Lee “Scratch” Perry – Real Love

In 2015, I worked briefly as a project manager at a record label in Brooklyn that primarily released Jamaican dancehall and dancehall-adjacent music. As a result, it wasn’t uncommon to see deejays (in dancehall terms, that means a vocalist) come by the office to voice riddims the label was pushing, or otherwise make use of the label’s fancy studio. Toward the end of the summer that year, one of my bosses called me one morning and told me in a somewhat hushed tone that Lee Perry was going to come by to work on some music. The tone was called for. After all, the man was a living legend, having led the Upsetters, produced and released early Bob Marley and Max Romeo records, and collaborated with everyone from The Clash to Paul McCartney. For my own sake, I revered Perry mostly because of his role in pioneering dub music and its associated production techniques, in parallel with the likes of King Tubby and Scientist. I love old dub terribly, but I also credit those techniques as the seed for many of the subsequent genres that I hold dearest.

The label’s owner, who largely owed his career to the work of pioneers like Perry, was understandably deeply excited. He even had a set of action figures depicting Jamaican musical icons that decorated a shelf in the studio’s control room; a Lee Perry among them. The rest of us were a little tense too, not only because of Perry’s legendary status, but also because he had a reputation for being a madman. He had claimed to lead an alien race living on earth, and he was rumored to pour blood on his equipment and master tapes in order to preserve them. When he arrived, he was generally subdued but friendly enough. I didn’t get to sit in on much of the session, and had to run the office while my bosses got to go have fun, but from what I did observe, his imagination was as vivid as ever and his eyes wide.

As far as I know, nothing came of the recordings made that day, but after he left, his action figure was mysteriously gone too. (He eventually mailed it back from his home in the Swiss Alps.) Like those unused recordings, I’m sure there are literal hours of Perry’s music that remain unreleased. Though he died in 2021, music has continued to pour out, with dozens of posthumous releases already. This song is among the latest. I don’t know much about it or who’s behind it—it’s released on a label with very little digital footprint, MoSai Music. As far as I can tell, the label has only released music from one other artist, an album called Paris Mosel by Skinny Pablo, about whom I know nothing, but the album is dope. While it’s possible Perry produced this song himself, it’s unlikely, since most of his output in the past decade has been produced primarily by others, with him instead serving the role of deejay. Given the sound of this song versus that of the Skinny Pablo record, it stands to reason that Skinny Pablo may have had a hand in producing this, but maybe not—time might reveal the details. In any case, this is my kind of Perry record: hypnotic and dubby; an exaltation of, and incantation to, the aliens.

This isn’t on bandcamp, unfortunately, but it’s available for streaming, and thankfully the publishing company behind it has kindly granted me permission to post the mp3 here.

Lee “Scratch” Perry – “Real Love” (mp3)


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