Scritti Politti are a British band, originally formed in 1978 in
Leeds, Yorkshire, England. Scritti Politti is now primarily a musical vehicle for singer-songwriter Green Gartside(real name Paul Julian Strohmeyer, born 22 June 1955, Cardiff, Wales), who is the founding member and only member of the band to have remained throughout the group's history.
left-wing-inspired post-punkBritish rock group, Scritti Politti developed into a more mainstream pop musicproject in the early to mid 1980s, enjoying significant success in the record charts in the UK and the U.S. The band's musicwas characterized by sophisticated studio production and Gartside's sly, punning wordplay influenced by his reading of deconstruction(the group's 1982 debut album, "Songs to Remember", features a songcalled " Jacques Derrida").
The group's most successful album, 1985's "
Cupid & Psyche 85", was innovative in its early use of the techniques of sampling and MIDI sequencing. It spawned three UK Top 20 hits with "Wood Beez", "Absolute", and "The Word Girl", as well as a U.S. Top 20 hit with "Perfect Way". The personnel for this album differed from that of their first album, and now featured keyboardist David Gamson and ex- Materialdrummer Fred Maher, both of whom would collaborate with Gartside on songwriting and production duties (famed producer Arif Mardinwould also produce three songs for the album).
This new line-up remained for the band's next album, 1988's "Provision". This album was also 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 industryand retired to South Walesfor 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 rapand hip-hopinfluences) and 2006's stripped-down " White Bread, Black Beer" which returned to the more experimental era of the band's 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"). Green changed it to "Scritti Politti" as he thought it sounded more rock and roll, like "Tutti Frutti".
In the 1970s, Gartside was studying
fine artat Leeds College of Art and Design. The Sex Pistols'Anarchy' tour which included The Damnedand The Heartbreakerswas 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 London's Camden Townaround 1977 where they lived in a squat at 3 Regent's Park Road and in the infamous Carol St. Collective. Alongside other groups of what has been termed the DIY ethicor movement (notably the Desperate Bicyclesand 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 lyricsof these early works, might well have been equally inspired by the group's initial admiration for, and contact with, the avant-gardeleft-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 Heator Bristol-based Pop Group.
"Skank Bloc Bologna" picked up airplay on
John Peel's influential new music show, and the band were signed to Rough Trade Recordsunder Geoff Travisin 1979, making them labelmates with the other popular 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 a very 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. In the days before the
Internet, this openness delighted fans.
However, whilst on a national tour with Gang of Four, Gartside was overcome by the pressure of playing live. In order to recover from ill health, he retreated to his native
Walesand began writing an album that was to be heavily influenced by the R&B and New York 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 tapegiven away with the NME. The song was a success and received strong reviews, but the track was not given a wide release for 10 months, by which time momentum was lost, and it became a minor hit in the UK Singles Chartat #64.
"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). The debut album, "Songs To Remember", was released on Rough Trade in September 1982. Displaying Gartside's previously hidden
reggaeinfluence, it was a critical and commercial success, reaching #12 in the UK Albums Chart(and #1 in the independent album charts). Also during this period, Gartside duetted with Annie Lennoxon the Eurythmicstrack "Wrap It Up", for their " Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)" album released in early 1983.
Gartside was becoming increasingly influenced by the new sounds coming out of New York, especially hip hop. He signed with
Virgin Recordsin 1983 (and with Warner Bros.in the U.S.). The original line-up was disbanded and Gartside moved to New York to begin working on what was to become his signature sound.
Collaborating with producer Arif Mardin, David Gamson and Fred Maher, the first recording to emerge from these sessions was the single: "
Wood Beez (Pray Like Aretha Franklin)". 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 disco/soul-style hits followed, including "Absolute" (UK #17), "Hypnotize" (UK #68) and " 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 notable
session musicians. The LP was a Top 5 hit in the UK and also sold well in the U.S. 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 U.S. single, peaking at #11.
1986 saw Gartside and Gamson write and produce "Love Of A Lifetime" for
Chaka Khan, which appeared on her "Destiny" album.
In 1987, Scritti Politti appeared on the "Who's That Girl"
soundtrackwith 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- funkas well as reggae and other styles. The roster of session players became even more notable, including contributions from Roger Troutmanand 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 U.S., stalling at #113.
They hit the UK charts again in 1991 with "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 Green deciding on another hiatus.
The hip-hop inspired album "Anomie and Bonhomie" was released in 1999 and comprised of 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 Defand 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, Green resurfaced on
Kylie Minogue's album "Body Language", duetting on the Emiliana Torrinico-write "Someday".
In February 2005, "Early", a
compilation albumof Scritti Politti's early years was released.
In early January 2006, Gartside and a new incarnation of Scritti Politti, billed as "Double G and The Traitorous 3", played a low-key show in
Brixton, London. This was Gartside's first live appearance since 1980. This band, including journalist/ musician Rhodri Marsdenon keyboards and Dicky Mooreon guitar, played a number of concerts previewing a new album, " White Bread, Black Beer", which was released on Rough Trade Recordson 29 May 2006. Later that year, "White Bread, Black Beer" was nominated for the Mercury Music Prize, and gained high 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 festivalin September 2006, and at Summer Sonic Festivalin Japan. On Tuesday 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 Hebdenand Steve Reidat KOKO in London on 29 March 2007.
Stylistically, Scritti Politti's work moved from radical post-punk to smooth, highly-polished 1980s dance/pop music, and their later work also developed to encompass rap music. Gartside innovatively incorporated sampling into his music as early as 1985's "Cupid & Psyche 85". Their 1999 album, "Anomie & Bonhomie", featured rappers
Mos Defand Jimahl.
Miles Davis covered Scritti Politti's track "Perfect Way". Davis also appeared on one track of the Scritti Politti album "Provision".
"The Sweetest Girl" was covered by Madness for their 1985 album "
Mad Not Mad".
* "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, U.S. #91, AUS #25
* "Absolute" (1984) UK #17
* "Hypnotize" (1984) UK #68, U.S. Hot Dance Music/Club Play #43
* "The Word Girl" (featuring Ranking Ann) (1985) UK #6
* "Perfect Way" (1985) UK #48, U.S. #11
* "Oh Patti (Don't Feel Sorry For Loverboy)" (1988) UK #13
* "First Boy In This Town (Lovesick) (1988) UK #63
* "Boom! There She Was" (featuring
Roger Troutman) (1988) UK #55, U.S. #53
* "She's a Woman" (featuring
Shabba Ranks) (1991) UK #20
* "Take Me In Your Arms" (featuring
Sweetie Irie) (1991) UK #47
* "Tinseltown To The Boogiedown" (1999) UK #46
* "The Boom Boom Bap" (2006)
Songs to Remember" (1982) UK #12
Cupid & Psyche 85" (1985) UK #5, U.S. #50
* "Provision" (1988) UK #8, U.S. #113
* "Anomie & Bonhomie" (1999) UK #33
* "Early" (2005)
White Bread, Black Beer" (2006)
List of post-punk bands
List of New Wave bands and artists
List of 1980s one-hit wonders in the United States
* [http://www.greengartside.com Double G and the Traitorous 3]
* [http://bibbly-o-tek.com/ bibbly-o-tek]
* [http://www.aggressiveart.org/engindex.htm The Scritti Politti Workshop: articles, pictures, discography, lyrics.]
* [http://www.dosswerks.com/scc/ The Scritti Crush Connection]
* [http://www.bbc.co.uk/cgi-perl/music/muze/index.pl?site=music&action=biography&artist_id=26900 BBC.co.uk on Scritti Politti]
* [http://www.dosswerks.com/scc/discography.htm Dosswerks discography]
* [http://www.newyorker.com/critics/content/articles/060724crmu_music New Yorker article on Scritti Politti]
* [http://www.simonreynolds.net/interview-green-p1.php Green Gartside interviewed by Simon Reynolds]
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