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» Lee "Scratch" Perry

Lee "Scratch" Perry
Born: March 20, 1936 in Hanover, JamaiCa
Active: '60s-2010s Major
Styles: Dub, Political Reggae, Roots Reggae
Instrument: Producer, Percussion Representative
Albums: "Arkology", "Lord God Muzick", "The Upsetter Compact Set" Representative
Songs: "Roast Fish and Cornbread", "War Ina Babylon", "Police & Thieves"

UPC Type Title
828291200127 (i) CD Alien Starman
060768057623 CD Ape-Ology
731452437921 (i) CD Arkology
5060135761271 CD At Wirl Records
5060135761288 Vinyl At Wirl Records
5036436084128 Vinyl Aura Meets Lee Perry at Black Ark: Full Experience
664425600513 Vinyl Blackboard Jungle Dub
881026101144 Vinyl Chapter 1
600753398029 (i) CD Disco Devil: The Jamaican Discomixes
5060135760564 CD Dub Treasures From the Black Ark
603408002425 CD End of an American Dream
883717700391 CD Enter the Dragon
093652261516 Vinyl Eternal Dubs Chapter 2
5020145801350 (i) CD Fire in Dub
689492113728 CD High Plains Drifter
689492113810 Vinyl High Plains Drifter
5036436017324 (i) CD Live at the Jazz Cafe
826258207356 (i) DVD Live in San Francisco
603408003620 CD Lsp Megawave Box Set
708535172031 CD Mad Alien Dub
603408400429 CD Master Piece
603408400412 Vinyl Master Piece
053436824122 CD Meets Bullwackie in Satan's Du
8015948301401 CD Mighty Upsetter
654436032229 CD More Tales From the Orbservatory
711297498721 (i) CD More Tales From the Orbservatory
5020145800544 (i) CD Mystic Warrior/Mystic Warrio
5060263720157 CD On-U Sound Presents Lee Scratch Perry Nu Sound & V
654436028925 CD Orbserver in the Star House
711297495553 (i) CD Orbserver in the Star House: Super Deluxe Edition
825807703721 CD Panic in Babylon
689492033422 CD Produced & Directed by the Upsetter
5050457051020 (i) CD Psyche & Trim
093652261615 Vinyl Quest
600753328866 (i) CD Reggae Genius: 20 Upsetter Classics
3760051120948 (i) CD Reggae Masters
673795001929 CD Return From Planet Dub
054645100120 CD Return of the Super Ape
689492106126 CD Return of Sound System Scratch: More
827670410423 CD Return of Pipecock Jackxon
054645100113 Vinyl Return of the Super Ape
827670410416 Vinyl Return of Pipecock Jackxon
689492106119 Vinyl Return of Sound System Scratch: More
603408003422 CD Revelation
603408003415 Vinyl Revelation
859561002073 CD Rise Again
634457581913 Vinyl Rise Again
799439050372 CD Roaring Lion
799439050389 Vinyl Roaring Lion
054645100021 CD Roast Fish Collie Weed & Corn
054645100014 Vinyl Roast Fish & Corn Bread
664425075724 CD Scratch & Company Chapter 1
603408003026 CD Scratch Came Scratch Saw Scratch Conquered
4011222328007 (i) Vinyl Scratch Conquered
609613834820 CD Sound Doctor Black Ark Singles &
609613834837 Vinyl Sound Doctor Black Ark Singles &
689492102821 CD Sound System Scratch
689492102814 Vinyl Sound System Scratch
5036436041824 (i) CD Sun Is Shining
053436823224 CD Technomajikal
760137528999 DVD The Upsetter: The Life & Music of Lee "Scratch" Pe..
022891022893 DVD Ultimate Alien
731454130127 CD Ultimate Collection
689492300920 CD Voodooism

Biography: Some call him a genius, others claim he's certifiably insane, a madman. Truth is, he's both, but more importantly, Lee Perry is a towering figure in reggae -- a producer, mixer, and songwriter who, along with King Tubby, helped shape the sound of dub and made reggae music such a powerful part of the pop music world. Along with producing some of the most influential acts (Bob Marley & the Wailers and the Congos to name but two) in reggae history, Perry's approach to production and dub mixing was breathtakingly innovative and audacious -- no one else sounds like him -- and while many claim that King Tubby invented dub, there are just as many who would argue that no one experimented with it or took it further than did Lee Perry.

Born in the rural Jamaican village of St. Mary's in 1936, Perry began his surrealistic musical odyssey in the late '50s, working with ska man Prince Buster selling records for Clement "Coxsone" Dodd's Downbeat Sound System. Called "Little" Perry because of his diminutive stature (Perry stands 4'11"), he was soon producing and recording for Dodd at the center of the Jamaican music industry, Studio One. After a falling out with Dodd (throughout his career, Perry has had a tendency to burn his bridges after he stopped working with someone), Perry went to work at Wirl Records with Joe Gibbs. Perry and Gibbs never really saw eye to eye on anything, and in 1968, Perry left to form his own label, called Upsetter. Not surprisingly, Perry's first release on Upsetter was a single entitled "People Funny Boy," which was a direct attack upon Gibbs. What is important about the record is that, along with selling extremely well in Jamaica, it was the first Jamaican pop record to use the loping, lazy, bass-driven beat that would soon become identified as the reggae "riddim" and signal the shift from the hyperkinetically upbeat ska to the pulsing, throbbing languor of "roots" reggae.

From this point through the 1970s, Perry released an astonishing amount of work under his name and numerous, extremely creative pseudonyms: Jah Lion, Pipecock Jakxon, Super Ape, the Upsetter, and his most famous nom de plume, Scratch. Many of the singles released during this period were significant Jamaican (and U.K.) hits, instrumental tracks like "The Return of Django," "Clint Eastwood," and "The Vampire," which cemented Perry's growing reputation as a major force in reggae music. Becoming more and more outrageous in his pronouncements and personal appearance (when it comes to clothing, only Sun Ra can hold a candle to Perry's thrift-store outfits), Perry and his remarkable house band, also named the Upsetters, worked with just about every performer in Jamaica. It was in the early '70s after hearing some of King Tubby's early dub experiments that Perry also became interested in this form of aural manipulation. He quickly released a mind-boggling number of dub releases and eventually, in a fit of creative independence, opened his own studio, Black Ark.

It was at Black Ark that Perry recorded and produced some of the early, seminal Bob Marley tracks. Using the Upsetters rhythm section of bassist Aston "Familyman" Barrett and his drummer brother Carlton Barrett, Perry guided the Wailers through some of their finest moments, recording such powerful songs as "Duppy Conqueror" and "Small Axe." The good times, however, were not long, especially after Perry, unbeknownst to Marley and company, sold the tapes to Trojan Records and pocketed the cash. Island Records head Chris Blackwell quickly moved in and signed the Wailers to an exclusive contract, leaving Perry with virtually nothing. Perry accused Blackwell (a white Englishman) of cultural imperialism and Marley of being an accomplice. For years, Perry referred to Blackwell as a vampire, and accused Marley of having curried favor with politicians in order to make a fast buck. These setbacks did not stem the tide of Perry releases, be they of new material or one of a seemingly endless collection of anthologies. Perry was also expanding his range of influence, working with the Clash, who were huge Perry fans, having covered the Perry-produced version of Junior Murvin's classic "Police and Thieves." Perry was brought in to produce some tracks for the Clash, but the results were remixed more to the band's liking.

All this hard work was wreaking havoc with Perry's already fragile mental state, leading to a breakdown. The stories of his mental instability were exacerbated by tales of massive substance abuse (despite his public stance against all drugs except sacramental ganja), which reportedly included regular ingestion of cocaine and LSD; one potentially apocryphal story even had Perry drinking bottles of tape head-cleaning fluid. But these stories, as with much surrounding Perry, blur fact and fiction. One story that was true was that Black Ark, and everything in it, burned to the ground. Perry claims bad wiring as the culprit, but the more familiar and commonly accepted story is that Perry burned the studio down in a fit of acid-inspired madness, convinced that Satan had made Black Ark his home. Whatever the case, the site of Perry's greatest moments as a producer had been reduced to (and remained) a pile of rubble and ash. Soon after the fire that consumed Black Ark, Perry, increasingly fed up with the music business in Jamaica (which by all accounts is corruption personified), decided to leave Jamaica.

Despite the considerable lows in his career, Perry remained busy and, so it seemed, reasonably happy. Although he was less in demand as a producer, his solo work remained very strong, and his continuing influence could be felt in the contemporary dub music of the Mad Professor (another former Perry prot g

that Perry went on to treat with disdain) and some post-rave electronica music. Even the Beastie Boys gave Perry his props in a rhyme on their release Ill Communication and later added him to the bill of performers at a concert for Tibetan freedom. In 1997, Island (the label started by the vampire Chris Blackwell) released Arkology, a well-received three-disc compilation of Perry recordings. That same year a collaboration with Dieter Meier of the Swiss electronica duo Yello called Technomajikal arrived on the Roir label. The project was made geographically possible by Scratch's move to Switzerland.

A reunion with Trojan label happened in 2002, when the new album Jamaican E.T. was released by the label. Two years later Panic in Babylon was recorded with the European outfit White Belly Rats, while his legendary Super Ape album would receive a limited-edition reissue on the Hip-O Select label. The 1973 release Upsetters 14 Dub Blackboard Jungle -- sometimes referred to as Blackboard Jungle Dub -- saw its definitive reissue appear in 2004 when Perry biographer David Katz helmed its release for the Auralux imprint. Also that year, a different mix of the album landed on Sanctuary's two-CD collection Dub-Triptych. The label was also responsible for 2005's I Am the Upsetter, a well-chosen and well-annotated four-CD set. In 2006 George Clinton, DJ Spooky, and TV on the Radio would all contribute remixes when the U.S. label Narnack reissued Panic in Babylon with different artwork and a bonus disc. The 2007 set Ape-ology fit three classic albums -- Super Ape, Return of the Super Ape, and Roast Fish, Collie Weed, and Cornbread -- on two CDs. In 2008 he collaborated with Andrew W.K. for a the album Repentance and Adrian Sherwood for The Mighty Upsetter. A dub version of the latter, Dub Setter, followed in 2010.

A word or two about Perry's discography: it's massive, unwieldy, and although there are plenty of great records, there's almost as much crap. The lack of quality control has little to do with Perry, but rather with sleazebags trying to rip off his legacy. After King Tubby's murder in 1989, his studio was looted, and many of Perry's tapes were stolen. Some of these recordings have shown up on poorly mastered, and expensive, anthologies. Releases on Trojan, Rounder's reggae subsidiary label Heartbeat, and Island (and its subsidiary label Mango) are generally excellent and are the best place to start building your Perry collection. Smaller labels like Seven Leaves and the French Lagoon Records (which seems like a semi-legit bootleg label) are hit-and-miss propositions, and those inclined to check out recordings on these labels are encouraged to proceed with caution. And avoid releases on the Rohit label, if only for their lousy production and tacky, grade-Z packaging. Also, as with King Tubby recordings, purchasing a Perry release means you might be buying a record he produced, but not necessarily performed on. That said, happy hunting and listening. ~ John Dougan & David Jeffries, Rovi