Alphabetical Order: P
Pull up to the Bumper by Grace Jones, Island records 1981.
Grace Jones was born in Jamaica in 1948 and was a model and actress before she signed her first record deal, with Decca originally – putting out her debut single, the twee gay anthem ‘I need a Man’ at the relatively ripe age of 27. The track was a hit in the gay clubs and received a mix from disco master Tom Moulton (who had to reign in Grace’s ferocious arrogance, refusing at first to work with her after the pair had a calamitous ego clash on first meeting).
A couple more singles followed and by 1977 Ms Jones had signed a proper deal with Island, and her first LP, Portfolio, came out that year. It was a mix of chanson and disco, with the lead single La Vie en Rose, summing up the style of the record. By this point she was already a principle gay icon, a regular in Studio 54 and a muse to Andy Warhol. A couple more albums followed in roughly the same style before she really hit her stride with the 1980 album Warm Leatherette.
It was the first of a trio of albums that pitted Jones’ vocals to the backline of rhythm gods Sly and Robbie. Pull up to the Bumper was recorded during the sessions for Warm Leatherette but deemed too funky for the album by Island boss Chris Blackwell, so it was held back – eventually seeing the light of day on 1981 album, Nightclubbing and getting a single release in June of that year, as the third release from the album.
Pull up to the Bumper starts out with a riot of car horns and street atmospherics, setting the scene perfectly for the tight, bright infectious funk guitar which is, in turn, complemented by a bending polysynth riff and a rubber bass line that shoots all over the place but anchors everything on top of it. Percussion sits high in the mix; tap tapping away and driving the track along. It’s quite a broken arrangement, stopping and starting, twisting and dipping – and this is accentuated by the numerous remixes of the track – most notably Larry Levan’s great stretched out rework that turns it into a hypnotizing epic with occasional bursts of hyper dynamic energy. The lyrics are absolutely filthy, and you imagine the American religious maniacs would have banned it if Grace Jones wasn’t so fucking formidable. The track was huge all over the nightclub world, and did pretty well in the charts, hitting number 12 in the UK and number 2 in the dance chart of the US.
As a singer; model; Bond girl; artistic muse; cultural icon; Hula Hooper extraordinaire – Grace Jones is one of those human beings that seemingly defies all logic. She’s not a great vocalist, she can’t really act and she’s as ugly as she is beautiful – but she is undoubtedly a super human with more charisma and personality than the whole population of East Anglia combined. She closed Lovebox on Sunday and illustrated just how much of a force of nature she is – at one point a few drops of rain fell from the sky at which she looked up in her latest bespoke Philip Treacy hat and sneered at the weather gods – ‘Don’t rain on my parade, motherfucker’. The rain duly stopped, immediately.
By Joe Evans