Scritti Politti: Cupid & Psyche 85 Page 2

Assessing the attitudes of the post-punk scene in which Scritti Politti was birthed, Green said to Mark Cooper of Record Mirror: 'Marginal music has never transcended its own history or invaded the mainstream. As a consequence it ends up asserting little other than its own marginality, its difference from the majority.


The lineup of (l-r) David Gamson, Fred Maher and Gartside was formed in New York in 1983

'There's a whole history of nice middle-class English boys who take great pleasure in attempting to either disrupt pop as it is or avoiding it altogether. All too often nobody, except an elite few, is any the wiser to their work.'

A vocally tweaked 'The "Sweetest Girl"' was included on Scritti Politti's long awaited debut album Songs To Remember, released on Rough Trade in 1982. Pop wasn't avoided, as shown by the soulful melodies and reggae rhythms of 'Asylums In Jerusalem', but Green was still disrupting it with his examination of the role of language in music, particularly on 'Jacques Derrida', where he claimed to be in love with the titular French philosopher.


Black and white portrait shot of the singer taken in 1985

New York, New York
While Songs To Remember made the UK Top 20, Jinks and Morley weren't keen on its more commercial tack and the group disbanded. The album attracted major label interest, though, and Rough Trade, after some negotiation, allowed Green to sign a deal with Virgin in the UK and Warner Bros in the US.

The songwriter teamed up with American keyboard player David Gamson, who shared his love of Wyatt, English prog rock group Henry Cow, pop music and the burgeoning hip-hop and R&B scene. They decamped to New York, immersing themselves in the city's musical culture and reforming Scritti Politti as a trio with drummer Fred Maher, who had played with experimental jazz funk group Material and Lou Reed.


Short hair and shades – Green Gartside in 2005

With major label funding now behind him, Green was keen to enlist the services of Arif Mardin. The latter's production on Chaka Khan's 1984 smash-hit single 'I Feel For You' had caught Green's ear, and with its rap intro by Melle Mel, funky slap basslines, and the use of sampling and electronic sequencing, the song sounded strikingly innovative and fresh.

He had also produced another of Green's favourites, Aretha Franklin's 1972 live gospel album Amazing Grace. Green referenced her on 'Wood Beez (Pray Like Aretha Franklin)', the first single from Cupid & Psyche 85, which was released ahead of the album in late 1984, reaching No 10 in the UK charts. But from its title, which was a rather arch wordplay on 'would be', to its modern production, it's hard to think of anything further removed from the raw and ecstatic music on the Queen Of Soul's album.


Green Gartside in a Virgin promo shot from 1991

Mardin's production on 'Wood Beez', 'Don't Work That Hard' and 'Absolute' – and the group's on the six other songs on Cupid & Psyche 85 – was informed by the electro sounds that were permeating hip-hop and R&B, and the possibilities offered by new technology.Green's girlish voice is set in an atmosphere of unruffled, mentholated coolness, with pillowy string synths and animated bass. The springheeled drum rhythms generally avoid the worst of the '80s obsession with reverb and Gamson's programming and sequencing is punctuated by dramatic synthesisers reminiscent of Trevor Horn's.

'Absolute', Scritti's second UK Top 20 hit, weaves keyboard under the vocal line to darken the mood and has an oddly timeless quality, with only Green's voice sampled cartoonishly on a Fairlight towards the close sounding dated.


Garside pictured in 2006, aged 51

Fame And Misfortune
As regards lyrical content, Green was still exploring the relationship between language and music. 'The Word Girl' is a deconstruction of a love song: a word exists, but the girl never existed in her own right but was created – or so it seems. If you didn't want to try to unravel all that, singing along with the song's sugar-sweet chorus – 'The first time baby that I came to you' – would do just fine. As Green said to Sam Richards in Uncut: 'I never did blend the right degree of inanity with the correctly sized dollop of critical thinking. Lyrically, I never did achieve that. It was beyond my skills at the time. But I tried'.


1991 wearing a San Francisco Giants baseball cap. The band last toured in 2021

Green was now operating in the same arena as Prince and Wham!, and although he loved making music he had a 'wretched time' as a pop star. After Cupid & Psyche 85, he suffered deteriorating health and a psychological breakdown, and subsequently moved out of the limelight. As he told Richards, 'I got chased by girls down Oxford Street and had obsessive fans who went to incredible lengths to meet me. I found it horrifying'.