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Meet Scritti Politti [PHOTOS, VIDEOS]

“Perfect Way” Extended Single on vinyl, 1985. (Craig Allen photo)

Scritti Politti is a British band, formed in Leeds, in 1977 by Green Gartside.  Initially a punk band, the group’s sound became more “mainstream” in the 1980′s.

In the mid-1970′s, Green Gartside was studying fine art at Leeds College of Art and Design. The punk rock band “Sex Pistols” ’Anarchy’ tour played at Leeds Polytechnic in December 1976, and inspired Gartside to form a band with his childhood pal Nial Jinks, and fellow student Tom Morley.

Scritti Politti originally consisted of Gartside as the lead vocalist, Jinks as bass player, and Morley on drums. Manager Matthew Kay sometimes played the keyboard. For their first public performance in 1976, the group went under the name ‘The Against’.

Upon graduation, around 1977, the group relocated to London’s Camden Town.

Their (now) name Scritti Politti is an homage to the Italian Marxist writer and political theorist Antonio Gramsci. The correct spelling in Italian, meaning “Political Writings,” would have been “Scritti Politici”. Gartside changed it to “Scritti Politti” because he thought it sounded more rock and roll-ish…

To the raw energy of punk music, Scritti Politti added lyrics with leftist leanings.

They recorded the single “Skank Bloc Bologna” in 1978, on their own label.  The song got airplay on the BBC. This resulted in a record deal with Rough Trade, and 2 EPs were released in 1979.

By around 1980, to quote critics, Scritti Politti had developed “a blend of strong melody and rhythmic jaggedness.”  They had also adopted a very do-it-yourself attitude, right down to  their hand-made record sleeves, where they included their home address for fan feedback!

The “Decade Of Decadence” would bring changes to the band’s lineup…and big changes to its sound!

While on tour, Gartside was overcome by stage fright and anxiety, leading to what was thought to be his first heart attack at age 23 (it was just a panic attack). To recover, he went home to his native Wales and began writing an album that was to be heavily influenced by the R&B and “New York City sound” he was listening to at the time.

Gartside recorded a demo of one of his new songs, “The Sweetest Girl,” in January 1981. The song got good reviews. Even the New York Times called it one of the ten best singles of the year! Unfortunately, the song did not get a wide release for ten months, so all of its momentum was lost, and it only went to #64 on the British Charts (in 1986, it was covered by the pop band Madness, of “Our House” fame).

“The Sweetest Girl” prompted major labels to offer Gartside record contracts, but he decided to stay with Rough Trade. The song also marked a stylistic change towards more melody, and minor British hits followed. One of these, “Asylums in Jerusalem,” was described as “a slick piece of reggae-tinged synth-pop with a twangy electronic bass line and a new playfulness in Green Gartside’s politically motivated lyrics.”

Scritti Politti’s debut album, “Songs To Remember,”  was released in August 1982. Showing off Gartside’s previously hidden reggae influence, it was a critical and commercial success, reaching #12 on the British Album Charts.

Outside the band, Green Gartside recorded “Wrap It Up” as a duet with Annie Lennox, on the Eurythmic’s “Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This) album in early 1983!

Gartside was now being heavily influenced by the sounds coming out of New York, especially hip hop. He signed with Virgin Records in 1983 (Warner Brothers here in the U.S.). Then, the original Scritti Politti line-up was disbanded, and Gartside moved to New York!

Cupid & Psyche, 1985 vinyl (Craig Allen photo)

In June 1985, Scritti Politti released their second (and most successful) album, “Cupid & Psyche 85,” with songs produced by Arif Mardin and performances by session musicians. The LP was a Top 5 hit in the UK and also sold well here in the U.S.

Scritti CD
Scritti Politti in digital form. (Craig Allen photo)

In addition to four singles that had previously been released in England, the album included the song, “Perfect Way.”

It was only a #48 hit in the UK, but it became the band’s biggest U.S. single, peaking at #11!

“Wood Beez” was the followup single. It could only manage #91 on the Hot Hits Chart (but, it had been a #4 song on the U.S. Dance Charts, when originally released in England in 1984).

In 1987, Scritti Politti appeared on the “Who’s That Girl” soundtrack with the song “Best Thing Ever”.

This song was included on the next Scritti Politti album, 1988′s “Provision.”

scritti provision
“Provision” ( photo)

Although the album charted in the Top 10 in the UK (#8), it was ignored here, stalling at #113! Oops!

Scritti Politti hit the UK charts again in 1991 with a cover of the Beatles “She’s A Woman.”

It became Scritti Politti’s final UK Top 20 single, peaking at #20. Subsequent cover version songs were released in England, but did not chart. An album was not produced…and the band took a long break…

Since the early 2000′s, Green Gartside has appeared on other artist’s albums…and has appeared in concert along with session musicians as “Scritti Politti,” or on his own as a contributing artist.

“Early” ( photo)

In February 2005, Rough Trade Records released “Early,” a compilation of Scritti Politti’s earliest recordings.

scritti absolute
“Absolute” ( photo)

In February 2011, “Absolute,” a compilation of Scritti Politti singles and album tracks was released, with two new songs, both written with David Gamson: “Day Late and a Dollar Short” and “A Place We Both Belong.” Gamson played a part in the recording of both “Cupid & Psyche 85,” and the followup album, “Provision.”

Above, Scritti Politti, in concert in England, last year…


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