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Monday, 21 May 2018

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 Swede said...

I bought my copy of 'Skank Bloc Bologna' from the Kensington Park Road Rough Trade shop in 1978 and I'm very pleased to say that it has survived my many financially induced record collection culls over the years. A baffling masterpiece, simultaneously of its time and utterly timeless.

Echorich said...

Swede hit the nail on the head! A Timeless, Baffling Masterpiece is certainly what Skank Bloc Bologna is! When I first got the single, I threw it right on a cassette with The Slits, PiL and others that released tracks with that heartbeat altering Dub bass sound. To this day, the song conjures up a sense of altered vision, wandering and frustration that is really quite compelling.

Anonymous said...

agreed. and how much more interestingly sounding 'Cupid & Psyche' would have been if the same players and production had been applied as on Skank Bloc. Clinical and over produced dates more in retrospect. Sometimes (always?) first is best. Clearly Green wanted to get away from this place as quickly as possible.

Brian said...

I envy anyone who has the original 7”. I wouldn’t own the song until the comp ‘Early’ came out on vinyl about 15 years ago. Adam, I recall you posting a video clip of Green and his mates making the sleeves and packaging this single by hand. Fascinating to see.