Return Of Django stands out as a marker in time - a long gone era of moon-stomping madness, a tight number two all over, and mad forays into men’s fashion shops searching for a fabled scarlet Harrington, which was sadly never to be found.
It was 1969 and reggae was big, and no artist bigger than Rainford Hugh Lee Perry (although Perry had actually been on the scene for over a decade by the time Django hit the charts).
Born in either 1936 or 1939 (depending on who had the pleasure of asking the man at the time), as a teenager he had a deep interest in music and in the late 1950‘s upped his rural roots and relocated to Kingston where he found work with producer Clement ‘Coxsone’ Dodd as a general gofer.
Watching and learning, it wasn’t long before the young Lee started composing and producing sessions for Mr Dodd, and it was then that he voiced his debut recording, Old For New. His second waxing, Chicken Scratch, provided him with the enduring nickname of Scratch. As the 1960’s proceeded Coxsone Dodd utilised Perry more and more, coming to rely on his attuned ear, until 1966 when the fledgling producer went his own way, believing that working freelance would provide a wider opportunity for his talents.
By 1968 it was obvious that no one could control the creative flow of Lee Perry and he parted company with Gibbs to form his own outlet for the work. Thus Upsetter Productions was born. The first hit was People Funny Boy featuring Perry in fine vocal form. It had a new style rhythm soon to be called reggay or reggae and sold well in Jamaica and the UK. The hits continued, with many being picked up by Trojan Records and released in the UK where they were eagerly sought after by both the West Indian population and the new white appreciators of the sound, the skinheads.
The band on Eight For Eight were Gladdy’s All Stars, one of the top session groups of the time and led by pianist Gladstone Anderson. It was this band which would play on most of Perry’s early recordings.
The second release was the immortal Return Of Django, utilising Gladdy and his band. Originally intended as a Jamaican version of the Chris Kenner 1957 R&B vocal hit, Sick & Tired, it featured the wonderful raucous saxophone of Val Bennett who previously had lead one of the top jazz bands since the 1940‘s but now was mainly employed as Perry’s chauffeur. The song had been already tried in the rocksteady era to little hit making effect and now after a disappointing vocal take by Perry it looked like it was again destined to slip into obscurity. But the vocal was scrubbed and it was released as an instrumental and renamed Return Of Django after a spaghetti western hero who the producer saw as a rude boy of the Wild West.
Django didn’t fare well in the Jamaican charts and did little upon its release on the UK Trojan Upsetter label, but the club scene took an interest and slowly momentum built until it scraped into the lower reaches of the UK charts in the autumn of 1969. The steady climb continued to a very pleasing number five and the record spent fifteen weeks in the Top 50 becoming one of the best selling reggae records ever.
This classic album features this top 5 UK hit plus 6 other singles; ‘Eight for Eight’, ‘Ten to Twelve’, ‘Night Doctor’, ‘Man From M15’, ‘Live Injection’ and ‘Cold Sweat’.