Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, who has died at the age of 85, was one of the most idiosyncratic characters in music, as renowned for his dexterity in the studio as he was for his colourful behaviour – notoriously burning down his legendary Black Ark studios in the late 70s in an apparent fit of rage, while also blowing smoke into the microphone to see if the “weed would get into the song.”
The dub maestro was a regular to Irish shores over the years, and I remember back in the early 2000s, a friend of mine found him wandering the Dublin quays looking for someone with a lighter at the time he was supposed to be taking to the stage in the Button Factory.
Thankfully, the enigmatic Mr Perry was soon returned to the venue and the gig was a storming success.
Back in 1990, documentary maker Ludo Timmermans tracked Perry down in Erlenbach, Switzerland (his then-home) for a meet-up with the musical maverick, Lee Scratch Perry: The Unlimited Destruction.
While at times, Perry’s contributions are unintelligible, the lo-fi documentary is peppered with tracks from his back catalogue, while offering a potted history of how the Jamaica-native became one of the most inspirational producers in music, with contributions from Carlton Jackson, Mad Professor and others.
“There’s nobody alive that music can upset,” Perry explains at one point. “Music can entertain people, music can make people, music can break people. Music can upset people, music heal people, music kill people. Music can do anything.”
We also get a glimpse of Perry’s home, which is as decked out in bling and chintz as you might expect – and with no shortage of ‘plants’.
Despite its somewhat amateurish nature, the documentary would go on to be a cult classic, and essential viewing in student digs for most of the 90s.
Recently, Jet Star Music uploaded the whole documentary to YouTube, so you can enjoy the enigmatic ‘Upsetter’ in his natural habitat… surrounded, as you might imagine, by clouds of weed smoke.
RIP Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry – the world is certainly a less interesting place without you in it.
[Main photo by Alexey Komarov/Wikimedia Commons]