"My sadness, my story, my wantoness, my skipping
My wish and my despair, my erasure, my plantation, my chocolate
My thoughtlessness, my gracelessness, my courage and my crying
My pockets, my homework
Like lions after slumber in unvanquishable number
"Oh how your flesh and blood became the word"
By 1985, Scritti Politti's Green Gartside had fully emerged from the peripheries of the UK's indie post-punk sleeper cells into quasi-global pop brilliance. But appearances are often deceiving and although Cupid & Psyche '85 was a top 50 LP in the States, "Perfect Way" a number 11 US single, and Green a bonafide pop pin-up for 8 months or so, it's also well-known to many of Gartside's avid disciples that Cupid & Psyche '85 was meant to operate on multiple frequencies.
Cupid & Psyche '85 is celebrated as one of the UK's most successful manifestations of pop entryism and for a couple of months that year, it seemed as though Green's cherubic smirk was on the cover of every other teen/pop music magazine. But long-time Scritti fans knew that Green's origins came out of the late 1970s UK student/squat scene - bravely committed to a radical and austere project of DIY collectives, demystification and music that rigorously confronted its own reasons for existing (see Scritti's Early collection). Early song titles like "Hegemony," "Messthetics," and "Doubt Beat" presumably speak for themselves. After a (now mythic and perhaps exaggeratedly apocryphal) nervous breakdown, illness, and extended convalesence, Green turned his back on "the ghetto of the Independent scene" and focused his intelligence and acumen on doing music "properly" - which (hopefully) meant hits. Cue "The 'Sweetest Girl'" - a mellifluous, almost vertiginous, incantation to the ghostly subject of millions of pop songs. It was a major step forward and, while not the hit Green hoped for, it was a brilliant first shot into the pop citadel.
By 1983, Green/Scritti had signed with Virgin Records and relocated to NYC - where he began to construct the individual elements that would eventually constitute Cupid & Psyche '85. First single "Wood Beez (Pray Like Aretha Franklin)" rolled out in February 1984 and "Absolute,""Hypnotize," and "The Word Girl" followed - each single a carefully crafted, expensive, subtle dislocation of the norm. Green never fully abandoned his commitment to rupture, to tracking the voids that fuel everyday emotions, the endless loops of logic that underpin our notions of "how things are." His project attempted to embed deconstructive petroleum jelly in the dark recesses of "hyper-saccharine sweetness" with a strange bounce to the ounce. He worked with some of the best, biggest, and priciest hit-makers in the industry and it all finally paid off in late 1985 when "Perfect Way" (only a moderate hit in the UK) nearly broke the US Top 10.
Of course this begged a major question for anyone invested in Green's purported project - when does pop entryism become tautology? When a song - no matter how potentially subversive - transcends its origins of production to become, first and foremost, a glittering object - is
there still a project beyond entry into a value-commodity stream? Reading interviews with Green circa 1983-85, it's clear that, despite his intial sense of excited purpose, he regularly wrestled with this contradiction. And one might even argue that it ultimately did him in (as a pop star, at least). Cupid & Psyche '85 was followed in 1988 by Provision - a modest commercial success, but tracked by many as an enervated doppelganger of C&P 85 (though "Boom! There She Was" is a classic Scritti hypno-pop white star).
Green eventually "retired" from the music business, only to return in 1999 with Anomie & Bonhomie, a strange though compelling fission of guitar pop, airtight gloss and hip-hop, and then again in 2006 with the understated but gorgeous White Bread, Black Beer.
Scritti Politti - "Doubt Beat" (1979)
Scritti Politti - "The 'Sweetest Girl'" (1981)
Scritti Politti - "Lions After Slumber" (1982)
Scritti Politti - "Wood Beez (Pray Like Aretha Franklin)" (1984)
Scritti Politti - "Perfect Way" (1985)
Scritti Politti - "Boom! There She Was" (1988)
Scritti Politti - "Umm" (1999)
Scritti Politti - "Boom Boom Bap" (2006)