Formed by Green Gartside and Tom Morley in the artsy, politicised milieu of Leeds University (Yorkshire) in 1977, with a name that combined Marxist namedrop (an Antonio Gramsci title roughly meaning “political writings”) with Tutti-Frutti onomatopoeia, the band took the DIY imperative to heart, moving to a squat at 1 Carol Street, Camden (north London), recruiting a mate to play bass, and borrowing £500 to record and release a single themselves (Skank Bloc Bologna) in late 1978.
In 1980, Gartside’s parents, fearful for his health, urged him to return to the family home in Wales to recuperate. Here he wrote a massive tome on the psychology and politics of rhythm and, retreating into his teenage passions for jazz, lover’s rock, R&B and jazz, he made the decision to return to London, now musically redrawn.
The early avant-garde phase of Scritti Politti thus gave way to a smooth sound that melded elements of pop, jazz, soul and reggae.
Morley quit the group in November 1982, by which time Gartside effectively was Scritti Politti.
The debut album, Songs To Remember, became Rough Trade’s most successful chart album, reaching #1 in the UK independent chart and #12 in the main national chart.
Moving on to Virgin Records, Green recruited New York musicians David Gamson (keyboards) and Fred Maher (drums) and proceeded to rack up a series of UK hits between 1984 and 1988. These included Wood Beez (Pray Like Aretha Franklin), Absolute, and The Word Girl.
A three-year silence was broken by Oh Patti (Don’t Feel Sorry For Loverboy), taken from the album Provision, and boasting a trumpet solo by Miles Davis. Gartside then maintained a low profile for a further two years and returned in 1991 with a cover version of The Beatles‘ She’s A Woman.
By 1999, Gartside was infatuated with Hip Hop and working with Mos Def.