Last year I watched a BBC documentary called Imagine – The Seven Killings of Marlon James. Marlon James had won the Man Booker Prize in 2015 with his violent fictional version of the assassination attempt on Bob Marley. In this documentary, Alan Yentob talked to him about experiences as a writer. It is a great documentary and worth watching if it ever comes to a screen near you. In some shots, Marlon was wearing a band t-shirt. A tweet from a writer I follow, who had been watching the programme at the same time as me, revealed the band to be Bad Brains. Of course I immediately sought them out. The album above is their first and eponymous record released in 1982. It is a furious hardcore punk reggae fusion – I like it for certain occasions although admit to preferring a later album called I Against I, mainly because it’s slightly more accessible and appropriate to play around children, but Bad Brains is an awesome racket. I love the dub and reggae tracks interspersed between the noise as a bit of relief.
So last week, I was minding my own business, reading an article that referred to Bad Brains and in the same breath name-checked this other band I’d never heard of as being better than Bad Brains and making this kind of music much earlier. What? Much earlier than 1982? The band is called Death. I know very little about them other than they were a band made up of 3 brothers from Detroit, they made this album called For The Whole World To See in 1975. When the record company wanted them to change their name, they refused, so the album never got released; until it was rediscovered in 2009.
Yet again I come to you, ‘Spillers to fill in my gaps and educate me. What do you know about all this? Are there any other bands like these two I should check out?
I see there’s a piece about Peter Tosh on page one today.
When I drove my VW camper to Jamaica in 1982 I took loads of cassettes, mostly reggae. I found a beautiful beach in Ocho Rios where the fishermen lived and worked and that place became my home for 3 months. I had outside speakers on my van and everyday the fishermen would congregate and we’d talk and play tapes. There was one tape that was requested literally EVERY day, it was the 1978 Peace Concert. I had a bootleg copy from the soundboard. After Bob had played and brought the 2 prime ministers together, Manley and Seaga shaking hands onstage, [remember, this was at the height of the bloodiest election ever]. Peter took the microphone and spoke directly to the 2 Prime Ministers and their government officials, the chief of Police was sitting next to Manley. He berated them in the most extreme manner for the way they treated black people and Rasta particularly in Jamaica, they could do nothing but sit and take it. Peter was later arrested and had his arm broken.
Whenever the fishermen congregated they always requested that tape and when it was finished they’d say ‘Play it again mon”, So I did. They couldn’t believe that anyone could speak to a politician like that and of course that tape was never available in Jamaica.
Courtesy of YouTube here’s a portion of that speech.
Funny thing is that when I had my radio show I never wanted to hear the air checks, as soon as they were done I labeled ’em and filed ’em and never gave them another thought. Now 20-30 years later I’m going through them and listening to every one and they’re wonderful, that is the music is wonderful and it brings back so many memories. I usually listen in the early hours and frequently I find myself thinking ‘This would be great for the Spill’ but often lethargy strikes and I wonder how many would listen to them anyway, I played lots of jazz and blues, Ah to hell with it.
I have had “Mr Noah” by Panda Bear (his 2007 LP was my fave of that year) on repeat for the last two weeks & is the mpst bizarre earworm as I have no clue at all what he’s singing about, apart from he won’t get out of bed except for chips & egg? Maybe? And it’s definately dog themed….maybe….
I thought it may be fun if we have a guess at the lyrics, without googling (who wants the truth? not me!) and see what comes out of the morass?
Back in the 70’s/80’s I used to enjoy making tape playlists of my various favorite musics, reggae was high up there then. I must have made hundreds, for myself, my car, my friends and many of them wound up in the living room along with all the VHS, the CD’s and the vinyl from whence many had originated. But then several years ago we had the big clean up and since they were not getting played much they were all consigned to the storage room upstairs, at one point I did a quick count and there were over a thousand. In latter years I sleep much less, often lying awake for several hours in the middle of the night, so I set up a cassette player with a pair of earbuds and started playing my cassettes: I’d usually have a dozen or more which were randomly chosen on the headboard. It’s wonderful, I’m re-living my musical tastes of those decades and also playing lots of interviews and musical documentaries and live performance tapes; I look forward to going to bed and I don’t mind a bit when I wake up at 1am. Last night I played a tape labelled ‘African & Jamaican dance music for Nathan” God knows why I have it and not Nathan but it was wonderful, 90 minutes of memorable music. Here’s side one of that cassette, a dozen+ cuts of favorite classic reggae. Let’s dance!
Today Bob would have had his 69th birthday, I have a hard time imagining Bob being 69. He was always so young and vigorous and he always had so much to say. And what he said touched so many people around the world, everywhere I’ve travelled there was always evidence of Bob Marley, on posters, T shirts, murals on walls, his music coming out of doorways and from radios, he was and is everywhere; the universal man. His music will last forever.
Bob literally changed my life, everything changed when I bought his first album, ‘Catch a Fire’ in 1972. To that point I’d been listening to jazz and pop, I suddenly discovered reggae and it was infectious. I spent the next decade always looking forward to his next album and his next tour. I saw him four times and the highlight was the 1976 Roxy show in LA, a small club packed to the gills and Bob was onstage about 10ft from the table where I was sitting. It was the most amazing and intimate musical performance ever. I’m including the encore of that performance in the playlist, if you haven’t heard it you should listen, I never heard the Wailers play that way again and I have most of his concert aircheck tapes.
Here’s a selection of his music, some spiritual, some Rasta, some love songs, some everyday life songs and a couple of cuts that some might not have heard, first the Roxy encore, ‘Get up, stand up’ and an acoustic set of Bob sitting on a hotel bed in Sweden playing a medley for his own enjoyment with just an acoustic guitar. When I had a radio show I did at least one special every year devoted to Bob, either on his birthday or the anniversary of his death, let’s continue that tradition.
And give thanks to Ari for her tech support.
Here’s the playlist.
1. One Love.
2. I’m hurting’ inside.
3. Waiting in vain.
4. Natural Mystic.
5. Time will Tell.
6. Is this Love.
7. I’ll be forever loving Jah.
8. One Drop.
9. Rastaman live up.
10. Give thanks and praises.
11. Jah would never give the power to a baldheaded.
12. Acoustic Medley.
13. Get up, stand up, Roxy encore.
The photos are of some of the featured artists, they are: Lloyd Parks, Junior Marvin, Bo Peep, Dean Fraser with the Ras Brass, Burning Spear, Pablo Moses, Mutabaruka, Puma Jones, Joe Higgs. They’re supposed to get larger if you click on ’em.
Over the years I’ve been tempted many times to post reggae playlists here but somehow apathy seemed to get in the way. Reggae was an obsession with me for about 20 odd years, basically throughout Bob’s musical career, consequently I accumulated a fairly large collection plus I visited Jamaica regularly, sometimes several times a year. I was always involved with Jamaican culture and music throughout this period. After I retired and moved to northern California I became a DJ on the local NPR radio station, every Saturday night from midnight ’til 2am for 7 years. I had a total free hand to play anything that I wanted and I’d mix it up with jazz, reggae, blues, African etc. I taped every show, labelled ’em and tossed ’em into a box with dozens of others, there was never any attempt to organize them or even to listen to them.
However, I recently got the urge to reorganize the upstairs room where anything and everything had been pushed out of sight over the years, therein I found dozens of boxes of tapes, literally well over a thousand, so I installed about 40 ft of shelves and started organizing them plus all the other media up there. The results have been wonderful! I’m now replaying not only my airchecks but also the results of obsessively having a recorder with a blank tape in it attached to my radio at all times; I’ve got the cultural history of the last half of the 20th century on tape and it’s amazing listening to it all again. I listen on earbuds in the early hours when I can’t sleep, it’s the best time of the day.
Last week I played a cassette of my radio program from the 90’s, my show was called ‘The Heart of Saturday Night’, and this one was a reggae program. I enjoyed it so much that I thought I’d play it here for anyone who’s interested, it’s almost two hours, I edited out a couple of PSA’s that were of no interest and split the program into two sections.
So call it a playlist, a blog or a radio program, take your pick, use it as background while you do the dishes or whatever. I hope you enjoy at least some of it.
Here’s the playlist.
1. Sharpville by ‘The Reggae Philharmonic’.
2. What a Joy by ‘Black Uhuru’.
3. Iron Sharpeneth Iron by ‘Culture’.
4. Freedom Song by ‘Third World’.
4. A Song by ‘Pablo Moses’.
5. War inna Babylon by ‘Max Romeo’.
6. Country Boy by ‘The Heptones’.
7. Roots Train by ‘Junior Murvin’.
8. Flashing Whip by ‘Jah Lion’.
9. Coming on Strong by Prince Jazzbo’.
10. ‘Skank in Bed by ‘Scotty & Lorna’.
11. The Existance of Jah by ‘Dennis Brown.
12. Love and Devotion by ‘Jimmy Riley.
13. There’s a reward for me by ‘Joe Higgs.
14. Marcus Garvey by ‘Burning Spear.
15. Peace, Love and Justice by ‘Ras Michael.
16. The Same Song by ‘Israel Vibrations.
17. I am that I am by ‘Peter Tosh.
18. Jump Jump by ‘Bunny Wailer.
19. Redemption Song by ‘Dean Fraser.
20. The System by ‘Mutabaruka.
21. White Man Country by ‘Mutabaruka.
22. When you Remember by ‘Mutabaruka.