The eccentric Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry is a legend in the world of reggae, dub and ska. Lee’s career began in the 1960’s and, following disputes with record companies, he formed the Upsetter label in 1968. Perry made music with his studio band, The Upsetters, and at his Black Ark studios produced many great artists, such as this week’s artists Bob Marley and The Wailers. His innovative and experimental style led him to be a pioneer of dub music. Dub is like a stripped down version of reggae, with a darker, scarier sound. The music is often instrumental, with added emphasis on the drums and the bass. Effects such as echo and reverb are commonplace.
Initially dub remixes of reggae songs were only released as b-sides, but Perry realised the style could take centre stage. The Upsetters’ 1973 album 14 Dub Blackboard Jungle is a landmark dub album, which contains my second favourite Perry song, Black Panta. Keith Hudson’s 1974 record, Pick A Dub, is another critically acclaimed, early dub album.
Dub has gone on to influence a range of more recent genres, including techno, house, trip hop, and even hip hop and punk. The Clash were huge fans of dub and reggae, covering Police & Thieves, a song written by Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry and Junior Murvin, on their first album. Dub has been a major influence on dubstep, and artists often include dub and reggae elements, such as the one step rhythm, in their work as reference to its roots.
‘Scratch’ has continued to record, continuously adding to an ever growing, unwieldly discography. He is performing at next month’s All Tomorrow’s Parties festival, curated by the Animal Collective. Many say Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry is a madman, he is at least an eccentric, but his legacy to reggae and dub is huge.