I stumbled across Golden Clouds today. A Perry/ Orb collaboration that borrowed from one tune and cheekily became another over four minutes. The subtle sequences of fluffy clouds laying host to Scratch’s observations and overstanding. As this red, gold and green wizard kicked off his shoes and walked in ponds and streams to bring his musings on things that floated.
I like Lee Scratch Perry. He’s a nutter. But I like him.
I wrote some time back about jury service in industrial ports. Of Grimsby streets and barbaric youth stood up in docks made from wood not ones that produced ships or unloaded goods. I was young myself then. I was judging not being judged. Unlike now as I wait for the suits and the clipboards to hasten an exit from a profession I am actually good at but they will fail to see. But that’s another story. And I’m telling this one.
I have talked about purchasing Linton Kwesi Johnston’s sounds. I have yet to tell of the second tape purchased from that record store – which is now a simple stolen shot that I find hard to recall. A shop on the streets full of sounds and surprises. As I said before I was looking for tapes – digging the crates – to fill the journey on hard train seats from Grimsby to Scunthorpe. A scenic route as yet to feature on any holiday programme or Portillo’s travels by train. It’s all blast furnaces, coal trucks, articulated lorries and corrugated sheds.
It was my vista. Show me yours.
And there nestled in the ‘reggae, reggae’ section with UB40 and Aswad was a little tape. Red and green – the gold being the music – do you get me? An almighty allegiance with the Mad Professor – all gated reverb and twisted pitches - dubbing them crazy. It spoke to me at that time – and listening to it now it talks again – all version and sound sound sound. This upsetter was making me happy through dub workouts and smoked up sounds – (duppy) conquering. There was something magical in licks and rolls, the snatches and snippets of bass and drum heavy in reverberation that tickled and soothed my brain.
I’ve always liked those dub sounds – as tapes melted and heated and expanded and sounds merged and extended with rimshots and bursts of melody. It’s a Jamaican ting. This warmth of sound in the warmth of the sun. Yet it translates to concrete streets and struggles. It’s excursions and versions sound tracking our resistance and anger. You can understand why PuNk got it. As I said in a post about P.I.L – John didn’t have a support act – he simply had some dub. It starts deep and takes you deeper.
There used to be a wonderful public house in New Cross. By the university, all smoky corners and pool hall bravado and simple reggae sounds. The Tavern – a haven for the Goldsmiths’ underground – well a place to drink after hours. You would hear a mighty tune in there of an evening. It was a mellow place. As I have aged I think I’ve become more aware of the trouble that bass can cause – as it seeps under floorboards and through walls. But this was a public house – you can play that kind of stuff there. I don’t pull out my Augustus Pablo records or King Tubby 12s these days. Even though we’re end of terrace – it doesn’t seem fair on the neighbours. As the grey hairs come thick and fast you just buy better headphones.
There’s a wonderful book heavy in weight and attitude called Bass Culture. It rides the beginnings of bass right through those West Indian struggles and leaves you feeling knowledgeable about politics, race and sound. You should read it – you probably have done. Scratch pops up in there from time to time. A pioneer, a seer, a shaker and a maker. His imprint sitting in all things reggae. You can’t ignore his presence and what presence he has.
And over the years Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry has bubbled and popped up across a variety of records I’ve bought. Through Trojan sets, MC battles and blissed out ambience Scratch can be called on to provide that sideways stomp. The unexpected. Not lyrically - his musings and bubblings have a familiar ring – but his philosophy is one of not compromising.
Build it up. Burn it down.
I don’t buy into all that mysticsm – I don’t need a God to explain a thing – we’ve got scientists for all of that. And I like them. But possibly not chatting on records. This crazy witchdoctor can provide that and the Mad Professor can man the mixing desk. Dubbing it crazy for those who like their bass on the heavy, heavy, heavy side. The professor really is an academic of dub. He can twist and tickle a line – make it say something else – educate the mind without words – through sounds.
I like Lee Scratch Perry. I like the Mad Professor. I like them working together.
This is was on the tape. Now it’s in your house.