Rainclubbing, a review of Grace Jones's Nightclubbing
Bob Marley called his album Babylon by bus. Not Babylon by train, nor Babylon by taxi. I do agree that to discover the big city, the bus is vastly superior to any other means of travel. It is the best compromise between walking and taking a train. It offers street-level voyeurism, It is a guided tour on mute.
The rain is smashing the city outside the double-decker to Victoria Station; London turns into a pixellated flood of vehicles in red lights, green lights. Sly Dunbar's drums patter in my headphones, the rain on the bus windows.
"Walking in the rain" is the menace, the murder mystery intro to the citiest album. It is a dance album, but its opener has nothing to offer to dancing partners: it is music to dance to alone, surrounded by strangers, in a strange city, after hours.
It is barely six p.m but it doesn't matter to the city, its days divided between the morning rush and the evening rush; the bass throbs, Robbie Shakespeare and his other half take reggae to a strange new place, Grace Jones city. She's walking in the rain, like so many shadows out there, between Shepherd's Bush and Victoria. This bus route's theme is possibly "A black history of London". There was a scuffle outside the off-license in front of the bus stop, a drunk black couple going at it, looks of disdain around them, too early, no class. The black couple entering the posh pub on Holland Park have class, them. I did not see their faces, all I see is Grace Jones, she's got class alright, she can pull off a number like "pull up to the bumper", does anyone have a problem with that?
She's in a class of her own, she is the menace, the puzzle, woman, man, reggae, disco, new-wave. No wonder she borrowed the title from Iggy Pop, can you picture them fucking? "Use me" back to back with "Gimme Danger", that would be a split-single to split 'em all, the fuck of the century, like Mike Douglas says in Basic Instinct.
A teenage mother gets on the bus with a pushchair, her baby's eating crisps, and "Use me" reaches a breathtaking locked groove, hammering in the chorus, I feel like I want to be used, but the passengers scare the shit out of me. Obese Grace Jones, balding Iggy Pop, I look outside, The bus is stuck in heavy traffic.
"Nightclubbing", Grace using James. I don't have money to go clubbing, so instead I take the two quid coach from Victoria to Coventry. The bus is a different kind of Nightclub. No dress-code, no bouncers, no art groupies; drinks are a must though, I'm sipping smuggled Jimmy from a bottle of Coke, and in a flash I'm at Victoria Station, feeling like I've partied all night, flushed, moist, drunk, the movement of strangers, the broken promise, met no one, going home alone with my reflection. Strange, I've seen that face before. Absolute loneliness. Something in this song breaks my heart. Aliens touring the galaxy, stop in Paris for a night; disappointed, go home and come up with revenge Tango-reggae instead. There is a French restaurant in east Kyoto, tiny, expensive, that looks like Paris in the twenties. Except no one has ever been to Paris in the twenties, it never even existed. Grace Jones and her Alien posse stole it and put it in an alien supercomputer virtual reality, "Libertango" playing over and over.
"Feel up" has Jamaican patois, barking dogs and Grace panting in my ears; "Demolition man" is aggressive future. There is something I can't quite grasp between clubbing and futurism, but then again, this isn't quite the Technopolis, is it?
I get on the coach to Coventry. Funny how trips stretch and compress between modes of transportation, we are flying over the motorway now, the windows get smoky, London's lost me. I would sleep if I could.
"I've done it again" is early morning soundtrack, when bold escapes are made in wet streets, new careers crashing new towns. I listen to it on the bus that takes me back to Japan a year later. It is bus route 999, from rainy West London to muggy North Kyoto, both great cities in the rain, by bus that is.