Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry recently performed at a night curated by British reggae ambassador David Rodigan MBE for Fred Perry’s Sub-Sonic Live. Following their collaboration, the pair answered a few questions for Q‘s Simon McEwen about on the the evolution of reggae, the connections between the UK and Jamaica’s music scenes and more – plus watch a life performance from the gig above now.
How did the “punky reggae party” come about in London in 1977?
David Rodigan MBE: The punky reggae party came about because reggae was rebels’ music and punks could identify with it, especially the style of reggae coming out of Jamaica in 1976/77. Big anthems such as Police And Thieves by Junior Murvin and the big dub tune King Tubby Meets The Rockers Uptown by Augustus Pablo.
Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry: Well, I was in England and all the punks were around me, The Clash, The Jam and the Sex Pistols. After The Clash did a cover of Police And Thieves, Bob [Marley] came to London to see me. I wrote the song Having A Party in London then I tried to record it with Bob and the Third World band in Island Records’ studio, but it couldnt work. Then I went to Jamaica and did record it with Borris Gardener and some other Jamaican musicians. At that time Bob was in Miami, he was living there. So after that session I took the track to Miami to voice it with Bob.
How important was the connection between Jamaica and London in the early ’70s. For example, Lee Perry and Bob Marley’s visit in the early 70s?
LSP: During those times England was behind Jamaican music a hundred per cent to the max. They were playing Jamaican music day and night, round the clock on the radios. It was on Top Of The Pops. They bigged up Jamaican music over American music. England made reggae famous. Those was very happy times and the English people, almost 95 per cent of them, where going crazy for the reggae music, that made the reggae explode! So I bless-up England, BBC Radio and BBC TV to the maximum!
DR: The connection between Jamaica and London was very important in the early ’70s because reggae, roots and culture and dub music was real underground music, which otherwise could only be heard in an authentic way by going to Jamaican blues parties and big sound systems dances.
What is it about reggae music that made it spread from a tiny Caribbean island to a global phenomenon?
DR: Why is reggae a global phenomenon? Because in its purest form it speaks out for the common man. It speaks out against oppression and injustice. It was born out of the hardship endured on the streets and communities of Kingston; music was a release and it brought some relief to the sufferer.
LSP: Reggae music is His Majesty’s music! The King Of Kings’ music. It is spiritual music with sounds from heaven and the heart. The drum is the heartbeat and the bass is the brain. When they work together they create magic. People all over the world get hypnotised by the sexy vibrations. They feel the energy and get sexy and turn on and want to do something. Those universal soundwaves spread all over the world because it is original from the African jungle lion, Jah Rastafari. That’s It!
For more live tracks from Sub-Sonic Live Series head to Fredperrysubculture.com.