albums that mean a lot to me – Bob Marley and the Wailers – Live!

I was a 15 year old kid brought up with the radio playing the Beatles, Stones, Glam Rock and my Mum’s Perry Como, light Opera and Easy Listening collection.  I used to hang around with my mates at one of the local record shops, quite often when I was supposed to be in school, and the shop owner tried to educate us in rock, new wave, Iggy Pop, Rush, New York Dolls, even Yes (that never worked).  I was at that stage where everything was new.  If I found a band I liked, they may be someone no-one else had heard of, or maybe they’d been around for years and had albums of back catalogue to discover.  I’m still envious of kids in that position now.

Album Cover Bob Marley and the Wailers - Live!

Bob Marley and the Wailers - Live!

I’d not heard it all though, one day shopping in Uxbridge, walking past a record shop I heard a sound that was totally new, yet somehow familiar.  I had no idea who it was, so in I went, it was “No Woman No Cry”, and imagine the effect on that 15 year old white kid, who thought black music was Disco, The Supremes and The Drifters.  Here was something with an edge, a dirtiness and raw honesty that punk aspired to, a voice from the downtrodden, proud.  In some ways, the back story wasn’t that different to the punk message, but the attitude was so different.  Am I being unfair to punk if I say  this Reggae music was more mature?

The punks told us everything was shit, (and in mid 70’s England it was, believe me) and it was going to get worse, and there’s nothing you can do except help it on its way to total decay.  But here was Bob Marley, singing “Everything is gonna be alright, no woman, no cry”.  That was some optimism, given the backdrop to this song, “My fear is my only courage” these are brave, proud and defiant words.  You can do what you like, we’ve had it all, taken it, and we’re still here, heads held high, no woman no cry.  “All that we’ve got, it seems we have lost”, had he given up?  No way, you can’t take a man’s pride.

So I bought Bob Marley and the Wailers – Live!  I discovered a whole world, Reggae yes, but with rock/pop sensibilities, the guitar solo on No Woman No Cry would not sound out of place on a Stones album.  This music didn’t set out to alienate this teenage white kid, it spoke to me.  I had nothing in common with these guys, nothing in my life experience was in any way close to the picture they painted of life in Trenchtown, but I still heard and felt every message.  The punks were moaning, but Bob was talking of oppression, and he wasn’t walking away, and I loved him for it.  I heard this album, my world had grown.

I didn’t understand half the words, but I got the gist easy enough, the beats were all new to me, nothing like anything else in my collection, yet this one record became a favourite, something I still listen to today.  If you’re feeling everything is getting at you, listen to this album, the optimism burns through, and warms your heart.  To me it still retains that edge, the rawness, after all these years.  I’ve never found anything quite like it, maybe it’s the memory of the impact that it had on that 15 year old white kid, it will always be a special album to me.

This entry was published on February 17, 2012 at 1:00 am. It’s filed under Music and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

4 thoughts on “albums that mean a lot to me – Bob Marley and the Wailers – Live!

  1. I enjoyed reading this. You are absolutely right about record shops back then being places of discovery. If you were into music there was no better place to hang out than in a record shop. The people working in the shops had a passion for music and loved to pass on what they knew. They’d get to know customers and make recommendations and order stuff specially! The element of discovery and sharing music from back then has sadly been lost in a digital age. Loved reading about how you found Bob and how his music fitted into your world and opened new horizons. I understand that you felt punks were moaning but there was a spirit that was kindred to reggae and punks and rastas shared a lot. Punky reggae party was born from a shared experience. The music and words may have been different and they may have come at things from a different angle but the musicians came from different places and experiences. I agree with what you say about a lot of optimism carried in reggae and in Bobs words. I think there was a great spirit of optimism behind the punk attitude. It was about taking things back and doing it yourself – Not about moaning. It was the spirit of don’t believe the corporates have got all the power, make it happen yourself. Make your own bands, make your own records, carve out an identity for yourself, make a community of like minded people. The punk stuff was as optimistic and as political as Bobs music but it was set in a time of massive discontentment. I don’t disagree that Bob’s music had optimism but he was also angry and passionate. The punks and rastas both found that their voices could be louder through music. We needed both and it was great that they found allies in each other. If it hadn’t been for Bob……. but equally if it hadn’t been for punk…….. Bowie, reggae, and punk helped to shape the person I am. Bobs music is as strong today as it was then. The spirit of Ziggy is all around us. Punk was always about an attitude and not about bondage trousers and spikey hair. That attitude and spirit lives with the people who embraced it and is passed down the line. Strangely -Tonight I’m off to see Patrik Fitzgerald who is still going strong although living in New Zealand now rather than London. He was heralded as one of the first punk poets and I haven’t seen him since the late 70’s!!!! Could be an interesting night? Could all be a bit out of time. Hope he doesn’t do too many oldies but who can forget Safety Pin Stuck In My Heart or Work Rest Play, Reggae!!!!! I’ll have a drink to Bob tonight.

  2. Thanks for your comment, and have to say I agree, I’ve been a bit hard on punks in this article, I’ll take back the comment about moaning, unfair, and inaccurate.

    Maybe I should have it was anger that differentiated the punk movement, sure Bob got angry too, but it isn’t an emotion you instantly get from Reggae. “Anger is an
    energy” as Mr Lydon might say.

    I definitely have to do a post in future on the impact of the punk movement, I was never a spikey hair kind of guy, but there’s no doubt that the freedom of expression and the self reliance punk promoted was an important message for me.

    I remember an interview with the Pistols where the then Mr Rotten said that music was “just a collection of sounds in any order you like”. Now that comment could have come from some high-brow classical avant garde musician, and would have been taken as an expression of a serious art concept. Many of the punks were taken for foul mouthed morons, yet there’s quite a few came out of that era who had interesting things to say, and an interesting way to say them.

    Above all, although I do like a bit of Prog Rock once in a while, you’ve got to credit Punk Rock with killing off the 30 minute drum solo and all that self indulgent nonsense!

    Ahh, I do miss record shops – itunes and the world of downloads is just not the same.

    Hope you enjoy Patrik Fitzgerald, hope he does some current stuff with the same energy as back in the day.

  3. Great story that reminds me of the strange ways in which one comes across new music. I vividly remember shopping in Habitat – probably 30 or more years ago – and hearing some stunning soaring guitar music playing in the background. I was captivated by the sound and asked an assistant who the artist was. ‘Santana’ she replied. The track was ‘Europa’ from the Moonflower double album. I bought the album and it remains one of my favourite albums to this day and a Santana concert at the Albert Hall a few years later is the greatest live concert I’ve ever been too.

    • That’s a good one Habitat and Santana, lots of respect to the shop assistant who chose that one. Funnily enough I’ve just been listening to Nantucket Sleighride by Mountain, which I first heard as the theme tune to Weekend World, which was a lunchtime political interview programme on Sundays – and for me that’s one of the greatest bits of rock music ever.
      I guess the classic example of this sort of thing has to be the CCS version Whole Lotta Love as the TOTP theme tune. That wonderful Page riff, followed by Pans People dancing to the Birdie Song – bonkers!

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