Lee Perry F.A.Q. (Frequently Asked Questions)

1. Is this the official Lee Perry website?
2.
I want to contact Lee Perry. Can you give me his e-mail address?
3. I'm new to Lee Perry's music. What are the "must have" albums to get?
4. Why do they call Lee Perry "Scratch" or "The Upsetter"?
5. Did Lee Perry burn down his own studio?
6. Did Lee Perry take LSD and then go nuts?
7. Why does Lee Perry act so crazy?
8. Are there any books about Lee Perry?
9. Why do you call the website Eternal Thunder?
10. How long have you maintained this website?
11. How often is this website updated?
12. I want to re-produce some of the material you have here. Can I do that?
13. Is the song "Play On Mr. Music" available anywhere?
14. Does the original Lee Perry mix of "Complete Control" by The Clash exist?
15. What's the story with all of those bogus Scratch releases?
16. How can I tell if a Lee Perry album is bogus or not?
17. What language is "Bird In Hand" sung in?
18. How much unreleased Lee Perry material is out there?
19. I want some of Lee Perry's really rare material. Can you make me some CDs?
20. Why don't you have this single or that album in your discography?

 

1. Is this the official Lee Perry website?
No, Eternal Thunder is not the official Lee Perry website – I'm just a fan. However, this website has received Lee Perry's blessing: when he first saw it, he was very excited and pleased about what I had created. So you can consider this the "official unofficial" Lee Perry website.
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2. I want to contact Lee Perry. Can you give me his e-mail address?
No. For the most part, I don't have any regular contact with Lee Perry or his management. You can try his MySpace or Facebook pages.
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3. I'm new to Lee Perry's music. What are the "must have" albums to get?
Good question! First of all, keep in mind that Scratch's work spans many years and many different sounds – his early work with the Upsetters sounds completely different from the Black Ark era, and his solo work since the 1980s is a very different kettle of fish altogether. You can look at an overview of Scratch's career here. I would say that for Scratch's early work, The Complete Upsetter Singles Collection (Trojan) is a good place to start. When it comes to the Black Ark era, the Arkology box set (Island) is crucial, along with the albums War Ina Babylon, Police And Thieves, Party Time, and Super Ape (all Island). For rarer Black Ark grooves, Voodooism from Pressure Sounds is excellent. When it comes to Scratch's solo work, From The Secret Laboratory (Island), Time Boom X De Devil Dead (On U Sound) and Lord God Muzick (Heartbeat) are my three favourites. Of course, you should pour yourself a tasty beverage and spend some time in the discography section and read the hundreds of album reviews there.
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4. Why do they call Lee Perry "Scratch" or "The Upsetter"?
In 1965, Lee Perry recorded a ska song called "Chicken Scratch". As a joke, people started started calling him "Scratch", and the nickname stuck. In 1968 he recorded a song called "I Am The Upsetter" and then that nickname stuck as well. Upsetter is also the name of one of the record labels Lee Perry created to release his productions. Other nicknames which have been bestowed upon Scratch include King, The Neat Little Man, Pipecock Jackxson, Jah X, Jesse The Hammer and Wonder Man.
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5. Did Lee Perry burn down his own studio?
This is the most famous event in the mythology surrounding Lee Perry: that in 1979, he destroyed the Black Ark in a fit of either rage or madness. Over the years, Scratch has insisted that he burned his studio in frustration over the pressure that had built up on him as a producer. However, evidence proves that the Black Ark actually was destroyed by fire in 1983, due to an electrical problem. Members of Perry's family can confirm that he tried his best to put the flames out, rather than being the one who started the fire. Truth is stranger than fiction.
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6. Did Lee Perry take LSD and then go nuts?
There are many myths surrounding Lee Perry, and this is one of them. As far as can be determined, Scratch has never downed anything stronger than ganja and rum. So the idea that he took some acid, went crazy, and burned down the Black Ark is nonsense.
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7. Why does Lee Perry act so crazy?
Your guess is as good as mine, really. Lee Perry has always been a bit eccentric, but in the late 1970s as personal stress and burnout as a producer began to take its toll, Perry's behaviour turned more and more extreme. At first, it was an attempt to scare away certain people in his midst whom he no longer wanted to deal with. At some point, the act began to control Perry instead of the other way around. For many years his outlandish behaviour has been a source of amusement and frustration to many people. At other times, he can be completely calm and lucid. In 25 words or less: Lee Perry lives in a world of his own but can visit ours when and if he wants to.
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8. Are there any books about Lee Perry?
Yes indeed. The excellent People Funny Boy by David Katz, published by Omnibus Press. Look for it at your local bookstore.
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9. Why do you call the website Eternal Thunder?
It was something that Scratch told me in an interview: he referred to himself as ET, and then said that it stood for "eternal thunder". I thought that would be a really cool name for the website, which for the first year or two was called Soundzs From The Hotline.
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10. How long have you maintained this website?
The first version of this website went online in the early days of the internet: August 1996. Since then, it has been re-designed and expanded several times.
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11. How often is this website updated?
It used to be updated once a month, but after many years, Eternal Thunder is only updated when I feel like it or when there is something notable to report. I suppose I should have an RSS feed, but I invite you to do it the old fashioned way: bookmark the site and check it out every now and then.
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12. I want to re-produce some of the material you have here. Can I do that?
Not without permission. Everything on this website is protected under Canadian Copyright Law, and I take this very seriously. The rule is: if you see something you like here and want to use it on another website or publication, send me an e-mail and we'll discuss it. Most of the time there will be no problem, but if you use anything without asking my permission first, there's going to be trouble. And no, it doesn't matter if you give me credit and a link to this website – you need to ask for permission first.
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13. Is the song "Play On Mr. Music" available anywhere?
You can read more about this song in this article. In the Jeremy Marre documentary Roots Rock Reggae, we see some great footage of Scratch and friends in action at the Black Ark, apparently recording a song called "Play On Mr. Music". The song was made up on the spot for the documentary crew; it wasn't actually recorded or released.
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14. Does the original Lee Perry mix of "Complete Control" by The Clash exist?
Probably not. The Clash wanted to record a song with Lee Perry as producer, but it never really happened. "Complete Control" was more or less finished by the time Lee Perry stepped up to the mixing board and then was given its final mix by Mick Jones. The chance that CBS or the band kept a version of Perry's original mix is unlikely.
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15. What's the story with all of those bogus Scratch releases?
There are several half-assed record companies out there who have tried to make money by of selling false collections of Lee Perry's music, figuring that fans will buy it as long as his name is on it. Thankfully, in the age of MP3s, many of these releases have faded away, but there's still a lot out there. These bogus releases usually come in one of three forms: 1) they do contain actual Lee Perry productions but the company doesn't have permission to release them; 2) they contain Lee Perry productions which have been crudely remixed or edited, and some of the music was not produced by Scratch; 3) they have absolutely nothing to do with Lee Perry. Lee Perry's ex-wife Pauline Morrison has been known to lease out some of Perry's master tapes to a variety of companies, resulting in a lot of dubious albums being released.
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16. How can I tell if a Lee Perry album is bogus or not?
There are some easy ways to tell if a Lee Perry collection is bogus. First of all, the sleeve design is usually amateur and ugly. Second, these albums are almost always released on relatively obscure labels; unless it's on a fairly well known reggae label (Trojan, Heartbeat, Motion, Seven Leaves), it's most likely of dubious quality. If the songs have Lee Perry's name in them eg) "Skanking With Lee Perry" or "Lee Perry Upsetting Dub", you know that some swindler made the names up; Scratch never named his songs after himself. If you see the names Enzo Hamilton or Webster Shrowder anywhere on the sleeve, it's bound to be bogus. Those people are two French con men; they make their living out of selling a variety of bootlegged reggae CDs that are produced without the knowledge or consent of the artists.
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17. What language is "Bird In Hand" sung in?
"Bird In Hand" is a cover of an Indian song called "Milit Y Ankee" and is sung in Hindu by Sam Carty. This song has been discussed in detail here.
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18. How much unreleased Lee Perry material is out there?
When it comes to music that has been released on vinyl but hasn't been re-released on CD, there is easily enough material to fill more than a dozen CDs. With unreleased material – music that we know was recorded but never released – it's much harder to make a guess. Every now and then an unreleased song or an alternate take will be discovered on some master tapes, other times the tapes are lost forever. We are certainly not scraping the bottom of the barrel when it comes to Lee Perry's music, because Scratch had a very deep barrel!
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19. I want some of Lee Perry's really rare material. Can you make me some CDs?
No. Instead, you should check out the Radio Scratch podcasts.
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20. Why don't you have this single or that album in your discography?
What can I say? So many records, so little time. Lee Perry was involved directly or indirectly in so many songs in a 40 year career that it is near impossible to make a complete and accurate listing of them all. While creating this discography, I was simply overwhelmed by the sheer volume of material as well as the problems of how to logically present them on a web site. Therefore, I realized that I would have to limit the number of entries to make things simple. There is no such thing as a complete Lee Perry discography, although the extensive Smokey Room website probably comes pretty close. If you have any additions or corrections for the Eternal Thunder discography, please get in touch.
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