paul.’ she says. natch.

For much of the 90s. (irace Jones took a break from the music industry. 'Record companies today don‘t allow artistic freedom. they want control. and I just couldn't be bothered any'more.‘

She‘s done a few jobs: livelyn in The Hi: and recording a trio of unreleased tracks with Tricky. btit now she wants back into the world of creativity. Rernarried in l‘)‘)(i and reinvigorated creatively. she talks tip a future album with Blackwell at the helm again and a film script produced. again. by Blackwell. The art groupie may well be back.


Grace Jones, Corn Exchange, Edinburgh, Sat 26 Apr; Barrowland, Glasgow, Sun 27 Apr. b

The third tripTych festival takes place in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen over the weekend of 25-27 April. Ticket information at Full listings and more coverage. including an interview with Laurie Anderson, will appear next issue, out Thursday 24 April.


The Grace Jones rhythm section, SLY AND ROBBIE, have bass intentions.

t's 1pm and Robbie Shakespeare is

holed up in a Paris hotel room. He is

haying his lunch and watching the TV while trying to conduct an interview. What the hell: Dictaphones were made fOr this kind of shit. There is one small problem the accent. Years of international travel have not dented that thick. sonorOtis West Indian slur one little bit. but between the chews and murmurs. yOu are never in doubt that this is reggae royalty.

He doesn't seem to know a lot abOut the tripTych gig. ‘Yeah. I dOn't know. these things are booked by Our management and we turn up.‘ he says. ‘But I know we are dOing some def jams. which include Grace Jones. and then we are gomg to work on a son of friends' album. then we got some remix t'ing to do.’

Sly and Robbie grew up together in Kingston. Jamaica in the late 505 and 605. With Sly on drums and Robbie on bass. they quickly became the most distinctive rhythm section in the business. By the early 805 they had played with U-Floy. Peter Tosh. Black Uhuru. Bunny Lee and Lee Perry. Where do you go from there? The answer was Simple: they branched out. became producers and opened their minds to working wrth the obvious (Ian Dury. U840. Grace Jonesl and the not so obvious (Bob Dylan, Mick Hucknalll. Their influence on digital production and the $0ul, reggae and R88 genres over the last 20 years is undeniable.

Is there anyone left worth working with? 'Michael Jackson. SteVie Wonder and Phil Collins.“ says Shakespeare. ‘It's funny, as producers we just let the music do the talking when we work with someone new. but occasionally a long- term friendship develops. like With me main man Ali Campbell. But there‘s a big difference between being a producer and a musician: mostly it's about responsibility. Everyt'ing has to be right and proper; that project is your baby and once we get going, all the elements are on us and we channel all Our energy into making fresh, inspirational, danceable. creative and learned music.‘ (Paul Dale)

{qt THE LIST 19