The Boom Boom Bap

Green Gartside’s recent 7″ single for Rough Trade, a pair of covers of Anne Briggs folk songs, had me reaching into his back catalogue for the album Scritti Politti released in 2006. White Bread Black Beer was put out as Scritti Politti but was effectively a solo album. Green singing and playing all the instruments, recorded at home in Dalston. The fourteen songs are minimal, sparse recordings but lushly produced, Green’s honeyed voice centre stage with acoustic guitars and keyboards. It’s intimate but warm and a long way from the layered productions the 80s pop Scritti.

Fourteen songs feels a few too many now, a shorter album may have been worked better but there are some moments where the combination of voice, songwriting and production reach the heights. Dr Abernathy is one, named after an 18th century English surgeon but borrowing lines from 80s rap- ‘punks jump up to get beat down/ all the days of my life’- and with lyrics about the Owl of Minerva (a symbol of knowledge and wisdom) and meth amphetamine. Album opener is another, a love letter to golden age hip hop, the drum machine that gives it its title and the songs of Run DMC. Green sings softly over some lovely synth chords for texture and a touch of echo, ‘the boom boom bap/ the rat- a- tat- tat/ that’s the beat of my life’ and later ‘the Yes Yes y’all/ was the siren call/ to come around to my life’. At the end he quotes Run DMC song titles in that softly sung way, ‘Hard Times, Sucker MCs/ Jay’s Game, 30 days/ Wake Up Hollis Crew/ Rock Box, It’s Like That…. I love you still/ I always will’. Gorgeous stuff.

The Boom Boom Bap

Isolation Mix Thirteen

Lockdown ends today- at least, that’s how the government and the media have been portraying it with occasional reminders that social distancing and a 2 metre gap might be important. The government have largely dropped the daily infection figures and death toll from their bulletins. You don’t want to be depressing people at this stage of proceedings with doom and gloom, not when there are pints to be drunk! The media have been splashing stories about Super Saturday, Independence Day and the End Of Hibernation. It does look like they deliberately chose July 4th so they could call it an Independence Day. Meanwhile, Leicester is in lockdown, the R rate in London is apparently creeping above 1, there are Covid hotspots around the country, the deaths are still well over one hundred every day, and lots of people are talking about a second wave and a second spike without the people in charge actually wanting to do anything about it. We are still shielding, the medical advice we received this week is that due to our son Isaac being in the extremely vulnerable category we should stay in isolation until August 1st. Despite a few minor changes to our lockdown lives, we are still very much in isolation.

This mix is an hour and eight minutes of music with a folky, ambient, pastoral tinge with some Balearica and guitars thrown in, some old stuff and some brand new- some birdsong and synth ambience to start and finish, blissed out tracks from Seahawks, Apiento and Ultramarine, Green Gartside solo and as Scritti Politti, acoustic guitars courtesy of Nancy Noise, Michael Head and Barry Woolnough, some understated brilliance from The Clash and Sandinista!, Julian Cope covering Roky Erickson, Thurston Moore covering New Order and Jane Weaver’s cosmic/folky weirdness.

Stubbleman: 4am Conversation

Seahawks: Islands

Nancy Noise: Kaia

Green Gartside: Tangled Man

Barry Woolnough: Great Spirit Father In The Sky

The Clash: Rebel Waltz

Thurston Moore: Leave Me Alone

Julian Cope: I Have Always Been Here Before

Jane Weaver: Slow Motion (Loops Variation)

Michael Head and the Red Elastic Band: Picasso

Scritti Pollitti: The Boom Boom Bap

Apiento: Things You Do For Love

Ultramarine: Stella (Stella Connects)

Stubbleman: 6am Chorus

Tangled Man

Green Gartside, the voice of Scritti Politti, has unexpectedly released a 7″ single through Rough Trade. If you’re quick you might be able to track a copy down. The release has two songs, both covers of songs originally by legendary English folk singer Anne Briggs. The is a lot of back story to the single involving Green’s pre- punk love for folk music, Morris dancing, dressing as a 19th century farm labourer but with eye liner, Fairport Convention and Martin Carthy. Green’s Scritti bandmate Rhodri Marsden had been asked to do an arrangement of an Anne Briggs song and asked Green if he’d like to sing on it.

Tangled Man is the A-side, a gorgeous take on the original with Green’s voice sounding as ace as ever over some lushly recorded acoustic guitar.

The B-side is Wishing Well, less instant than Tangled Man but with some dubby FX alongside the guitar and multi- tracked vocals.

Something In Italy

Brian posted Scritti Politti’s single Wood Beez (Pray Like Aretha Franklin) a few days ago so I thought it might be worth showing the distance Green Gartside travelled between their first single in 1978 and Wood Beez in 1984. Scritti formed as a collective , operating out of a South London squat, fired up by punk and Italian Marxist theory. They intended to demystify the recording and releasing of records, priting the costs of their single on the sleeve and providing phone numbers of studios and pressing plants. Skank Bloc Bologna came out on Scritti’s own St. Pancras label, a pioneering piece of DIY.

The song is firmly post-punk, with scratchy guitar, a melodic dub bassline carrying the tune and percussion dominated by cymbals. It all sounds very spontaneous and freeform. Green’s lyrics are full of real life, prosaic imagery with references to Tesco, the Bull And Bush, Harringay, Number 26 (cigarettes) and marmalade, and what I’ve always taken to be a pop at The Clash (‘rockers in the town the magnificent six’). John Peel picked it up and then Rough Trade signed them. Six years later they made Wood Beez (for a major label admittedly). I’m not sure anyone else from that era travelled as far musically as Scritti Politti. Except maybe The Clash (and probably not even them).

Skank Bloc Bologna

The First Time Baby That I Came To You

I was watching a recent re-run of Top Of The Pops, currently in the middle of 1985. Mainly the 1985 repeats are confirming that at the top end of the pop charts 1985 was a terrible year. Occasionally something brilliant shines through the dross. Last week it was Scritti Politti. They did the same thing to me last year when I was left broadsided by Absolute. This time it was The Word Girl, a genuine top ten hit. The Word Girl’s reggae rhythm, shimmer and lighter than air vocal melody make it is mid 80s pop, there’s no mistake about that, but its instrumentation, arrangement, production and Green Gartside’s voice lift it way up above the songs that surrounded it in the chart. It floats, promising to go somewhere else, then drawing back. The digital reverb makes the song seem like it is constantly echoing itself.

It is also not a song to be taken at face value, not a simple song about a girl but a song about language and meaning. The title can also be read as The Word ‘Girl’. What seems to be a song about a girl becomes an oblique discussion about obsession and possession, gender politics, the meaning of words, the construction of language. Green had decided to shift into making pop music holed up in Wales following several panic attacks. He listened to American r’n’b and read Marxist theory. Speaking to Sounds in 1985 he said (of The Word Girl) “I was taking stock of all the lyrics of the songs for the new album and, lo and behold, in every song there was – this girl, or that girl. It seemed a good idea to show awareness of the device being used, to take it out of neutral and show it didn’t connote or denote certain things. It was important to admit a consciousness of the materiality of referring to ‘girls’ in songs.”

The Word Girl

Scritti Politti’s journey is succinctly told in this excerpt from a documentary about Rough Trade.


On Friday night I got in from an hour in the pub and watched/fast forwarded through a few backed up episodes of Top Of The Pops, currently repeating episodes from the summer of 1984 (but only those ones without any convicted sex offenders presenting). Apart from The Smiths (Heaven Knows…, my least favourite Smiths song), Frankie (Two Tribes, number one, frighteningly 2017 thematically) and Bananarama (Rough Justice, a good song, the three girls dancing like real people actually dance rather than robo-dancers), the thing that jumped out at me- almost actually leapt from the screen on top of me, honest- was Absolute by Scritti Politti.

It’s a long way from Skank Bloc Bologna to Cupid And Psyche ’85. Absolute, a song I’d largely missed before, is a beauty, full of mid 80s pop and r’n’b flourishes, drum pads and synths and Green gamely strumming a guitar that I can’t hear anywhere in the mix. The tune sounds simple but is pretty complex. Little musical parts appear and disappear, subtly different from ones that have gone before. There’s some mid 80s funk in there too and some changes and skips that make the song move about and almost cause you have to pause to catch your breath. On top of it all sits Green’s vocal, a falsetto that floats away dreamily but somehow holds the whole thing together. I read the description ‘avant-pop’ somewhere (which seems like a typically serious way to intellectualise something so joyful- and I’ve no doubt Green and others did intellectualise it) but 33 years later this just sounds like a fucking great, open minded, inventive pop song. What a way to start my weekend and what a way to start your Monday

Also, Princess Diana hair with Nike Windrunner jacket. Sick.


The two Top Of the Pops performances can’t be played on Youtube because they are ‘blocked in [my] country on copyright grounds’. Top Of The Pops is blocked in the UK. Nope, me either. Here’s the video instead.

And Yes, Yes, Y’all Was The Siren Call

Scritti Politti have got their first career spanning compilation out soon and there’s good article to promote it in the latest issue of Mojo. Back in 2006 Green Gartside released a homemade Scritti album, White Bread Black Beer, containing some beautifully sung songs with guitar and drum machine backing. This was the opening song- The Boom Boom Bap, a lovely tribute to and lament for the old school hip hop Green fell for in the 80s. Not that it sounds anything like old school hip hop. He manages to sweetly sing lines borrowed from those early records and make them sound like something else entirely – the boom boom bap, the tap a tap tap, the big beat drum, the yes yes y’all and the siren’s call, hard times, sucker mcs, Jay’s game, the Brewski point, the beat of my heart, wake up , Hollis crew, rock box, it’s like that, juice joint Jane, hooks can kill, jinging dollar dollar bill, I love you still… I always will.

01 The Boom Boom Bap.wma

His Eyes Are For You Only

A few years ago (and looking at the back of this cd I see it was 2004 which is probably more than a few years) I got into a band I’d been dimly aware of but pretty much completely ignored. My loss. Scritti Politti had been a pop-soul band with Lady Di hair as far as I was concerned, and I knew little about their post-punk roots. The 2004 Early compilation was a revelation- from the squatting scene, lo-fi, DIY, scratchy music, bass led with clattering drums and Clash baiting lyrics (Skanc Bloc Bologna). Really good stuff. At the same time Green Gartside released a new Scritti album- White Bread, Black Beer- which had a load of good songs on it. When I got around to playing this song it did awake some distant memories and I played it to death, eventually finding copies on 7″ and 12″ as well. The ‘Sweetest Girl’ has a lovely, hissing drum machine part, great understated melody, beautiful vocals and one of the best piano parts you’ll find, played by Robert Wyatt. Arms length lyrics, a dissection of love- Green Gartside was one of pop/post-punks intellectuals, inspired by philosophy as much as Sex Pistols, and none the worse for it. This is an absolute killer tune.

12 The ‘Sweetest Girl’.wma#2#2