Lee "Scratch" Perry

Missing image
Lee "Scratch" Perry, The Upsetter in Dub

Lee "Scratch" Perry (born Rainford Hugh Perry March 20, 1936) is one of the most influential people in the development of reggae and dub music in Jamaica.

Perry began his career in the late 1950s working with Prince Buster and Clement Coxsone Dodd's sound system. He was soon producing records with Dodd and recording at Studio One, but the pair eventually stopped working together due to personality and financial conflicts. Working with Joe Gibbs at Wirl Records, Perry tried to begin his recording career, but again, personality and financial problems caused conflict, and Perry left to form his own label, Upsetter, in 1968 (see 1968 in music). His first single "People Funny Boy", which was an insult directed at Gibbs, sold very well. It is notable for its innovative use of a slow, sluggish, bass-driven beat that would soon become identifiable as a distinctively "reggae" (or, more accurately, roots reggae) sound. During the 1970s, Perry released numerous recordings and acquired a variety of nicknames including Scratch, The Upsetter, and Super Ape. Most of his hits were big in both Jamaica and the UK, and he soon became known as much for his eccentric character and outlandish style in his appearance as for his music. For a breif period in the 1980s Perry changed his name to Pipecock Jackxon, and worked with a Dutch record label to rebuild his burned down studio, 'The Black Ark', with typically eccentric Perry features, including a pond in the drum booth.

In the early 1970s, Perry participated in the creation of dub. He formed a studio, The Black Ark, to experiment in the style and produce tracks from notable musicians like Bob Marley & the Wailers and The Congos. With a studio of his own, Perry was free to experiment without concern for paying hourly for studio time, and he lavished a great deal of time on the records he produced. Virtually everything recorded in The Black Ark was on a 4-track recording deck. Perry remained in the forefront of dub innovation and experimentation until, surrounded by rumor and controversy, The Black Ark recording studio burned to the ground. Perry generally insists it was an accident due to faulty wiring, but he is fond of telling stories and regularly tells new versions of old stories. It is unlikely anyone but Perry will ever know if the burning of The Black Ark was purposeful or accidental.

Even after producing such seminal singles as "Small Axe", Perry sold the tapes to Trojan Records without telling Marley, Peter Tosh or Bunny Wailer. After Marley & the Wailers signed to Island Records, Perry began accusing Chris Blackwell (head of Island Records) of cultural imperialism and psychic vampirism, as well as calling Marley an accomplice and a sell-out to his race. In spite of his difficulty getting along with some, Perry continued working with a variety of musicians, including the Clash, the legendary British punk group who were perhaps the earliest white artists to combine rock'n'roll with reggae rhythms. Perry took a public stance against all drug use except cannabis, an integral part of the Rasta religion, but rumors still circulated regarding the use of LSD, cocaine and even gasoline and tape head-cleaning fluid. These stories are likely urban legend, though Perry's behavior is known to be erratic when he is drinking alcohol.

Since leaving Jamaica soon after the destruction of Black Ark, Perry has lived in Switzerland. He continues recording with great success, though his production work has slowed down significantly, without a studio of his own. Lee has collaborated and toured with Mad Professor since the mid 1980s.

In 2003, Perry won a Grammy for Best Reggae Album with the album Jamaican ET.



Early Albums

  • The Upsetter (1969)
  • The Return of Django (1969)
  • Eastwood Rides Again (1970)
  • Africa's Blood (1971)
  • Blackboard Jungle Dub (1973)
  • Cloak and Dagger (1973)

Black Ark Era Albums

  • Double Seven (1974)
  • Kung Fu Meets the Dragon aka Heart of the Dragon(1975)
  • Revolution Dub (1975)
  • Return of Wax (1975)
  • Super Ape (1976)
  • Return of the Super Ape (1978)
  • Roast Fish Collie Weed and Corn Bread (1978)

Others Albums

  • The Return of Pipecock Jackxon (1980)
  • Battle Of Armagideon (Millionaire Liquidator) (1986)
  • Time Boom X - De Devil Dead (with Dub Syndicate) (1987)
  • On the Wire (1988)
  • Chicken Scratch (1989)
  • From The Secret Laboratory (1990)
  • Satan's Dub (with Bullwackie) (1990)
  • Lord God Muzik (1991)
  • Sounds From The Hotline (1991)
  • The Upsetter and The Beat (1992)
  • Super Ape Inna Jungle (1995)
  • Dub Take The Voodoo Out Of Reggae (1996)
  • Who Put The Voodoo Pon Reggae (1996)
  • Mystic Warrior (1997)
  • Mystic Warrior Dub (with Mad Professor) (1997)
  • Dub Fire (with Mad Professor) (1998)
  • Son of Thunder (2000)
  • Jamaican ET (2002)
  • Earthman Skanking (2003)
  • Encore (2003)
  • Panic in Babylon (2005)


  • Chicken Scratch (produced by Coxsone Dodd) (1963-1966)
  • Open The Gate (1989)
  • Upsetter Collection (1994)
  • Upsetters A Go Go (1995)
  • Experryments at the Grass Roots of Dub (aka Black Ark Experryments) (1995)
  • Introducing Lee Perry (1996)
  • Words Of My Mouth Vol.1 (The Producer Series) (1996)
  • Arkology (1997)
  • The Upsetter Shop Vol.1: Upsetter In Dub (1997) (see above image)
  • Dry Acid (1998)
  • Lee Perry Arkive (1998)
  • Lost Treasures of The Ark (1999)
  • Upsetter Shop Vol.2 1969-1973 (1999)
  • Words Of My Mouth Vol.2 (The Producer Series) (1999)
  • Words Of My Mouth Vol.3 (Live As One/The Producer Series) (2000)
  • Scratch Walking (2001)
  • Black Ark In Dub (2002)

See also: dub music, list of reggae musicians



  • Lee Scratch Perry: The Unlimited Destruction, 2002, USA
  • Lee Scratch Perry: In Concert - The Ultimate Alien, 2003, USA
  • Lee Scratch Perry With Mad Professor, 2004, USA

External links

fr:Lee Scratch Perry nl:Lee Perry


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