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Saturday, July 2, 2016

How Classy was Scritti Politti? My 80's idol


                                                                                                         photo credit Steve Elm

photo credit Furio Andreotti

I'll admit I've always had a weakness for a falsetto, from the soulful Stylistics to the disco pop of the Bee Gees. But there was one singer that took it to the max for me and became my idol in the process.

Wales born, Paul Julian Strohmeyer recorded under the alias Green Gartside as the lead vocalist for Scritti Politti. Scritti began recording in 1978 as a post punk band and reached their peak in 1984 as a synth heavy, sampling and midi-sequencing electronic dance pop act. They were active even as  recently as 2006 with the l.p. White Bread and Black Beer. Though only Green Gartside remained from the original incarnation.

Scritti Politti seemed to have their hands in many bags, influenced by many genres of music from soul and reggae to disco, funk and synth. Using super high quality experimental production techniques and getting a hand from the legendary Arif Mardin (Bee Gees and Chaka Khan to name a few) they were able to capitalize on the Synth Pop that was hot in the early 80's and still hold onto to enough of a disco sound to make music that was supremely danceable.

They also featured superb graphics and marketing. A new Scritti Politti 12" was bound to have a beautiful picture cover and many of their fans became collector's who wanted to have the latest pressing even if they already had the song in their collections. Not unlike the rabid Smiths fans of the time.

They broke in a big way with their double A side of Wood Beez (pray like Aretha Franklin) and Absolute. What does it mean that each night he goes to bed he prays like Aretha Franklin? Damned if I knew but it sounded great. The song also includes one of my favorite lines from a song:

"there's nothing I wouldn't do including doing nothing."

Green's voice was just perfect. It seemed to caress the music.  Falsetto but not fem. Lyrics full of irony and mock philosophy. Intelligent pop.

The music was synth but not techno. Danceable but not agressive. Kraftwerk meets Abba.

Fred Maher of the band Material joined Scritti Politti as a drummer and this is when they catapulted to fame.
Cupid and Psyche 85 sold as an l.p. in America because Perfect Way became a pop hit in 1985. It went all the way to #11 pop and for two seconds a few people knew who Scritti Politti were. The mix by the legendary Francois K. didn't hurt. Though this sort of disappointed me cause they felt so English import to me and furthermore Perfect Way was one of the worst songs on the l.p. But alas it coined them a one hit wonder destined for inclusion in one of those VH1 run-downs on whatever happened to thems.

They should have made it big with Hypnotize.  But at least it was their most attractive 12" cover.  The Word Girl is also genius, pure reggae in falsetto.

By this time I was growing out my hair to look more like my idol Green. At one point I succeded though I had more of a natural wave that made my locks fall into curls at the bottom. By the time I moved to New York City in 1988 and became a club monster I started incorporating extensions and what had been curly interspersed with straight hair became more like dread locks. Hey the look worked for a while there. Now it kind of looks silly in retrospect but doesn't everything twenty years later?

By the time Provision came out in 1988 I didn't care about Scritti Politti much anymore. But once in my heart always in my heart so here I post a more recent picture of Green Gartside and I can always wish for some major triumphant come-back that will make me worship at the temple of Green once again.

1 comment:

Sebastian said...

Great Scritti info, reminiscences and images. One thing, though: Green didn't sing in falsetto; he sang from further up in his chest, not resonating from his diaphragm. He has stated as much in at least one interview that I know of (an Australian interview from `85 that is easily found on YouTuBe), and I also know this because I'm a singer myself. Green has a range from baritone to tenor, and he has always made good use of that. But he does not record falsetto vocals.

Just thought you'd like to know, since you're a fan too.