Lee "Scratch" Perry

music producer, artist, eccentric, avant-garde, cult figure, reggae, dub, scratch, upsetter, culture, social history, jamaica

Full name: Rainford Hugh Perry. Also known as "Scratch", "The Upsetter".
Born 1936 in Hanover, Jamaica.

His Kingston (Jamaica) studio was called the "Black Ark".

Among the record labels he used were: Upsetter, Justice League, Orchid, Black Art, Lion of Judah.

Among the producers and artists he worked with were: Clement 'Coxone' Dodd, Joe Gibbs, Byron Lee, Clancy Eccles, Bob Marley, King Tubby, Winston 'Niney' Holness, Junior Byles, Dave Barker, Silvertones, Susan Cadogan, Heptones, Junior Murvin, George Faith, Congos, Ras Michael, Slickers, Martha Valez, Linda McCartney, Robert Palmer, Terence Trent Darby.

"Lee Perry is Jamaica's most eccentric and innovative producer. His colorful career now spans over a quarter of a century. During this time, he has been responsible for much of Jamaica's most memorable music. 'Scratch', as he is best known, always blazed new musical trails, whether pioneering new rhythms or experimenting with unusual mixing techniques. Yet, the man who is Lee Perry remains an enigma, elusive and mysterious.

"Lee Perry's music is inseperable from his personality. His impressive output of productivity is directly related to his impressive input of personal energy. 'Scratch' could easily be the most energetic man on the island, always moving, dancing, arms outlining invisible forces, thoughts juggling with elemental energies. He communicates a raw vitality. His thoughts bursting out in a spill of words, as if from some stream of intuitive consciousness. And when he's in the studio, he becomes the 'live wire' powering the session. He coaches the musicians... singing the bass line, beating out the drum rhythm, suggesting a phrase for the keyboards, demonstrating how a vocal could go... always extracting the most out of whoever's involved.

"Scratch's own vocal work is as varied as his instrumental work. He told me that he started singing 'just for fun', but his voice has conviction as he scats, toasts, wails, scolds, comments, and even croons. His voice speaks with a truthfulness, it is real. His position is often that of a spokesman, dealing with social, personal, and spiritual themes. Scratch as poet.

"As producer, Scratch gave many unknowns their first opportunity to record. Many grew to become famous. Some released their best records while with Scratch, but failed to follow up their success when working with other producers. Of course, Scratch has also done productions which are certainly less than brilliant, but the failures never discouraged him from making further experiments.

"Lee Perry's involvement with music started early. Scratch claims to have written his first songs at age fourteen. Within two years, we find Scratch hanging around Clement S.Dodd's Downbeat sound-system. And so the story begins". --Henry W.Targowski (extract from article 'Lee Perry', Vinyl magazine, no.6, September 1981).

"From since'59 coming up '60 me start audition singers in Downbeat's little shop down Orange Street. Any artist me feel good enough me say 'select this one fe session, record him'. And him listen, 'cause he spot me as a man with talent and he loved to work with people with talent. Him always believe in people I choose and always give me a free hand... Downbeat though might have fault businesswise, but for personal deals him a nice man. And you gotta pay to learn, right? Studio One for me was like going to college, an apprenticeship. You born with talent, you have it, but the actual thing no meat 'pon it yet! Is stages of life -- you go through this one to know it and leave it and you go through all a them fe pick up knowledge on the way". --Lee Perry (in an interview with Chris May, Black Music , vol.4, no.47, October 1977).

Within a period of one year (1969), Scratch was to produce and release a veritable avalanche of singles. One of these turned out to be a key stepping-stone to his subsequently successful career.

The Upsetters reached international fame in 1969 with the success of the single "Return of Django". This song was so popular abroad that Scratch and his Upsetters band were flown to London for a live appearance on Top of the Pops, and also to Holland where they appeared on the program Shoo Be Do.

From then on his work grew from strength to strength, achieving legendary status.


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