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Scratch gets inspiration from a Steve McQueen movie

Every Lee Perry fan is aware of the wild-ass instrumentals that were cut by The Upsetters in the late 1960s that were inspired by spaghetti westerns: "Return Of Django", "For A Few Dollars More", "Clint Eastwood" and several others. My all-time favorite is "Sipreano", where Scratch advises a gunslinger that "nobody pulls a gun on a priest", that he is "no good, senor" and that he should "get out of here before you smell up the place".

I recently discovered that the song was inspired by a character in a 1966 Steve McQueen movie, Nevada Smith. McQueen plays Max Sand, a young man whose parents are brutally killed by three outlaws. He vows revenge, and grimly tracks them down one by one, letting nothing stand in his way.

At one point, Max attempts to join a gang led by one of the outlaws he's hunting in order to get close enough to kill him. Not trusting the newcomer, they beat him up and start dragging him behind their horses down a shallow river. Eventually they come across some monks who are tending their sheep. One of the monks comes forward to help Max and confronts the bad guys:

Priest: What is going on here? Are you trying to kill this man?

Bad Guy: Let go of that rope!

Priest: Not before I find out what this is all about!

The bad guy pulls a gun on the priest. Suddenly, a second member of the gang pulls a gun on him.

Sipreano: That is a priest! Nobody pulls a gun on a priest!

Bad Guy: Who says so?

Sipreano: Me, Sipreano say so! By the blessed virgin, I mean it!

After a brief standoff, they put their guns back in their holsters, cut Max loose, and ride off.

Sipreano was played by bit-part actor Ric Roman, whose other small roles include parts in The Big Heat, The Desperate Hours, and the great Elvis flick King Creole. He also appeared in TV shows such as Batman, Gunsmoke, and Mannix.

Listen to an MP3 of the Sipreano dialogue from Nevada Smith.

July 2002