This is Part I of a 2-part post about Bob Marley and the Wailers’ performances in London during the summer of 1975. Part II will include press clippings and additional archival information and media.
I consider these 2 posts to comprise the most detailed and comprehensive profile of the Lyceum shows on the web.
Bob Marley is on the verge of becoming a superstar in England when he plays 2 shows at the Lyceum Ballroom in the summer of 1975. Marley and his Wailers band deliver a “groove-driven, seven-song set which includes many of his best loved classics.” The performance on July 18, 1975 is recorded by Blackwell, along with Island recording engineer Dave Harper from the Rolling Stones‘ mobile recording van. The recording is released at the end of 1975 as the legendary Live! album and is broadcast on the King Biscuit Flower Hour in 1976.
From the Wolfgang’s Vault review:
After a particularly up-tempo version of “Burnin’ and Lootin’” they segue into a spirited take of “No Woman, No Cry,” which has the entire audience singing along. The show takes an upward thrust when they kick out “Kinky Reggae,” which Marley uses as an introduction jam to present members of The Wailers to the audience.
Marley was incredibly animated during this show, which is somewhat odd since by this point in his career, he had gotten more introspective onstage, concentrating mainly on the political message he was preaching. This show, however, is an exception, with Marley getting the audience deeply involved in the spirit of the show. “Lively Up Yourself” is a perfect example of where the rhythm of the band meshes perfectly with the rhythm of the audience. “Stir It Up,” is another rhythmic gem, with Marley doing a joyous interplay between his vocals and those of his back up singers, The I-Three, which featured his wife, Rita. The electric piano solo played through a wah-wah pedal by Tyrone Downie takes the track to a whole new dimension.
Other highlights include the always infectious “I Shot The Sheriff,” which had already become a massive hit internationally thanks to a near-perfect cover by Eric Clapton; and the Marley standard “Get Up Stand Up.” It is hard to realize just how much of an impact Marley has had on today’s popular music, especially hip-hop, until you bear witness to a great live show like this one. This concert is a wonderful testament to the genius of Bob Marley and his ability to entertain any audience he was placed in front of.
Today I share reviews of the infamous 2 shows that Bob Marley and the Wailers played at the Lyceum in London July 17th and 18th, 1975. These shows have gone down in history as magical events that one had to witness to believe. This being said, it is only proper to share the words of those that attended the shows, and not try to assert my own opinions and observations based on the 30+ years of folklore told by authors, journalists, and music critics, many of whom weren’t even there. This is a living post, meaning that whenever I come across a quote from someone who was actually there, it will be added to the post. It is my hope to preserve an accurate portrayal of these shows, which were forever memorialized on the Island Records Bob Marley and the Wailers Live ’75 album.
The first is an account by noted journalist Karl Dallas, written just hours after the show, and published in Melody Maker on July 26, 1975 in the article “Bob Marley: Wailin’.”
You wouldn’t think he had just played a tough, almost continuous one hour set to a packed Lyceum, London, with no proper encore because it looked as if the crowd was about to pull him off stage in its blind enthusiasm, or that he was to meet the press at noon for a conference encompassing subjects like revolution, what he does with his money, how he felt when two members quit his band after their last British bummer of a tour, and what is his favourite piece of reggae music.
He parries them all, answers most of them with a mild urbanity which belies his reputation of being occasionally difficult, and confirms his own report that the vibration on this tour is decidedly different from the last.
If superstardom consists of being elusive, evasive, incoherent, unpunctual, enigmatic, all-round difficult, then Marley is no superstar. But if it has anything to do with that over-worked word, charisma, with knowing what you are doing and not being diverted from the main object in view, with a burning conviction and a dazzling talent united to communicate, then Marley is possibly the greatest superstar to visit these shores since the days when Dylan conquered the concert halls of Britain, never looking back.
At that Lyceum concert I found myself thinking of Dylan several times, first when he stabbed a pointing finger at the audience during ‘No Woman No Cry’, remembering Dylan’s reported dislike of “finger-pointing” songs, and I wished he could be here crammed into this neck of humanity to feel how effective they can be in the right hands.
And then, as the mass of Afro-topped black heads swept up over the ineffective crash barriers and became a snake-pit of reaching arms, grabbing at his ankles, his wrists, the belt round his pants, I thought of Phil Ochs’ comment that if Dylan ever walked through his audience they would kill him, literally tear him to pieces out of sheer love and adoration, and I understood straight away why there was no encore, a feeling which was confirmed, not dispelled, by the howl of booing when they put the house lights up to show the crowd that the show was indeed over.
The next day, after the press conference, I asked him if he had been scared by the crowd at the Lyceum. “No,” he said, “it no worry me so much. The only thing, I didn’t want them pull me off the stage or hurt me. Them guy held me too hard. Them too strong, real big guys.”
The excitement had started building long before 9.32pm, when he came on to the cries of Radio London DJ Steve Barnard: “Are you ready? Are you ready?” It had built through Third World’s excellent opening set, through the interlude of black music Barnard played to keep them happy as they waited. The crowd milled about, drank from beer cans and bottles, jigged a bit to the music. But as the music continued, as disc followed disc, the cries began to rise out of the crowd like startled birds. “Bob Marley,” called a voice. “Bob Marley,” repeated another.
The house lights go out, and though roadies are still prowling about the stage, all eyes are riveted on it. At one side, a large backdrop with Marcus Garvey, the father of the back-to-Africa movement, in ceremonial and civilian clothes, both European. On the back wall, a fairly small picture, ringed with the red, yellow and green colours of the Ethiopian flag: Halle Selassie, embattled Emperor of Ethiopia, Lion of Judah, considered by the Rastafarians to be the godhead, “Almighty God is a living man” as the song says.
The Wailers’ road manager, Tony Garrett, comes out to invite the sell-out crowd to participate in “a Trench-town Experience ” and the place goes wild as the opening words of ‘Trenchtown Rock’, “hit me with music,” literally hit everyone in the polar plexus. Aston “Family Man” Barrett on bass wears a bowler hat; his brother, Carlton on drums is in faded denim. Two of the old Soul-ettes, Rita Marley and Marcia Griffiths, working as I Three (three because every rasta includes Selassie with himself), are resplendent in long, poppy-emblazoned gowns. They move a little awkwardly, as if they are making up their stepping routines as they go along, as well they might, but their movements coincide perfectly, a blend of professional precision and spontaneous fun.
From where I stand, we can see neither Guitarist Al Anderson nor keyboard player Touter, but we can hear the first’s buoyant melody lines soaring gently up above the tune, the latter’s organ growling along a funky bass.
Marley, he is everywhere, never still, bending his knees sharply on the third beat of every bar. Turning his back on the audience and retreating to stage rear to signify the end a song.
The band goes straight into ‘Burnin” and thence into ‘Rebel Music’ and Marley clearly feels confident enough in his control to relax a bit. He breaks his guitar rhythm to sip from a paper cup. The music is tighter than it used to be, though still fairly loose. So far there have been no solos, until the band swings into ‘Stir It Up’, first of Marley’s songs to become a world-wide hit (for Johnny Nash) and Touter takes a brief keyboard excursion.
“What we need is some positive vibration,” Marley cries at the end of the song, although he’s had little reason to complain at the response so far.
He is working with the crowd, keeping his introductions brief, his movements economical, but all the time he is driving along not only the band, but also the crowd.
He begins ‘No Woman No Cry’ with his arm over his face, forsaking his lilting offbeat guitar to give his hands the opportunity for full expression. He makes the lyrics live, and, incidentally, acquits the rasta of all charges of male chauvinism in this sensitive paean to black womanhood. And when he gets to the words “Everything’s Gonna Be Alright” his finger splits the air like a searchlight.
And so it goes, building and building. They open up the roof. Back in the balcony a hundred 20p programmes are waving back and forth in a vain effort to cool the temperature, but what is causing the sweat here is something more than physical heat.
At the end of the song, Marley cries “Jah – Rasta far-I,” the only time we hear the old rasta slogan in the whole evening. ‘Natty Dread’ brings out all the street urchin cheek of its argot, mockery turned back upon the mockers, with love instead of hate. This ought to be the single, not its B- side.
A new intro foxes the crowd for a while until he sings out the words of ‘I Shot The Sheriff’ and if you thought the crowd was wild already, the roar of response at the opening words shows that we haven’t reached the high point.
Looking down at the crowd, I notice a strange thing. Earlier, it had been a fairly even mix of black and white, but now all the heads I can see at the front are Afro-topped (virtually no dreadlocks, by the way). And I see that they have invaded the barely protected photographers’ area and they are bidding fair to invade the stage itself.
There have, of course, been a crowd of anonymous black faces round the sides of the stage all the way through, and at the end of the song Marley and the band disappear into them. It is 10.21 and the band has played for less than an hour.
Clearly this is a rehearsed encore, as the band comes out again and strikes up ‘Get Up, Stand Up’. I Three are punching the sky with power fists and the kids in front are grabbing at Marley. One guy pulls off his jacket and throws it on the stage, it is not clear why.
It is almost as if we have been invaded by a Bay City Rollers crowd, though there is no screaming.
Marley is repeating the words “Don’t give up the fight” so that it becomes a hypnotic litany: “Don’t give up the fight…don’t give up the fight…don’t give up the fight…” He does it ten times, then the guitar takes up the five-note phrase and turns it into a riff, in which it is joined by the organ.
Each time a fist grabs at Marley he smiles slightly, as if to himself, and tries to shake himself free. He never actually looks at any of the guys (they are all males), who do it. By now roadies, DJs, anyone, has been pressed into service as a steward, arguing with the one or two kids who actually make it on to the stage, persuading them to get back down.
The song ends and Marley leaves the stage. There is no way he can come back for more. He has played for almost exactly an hour. The crowd stays for almost half that time again, clapping and stamping in unison, shouting more, but in vain.
No one could have followed that, not even the man who did it.
Marley’s close friend and biographer Vivien Goldman wrote a review of the Live album which was published in Sounds on November 29, 1975.
IN THESE troubled times of ours there’s very few things you can be sure of.
One thing I’d have been prepared to stake my autographed copy of Burnin’ on is that the Wailers’ live album, probably the most eagerly-awaited album of the year, would be a truly wonderful and genuinely five-star experience with bells on. Well, it doesn’t take a clairvoyant to tell you that I was 100 per cent accurate in my estimation.
Live At The Lyceum swells the ranks of my favourite live albums to three (others: Beach Boys Live and Live At Max’s by the Velvets) as in general live albums tend to be flaccid compared to studio takes. For any Wailers fan, the mere fact of reliving the gigs with better sound than you got there is enough to induce paroxysms of bliss. As a bonus, Steve Smith and Chris (God) Blackwell have done an amazingly good job with the sound quality, enabling Bob’s wailing of ‘How Many Rivers…’ on ‘Burnin’ And Lootin” to hit you right in the solar plexus.
The I Three (Judy Mowatt and Rita Marley, the back-up singers) suddenly gain a stature of their own, their incantatory voices winding round and about in glorious texture contrast to Bob’s soulful notes. The Barrett Brothers are a joy throughout; in fact that’s exactly what this album is, a joy throughout.
If I sound uncriticial that’s because there are few enough albums that have Live At The Lyceum’s freshness, authority and out and out MUSIC. It would be wise of you to grab hold of it at once, and listen long and hard. Hit me with music!
© Vivien Goldman, 1975
Music journalist Philip Norman published a review of the shows in The Times on July 18, 1975.
BOB MARLEY and the Wailers reached the Lyceum two nights ago, in some style. By early evening, long before they were due to appear, the foyer was impassable and a queue stretched from under the portico into Covent Garden’s hinterland.
Across the road stood a double row of police vans with many constables, shirtsleeved and sceptical. Clearly, the gravest fears were entertained for this home of the quickstep and foxtrot at the hands of the kings of Reggae.
It is unnecessary, I hope, to repeat that the Wailers are adherents to the Rastafarian faith, worshipping Jah in the person of Haile Selassie (‘recently deposed’, as their press handout candidly admits) and believing in their spiritual repatriation, some day, to Ethiopia. For the present, they remain in Jamaica where – aside from periodic jail sentences – they have existed for 12 years, idolised, plagiarised, yet dreamily resisting the demands of world fame. Their last concert tour of Britain was curtailed because it began to snow.
I do not think that they could complain of the temperature this time. I have been in hot places before, but seldom in a place as hot as the Lyceum ballroom, just before the Wailers appeared. It was like breathing through a sodden blanket. Presently, it became like wearing one. The dance floor was a human swamp; the red lamps, on the balcony above, burned with the unearthly brilliance of equatorial flowers.
In such circumstances, the performance itself had something of the quality of hallucination. It seemed that two stout figures in robes and turbans, for all the world like the favourite wives of some ancient chief, swayed and side-stepped and played pat-a-cake together. On one side of them, Marley himself, with hair standing up in the waxy plaits called ‘dreadlocks’, threw his arms wide from an untouched guitar; on the other side, a little kneeling group seemed to be enjoying a quiet game of cards. This, at least, was what I saw through a press of bodies, radiant with heat. There was a curious odour in the foetid air which I could not identify. It reminded me somewhat of newly-pressed shirts.
In these frightful days of Barry White, I love Bob Marley and the Wailers. It is not merely that theirs are the first and the best versions of ‘Stir it Up’, ‘I Shot the Sheriff’, ‘Guava Jelly’. The slow bass, the slow drum, the unrepentant idleness, the matronly figures stepping and gliding – all are visitations from a world which whites in the audience, bobbing ardently but fitfully, cannot hope to comprehend. Through them black music is, once more, triumphantly private.
© Philip Norman, 1975
For listening and evaluation for the purpose of commenting, I have included a vinyl rip of the Bob Marley and the Wailers Live ’75 album from the 1982 German Limited Edition Box Set. This is the best audio source available. I own this show in vinyl, CD, FLAC, and cassette, and this one is a step above all of them.
This is the officially released recording, therefore I cannot share for the purpose of downloading. All downloads have been disabled. If you like what you hear, and you undoubtedly will, please go out and purchase the album.
TURN IT UP LOUD!!!
Bob Marley and the Wailers, Live ’75
Island Records, ILPS 9376
Bob Marley – vocals, rhythm guitar
Aston Barrett – bass
Carlton Barrett – drums
Al Anderson – lead guitar
Tyrone Downie – keyboards
Alvin Patterson – percussion
Rita Marley – backing vocals
Judy Mowatt – backing vocals
1. “Trenchtown Rock” – 4:23
2. “Burnin’ And Lootin’” – 5:11
3. “Them Belly Full (But We Hungry)” (Lecon Cogill/Carlton Barrett) – 4:36
4. “Lively Up Yourself” (Bob Marley)- 4:33
5. “No Woman, No Cry” (Vincent Ford) – 7:07
6. “I Shot The Sheriff” – 5:18
7. “Get Up, Stand Up” (Bob Marley/Peter Tosh) – 6:32
“Kinky Reggae” is included as a bonus track on the 2001 remastered edition, however, I thought it more important to include the best audio source.
A Deluxe Edition featuring two CDs and both shows in their entirety was initially set to be released by Universal Music on 14 February 2006, then subsequently postponed to 23 May, 30 September and 30 December, then delayed again. As of today, the Deluxe Edition still remains unreleased.
Included here is the entire performance featuring many tracks which were excluded from the album, including a more extended version of “Get Up, Stand Up.” Big up Dubwise Garage for sharing this audio!
2. No Woman, No Cry
3. Kinky Reggae
4. Stir It Up
5. Lively Up Yourself
6. I Shot The Sheriff
7. Get Up, Stand Up
“Trenchtown Rock” was included in the performance, however, it is missing from this recording.
Here is a review of the album and show by music journalist Rovi Lindsay Planer of All Music Guide:
As the title implies, this is indeed Bob Marley & the Wailers captured in performance at the Lyceum Ballroom in London during the final U.K. leg of the Natty Dread tour. Passionate and symbiotic energies constantly cycle between the band and audience, the net result of which is one of the most memorable concert recordings of the pop music era. With the addition of lead guitarist Al Anderson during the recording sessions for their previous long-player, Natty Dread, the Wailers took increasing strides toward a seamless transition into the consciousness of the rock music audience. Anderson’s bluesy guitar runs liberate “Burnin’ and Lootin’” as well as “Trench Town Rock,” the only new composition on Live! Anderson bobs and weaves his supple-toned fretwork among the somewhat staid rhythms common to reggae. The mutual affinity that binds Marley with his audience is evident in the roars of approval that greet the opening notes of “Them Belly Full (But We Hungry),” “I Shot the Sheriff,” and “Kinky Reggae.” Likewise, “No Woman, No Cry” elicits a group singalong as the sheer volume of the audience challenges that of the amplified musicians. With this evidence, there is no denying that Bob Marley & the Wailers were becoming the unlikeliest of pop music icons. Additionally, Live! underscores the underrated talents of the Wailers as musicians. Older works such as “Burnin’ and Lootin’” and “I Shot the Sheriff” benefit greatly from Tyrone Downie’s keyboard punctuation and the soulful backing vocals of the I-Threes. ~ Lindsay Planer, Rovi
I have included photos from the shows. Most were taken by photographer Kate Simon (www.katesimonphotography.com).
© Kate Simon