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Scritti Politti are a Britishmarker band, originally formed in 1977 in Leedsmarker, Yorkshiremarker, Englandmarker. Although there have been various changes in line-up, singer-songwriter Green Gartside was the founding member of the band and the only member to have remained throughout the group's history.

Overview

Initially a left-wing-inspired post-punk British rock group, Scritti Politti developed into a more mainstream pop music project in the early to mid 1980s, enjoying significant success in the record charts in the UKmarker and the USmarker. Scritti Politti originally consisted of Gartside (born Paul Julian Stromheyer) as the lead vocalist, Nial Jinks as bass player, Tom Morley as drummer, and Matthew Kay as the manager who sometimes played the keyboard. Morley also created much of the artwork on the band's album covers. Gartside and Jinks had gone to school together in South Walesmarker, and Gartside met Morley at Leeds Polytechnicmarker, a college they both attended. They played one show as The Against in 1976, doing covers of Chelsea songs. Disillusioned and bored with art school, Gartside and Morley left in June 1978 and moved into a squat at 1 Carol Street in Camden Town, London. Jinks was invited to join the band. Gartside taught him how to play the bass in three weeks.

Gartside recorded a demo of one of his new songs, "The Sweetest Girl", in January 1981, and the song was included on a compilation of songs given out with the March issue of NME. The song prompted many major labels to offer Gartside record contracts, but he decided to stay with Rough Trade. By August 1981, Scritti Politti's debut album was complete and ready for release, but Gartside wanted to wait, most likely because he could not decide on a title. "The Sweetest Girl" was released as a single in November and reached only #64 on the UK music chart, but was cited by The New York Times as one of the ten best singles of the year. The single was later covered by pop band Madness, with their version reaching #35 in the UK singles chart in 1986. Nial Jinks also temporarily rejoined the band around this time. The band's music was characterized by sophisticated studio production, Gartside's sly, punning wordplay — influenced by his reading of deconstruction (the group's 1982 debut album, Songs to Remember, features a song called "Jacques Derrida") — and the tension between the polished pop-funk stylings of their music and the subtle radicalism of the political and social messages embedded in their lyrics.

The group's most successful album, 1985's Cupid & Psyche 85, spawned three UK Top 20 hits with "Wood Beez ", "Absolute", and "The Word Girl", as well as a US Top 20 hit with "Perfect Way". The personnel for this album differed from that of their first album, and featured keyboardist David Gamson and ex-Material drummer Fred Maher, both of whom would collaborate with Gartside on songwriting and production duties. Arif Mardin would also produce three songs for the album.

This new line-up remained for the band's next album, 1988's Provision. This album was a Top 10 success, though it only produced one Top 20 hit ("Oh Patti"). After releasing a couple of non-album singles in the early 1990s, as well as a collaboration with B.E.F., Gartside became disillusioned with the music industry and retired to South Walesmarker for the rest of the decade. He returned to music-making in the late 1990s, releasing two critically acclaimed albums, 1999's Anomie and Bonhomie (which included various rap and hip hop influences) and 2006's stripped-down White Bread, Black Beer which returned to the more experimental era of the band's history.

History

The name Scritti Politti was chosen as a homage to the Italian Marxist theorist Antonio Gramsci: The name is generally understood to refer to Gramsci's political writings (although the correct spelling in Italian would have produced "Scritti Politici"). Gartside changed it to 'Scritti Politti' as he thought it sounded more rock and roll, like "Tutti Frutti".

In the mid 1970s, Gartside was studying fine art at Leeds College of Art and Design (now Leeds College of Artmarker). The Sex Pistols 'Anarchy' tour which included The Damned and The Heartbreakers was launched at Leeds Polytechnic on 6 December 1976, and inspired Gartside to form a band with his childhood friend Nial Jinks, and fellow student Tom Morley. For their first public performance supporting local Leeds punk group SOS the group went under the name 'The Against'. Upon finishing their studies the group relocated to Londonmarker's Camden Townmarker around 1977 where they lived in a squat at 3 Regent's Park Road and in the Carol St. Collective. Alongside other groups of what has been termed the DIY ethic or movement (notably the Desperate Bicycles and Steve Treatment, the latter being associated with the Swell Maps), the group released a DIY record titled "Skank Bloc Bologna" on their own St. Pancras label in 1978. This appropriation of the means of production, to quote from the Marxist parlance that can be heard among the lyrics of these early works, might well have been equally inspired by the group's initial admiration for, and contact with, the avant-garde left-wing rock band Henry Cow.

To the raw energy of punk, Scritti Politti added a creative spontaneity and a mock-philosophical intelligence in their lyrics, with scholarly allusions to Marx, Bakunin, Derrida, Deleuze, and Lacan. In early tracks, the punk-like fracturing of language and spikiness of the sound were held together by more lyrical melody than the more austere music of other left-field groups from the post-punk scene, such as Gang of Four, London art-rockers This Heat or the Bristolmarker based The Pop Group.

"Skank Bloc Bologna" picked up airplay on John Peel's BBC Radio 1 show, and the band were signed to Rough Trade under Geoff Travis in 1979, making them labelmates with the other Cardiff avant-garde band, Young Marble Giants. Scritti Politti released two EPs in 1979 with singles "Bibbly-O-Tek", "Doubt Beat", "OPEC/Immac" and "Hegemony". "Hegemony" led to more melodic songs such as "Confidence", which in turn hinted at the direction the band would take in the 1980s. Gartside then slimmed the band down to a three piece.

By the time of "4 A-sides", a blend of strong melody and rhythmic jaggedness had been achieved. The band exhibited an explicit do-it-yourself attitude, which manifested itself in their hand-made record sleeves with detailed breakdowns of production costs, including addresses and phone numbers of record pressing plants, and even their own Camden squat address for feedback.

However, whilst on a UK tour with Gang of Four and Joy Division, Gartside was overcome by the pressures of stage fright and anxiety, leading to his first heart attack at age 23. In order to recover from ill health, he retreated to his native Wales and began writing an album that was to be heavily influenced by the R&B and New Yorkmarker sound he was listening to. The first outing of one of the new songs was "The Sweetest Girl", which was featured on C81; a free cassette tape given away with the NME music magazine. The song - which features Robert Wyatt on keyboards - received strong reviews, but the track did not get a wide release for ten months, by which time momentum was lost, and it only achieved a minor placing in the UK Singles Chart at #64.

1981's "The Sweetest Girl" marked a stylistic change toward the more melodic, and was followed by minor hits "Faithless" (UK #56) and double A-side "Asylums in Jerusalem" / "Jacques Derrida" (UK #43). Drummer Tom Morley, departed in November 1981. The debut album, Songs to Remember, was released on Rough Trade in August 1982. Displaying Gartside's previously hidden reggae influence, it was a critical and commercial success, reaching #12 in the UK Albums Chart. One of Rough Trade's most unlikely success stories, the album became their biggest selling release to date. Also during this period, Gartside recorded a duet with Annie Lennox on the Eurythmics track "Wrap It Up", for their Sweet Dreams album released in early 1983.

Gartside was becoming influenced by the new sounds coming out of New Yorkmarker, especially hip hop. He signed with Virgin Records in 1983 (and with Warner Bros. in the US.) The original line-up was disbanded and Gartside moved to New York.

Collaborating with veteran producer Arif Mardin, David Gamson and Fred Maher, the first recording to emerge from these sessions was the single: "Wood Beez ". Released in April 1984, "Wood Beez" was an immediate UK hit, peaking at #10, and was also successful in Australia, charting at #25. A series of intricately-programmed dance/soul-style hits followed, including "Absolute" (UK #17), "Hypnotize" (UK #68) and the reggae-styled "The Word Girl", which became Scritti Politti's biggest UK hit single, climbing to #6 in May 1985.

In June 1985, Scritti Politti released their second (and most successful) album, Cupid and Psyche '85, with songs produced by Arif Mardin and performances by numerous session musicians. The LP was a Top 5 hit in the UK and also sold well in the US. In addition to the four already released singles, the album included the song, "Perfect Way". It was only a minor hit when released in the UK (#48) but it became the band's biggest US single, peaking at #11. Stylistically, the songs on the album feature dense timbral counterpoint (in fact, nearly every song on the album), using synthesizer chords and effects (as well as "real" instruments), programmed largely by David Gamson, creating a style that they would refine in their next album.

In 1986 Gartside and Gamson wrote and produced "Love Of A Lifetime" for Chaka Khan, which appeared on her Destiny album. The same year they also collaborated to write the title track for Al Jarreau's album, L is For Lover.

In 1987, Scritti Politti appeared on the Who's That Girl soundtrack with the song "Best Thing Ever". This track also appeared on the next Scritti Politti album, 1988's Provision, which continued Gartside's development into synth-funk as well as reggae and other styles. The roster of session players became even more notable, including contributions from Roger Troutman and Miles Davis, who performed on the single "Oh Patti (Don't Feel Sorry For Loverboy)", a UK #13 hit. However, although the album charted in the Top 10 in the UK (#8), it did not match the commercial success of Cupid and Psyche '85 in the US, stalling at #113.

They hit the UK charts again in 1991 with their cover of The Beatles' song, "She's a Woman", which featured guest vocals from Shabba Ranks. It became Scritti Politti's final UK Top 20 single, peaking at #20. However, a corresponding album never materialised, with Gartside deciding on another hiatus.

The hip hop inspired album Anomie and Bonhomie was released in 1999, and involved even more session artists. The now bearded Gartside dived directly into the now commercially accessible hip hop scene, borrowing tradesmen of the genre such as Mos Def and Jimahl amongst others. While considered by many critics to be a return to form, the album was not as commercially successful as previous output, reaching only #33 on the UK Albums Chart.

In 2003, Gartside resurfaced on Kylie Minogue's album Body Language, duetting on the Emiliana Torrini co-write "Someday".

In February 2005 Rough Trade released Early, a compilation album of Scritti Politti's earliest recordings.

In early January 2006, Gartside and a new incarnation of Scritti Politti, billed as 'Double G and The Traitorous 3', played a show in Brixtonmarker. This was Gartside's first live appearance since 1980. This band, including journalist/musician Rhodri Marsden on keyboards and Dicky Moore on guitar, played a number of concerts previewing a new album, White Bread, Black Beer, which was released on Rough Trade on 29 May 2006. Later that year, White Bread, Black Beer was nominated for the Mercury Music Prize, and gained critical praise.

The current line-up toured worldwide (under the Scritti Politti name) on the back of the album's success, and completed a UK tour in November 2006. They appeared at the Bestival music festival in September 2006, and at Summer Sonic Festival in Japan. On 19 December, they played a short set at the Rough Trade Christmas party in London.

In 2007, Gartside worked on an album with Alexis Taylor, the singer with Hot Chip. The pair met at the Mercury Music Prize ceremony, and played a concert supporting Kieran Hebden and Steve Reid at KOKOmarker in London in March 2007.

In 2009, Gartside participated in 'Very Circular Songs', a concert at The Barbicanmarker celebrating the music of The Incredible String Band, featuring Richard Thompson, Kamila Thompson, Alasdair Roberts, and Dr. Strangely Strange.

Legacy

Miles Davis covered Scritti Politti's track "Perfect Way". Davis also appeared on the Scritti Politti track "Oh Patti (Don't Feel Sorry For Loverboy)" on their album Provision.

"The Sweetest Girl" was covered by Madness on their 1985 album, Mad Not Mad.

Discography

Singles

  • "Skank Bloc Bologna" (1978)
  • "2nd Peel Session" (1979)
  • "4 A-Sides" (1979)
  • "The Sweetest Girl" (1981) UK #64
  • "Faithless" (1982) UK #56
  • "Asylums in Jerusalem" / "Jacques Derrida" (1982) UK #43
  • "Wood Beez (Pray Like Aretha Franklin)" (1984) UK #10, US #91, AUS #25
  • "Absolute" (1984) UK #17
  • "Hypnotize" (1984) UK #68, US Hot Dance Club Play #43
  • "The Word Girl" (featuring Ranking Ann) (1985) UK #6
  • "Perfect Way" (1985) UK #48, US #11
  • "Oh Patti (Don't Feel Sorry for Loverboy)" (1988) UK #13
  • "First Boy in This Town (Love Sick)" (1988) UK #63
  • "Boom! There She Was" (featuring Roger Troutman) (1988) UK #55, US #53
  • "She's a Woman" (featuring Shabba Ranks) (1991) UK #20
  • "Take Me in Your Arms and Love Me" (and Sweetie Irie) (1991) UK #47
  • "Tinseltown to the Boogiedown" (1999) UK #46
  • "The Boom Boom Bap" (2006)


Albums



See also



References

  1. Green Gartside: liner notes to Early (Rough Trade, 2005)


External links




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