Green Gartside
By: Franklin Bruno | Categories: HiLo Heroes, Music

Scritti-Politti-Absolute1

The mid-’80s were heady times for both critical theory and slick, danceable synth-pop, and no one wed the two to greater effect than Welsh-born GREEN GARTSIDE (Julian Paul Strothmeyer, born 1955), co-founder and sole permanent member of Scritti Politti. With a name cribbed from Antonio Gramsci’s writings, Scritti’s early releases made common cause with the wider U.K. DIY movement: their first seven-inch broke down its own production costs on the sleeve. But even through a scrim of art-school-Marxist gestures, unparseable song structures, and dub-inflected production, you can already hear the melodic gift and elastic white-soul coo that would lead Green, as he’s usually known, to the mainstream. (In the era of Wham! And Boy George, his epicene good looks didn’t hurt either.) On 1982’s Songs to Remember, the songs still had titles like “Jacques Derrida” — whose subject, after meeting the singer, told an interviewer, “he knows his Wittgenstein” — but they also had genuine hooks, and on “The ‘Sweetest Girl’,” a lilting groove that made the credo “Politics is prior to the vagaries of science” easier to swallow. This was still “pop music” rather than pop music, but the quotes came off a few years later on “The Word Girl” and Cupid and Psyche ’85, which critiqued the metaphysics of presence — or at least the rock status quo — by trading a stable band for sequencers, session players (notably, keyboardist/co-writer David Gamson), and A-list R&B producer Arif Mardin. The result: a string of U.K. hits, the U.S. Top Twenty “Perfect Way,” and — with lyrics like “I’ve got a new hermeneutic/I’ve got a new paradigm” — the rare album that invited the masses to hit the dictionary as hard as the dancefloor.

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PUNK, POST-PUNK & ALTERNATIVE on HILOBROW: Joey Ramone | Dez Cadena | Jello Biafra | HR | Mike Watt | Vivienne Westwood | Iggy Pop | D. Boon | John Lydon | Henry Rollins | Palmolive | Plastic Bertrand | Kira Roessler | Lisa Carver | Frank Black | Ari Up | Gary Panter | Paul Simonon | Darby Crash | Penelope Houston | Exene Cervenka | Sid Vicious | Andrew Eldritch | Kate Pierson | Paul Westerberg | Lux Interior | Ian Dury | Stiv Bators | Tom Verlaine | Colin Newman | Johnny Thunders | Poison Ivy | Green Gartside | Lydia Lunch | Mark E. Smith | David Byrne | Debbie Harry | Captain Sensible | Mark Mothersbaugh | Kim Gordon | ALSO: The Original Generation X (1954–63) and the birth of DIY | The Original Stooge | Origin of the Pogo | Shocking Blocking: Rock’n’Roll High School | Punk fanzines from the 1970s | Post-Punk and New Wave on HiLobrow

On his or her birthday, HiLobrow irregularly pays tribute to one of our high-, low-, no-, or hilobrow heroes. Also born this date: Octavia Butler, Schooly D, Todd Rundgren, Félix Fénéon, David Rees.

READ MORE about members of the Original Generation X (1954–63).

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Franklin Bruno is the author of Elvis Costello's Armed Forces (Continuum, 33 1/3 series). His current band is The Human Hearts. Twitter: @humanfranklin.