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Reggae legend Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry turns up in Mario’s Cafe

Musician nails coin to a tree in Kelly Street - nobody knows why

19 October, 2017 — By Dan Carrier

The musician nails a coin to a tree without explaining why

HE is the reggae superstar who has had a hand in some of the genre’s biggest hits – so imagine the surprise and delight of Lee “Scratch” Perry’s fans when he was spotted having a quick bite to eat in a neighbourhood café in Kentish Town.

The legendary singer and producer popped into Mario’s, in Kelly Street, on Thursday to eat his way through a plate of chips and a tricolore salad. Film-makers behind a new documentary marking the 50th anniversary of the Trojan Records label had decided the café would be the perfect place for their interview.

Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry with Mario Saggese

Proprietor Mario Saggese said: “I was asked if they could use the café to interview him – and I was thrilled. It’s a little like having Elvis in the cafe.” Perry hung out with customers and Mario, asked if he could go behind the counter, and then ordered a salad and chips. The singer has a reputation for extremely eccentric behaviour – and did not disappoint.

Mr Saggese said: “He did a funny dance for us all out on the street, and then came back in and asked if I had a hammer. I gave him one and he proceeded to cross the road and ‘nail’ a 20p piece into the trunk of a tree opposite the café. From now on, it will always be known as Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry’s 20p tree.”

Mario’s café has always had a musical edge. The late 1980s band St Etienne, whose hits include “Only Love Can Break Your Heart”, were regulars there, while NW5-based musicians Kitty, Daisy and Lewis can often be found sipping Mario’s coffee and fuelling up on his fry-ups.

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