Smoke signals from the Vatican spell hellfire from reggae’s stars
So apparently the white smoke from those folks over in Vatican City means something a little different for everybody….
It was the inimitable Lee Perry, AKA The Upsetter, who first alerted me to a small but vociferous subgenre in reggae music devoted to the castigation of all things papal. Over the last few days, as the cardinals gathered daily in the Sistine Chapel to elect a new pope, I have been reacquainting myself with The Upsetter’s Baffling Smoke Signals, which I first purchased as 7in single in 1978.
The song was Perry’s response to the sudden death that same year of Pope John Paul I – whose 33-day reign was the shortest in papal history – and the subsequent election of John Paul II. Conspiracy theories abounded over the cause of the former’s death and they seem to have taken root in Perry’s then fevered imagination. In typical Upsetter style, the song plays at 33⅓ rpm – a nod to the length of John Paul I’s papacy? – and its lyrical invention is similarly surreal. It begins with various quotations from the Book of Revelations, all of which are given a Rastafarian spin before Perry elaborates his thoughts on the papal conclave. “Thousands gather in the valley, looking for the white smoke, but to their surprise, there comes black smoke,” he sings over a chirruping rhythm. “No more white smoke, it’s the end of your hope.”
Continue the read of The Guardian’s article
And here’s Scratchs’ response…