The Scratch Pad: Some Noted Perry Productions
Updated: Oct 22, 2021
I have lost another of my idols in Lee Scratch Perry. I have known him most of my life, and we have been a friend for over twenty years. I have done numerous articles and academic work on this great creative. I was privileged to have him write the foreword to my last book, The Creative Echo Chamber. Here is an article from my book Rantin From Inside the Dancehall, written twenty-one years ago.
Lee 'Scratch' Perry is without question one of the most important figures in reggae and played a major role in gaining international acceptance of the music. Perry made the Wailers one of the best vocal groups by tightening their harmonies and sharpening their writing skills. Dub music and instrumentals were taken seriously through the efforts of Perry and the great King Tubbys.
Perry also produced some of the most remarkable songs ever. Yet, a lot of music industry people are unaware of this great body of work. Perry was one of the first staff producers/arrangers at the famed Studio One and wrote and produced many hits for its patriarch Clement 'Coxsone' Dodd until their falling out. Here are some of the great classics which came from the Black Ark man.
People Funny Boy – Lee Perry
This is one of the classic “throw word” songs that was popular at its release. Perry was angry with his mentor, Coxsone, after their falling out and penned this song to 'diss' him.
Curly Locks – Junior Byles
Written by Scratch, this was one of the big hits for Byles. Scratch recorded it himself on his 1978 classic album Roast Fish, Collie Weed and Cornbread.
Mr President – The Heptones
Taken from the ground breaking Party Time album, produced by the “Upsetter” himself. This song had the classic Black Ark studio sound which engineers around the world are still trying to emulate without success.
Small Axe – Bob Marley and the Wailers
This was a collaboration between Bob and Scratch. The two were on the verge of a big showdown after some misunderstanding, but instead of throwing blows and words, they went into seclusion and, on their return, came up with the song, which was once again inspired by Coxsone.
Sun is Shining – Bob Marley and the Wailers
Taken from the album Soul Revolution produced by Scratch, this was one of the songs that separated the Wailers from the rest of the popular vocal groups.
Row Fisherman – The Congos
Another production from the Black Ark studio in Washington Gardens that has such a unique sound. Cedric Myton’s vocals soar on this track, and it remains one of the great songs of the 1970s.
Soulful I Upsetter (featuring Winston Wright)
Scratch was big on instrumentals and recorded scores of them and dubs. This song features the great organist, the late Winston Wright.
War Inna Babylon – Max Romeo
Written by Romeo and Perry, this was a big tune in the early 1970s.
Punky Reggae Party – Marley and the Wailers
Bob called on Scratch to produce this track while he was at Island Records, though some believed that their relationship had soured. Recorded at the Joe Gibbs studio, Scratch could not find the right drum licks from the drummers he was using. Then, the engineer Ruddy Thomas suggested Sly Dunbar, who had just arrived at the studio. Sly went in with Scratch’s approval, and the rest is history.