Anyone with a passing interest in reggae has heard of Lee Perry also known as ‘Scratch’ or ‘The Upsetter’ but, over the last thirty years, Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry has become better known as a ‘performance artist’ rather than a performer, an artist or record producer. Yet Scratch’s importance to the history of Jamaican music in particular, and recorded music in general, is second to none. He has made an incredible contribution to the development of reggae as a producer, arranger and writer and was the inspiration behind many of the key movements in the development of the music. In a business overcrowded with superlatives the word ‘genius’ is too often used to describe the most mediocre of talents. Lee Perry is, beyond question, a genuine genius and has been responsible for creating some of the greatest, most complex and seriously mystical music ever to come out of Jamaica.
For the six years it was operating his Black Ark recording studio set standards that have never been bettered: it was there that Scratch moved his music in inventive and innovative directions that no-one else has, even now, thought to consider. Freed from the strictures of paying for studio time on an hourly rate his music became increasingly intense, multi-layered and extraordinarily experimental. ‘Native’ Wayne Jobson memorably described the Black Ark as “like a medieval spaceship with Scratch at the controls” but, as the seventies drew to a close and the creative tension at the Black Ark kept on mounting, Scratch started to become increasingly out of control. His music was no longer selling well in Jamaica and the overseas record companies were bewildered with the tapes he sent them for release. But Scratch’s music still found a home on the sound systems, the natural home of the musical renegade, in Jamaica, England, America and Canada. Sound system followers understood where The Upsetter was coming from, and where he was going to, even if the general public and record company executives failed to so.
Pressure Sounds is pleased to release the compilation “Sound System Scratch” by Lee Perry & The Upsetters. This compilation tells the tale of exclusivity, fashion, being in-the-know, of dub plate culture which lived at the heart of a vibrant scene that saw reggae music develop a new musical genre; that of the remix. In fact Lee Perry was probably one of the most creative producers to have worked in this genre in the 1970s. His exclusive mixes, which were often made for sound systems, are at the heart of what this album is about.
A dub plate gave a sound system an exclusive piece of music, although reggae music has always had a fluid concept of what ‘exclusive’ means, and another reason why their supporters followed them. Sounds had the same passionate following that football clubs had; indeed many fans had the same local loyalty. Sounds had a whole crew to build, move and play the equipment and music: social life was built around where the sound was playing: it was about looking good and checking out the opposite sex. Sounds were about cultural identity, a good time and maybe romance.
In the 1970′s sound system culture one man’s productions could be heard in exclusive mixes. That man was Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry who, more than any producer or performer of the time, used dub plates for one-off projects and mixes: his ‘specials’ are the thing of legend.
To add to the quality of the package there are exclusive photographs taken by Dennis Morris. Some of these photographs have not been seen before. This will be an essential release for anyone with an intrest in dub, Lee Perry and reggae music in general. It is one of the last great Lee Perry dub albums.