Pop music critic for the San Francisco Chronicle Joel Selvin wrote and published this column in the newspaper’s Sunday Entertainment tabloid magazine style ‘Pink Section’ the week Bob passed in May 1981. Joel reviewed most of Bob’s local live concerts for the dominant Bay Area morning daily through-out the 1970s. We’ll save those for other days. Today, it’s Joel’s usual brand of interesting observations and newsworthiness plus some behind the scenes revelations, wrong impressions (I was at the first Wailers’ show in October 1973 and it was not that heavily attended, for one) and goofy gossip, all broiled into an entire column probably most noteworthy for the last three paragraphs on Johnny Nash, who I hadn’t heard before attended one of the later legendary Matrix concerts and got snubbed. Selvin has it totally right that without Scott Piering leaping in to save the day after the debacle with Sly Stone, it’s hard to imagine how else The Wailers would have redeemed a bad situation and started a growing and phenomenal interest in their music and live reggae that then exploded across the country.
‘Underground’ FM radio pioneer Tom Donahue also gets major credit for using the airwaves in late 1973 to infect thousands with reggaemylitis that could not or didn’t know to see the Matrix presentations. His Sausalito Record Plant live broadcast with Bob, Peter, Joe, Carly, Aston and Wiya around the same time became fodder for most of 1991′s fantastic TALKIN’ BLUES cd, a perfect document of exactly what the Matrix shows were like with stunning versions of many Wailers’ classics especially “Rastaman Chant”, “Walk The Proud Land” and “You Can’t Blame The Youth”. It’s hard to believe it now but in October 1973 literally almost no one in the San Francisco Bay Area knew anything about this group. THE HARDER THEY COME had been playing regularly around the bay yet The Wailers were not in the movie. When I saw a tiny paragraph in the Chronicle saying a Jamaican band was all of a sudden playing that night in North Beach I walked a couple miles with my wife-to-be Deeling from our little basement pad on Nob Hill to the Broadway venue (that later became The Stone) located not far from Carol Doda’s famous topless club. A hippy folk singer opened before the restless crowd waiting to see reggae live anywhere for the first time. The curtained opened and there they stood, strangers all to the assembled watchers.
Those lucky enough to witness the event were about to be wonderfully blind-sided with top-ranking talent and rhythm execution beyond most anything imagined and different from what Perry Henzell’s film revealed about Jamaican music. It was beyond mesmerizing. For many our lives were changed forever. I bought CATCH A FIRE and BURNIN’ the next day and put most all my rock records up in a trunk in the attic. In about a year I was on the radio with THE REGGAE EXPLOSION on KTIM, perhaps the nation’s first regular commercial radio reggae program. The days of derivative devolved rock & roll that all sounded to me like re-hashed inferior Led Zeppelin & Jimi Hendrix wannabes was over. Music as good or better than what reigned supreme from 1966-1968 returned with a conscious vengeance. Peace, love and revolution is back brother! Far out man.
While the biggest news item here is the fact that Sha Na Na was saved from being cancelled as an American television show, there is a short review of The Wailers performance at the Sundown, Edmonton charity concert. For more on this show, including audio and video, CLICK HERE and HERE.
I have also included two adverts which appeared in MELODY MAKER in 1973.
While The Heptones AKA Leroy Sibbles, Earl Morgan, and Barry Llewellan, are most closely related with Lee Perry’s Black Ark studio (they notoriously recorded 1978′s Party Time there), it is at Harry J’s where they record their most memorable hit “Book Of Rules” in 1973. Based on a short poem by American poet RL Sharpe titled “A Bag Of Tools,” the tune is brilliantly used in the film Rockers to introduce Jamaica, the people of Jamaica, and the riddim of the island to the viewer, in the legendary scene where Rasta ride the bike throughout the island. (SEE THIS FILM, SEEN?)
This tune has a lovely sweet spot that gets me every time. In the final verse:
“Look when the rain has fallen from the sky,
I know the sun will be only missing for a little while”
Though things might be bad at the moment, the sun will soon shine on again. Lesson inna my life!
This is the first time this has been available since the day of its broadcast in 1975 on last free-form commercial station KTIM airing from San Rafael, just north of San Francisco where a legendary debut west coast Big Youth concert had just happened days before with so much behind the scenes chicanery it hit the daily papers. It’s worth exploring deeper at a later time. In short the California Hall evening turned morning was well attended yet sabotaged in effect when a rival producer/promoter supposedly lured Youth away upon arrival at SFO airport & proceeded to ‘drive him to the show the quickest way’ by taking the route south away from the City, along the south bay, then up the other side through Oakland then near Napa or somewhere, and finally south again for half an hour into the City, or at least according to some reports that were foggily plied from the get go. Back on stage Big was surely as surely is, “soon come”.
So Youth got to see the Golden Gate Bridge ‘on the way’ from the San Francisco airport & soon hit classic California Hall, the Polk Street venue up the block from the Federal Building. Alas many at the “Big Youth Concert” started bailing out asking for refunds as M.C. & Disc Jockey Tony Moses & The Soul Syndicate valiantly tried & vamped to keep the restless crowd placated for hours. Eventually the naw-give-uppers whooped in joy as Youth stormed the stage, and he was beyond fantastic, at his height in his prime, as you can hear expressed radio wise in this 28 minute interview/dub section from The Reggae Explosion program, big & broad from yard, live from 3:30pm-4pm on a Saturday afternoon, where Manley Buchanan double-tracks along with some serious selections, and speaks with passion, reverence, vision, a bit about ‘the concert controversy’, U Roy, & and well “you know the thing is” as Big Youth say “people just work their soul away day after day.” Another very late night & “right on” afternoon story in reggaeology:
From 1974-1977 “The Reggae Explosion”, a groundbreaking USA commercial radio reggae program aired on KTIM AM/FM in San Rafael, California. It was hosted by KTIM DJ Cody Ryan & Doug Wendt. Pioneering USA reggae radio DJ Tony (Moses) Wright, then from KPOO, KDIA, & KPFA often joined them. When ‘Dread Eye’ Cody became Program Director at KTIM in 1979 he offered Doug his own two hour reggae intensified presentation which first aired Sundays live at 12am. So that’s why Cody named it “Midnight Dread“
Though the Wailers played several shows which are now considered legendary, perhaps none live up to the hype that surrounds this one. The Wailers, in the U.S. in mid-June 1973, are doing a run at the popular Max’s Kansas City night club. Problem is, most people were there to see the guy they are opening for – a young Americana folk singer from New Jersey, Bruce Springsteen. I previously shared three shows from this run on this blog. I came across a new show, well sort of.
Several years ago, JEMS acquired three reel-to-reel master tapes from the private collection of a recording engineer. All were 1/2-track, 15 IPS reels (this and one other 10″, the third 7″) which helped add to their credibility (most fans and collectors in the ’70s were not working with tapes in those professional standards), as did some of the other tapes we didn’t get which were clearly from studio sessions. This famous recording of Bob Marley and the Wailers at Max’s Kansas City was one of the three.
The entire contents of the reel are what has been classified for years by Marley collectors as “Set Three” or “Segment Three” of the trio of known recordings from the July ’73 run at Max’s. The exact recording dates of the three sets are unverified, but they are all drawn from the six night run in July. Previous torrents of this material suggest “there were two shows per night and three shows on the weekend,” all opening for, amazingly, Bruce Springsteen.
The track list of our copy varies slightly from the widely available version(s) of Set Three in that it is longer and includes “Stir It Up,” where most copies stop at “Kinky Reggae.” The version of “Stir It Up” is different from that of Set One or Set Two. It is an audience, not soundboard recording, but may well be an “open mic” recording, perhaps from mics mounted at the mixing desk and recorded with permission to document the performance.
Many thanks to our good friend Dubwise Garage at www.bobmarleyconcerts.com for comparing this to the previously circulated sources.
My previous post HERE is worth checking out for audio to the other performances and the actual hotel receipt from the Chelsea Hotel, given to us by Bob’s roomie for the trip, 22-year old American and Penn State graduate Lee Jaffe.
The Wailers Live at Max’s Kansas City NYC July 18-23, 1973
01 Put It On 02 Slave Driver 03 Burnin’ and Lootin’ 04 Stop That Train 05 Kinky Reggae 06 Stir It Up