People Funny Boy: The Genius of Lee "Scratch" Perry

by David Katz

This,the first book ever written on the ecentric genius Lee "Scratch" Perry the Upsetter, is one of the best books ever written that covers Jamaican music. Filled with the life of Scratch as well as the music he played such a major part in creating, plus small biographies of each key person involved with Scratch's history, this is an excellent guide to look through much like the Rough Guide to Reggae which was reviewed earlier. Bursting with behind the scenes stories, photos, a forward written by Scratch hiomself, a comprehensive discography (including records Scratch sings on, or produced, or had any other involvement in), a bibliography and so much more, author David Katz final project is an amazing 536 pages and definitly a book to be sought after by all reggae fans.

The book, obviously starts from the beginning of the life of Lee Perry, shedding some light on his birthplace and familylife before being known. This part is a bit interesting but the real interesting stuff comes in the second chapter titles "Chicken Scratch: The Studio One Years" which, as the title explains, covers Lee Perry and the ska years really nice touching on major subjects like Duke Reid and Prince Buster and the beginnings of ska. As the book progresses we see Little Lee Scratch Perry become Lee Scratch Perry the Upsetter when he leaves Coxsones Studio One and cuts "I Am The Upsetter" with a vengence aimed straight at Coxsone. The earlier parts of this book (meaning the Coxsone and Joe Gibbs years) are very interesting presenting stories from behind the scenes as well as small biographies of the many different singers and producers Scratch came in constact with over these years. But my favorite part of the book starts as Scratch leaves Joe Gibbs (with another vengeful record, the title of this book "People Funny Boy" aimed at Joe Gibbs head.) and goes out on his own as a producer.

The next eight chapters are the highlight of the book. The first few concentrating on The Upsetters success overseas with songs like "Return of Django", great stories of the Upsetters UK tour in 1969, all the contacts in the UK, plus the comprehensive coverage of the Wailers recording section which yeilds many great stories. Plus there is a chapter about the building of the Black Ark and some of the records put out around the time. Of course all the great stories and mini-bios are all there as well.

Over the course of the next few chapters, Katz goes into great detail about the best loved Upsetter era, the Black Ark days of the 1970s. Excellent stories and bois on all the most popular recording artists at the Black Ark like Max Romeo, Jah Lion, Junior Byles, Susan Cadogan and all of those places. Also the Island connection is there, excellent views into describing the mood and look and feel of the actual studio itself, etc. This era of the book carries all the way into the split of the Congos and Lee Perry, the parting of ways of Perry and rastas and Perry's eventual burning of the studio. This is the downfall of the book for me.

Though it isnt the authors fault that the book gets less interesting to me after this. The rest of the book contains the Pipecock Jackxson days, collaborations with Adiran Sherwood and Mad Professor, his moving to thge UK and the US and back to Jamaica. His incredibly eccentric post-Ark behavior (bugging Chris Blackwell for royalty checks and then spending every dime of it on silverware for example). I did enjoy the Adrian Sherwood collaborations though as this was Lee Perrys best post-Ark work in my opinion. The rest of this era dosent interest my musically though so thats why the book faulters here.

Anyways though, an amazing book written by a man who really knows what he is talking about. "People Funny Boy" is an absoleutly essential read. I guarantee you'll find yourself thumbing through it once or twice for info about different singers, producers, songs, etc.

Published by:

Payback Press, an imprint of Canongate Books Ltd.

14 High St.

Edinburgh EH1 1TE, Scotland

Back To The Book Reviews:
I've Got To Go Back Home: