Case Study of Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry BY 18kidd Table of Contents 1. Table of Contents: – page 1 2. Introduction: – page 2 3. Biography: – pages 3-6 4. Context: – pages 7 – 8 5. Production: – pages 9- 10 6. Conclusion: – page 11 7. Reference List: – page 12 8. Bibliography: – page 13 9. Introduction Not many producers/engineers have added to the dub/reggae culture as abundantly and creatively as Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry.
From 1969 to 2006 Perry had released seventy- eight full albums and this does not even take into account the countless singles and EPs that he is named on. Perry was a trendsetter and inspiration to those he worked with. Without Perry Bob Marley may not have developed his sound and Vibe’ that is loved by countless people the world over.
Dub and reggae music are the shoulders on which the likes of hip-hop, drum and bass, Jungle, garage, breakbeat, hardcore, dubstep and electronic dance music all stand firmly upon, without those firm unmoving foundations such genres, that to me show a great deal of the cultural identity of the I-JK, would either still be growing or This case study is an attempt to show how much Perry added to the cultural identity f Jamaica and Jamaican music, mainly dub and reggae, in spite of a poor lower class background where prospects were slim at best.
This paper begins with a concise, but necessary biography, it will then go onto an overview of the social, cultural and political effect of reggae music and finally there will be a look into Perrys closely guarded production and recording techniques. Biography Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, born Reinford Hugh Perry, was born in a poor country town called Kendal in 1936. “My Father worked on the road, my mother in the fields. We were very poor. I went to chool, first in Kendal, then in Green Island, til fourth grade, around 15. I learned nothing at all. Everything I have learned has come from nature. (Danny Kelly, 1984). After dropping out of school, at the age of 1 5, he felt increasingly held back, as he did not feel there was much to keep him in Grange. His one solace came from music. He avoided arduous, repetitive and spiritually unfulfilling work by following his main interests in life, music and dance, by becoming a local dance champion. He wowed and entertained crowds of onlookers with his prowess of crazy American dance styles, such as the mashed potato and the Yank. He have a crowd around him, crowd of gal and boy everyone of them are friends; he never had no enemies” (David Katz, 2006).
However this was not enough to keep him in the area. The majority of his teenage years, and well into his twenties, was spent wandering and exploring around the south and west of Jamaica, on a spiritual pilgrimage. Being encouraged by some unseen ‘spiritual power’. “Everything that’s going on, there’s some big spirit behind me to send me to do the thing that I must do. ” (David Katz, 2006). After a period he found his way to Negril, a town on the westernmost point of the sland, where he began work driving bulldozers and moving boulders.
Besides concentrating on the work at hand, Perry began to hear the different noises that accompanied the construction work and how they clashed with the natural sounds all around him. Later whilst shifting boulders he had a spiritual epiphany, as he would drop the boulders onto each over he began to hear a noise akin to a thunderclap’, which sparked the spiritual Voice’ inside of him. The thunderclap’ he heard meant to him, King, the Son of God, was breaking on the stones. In the early 1950’s this Voice’ nevitably led him to Kingston. Kingston means Kings stone, the son of the King; was throwing in Negril sent me to Kingston for my graduation” (David Katz, 2006). At this point Perry had already been writing songs and lyrics and had a burning passion to be a singer. When Perry arrived in Kingston, the local sound systems were looking to scoop up local talent to record. Perry first approached Duke Reid, as he was the older and more established sound system owner, but Perry was rejected as Reid was “Spooked by something in his eyes” (Erik Davis, 1997), Reid then went onto steal
Perrys lyrics and record the track with another artist, which led Perry to approach Dodd. After speaking with each other Dodd decided to create a role of handyman for Perry, after hearing about his lyrics being stolen, Coxsone said “l realised he was outnumbered, so I took him away from that crowd and whatever was happening” (David Katz, 2012). After about two months of running errands and spending a lot of time with Dodd in the studio, Dodd decided to record, but not release, Perrys first song called ‘Chicken Scratch’ in 1965, which accorded him his iconic nickname.
During this period there was a lot of sound system wars, in which Perry co-wrote such ‘battle’ songs as ‘l Shall Not Remove’ and ‘Spit In The Sky most of them were aimed at Dodd’s previous assistant ‘Prince’ Buster. In 1966, Perry left Dodd and ‘Studio One’ over financial, personal and song writing credit issues. But he was soon picked up by Joe Gibbs and his label ‘Amalgamated Records’ in 1967, where he was hired to be the in house engineer, recording and releasing the songs from the Amalgamated label.
With Perry on his team Gibbs began releasing big hitting songs including Perrys ‘I Am he Upsetter’, which contained loaded messages directly aimed at his previous employer. After Just a year with Gibbs, Perry had already split from him again due to financial and musical rights problems. After this he set up his own label ‘The Upsetter’ label, and released his iconic song ‘People Funny Boy, which was iconic in the development of early reggae from rock steady.
The rhythm was a lot faster than rock steady and had very assertive guitars as the central theme, but with the addition of baby cries enhancing the feel of the track and also setting a precedent for future sampling in reggae songs. Perry was one of the most notable forerunners of the reggae sound, “Amongst the most notable were Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, Clancy Eccles, Bunny Lee… ” (David Katz, 2012). Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry went on to produce and record many songs, but in 1973 he took on the creation of his own studio ‘The Black Ark.
Perry stated, “Black heart, black ark. They are searching for a Noah ark. But there was no Noah ark. That is created by a white man because they want to fool somebody. N-O is no and A-H mean pain. So it mean no pain” (Salewicz & Boot, 2001). During this period Perry met The Wailers, who embodied the movement in youth usic, being dubbed ‘soul rebels’. The Wailers received so much assistance from Perry in the form of his ingenuity and far out production styles, which had a direct and profound influence on Bob Marleys new vocal style.
Perrys Upsetters and Bob Marley and the Wailers began to record together in Perrys ‘Black Ark, where they came out with such hits as ‘Duppy Conqueror’, ‘Mr Brown’ and the marvellous two side ‘Sun is Shining/Run for Cover’. During his ‘Black Ark era Perry began to use the studio as an instrument in a musical sense. Like so much reggae in the musical forefront, the ‘Black Ark completely depicted the Jamaican way of making the most out of what they had with the a complete lack of assets, in comparison to other major studios of the age.
Shortly after recording some of Bob Marleys major hits he had baited the Upsetters away from Perry and Joined them into the Wailers as their backing band. This sparked off a verbal war between Marley and Perry, but ended quickly when, to Perrys surprise, Marley signed a deal for Perry to produce for the Wailers. The work they produced together from this period has characterised the reggae sound. Perry also continued his own experiments as a recording artist. A lot of his songs from this era reflect the turbulent political situation in Jamaica, such as ‘City to hot’ and other anti violence messages.
During this period Perry began to experiment with King Tubby with the creation of dub Perry said ‘l thought he was my student, and he thought I was his student. It makes no matter. ” (Salewicz & Boot, 2001), which was essentially remixes of instrumental reggae or reggae with the vocals removed and then emphasises the drums and bass, or the ‘riddim’. Together they created one of the first dub albums called ‘Blackboard Jungle Dub’. “The Blackboard Jungle set was not only one of the irst dub albums, but, amazingly, is Scratch’s strongest to date. ” (Barrow & Dalton, 2001).
Perrys mental stability became to come into question when he started to write graffiti all over the walls of the Black Ark studios. Journalists who were coming to speak with Perry would arrive only to find him worshipping bananas, eating money, baptising visitors with his garden hose or see him down on the ground closely monitoring an army of marching ants uttering something about giving Caesar his dues. All the seemingly relentless work and creativity in the studio, his troubles with Island ecords and the Congos, his wife leaving him and the copious amount of weed and alcohol he consumed were starting to take its toll.
As the pressure around him was getting too much he took a turn for the worse when his wife left him and in 1979 he burned the ‘Black Ark to the ground. Even though by burning his iconic studio to cinders and destroying the completely individual and truly extraordinary sound, while not producing anything notable Throughout the years of colonial Jamaica, society has been rife with a culture of class animosity, wherein the upper class would hold contempt for the lower classes if ever hey would display their own dive and creativity.
But this all changed with the rise of reggae through the years, as reggae made it from the ghettoes, to the country side and eventually integrated itself into the Jamaican establishment. “This inevitable process is fast becoming the accepted and anticipated way of harmonising popular participatory democracy with cultural reality’ (Rex M. Nettleford, 2003). This sort of forward thinking and acceptance allowed black Jamaican lower class citizens to break away from, what was then, their stereotypical type of work available for lower class lack Jamaicans, for example plantation work.
Reggae enabled them to achieve and accomplish something that used to be out of their reach. It also allowed their culture to develop into its own being and escape the old colonised Jamaica and become its own. Many Jamaicans felt that their music is one of the limited means for the poor to showcase their black identity, N. W. Manley stated precisely and to the point that “We must dig deep into our own consciousness and accept and reject only those things of which from our superior knowledge of our own culture needs must be the best judges. ” (Rex M. Nettleford, 2003).
Not only did reggae music liberate the lower classes, it also displayed the culture and lives of Jamaica on an international scale. This enabled the rest of the world to experience what Jamaicans had been through for hundreds of years. It lets them specify and explain the poverty and their refusal to be oppressed. Not only is it used to explain the struggles, but also for them to release the repressed suffering and degradation they received whilst under the iron fist of a white controlled colonial Jamaica. Rastafari added to the cultural significance of Jamaica and reggae.
The people began to reconnect to their origins through the ideals of Rastafarianism, in which they could find solace in after seemingly receiving no alleviation in their lives from adhering to the Bible. With this reggae music had become a great deal more than Just a form of entertainment. The music had developed into a mechanism that could be used to openly and widely remark on social and political views. The music had begun to be a threat to Jamaica’s government. The Rastafari movement engaged and related with the people living in large numbers in shantytowns, on the streets in the ghetto and ven stretching as far as the rural community.
A lot of musicians employed their reggae music as a way to protest against the social and political transgressions taking place at the time. At the same time these Rastafari warriors were using the music to cite their discrepancies, the Jamaican government realised they could use the medium of reggae music to promote their own goals and agendas. Many politicians used reggae during campaigns and political assemblies. Rastafari and reggae music are internationally identified with Jamaica. “Reggae music and the Rastafarian culture ave been depicted as the official culture of the island. ” (King et al, 2002).
Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry is an extremely innovative, experimental and resourceful producer, which was accompanied by his many eccentricities, and this allowed him to stay on top during his time and becoming a legend to the new wave of reggae engineers. The ‘Black Ark was at the very the lowest end technologically compared to the rest of the world and the then current international recording standard. In spite of this fact, Perry was one of the most prolific and sought after producer/engineers of the time. How did this come to be? He did not Just see the studio as a means of getting a sound on a tape.
Instead Perry saw it as a musical instrument through which he could shape and mould other instruments. “Simply interested in the use of the studio itself as a musical instrument” (Steve Barrow & Peter Dalton, 2001). Perry did not have an advanced studio; all he owned in the way of a mixing console was a four track, but from this he produced some of his best and most notable work, for example Max Romeos ‘Three Blind Mice’. With a four-track console Perry would have to collate racks and bounce them all down to a spare one, so that he could overdub “It was only four on the machine, but I was picking up twenty.
From the extra-terrestrial squad. ” (Chris Salewicz & Adrian Boot, 2001). This would inevitably lead to a loss of sound quality, but at the same time it gave it the ‘Black Ark sound that was so sought after by many an aspiring reggae musician. Perry had such a way of over dubbing sound effects and instrumentals with precision timing and in such, ‘Scratch’ style that he would obliterate the competition, using his four-track console whilst major reggae tudios were using sixteen track consoles.
Needless to say this is an impressive feat, but could you expect anything less from such a revolutionary? Perry did not only operate with a four track console, as he was constantly enchanted by the ever expanding and developing technology, he also used drum machines, an Echoplex reverb unit and a Multron phaser (Barrow & Dalton, Rough guide to reggae, p183) and of course his predisposition for inventive risk taking all helped during his style of mixing and recording.
Perry built a drum booth over a pond, with a hole in the shape f the star of David in the floor and surrounded the room with chicken, which created a very ‘Scratch’ sound. Perry revealed that his motivation for building a pond underneath the drum booth was “The heat itself and the energy that was coming, the heat was so strong that we were going to need water to cool it. It get too powerful and might be exploding, so then I need birds, because the birds is the power of the air, and the water… t work because when you’re not playing drum, then duck would be swimming around having fun, then the duck could go outside and rip up plants” (Pieter Franssen, 1990). A great deal of his songs had at least a few different layered effects that he would create from breaking glass, gunshots, babies crying, disturbing ghostly sighs. Some of his other recording techniques that he employed went passed inventive eccentricity and began to step over that fine line from genius to neurotic lunatic.
This should have been an indication, to the people recording with him, that he had begun to decline as a producer/engineer. He was known to ‘bless’ the session some sort of mystical prayer. He began blowing marijuana smoke onto that would never be surpassed. Not only did he blow smoke onto the tapes, he also sprayed them with liquid containing mainly, but not limited to, urine, blood and whisky, apparently to bring out the spiritual properties of the track.
Conclusion This case study of Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry has investigated the rise and fall of an amazing reggae producer/engineer of which the world may never see the likes of again. He came a long way from his poor hometown in Kendal and slowly, but surely, followed his passion in which he became a major success in all Jamaican genres, from rock steady to ska to roots to dub. He was driven by an unstoppable personal motivation, spiritual belief and immense affinity to the music that he loved and created.
Only a handful of individuals would be able to come from where Perry has and managed to make him into one of the most notable and prolific reggae producers. The line Perry crossed from genius to mad man was inevitable, however unfortunate it may be, simply due to the amount of marijuana he supposedly smoked, but if he was not always teetering on that fine edge then he may never been able to conceive of half of the interesting, unusual and ingenious ways of producing, recording and simply reathing his life and soul into every song he ever released.
Not only did Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry understand the reggae music, it is born from within him as reggae is to Jamaican culture, but he also had a natural genius and aptitude for anything that he applied himself to. His work still continues, not by his hand, but through producers, engineers, musicians and artists that came after him, they may not be dub or reggae songs but they derive their roots from the drum and bass culture that is the heart and soul of dub and reggae. References Barrow & Dalton, 2001, The Rough Guide to Reggae, p235
Barrow & Dalton, 2001, The Rough Guide to Reggae p183 Barrow & Dalton, 2001, The Rough Guide to Reggae, p183 Erik Davis, 1997, http://www. techgnosis. com/dub. html Katz David, 2012, Solid Foundation, p106 Katz David, 2012, Solid Foundation, p53 Katz David, 2006, People Funny Boy, pl 1 Katz David, 2006, People Funny Boy, p8 Kelly Danny, 1984, http://www. uncarved. org/dub/scratch. html King et al. 2002, www. units. muohio. edu/ath175/student/petersle/culture. html Nettleford Rex M. , 2003, Caribbean cultural identity, p49 , VPRO Radio 3 Pieter Franssen, 1990 salewtcz & soot, 2001,
Reggae Explosion, p89 Reggae Explosion, p88 veal Michael E. , 2007, Dub soundscapes and shattered songs in Jamaican Reggae. P160 -162 Bibliography blogs. villagevoice. com Barrow & Dalton, 2001, The Rough Guide to Reggae Katz David, 2012, Solid Foundation Katz David, 2006, People Funny Boy littlewhiteearbuds. com Nettleford Rex M. , 2003, Caribbean cultural identity Pieter Franssen, 1990, VPRO Radio 3 Salewicz & Boot, 2001, Reggae Explosion, p89 Veal Michael E. , 2007, Dub soundscapes and shattered songs in Jamaican Reggae Uncarved. org Unitedreggae. com Upsetter. net Wikipedia YouTube