Ten crucial Lee “Scratch” Perry selections from my vinyl collection…

Junior Murvin’s “Tedious” appears on the landmark Black Ark LP POLICE AND THIEVES.  It was released as a 7″ single on the Orchid, Mango and Island labels.  A deep, rootsy signature tune from the great Junior Murvin.


One of Bob Marley’s most recognizable tunes, “Small Axe” was produced by Perry and recorded at Dynamic Studios.  The copy in my collection is on a blank, maybe an Upsetter Pre-.  While the song is normally credited to Bob Marley, it was more likely a collabrative effort between Marley and Perry.  The b-side is an Upsetters track titled “Down The Road.”  “Small Axe” was also released as a 7″ single by Perry’s Upsetter Records UK, Catalogue Number: US 357. It featured “All In One” on the flip. There is also a 1971 issue on the Upsetter label, Jamaica. This has “Down the Road” by The Upsetters on the flip. The single was also issued on the Spinning Wheel label in Jamaica.

Marley spoke about the song in his 1973 interview with Carl Gayle:

“‘Small Axe’ is about righteousness against sin.  It says why boasteth thyself oh evil men/Playing smart and not being clever.’  It didn’t encourage violence, it didn’t mean you should go out and cut a man down, it was a power a world power.  It’s a victory its a Small Axe.”


Next we have Bob Marley’s “Duppy Conqueror” b/w the version titled “Zig Zag,” which I own on an Upsetter 7″.  As Marley explains in a 1973 interview with Carl Gayle, the tune references his recent release from prison and hails those bredren still behind bars.  Gayle asks Marley “Was ‘Duppy Conqueror’ about your ganja rap and subsequent release from prison?”  To which Marley responds:

“Yeah it was in those realms.  ‘Yes I’ve been accused, wrongly beaten and abused/But through the power of the most High, them have to turn me loose/Yes me friend, me deh ‘pon street again.’  It was really for every prisoner that came out at that time because it was so good to be back ‘pon street again.”

My copy of "Duppy Conqueror in sleeve autographed to me by Lee "Scratch" Perry
My copy of “Duppy Conqueror” in sleeve autographed to me by Lee “Scratch” Perry

“Land of Love” by the Sons of Light was produced by Perry and released as a 7″ on the Upsetter label in 1978. Though Perry was in the midst of severe mental and emotional torture, he was still able to create magic within the confines of the Black Ark. Who Sons of Light were and how Perry came upon them remains an enigma, “Land of Love” was apparently their sole release.


Next we have “Man To Man”/”Nicoteen” by Bob Marley and the Wailers. Produced by Lee Perry and recorded in September 1970 at Dynamic Studios by Carlton Lee during the same session that “Duppy Conqueror” was recorded. Credited to both Bob Marley and Lee Perry. The tune features outstanding lead guitar work from Alva “Reggie” Lewis and Ranford “Ronnie Bop” Williams. Bob Marley re-cut the tune in 1977 re-titling it “Who The Cap Fit.”


Funny thing about Dynamic Studios.  In his 1973 interview with Carl Gayle, Marley goes on a “ras claat” rant about the studio and their tactics:

“Its a good studio but they messed about with me all that time because even when we got the advance to do the album they held the money and wanted to know why we were getting this money.  A big blood claat like them, they have pressing plants, studios, houses like dirt.  You know what we live in – shacks, ghost town.  But just imagine it, the guys control Jamaican music, they make all the money out of it and you know Chris Blackwell had to leave from England and come down there and even they told him we got the money and they still had it.  They can’t play reggae music they just try to kill off the real musicians.  The commercial stuff they make is rubbish.  When you ask them about reggae they say Bob Marley sings the rebel music.  What are they singing about ‘Baby I love you every day’ for, Baby knows we love her.”

Bob Marley’s “Rainbow Country” was issued as a 12″ maxi-single b/w Augustus Pablo’s “Lama Lava” by Daddy Kool in 1979.  In my interview with Steve Barrow, who co-founded the Daddy Kool record shop and label, he states that Augustus Pablo informed him that the b-side track is a “bootleg.”


“Mystery Babylon” by the Heptones might actually be my favorite Perry-produced track. I own it on both the Hep Hep and Top Ranking labels, both issued in 1977.


A fantastic re-issue on the Hep Hep label, The Heptones’ “Storm Clouds” is one of Perry’s best. The track appears on the full-length studio LP PARTY TIME.


A great re-issue of the Heptones “Crying Over You” b/w the Upsetters’ “Dread Lion”…


Here is a great article by Vivien Goldman which appeared in the February 16, 1980 issue of Melody Maker: