“The Revelation of Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry”: Behind-the-scenes of the reggae pioneer’s 2010 album

By on January 24, 2019

The Revelation of Lee ‘Scratch” Perry — now streaming on Night Flight Plus — gives viewers a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the reggae & dub pioneer‘s Grammy-nominated album Revelation (2010).

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The documentary is directed by one of his longtime collaborators, British singer and multi-instrumentalist Steve Marshall, who uses the pseudonym “John Saxon” for his production credits credited to State of Emergency Ltd. (their work on The End of an American Dream also received a Grammy nomination in 2007).

Marshall — who has known Perry since 1984, touring the UK as the lead guitarist with his band, and working with him on three album recorded between 2007-2010, including this third collaboration for Megawave Records — includes a long, free-flowing interview he did with Perry in-between recording sessions, where he backed him up on guitar, percussion, keys and harmonica.

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The album’s roster of additional musicians also includes Duncan & Green (bass and drums), Tim Hill (saxophones), Dr Sleepy (congas), Alec Hay (banjo), elodieO & Abi Browning (backing vocals), and David Stewart Jones (guitar). Lee provides the lead vocals, percussion and synthesizers.

Although they do not appear in the film, Perry’s Revelation album also features special guest contributions by Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards (he adds acoustic piano, bass, Wurlitzer piano, kick drum with mallet, and guitars on “Books of Moses”) and P-funk king George Clinton (vocals on “Scary Politicians”).

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The album was mainly recorded at Perry’s home studio high up in the mountains of Switzerland, where he’s lived for many years, in addition to recording sessions at One East Recording Studio NYC, State of Mind Recording Studio and The Premises, UK.

In the film, we see the elaborate overgrown garden at Perry’s home — where some of the recording takes place — which features gnomes, wooden snakes, brightly-painted stones and various placards and signs with angry protest messages about political and social injustice (it reminded us a little bit of the late Reverend Howard Finster’s rural Paradise Gardens, where R.E.M. lensed their first video, which we told you about here).

In this interview he did in August of 2010, Perry talks about the album’s title, Revelation, and his belief that the final book of the New Testament predicts the end of the world (a vision of the apocalypse still open to a variety of wild interpretations) .

Perry says that “The revelation I would like to share with people who love God and love justice is maybe that the third world is finished. The heads of government are finished, the council of churches is finished. There is no church but you. You, me, we are the churches. The kingdom of god is living in I and living in you.”

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Although much of Revelation contains Perry’s thoughts about spirituality and his religious beliefs — particularly “Revelation Revolution And Evolution,” “Eye For an Eye,” “Psalm,” “Books of Moses,” “Let There Be Light” and “Holy Angels” — Perry also finds time to sing about the FBI and CIA on “Fire Power” and “Scary Politicians,” as well as Michael Jackson‘s nosejob (“Freaky Michael”), in which he riffs about the late pop singer’s fucked-up face.

Read more about Lee “Scratch” Perry’s Revelation below.

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Lee “Scratch” Perry — born “Rainford Hugh Perry” on March 20, 1936, in Kendall, a small town in Hanover Parish, Jamaica — is today considered one of the giants of reggae & dub music.

Using a variety of pseudonyms, such as Pipecock Jackxon and The Upsetter, Perry has been very influential in the development and acceptance of reggae and dub music worldwide, and as an engineer and producer, Perry has pioneered a number of unique musical innovations, including dub reggae.

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Perry’s groundbreaking and experimental studio productions of artists — including Bob Marley and The Wailers, Max Romeo, Junior Byles, the Heptones, and the Congos, among others — have also have a major influence on British rockers like the Clash (with whom he worked on “Complete Control”). The Clash also cover Junior Murvin’s “Police and Thieves,” which Perry also produced.

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Perry began his musical career sometime in the late 1950s, originally as a salesman selling records for Clement Coxsone Dodd’s sound system. He eventually found himself working in the recording studio at Dodd’s Studio One hit factory, becoming a studio engineer in demand before venturing off to work with Joe Gibbs’s Amalgamated Records.

Perry later broke with Gibbs and set up his own record label, The Upsetters, in 1972 (Perry’s band between 1968-1972 were called “the Upsetters”).

He subsequently built the legendary Black Ark studios in the back garden of his home in Duhaney Park, in Kingston, Jamaica, where he recorded not only the Clash but other British artists, including Robert Palmer.

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In 1979, the Black Ark was destroyed by fire, allegedly set by Perry himself (although he has admitted to the act of arson committed during a period of mental illness, it has been suggested that the studio caught on fire after falling into a state of disrepair).

Perry has spent much of his time ever since then living in England and also the United States, recording and performing with many, many groups and artists, including the Beastie Boys — Perry sings on “Dr. Lee, PhD,” a track from their 1998 Hello Nasty album — and Neil “Mad Professor'” Frazer.

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There are at least two feature length documentaries about Lee “Scratch” Perry’s life and work: Volker Schaner’s Vision Of Paradise and Ethan Higbee and Adam Bhala Lough’s The Upsetter.

Watch The Revelation of Lee ‘Scratch” Perry on Night Flight Plus.

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About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.