Monday, December 14, 2009

scratch, the wild upsetter, and the heavy claw of zion

illustration by ib

First up, let's dispense with a crumb of controversy. Beginning in 1976 with "Super Ape", Lee 'Scratch' Perry initiated the most singular revolution not only in Jamaican dub but in terms of the evolution of Black Ark itself, and his role as its centrifugal force; operating from the centre of an off-kilter, self-perpetuating universe. A looming, seemingly hermitic presence, possessed and hollowed out by a chorus of travelling voices.

"I’m an artist, a musician, a magician, a writer, a singer; I’m everything... I have been programmed; many people who born again must come back to learn a lesson...have you heard of ET? I am ET, savvy? Savvy?"

Ancestral demands. Interstellar courtships and couplings.

Perry followed up with "
Return of Super Ape", folded again in collaboration with the Upsetters, and culminated his grand experiment with the release of "Roast Fish, Collie Weed & Cornbread" in 1977. All issued originally on his own Upsetter label, in upsettingly tiny print runs.


"The upsetting was so upsetting that it even upset I."

Chris Blackwell's Island creation fittingly picked up on "Super ape" after both Junior Murvin and Max Romeo scored very nicely, thank you, back home in the UK - gambling on Perry's commercial and cult status - but declined to follow through after dismal sales and the perceived "Metal Machine Music" chaos of those advance reels forwarded to its sequel. Lee Perry may or may not have been left dumbfounded. Undeterred, his self-financed Lion of Judah stepped into the void as sole pressing agent, but overseas demand was small if fanatical.

"I, Pipecock Jackson, Jack Lightning, Jesse The Hammer, Lee 'Scratch' Perry, Daniel Dandelion the Lion, Jah Rastafari the crumbler, the ghost of King Arthur, put a curse on BBC radio and television, and BBC government, that they can never undo until they start playing Mr. Perry records morning, noon, and night, and around the clock - tick tock."

To its credit, Island subsequently reissued "Return Of..." and "Roast Fish" on CD, but by that time the original masters had been mysteriously mislaid if not lost altogether, and the subsequent 'product' suffered greatly as a result.In 2007, Trojan astounded one and all with the revelation they had finally unearthed the original masters and repackaged the 'new' mixes on a two CD issue compiling all three albums plus previously unreleased material. The result, allegedly, is much truer to the spirit of Perry's original vision - complete with jarring bass and unadulterated apocalyptic booming - but I have to pause here and confess I've yet to hear it; let alone formulate an informed opinion.

The following 'extended edits' - the closing dubs to Perry's Ape-Ology experiment - are neither to be found on the original vinyl release or the Trojan remaster, but hail instead from the 1997 Island retrospective, "
Arkology"; something of a holy grail in its own right for aficionados of unhinged genius.

"When I left school there was nothing to do except field work. Hard, hard labour. I didn't fancy that. So I started playing dominoes. Through dominoes I learned to read the minds of others. This has proved eternally useful to me”

With respect to Nolan Micron, from Castles in Space.

LEE 'SCRATCH' PERRY: ROAST FISH & CORNBREAD from "Arkology" 3 x CD (Island) 1997 (Jamaica / UK)
LEE 'SCRATCH' PERRY & THE UPSETTERS: CORN FISH DUB from "Arkology" 3 x CD (Island) 1997 (Jamaica / UK)



If you haven't heard, then you should go ape.

Disc 1
Disc 2

wv...ed bodato

Anto said...

those tunes Zion Blood and Three and One are some of the most amazing tunes i've heard in yrs. Whats the story with these?? The kids and I have been groovin to 3 in 1.

A very nice Christmas gesture Dr NO

ib said...


I have been remiss in thanking you for this, NØ; but it's been DL'ed here too, with a hefty amount of delight.

The mixes sound supreme, but I've yet to give them my undivided attention. "Super Ape", too, was very gratefully received.

A Dub X-Mas to all. And excuse the dubbing on the Scratch shot included in this shot. Aside from a bit of 'phase' effect, these symbols included come direct from Voyager.

Light it up. Beam back your encounters.