AN IMAGINARY COMPILATION ALBUM : #260 : GREEN GARTSIDE

A DEBUT GUEST POSTING by KHAYEM

Inspired by JC’s recent post, my first attempt at an ICA is Scritti Politti, or more specifically, the wonder that is Green Gartside. Like most, it’s been a challenge to pick just ten songs but I’ve tried to avoid straightforward ‘greatest hits’ and instead capture the breadth and consistency of Green’s output over several decades. Ironically, my first exposure to Scritti Politti wasn’t the music, but the lyrics to The ‘Sweetest Girl, printed in Smash Hits. The words alone and the accompanying striking image of Green & co. was enough for me to check out their records and I’ve been along for the ride ever since.

I think Green is one of the finest songwriters and singers and, whether DIY indie, anarcho-political, ‘perfect pop’, reggae, dancehall, electronica-acoustic or future folk, the trinity of words, music and voice is hard to beat.

SIDE ONE

1) Boom! There She Was (Sonic Property Mix ft. Roger) (UK 12” single, 1988)

Perfect pop sounds to begin. I got this 12” single before the accompanying album Provision and it’s remained the definitive version for me. There is a US edit of this song which, at 9 minutes, slightly outstays its welcome but the album and single versions feel too short. This is just the right balance of mid-80s sounds, enhanced by remix titans Steve Thompson and Michael Barbiero and guest vox from talkbox champion Roger Troutman. Also, the second Scritti pop song (that I’m aware of) to reference philosopher and author Jacques Derrida.

2) A Little Knowledge (Cupid & Psyche 85, 1985)

This duet with B.J. Nelson is one of the highlights of the album and one of my favourite Scritti songs, full stop. It’s a perfect meld of sound and feeling, brimming with great lines including this one:

Got a little radio
Held to my body
I can feel your back beat boy
Moving a muscle of love

3) Petrococadollar (White Bread Black Beer, 2006)

Green often creates an unsettling mix of honeyed vocals and unsettling aural backdrops and this is a great example. It’s almost as if the music is coming through the walls from the neighbour next door whilst he’s riffing lyrics over the top. Comforting and creepy at the same time.

4) Take Me In Your Arms And Love Me (Nice Up The Area Mix ft. Sweetie Irie) (CD single, 1991)

Scritti Politti entered the 1990s with a trio of cover version singles, one with B.E.F. (see the ‘Bonus EP’ below) and two with on-the-money reggae guest vocalists. I prefer this cover of the Gladys Knight & The Pips song to The BeatlesShe’s A Woman. The latter was a bigger hit, but this is a better song and Sweetie Irie tops Shabba Ranks, no question. Of the multiple mixes on the 12” & CD this one by Green and Heaven 17/B.E.F.’s Ian Craig Marsh is the stripped-down superior.

5) Flesh & Blood (Version ft. Ranking Ann) (The Word Girl EP/Cupid & Psyche 85 bonus 12”, 1985)

Though 1999’s Anomie & Bonhomie was seen by many as a controversial departure, with Green frequently ‘guest vocalist’ on his own songs to rap artists, the seeds had been planted a decade and a half before. Limited copies of Cupid & Psyche 85 came with a bonus 4-track 12” of ‘Versions’ and this alternative take on reggae pop of The Word Girl is dominated by Ranking Ann, with an occasional snippet of Green in the background. This version also appeared on the single’s B-side, which remains Scritti Politti’s biggest UK hit to date, peaking at No. 6.

SIDE TWO

6) Confidence (4 ‘A Sides’ EP, 1979/Early, 2005)

Kicking off Side Two, this doesn’t quite go right back to the beginning but appeared on the aptly 4 ‘A Sides’ EP from 1979. I heard this for the first time on the Early compilation. As the EP title suggests, this is a shift towards pop, though as ever Green has an individual lyrical take on the relationship song:

Competence inherent in what a man must do
Facts I admit only in confidence to you
But you haven’t got the heart to tell me…

7) Tinseltown To The Boogiedown (Album Version ft. Mos Def & Lee Majors) (Anomie & Bonhomie, 1999)

I first heard and saw the video on The Chart Show and missed the opening few seconds and title, so I didn’t realise it was Scritti Politti until Green’s unmistakeable vocals appeared on the chorus. I loved this song and the Anomie & Bonhomie album and, for me, it seemed a natural evolution. The Black Keys did pretty much the same thing ten years later, with their Blackroc album, but Green was there first and this is better. And Mos Def is most definitely the rap chief.

8) Wishing Well (Tangled Man EP, 2020)

The release earlier this year of a two-song solo single of Anne Briggs cover versions was a welcome surprise. I belatedly picked up on an earlier Green Gartside cover version on a Nick Drake tribute album (Fruit Tree, on 2013’s Way To Blue) which kind of points the way to these songs. This song would also sit comfortably with the White Bread Black Beer album, and is further evidence of Green’s consummate skill as an interpreter of other people’s songs. And his voice grows ever richer with time.

9) Gettin’, Havin’ And Holdin’ (Songs To Remember, 1982)

With lyrical nods to Percy Sledge (“When a man loves a woman”) and Ludwig Wittgenstein (“It’s true like The Tractatus”), this also has the dubious distinction of allegedly inspiring Wet Wet Wet’s name. Why this song hasn’t been covered innumerable times is a mystery to me but it remains an all-time favourite and has been an essential inclusion on every Scritti Politti or ‘skewed love songs’ mix tape that I’ve done for friends over the years.

10) Forgiven (Live Acoustic Version) (Charles Hazlewood, BBC Radio 2, May 2007)

This was one of two new songs that Green premiered on the Charles Hazlewood show in 2007, both with working titles (the other being Unfrozen). Forgiven has synth-based bird tweets, broken acoustic chords and lyrical references to a shady character going to “settle scores with a man with a Nike holdall”.

The entire segment, including a short but fascinating interview with Green, is still available on the excellent Bibbly-O-Tek website (http://bibbly-o-tek.com/2007/05/17/green-gartside-in-the-charles-hazlewood-show/). I was fortunate to see Green Gartside a couple of weeks later as part of the Venn Festival in Bristol. Although billed as a solo gig, it was the full Scritti Politti touring band: Rodhri Marsden, Alyssa McDonald & Dave Ferrett. Although a relatively short set of 9 songs, 5 (including Forgiven) were brand new songs at the time and one song (Robert E. Lee) had been finished in the dressing room before coming on stage. As far as I’m aware, Forgiven has not been re-recorded or released since, but this version could appear on an album as it is and, in my opinion, is a perfect closer to this ICA.

BONUS EP “TOUCHED BY THE VOICE OF GREEN GARTSIDE”

A sampler of songs that Green has lent his voice to and which are all the better for it.

a) I Don’t Know Why I Love You (But I Love You) (Album Version) (B.E.F., Music Of Quality And Distinction Volume 2, 1991)
b) Come And Behold (Green Gartside Revoice) (King Midas Sound, Without You, 2011)
c) When It’s Over (7” Version) (Adele Bertei, UK 7” single, 1985)
d) Between The Clock And The Bed (Manic Street Preachers, Futurology, 2014)

The Adele Bertei song was also co-written and produced by David Gamson and Fred Maher and sounds entirely like a Scritti Politti backing track/outtake from the Cupid & Psyche 85 sessions.

KHAYEM

12 thoughts on “AN IMAGINARY COMPILATION ALBUM : #260 : GREEN GARTSIDE

  1. Great ICA – only missing track (which would have been an extra on the bonus EP) would be Wrap It Up by Eurythmics (from Sweet Dreams 1982)

  2. Wow, Khayem, that is some quality writing! Looking forward to diving into this ICA as Green & co. fell completely off my radar.

  3. I am still of the opinion – even more so perhaps after the passage of over 40 years – that the Skank Bloc Bologna EP is the most punk rock offering ever. I love the wrap around sleeve, the printed production costs, the rubber stamped label, the DIY of it all! But mostly I find that I am still enthralled by the four songs therein – there is the enduring mystery to me on every listen … do this lot know what they’re doing? Or is it the sound of a room captured in an afternoon by four have-a-go creatives? It remains punk rock genius making the Pistols look like overblown and dated heavy metal.

    Great mixtape xo

  4. Looking forward to listening to this- I’m not familiar with most of the tracks but they must be good if there is no Skank Bloc Bologna or Sweetest Girl

  5. I’ve always been kind of dismissive, possibly a bit snooty, of anything released by Mr Gartside – I liked the the initial punk ethos but never really got the ‘smooth’ 80s Scritti Politti. This article though has piqued my interest and I’ll definitely check out some of the songs – most of which are unknown to me.

  6. CC, If I played this ICA in its entirety the Mrs. would serve me papers. Gonna need headphones for this one. Inspiring choices, K. You dug deep. Can’t get enough of this song from Adele Bertei. That was a new one on me. Hoping she had more help from Gamson and Maher on other offerings. Will investigate. Thanks.

  7. Stellar ICA Khayem!
    First off, BIG props for including the Adele Bertei track! Green and Gamson were very choosy when it came to writing for others. When It’s Over is prime Perfect Pop from the C+P 85 era.
    Thank you for including Confidence – it s a pleasure to hear something other than the otherwise brilliant Skank Bloc Bologna from their earliest days.
    A Little Knowledge is like a bridge between Songs To Remember and C+P 85, a great choice.
    And I have to applaud your strength in leading with Boom! There She Was. It’s controversial – as Scritti Politti songs go for some – but, to my mind, a great way to get things going!
    Finally – two things – I think The B.E.F. /Green version of I Don’t Know Why I Love You is just a joy every time I hear it. Also if you get the chance check out Someday, from Kylie’s Body Language album, you can find Mr. Gartside providing inspiration and backing vocals .

  8. Wow, thanks for all of the positive comments, it’s really appreciated! I was trying to be true to – and not daunted by – the 259 brilliant ICAs that came before this one, but I’m glad it seems to have a found a happy balance for those who are less familiar with Green’s wider work and those who really know the breadth and depth of his career.

    It was difficult not to include anything from the Skank Bloc Bologna EP or omit The ‘Sweetest Girl’. I felt that these might be familiar to many and keeping to the 10-track rule meant being ruthless. On another day, I may have ended up with a completely different ICA selection but I liked the order and flow of these songs.

    Likewise, the bonus EP: it chops and changes in styles and decades but I think they worked quite well in a continuous play. I like Wrap It Up but for this selection, I thought Green’s vocals were a little drowned by the heavy drums and 80s production… and I didn’t want to drop any of the other 4! Credit where it’s due, it was the Bibbly-o-tek website that originally led me to Adele Bertei (as well as the Kylie guest spot and other songs with and for Al Jarreau and Chaka Khan). Sadly, as far as I can tell, When It’s Over was the sole contribution from Gamson, Maher and Green but there is also a 12″ single with a couple of remixes on it.

    Brian, I can empathise – I have to reach for the headphones every time someone posts an ICA for The Fall 🙂

    On a final note to self, I will check one last time for typos and errors before submitting anything else in future. After a very long day at work yesterday, it was lovely to come home and see the ICA live on TVV… until I got to the notes for Wishing Well and saw that I referred to Scritti Politti’s 2006 album as White Bread Black Bread. I cannot now unsee this 🙂

    A big thank you to JC for posting the ICA… I’ve read and enjoyed TVV for many years but I rarely left comments or thought about submitting a guest post. I’m trying to rectify this now!

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