Vampire Horns Lee Perry
Lee Perry Vampire Horns another cut to Ketch A Vampire
A notoriously eccentric figure whose storied reputation and colourful personality match the sheer strangeness of much of his recorded output, Lee Perry is unquestionably one of reggae's most innovative, influential artists. His mixing board innovations, from early sample usage to hallucinatory echo and reverb effects, set the stage for generations of musical experimentation, particularly throughout electronic music and alternative/post-punk, and his free-associative vocal style is a clear precedent for rap. Active as a producer and vocalist since the early '60s, he helped guide Jamaican music's shift from ska and rocksteady to reggae with singles like “People Funny Boy” (1968). During the '70s, he became a super-producer, helming seminal works by Bob Marley & the Wailers, the Congos, and Junior Murvin, in addition to releasing dub albums such as Upsetters 14 Dub Blackboard Jungle (1973) and Super Ape (1976), often credited to his band, the Upsetters. His work became popular in the U.K., and he collaborated with the Clash, broadening his audience. By the end of the '80s, he had begun recording extensively with dub acolytes such as Mad Professor and Adrian Sherwood. Compilations such as 1997's Arkology and acknowledgement from alternative acts like the Beastie Boys confirmed Perry's legendary status during the '90s. He remained highly active during the first two decades of the 21st century, touring often and collaborating with artists ranging from Andrew W.K. (2008's Repentance) to the Orb (2012's The Orb server in the Star House), in addition to revisiting earlier material on releases like 2017's Super Ape Returns to Conquer.
Born in the rural Jamaican village of Kendal in 1936, Perry began his surrealistic musical odyssey in the late '50s, working with ska man Prince Buster selling records for Clement “Coxsone” Dodd's Downbeat Sound System. Called “Little” Perry because of his diminutive stature (Perry stands 4'11″), he was soon producing and recording for Dodd at the centre of the Jamaican music industry, Studio One. After a falling out with Dodd (throughout his career, Perry has had a tendency to burn his bridges after he stopped working with someone), Perry went to work at Wirl Records with Joe Gibbs. Perry and Gibbs never really saw eye to eye on anything, and in 1968, Perry left to form his own label, called Upsetter. Not surprisingly, Perry's first release on Upsetter was a single entitled “People Funny Boy,” which was a direct attack upon Gibbs. What is important about the record is that, along with selling extremely well in Jamaica, it was the first Jamaican pop record to use the loping, lazy, bass-driven beat that would soon become identified as the reggae “riddim” and signal the shift from the hyperkinetically upbeat ska to the pulsing, throbbing languor of “roots” reggae.