The original, technically, was in 1819 by Percy Bysshe Shelley as a response to the Peterloo massacre in Manchester in which a cavalry had charged into a crowd of 60,000–80,000 that had gathered to demand political reform. 15 people were killed and 400–700 were injured. The full poem, The Masque of Anarchy, has been held up by many commentators as the greatest political poem ever written by an Englishman, calling as it did on continued peaceful resistance as a way of achieving change.

Scritti Politti used part of the poem to inspire one of the many excellent tracks to be found on the 1983 LP Songs To Remember:-

mp3 : Scritti Politti – Lions After Slumber

In 2003, Rough Trade released a compilation LP entitled Stop Me If You Think You’ve Heard This One Before in which their then current roster of artists covered songs from the label’s back-catalogue.

mp3 : The Veils – Lions After Slumber

A fine example of grabbing something that was quite distinctive and being able to turn it into something you can claim as your own. The New Zealanders raw and tribal take on this is well worth a listen.



I actually wrote this ten years ago for the old blog as I was stunned that a full quarter-century had passed since its release.  I resurrected and modified it, again for the old blog, in March 2011 to coincide with the release of a ‘Greatest Hits’ effort and recently found that particular piece of writing among another search of the archives.  One of the most exciting things about the discovery was, unusually, being able to see the handful of comments left behind….including one from the mighty Echorich….which must have been among the first of what have been hundreds of shrewd contributions and observations over the years.  But I’ll get to that in due course.

As I may have said at least twice before…..

…….Scritti Politti, which in effect was really just a vehicle for the talents of Welsh-born singer-songwriter Green Gartside had been kicking around as a band since the late 1970s. Gartside had a reputation in the music press as a left-wing intellectual, which was maintained with the release of the debut single Skank Bloc Bologna which was regarded as a pro-feminist song that attacked the way that much of society expected young women to conform to a lifestyle of dull humdrum work and then raise families.

I never actually liked the debut single and still don’t listen to it much today. If there was ever such a thing as free-form new wave, then this was it. The production values were non-existent, the vocals are lost amidst all sorts of sharp and abrupt changes in rhythm and you couldn’t really dance to it. So I never thought I’d pay much attention to Scritti Politti again.

A couple of years later, I picked up a free cassette with the NME which featured a Scritti Politti song entitled The “Sweetest Girl”. It was absolutely gorgeous and as far removed from Bologna as you could imagine. It’s not quite a ballad, not quite a full-blown radio friendly pop-song. It was driven along sedately by a piano and a drum machine and a fantastic near-falsetto vocal performance by Green.

It was later released as a single on Rough Trade Records and topped the indie charts. I remember buying the single and after listening to the a-side a couple of times flipping it over to something called Lions After Slumber – a funk/rap number that just blew me away. I spent many many hours trying to decipher the lyric……

Into 1982 and another single came out in the summer. It was called Faithless. And it was joyful, soulful and with a hint of gospel. Three completely different song styles, and every one of them on heavy rotation.

And yet another single appeared later in the summer – a double a-side effort entitled Asylums in Jerusalem/Jacques Derrida – this time there were hints of reggae kicking around as well as a more pop-orientated feel. By now, I was itching for the album to appear.

It was a really brave move to call it Songs To Remember as it left Green (as he was by now calling himself) open to ridicule. It turned out not to be an outlandish statement. The track listing was:-

01 : Asylums in Jerusalem
02 : A Slow Soul
03 : Jacques Derrida
04 : Lions After Slumber
05 : Faithless
06 : Sex
07 : Rock-A-Boy Blue
08 : Gettin’ Havin’ & Holdin’
09 : The “Sweetest Girl”

There’s not a bad track on this album. My only gripe at the time was the fact it had only nine songs, of which only four were brand new. The new songs showed further musical talents, especially on the jazz-tinged Rock-A-Boy Blue which featured a lengthy double-bass solo.

I thought I was in a real minority falling in love with Scritti Politti in 1982 as I don’t recall them having any real chart success – certainly none of the singles did anything. So I was surprised to learn in doing a wee bit of research that Songs To Remember sold enough to reach #12 in the UK album charts.

Green was now a man in demand, and he signed a huge deal with Virgin Records. Within two years he was a bona-fide pop star crawling all over the UK and US charts with a succession of pop singles that were typical of that decade – synthesiser-led, big big production sounds and topped-up by expensive videos with Green wearing designer clothes and expensive haircuts. These hit singles, and the subsequent album Cupid & Psyche weren’t all that bad compared to an awful lot of the drivel that dominated the charts at the time, but the joy and beauty of the debut album had been left behind.

My vinyl copy of Songs To Remember was pretty much unplayable by around 1990. The only time I heard any of the songs was when they came up on any compilation cassette tapes that I had made up over the years. It wasn’t until 2001 that I again got to hear all of the album in its glory when it was finally given a long-delayed release on CD. It still sounded incredible and timeless. And……… came with a lyric booklet, so I quickly discovered that I had gotten about 85% of the words to Lions After Slumber spot-on……

I suppose you all know that Scottish popsters Wet Wet Wet took their band name from a line from the song Gettin’ Havin’ & Holdin’…..well if you didn’t, you know now….

(at this point I posted the vinyl rips of the three singles lifted from the LP – and as mentioned above, there were a handful of comments, including this)

Echorich said

Green Gartside is the epitome of a pop music one off! There is NO ONE remotely like him. Sure he has a bit of a familiar mad genius temperment that we see occasionally in music, but the idea that the same artist wrote songs like Skank Bloc Bologna, Wood Beez (Pray Like Aretha Franklin) and Boom Boom Bap is really quite rare.

The two new songs on the greatest hits collection are pure Scritti, right down to the partnership with David Gamson. They will remind of Cupid and Psyche ’85 but are certainly more mature.

And back to Skank Bloc Bologna, this track, over all others is what comes to mind when anyone mentions Rough Trade Records to me. More than The Smiths, more than The Raincoats, Stiff Little Fingers or Swell Maps.

3:54 AM, March 17, 2011

Seems only right therefore to put a wider selection up today:-

mp3 : Scritti Politti – Skank Bloc Bologna
mp3 : Scritti Politti – Lions After Slumber
mp3 : Scritti Politti – Wood Beez (Pray Like Aretha Franklin)
mp3 : Scritti Politti – The Boom Boom Bap
mp3 : Scritti Politti – A Day Late and A Dollar Short

Thanks Echorich for your unstinting support for so many years now.  This entire post and its songs are dedicated to you.





I’m no connoisseur of art and paintings. I’ll see something hanging on a wall and decide pretty quickly whether I like it or not. There will even be times when one work by an artist will appeal, while another of their paintings will appal.

One thing I can’t do however, is really explain why that happens to be the case. I’m not able to dissect a work or art, nor can I really look beyond the immediate visual images that meet the naked eye for something that is more deep and meaningful. And sometimes this happens in music.

I chanced upon a brilliant piece of writing on the LP Songs To Remember by Scritti Politti. It highlights how the record, which on first listen appears to be a hotchpotch of soul, jazz, R&B and pop at its purest, is actually a very clever and subversive piece of work full of political sentiments that almost border on the anarchic.

Now I’m not saying I was never aware of the fact that Green Gartside had a strong and almost extreme left-wing ideology, but I kind of let it drift away on the wind whenever I played what has long been one of my favourite LPs of all time. There’s a lot to admire in the essay – for instance, I’d never have cottoned-on to the fact that the sleeves of the singles were a parody of the finer things in life such as cigars and Courvoisier. I also love the analysis that this was a record full of innovative acts of homage thanks to Green’s style and approach, but the use of soul would later be stolen by ‘the hideous mid-Eighties Live Aid Brigade with their own agenda’, with many of them believing ‘big hair and big volume equals soulfulness’ .

This is all very well and true, but I just can’t help but proclaim my love of the songs is all down to finding something classy sounding in among all the guitar-dominated songs that I was immersed in at the age of 18, which for some reason was of immediate appeal to my ear. Especially this:-

mp3 : Scritti Politti – Faithless (Triple Hep’n’Blue)

I loved the vocals, both lead and backing, and I loved the instrumentation and arrangement. I could never have said back in 1981, nor indeed now in 2008 that what made it so special was:-

“Proceeding at the sombre pace of a New Orleans funeral march, heavily lacquered in gospel shrieking, it is, as the title suggests, implicitly about the modern, probably white soulboy and lover addicted to the linguistic constructs of soul, the “oohs”, the “testifies”, the “I got souls” but who is disconnected from them in his contemporary, agnostic time and place – “Faithless”, indeed.”

That’s how it’s described by David Stubbs, author of the piece I was mentioning earlier. Read it in full right here.

Scritti Politti went on to be a chart success on both sides of the Atlantic a few years later when they left the Rough Trade label and signed for Virgin Records. But these later works of art, while pleasant enough in their own right, never appealed as much as the songs to remember from 1981.


RT 111T


(My posts tend to be written in batches as and when I have time to sit down and work on the blog. Brian was first to comment on yesterday’s posting and displayed incredible psychic powers……)

Ok…the title of the posting looks like some kind of binary code gone wrong.  But it is in fact the catalogue number given to the 12″ release of this single on Rough Trade Records back in September 1982:-

mp3 : Scritti Politti – Asylums In Jerusalem
mp3 : Scritti Politti – Jacques Derrida
mp3 : Scritti Politti – A Slow Soul

The single was released a month after the LP Songs To Remember – which I will argue long into the night is one of THE greatest albums of all time – and it reached #43 in the UK singles charts which was a fair achievement for any band on Rough Trade far less one who got no daytime radio exposure whatsoever.

I should have given this a mention yesterday when I did the St Etienne A-AA sided single as being another great example of the genre. The 12″ release offers up a couple of different things in that Jacques Derrida is a fair bit longer than the album version while A Slow Soul is a completely different mix from that which was on Songs To Remember.

Little known fact. Until The Smiths came along, Songs To Remember was the biggest selling record that Rough Trade had ever released, reaching #12 in the album charts here in the UK.

Green Gartside was soon wooed by many a record label and he signed for Virgin Records. The band’s next album (featuring a completely different line-up from that when he was ‘indie’) went Top 5 while the singles got him his lifetime’s ambition of appearing on Top of The Pops.