Pensive Prowler #12 by DMETRI KAKMI
Walking in the Rain
In memory of George Young, the co-writer of ‘Walking in the Rain’; and for John King, who shares the passion.
Melbourne, 1981. It was the height of the New Romantics movement. I was twenty years old and enamoured of the Blitz Kids in England’s club scene and Patrick Cowley’s high-energy dance music coming out of New York. Gender bending, as practiced by Boy George, Sylvester, and Annie Lennox, was the last word in cutting edge radicalism. I lapped it up hungrily, searching for something that would define me.
One Sunday my friend Sal turned up at my parents’ house. I was in my room, frittering away yet another humdrum weekend. ‘I just bought this at Mighty Music Machine,’ he said, shoving a new album in my face. The minimalist cover art showed a blue-black androgyne in an Armani jacket, flat-top haircut, cigarette in the mouth. The words ‘Grace Jones / Nightclubbing’ floated across the top.
Sal and I weren’t sure if Grace Jones was a man or a woman. She looked more like a sphinx or a cyborg from the future, rather than someone you’d encounter on the street.
He put the record on the turntable, dropped the needle and said, ‘Listen.’
The first track was ‘Walking in the Rain’. The vocalist — you couldn’t call her a singer in the conventional sense — performed a dramatic kind of talk-singing over a sonic layering of percussive reggae rhythms and melodies crossed with disco futurama. It was an hypnotic sound that indicated what Studio 54 and a fashion catwalk might be like on Alpha Centauri:
Summing up the people
Checking out the race
Doing what I’m doing
Feeling out of place
Walking, walking in the rain…
I was transported. Vanda and Young’s lyrics and Jones’s detached delivery captured the restlessness, alienation and pent-up emotions of a stifled adolescence. From that moment on Grace Jones, her music, her image, her style, became emblematic of cooler-than-thou sophistication, sark, celebratory and joyous. By the end of the track I was liberated, lifted out of a traditional Greek upbringing and pointed toward a future filled with wide horizons.
Grace Jones said anything is possible. Be who you want to be. Don’t let others cramp your style. I swallowed her philosophy, hook line and sinker, going so far as to emulate her haircuts and clothing, especially the outlandish Miyake outfits and hoods and hats.
Sal and I fell out soon after. But my love of Grace Jones stood the test of time.
‘Walking in the Rain’ was not a hit when it was released as a single. Today it’s considered a classic. Soon after its release an extended remix appeared on the market. It added to the theatricality of the earlier version with thunder, lightening and the sound of rain falling against the masterful Compass Point All Stars instrumentals. Jones’ insouciant voice echoes as though in celestial void, giving the song a late-night, dangerous edge. I remember dancing, or more accurately posing, to it in my shiny electric blue Armani suit, black gloves and sunglasses at Inflation nightclub in King Street; walking out at five a.m., having breakfast at Stalactites on the corner of Lonsdale Street and arrogantly going to work in the same clothes, ‘Walking in the Rain’ holding out the promise of a brighter future in my head. The song hasn’t dated. It’s as infectious as ever. The production values are a testament to producers Alex Sadkin and Chris Blackwell. They rescued Jones from the 1970s disco treadmill and fostered her ability to do a cover version that blows the original out of the water.
When I drop off the twig, I want ‘Walking in the Rain’ to play full blast while my body is consumed by flames in a crematorium, the ashes scattered to the four winds. That way I can continue to…
Trip the light fantastic
Dance the swivel hips
Coming to conclusion
Button up your lips.
In the rain.
Dmetri Kakmi (Episode 158) is a writer and editor based in Melbourne, Australia. The memoir Mother Land was shortlisted for the New South Wales Premier’s Literary Awards in Australia; and is published in England and Turkey. His essays and short stories appear in anthologies and journals. You can find out more about him here.