July 1978. Bush Doctor tour. Tosh is slated to play The Starwood Club in Santa Monica, CA. Problem is, hundreds of Rolling Stones fans show up to the show thinking Tosh is opening for The Stones, a job he dutifully performs for The Stones on occasion during the 1978 Bush Doctor tour.
I have included the story by Robert Hilburn from the LA Times which was published on July 22, 1978.
Also included is very rare video clip of Tosh performing “Equal Rights.”
INTERVIEW WITH GRAPHIC DESIGNER COLLEEN CANNON PLUS LIVE CONCERT AUDIO FROM BERKELEY 1978
Big up to my friend and MIDNIGHT RAVER BLOG Editor Joe Jurgensen for a great interview with Ms. Colleen Cannon, graphic designer and creator of the historic Berkeley 1978 concert poster. As a poster collector himself, Joe asks very insightful questions which allow Colleen to shed some light on this historic work of art, and the story surrounding it’s creation.
The MIDNIGHT RAVER BLOG wishes to thank Ms. Cannon for taking the time to discuss her poster. Please visit her website at marleyconcertposter.com to find out more about purchasing poster reprints, her limited edition calendar, and other collectibles.
INTERVIEW WITH MS. COLLEEN CANNON, CREATOR OF THE BOB MARLEY BERKELEY 1978 CONCERT POSTER
by JOE JURGENSEN
Tell us a little bit about where you’re from. Where did you grow up?
I was born in Los Angeles in 1954 the year my parents, native New Yorkers, moved to LA. I grew up in New York City following my parents divorce, my mother moved me and my brothers back to the NYC in 1963.
You designed a fantastic poster for Bob’s concert on Friday July 21, 1978 at the University of California, Berkley. How did it come about for you to be the one chosen to create that poster?
Thanks for the compliment. I was at the right place, at the right time, as they say. I had graduated from college and moved to Berkeley when “the opportunity of a lifetime” literally fell into my lap.
The Bob Marley poster project came to me via a colleague I was working with at a local East Bay Newspaper, the California Voice, where I was the photographer. Bobbye Dones also happened to be working for Superb Productions, the student group that produces shows at UC Berkeley.
They were working on the Annual Berkeley Jazz Festival at the time. To make a long story short I was immediately hired by the editor of the Berkeley Jazz Festival Program magazine as the assistant art director. The next project turned out to be the Bob Marley & the Wailers Greek Theater Concert. The show was part of the Kaya Tour. There was no competition to design the concert poster. It wasn’t offered to a known poster artist. I was literally handed the opportunity by the Jazz Festival magazine editor – all I had to do was say yes.
Wow. Do you remember what image you used to draw it or what image you had in your head when you were drawing it?
There was little time to make the poster and on top of that I had never designed a professional concert poster before. Yes, it was my first poster ever and it was for Bob Marley! OMG! I was very nervous and excited but had to work fast. It was important to me to distinguish my Bob Marley poster from the other concert posters – typically photographs of Bob Marley.
I had studied photo-silk-screening at Stanford and wanted to achieve a similar effect with color blocking. I was given a few photos and had my own album covers to study and be inspired by, including Rastaman Vibration, African Herbsman and Kaya. In addition, I also made some high contrast photocopies of several photos to help envision the color separation and blocking of the portrait. It was important to me to use multiple resources to capture Bob Marley’s spirit more so than just his image. I wanted viewers to see the ‘I and I’ within Bob’s portrait.
After working on several conceptual drafts everything coalesced into a single graphic image that then had to be separated into 3 different colors for the printing process. I painted each color on a separate piece of acetate that when layered together created the image.
At that point where you into reggae?
My father introduced me to reggae in 1972 when he took me to see “The Harder They Come” with Jimmy Cliff. That movie of course, became a classic and introduced a lot of people to reggae music. Later, I was introduced to Bob Marley’s music in 1976 by my college professor and his wife. When I first heard Rastaman Vibration, like most I became an instant fan.
Had you seen Bob in concert before?
No, I had never seen Bob Marley perform before that night, July 21, 1978. I did see him again in 1979 when Bob Marley & the Wailers Survival Tour came through the Bay Area. Incidentally, my father also saw Bob Marley & the Wailers perform in Zimbabwe in 1980 for Independence Day, which, as it turned out, would be one of his last concerts.
Did you attend the show?
Of course, that was part of my deal, along with a backstage pass. The night was electric, amazing. Bob Marley was in the prime of his life. The band was cookin’ and the I-Three’s outstanding harmonies had the Greek Theater rockin’.
Did you get to meet Bob at the show or anytime after?
Yes, my friend and I went backstage during intermission and as we approached stage staff to inquire about Bob and the band Bob Marley himself came walking up at that very moment. Star struck, I reached out my hand and introduced myself as the designer of the concert poster. He took my hand, smiled and said he liked it very much “Irie,” Bob said to me. I floated back to my seat.
Did you ever get into Rastafari?
I have a great deal of respect for Rastafari and its message for the oppressed and liberation of the people. Bob Marley was the emissary of Rastafari and reggae music. Songs like “Get Up, Stand Up,” “Exodus” and “Redemption Song” are spiritual anthems. I love the music, the message, the culture, the ital food, and had my beautiful dreadlocks for decades.
How many posters were printed up?
It was a short press run typical of the time, not more than 500 were printed. I actually still possess a few of the original printers’ proofs. These are the first posters off the press while the press operator made adjustments to the print settings. I have made some of them available to collectors.
These proofs are truly unique, “one of a kind” prints due to the variations and imperfections in the offset printing process. That’s how posters were printed back in the 70’s. The printers proofs were given to me by the printer and have never been seen or displayed in public. Due to their rarity they are highly valuable collectors items.
Who would typically go around and hang up the posters?
The Superb Production staff put the posters up around town prior to the show.
After the show, do you remember trying to go around and collect any of the displayed posters around town?
I wish I had gone around to collect them I had no idea of their historical significance. Fortunately, in addition to the printers’ proofs I was also given several posters from the original press run. Collectors have bought them over the years. Your poster was snatched up that night by Roger Steffens and he has since had just about everybody who was involved in Bob’s life to sign it. It is the centerpiece of his collection and is proudly displayed (up stairs) right as you walk in his front door.
Do you get any special feeling knowing that not only Bob, but all of the others have seen, enjoyed and signed your work?
Actually Reggae Archivist, Roger Steffens got the poster a few nights before when he attended Bob’s Santa Crus concert. Roger went backstage that night and got the signatures of Bob Marley and all the Band members.
It was years later in 1987 that I found out that my Bob Marley poster had been the writing surface for Bob’s autograph etc., ultimately becoming the centerpiece of Steffen’s Bob Marley collection. It was featured in the Bob Marley Edition of the BEAT magazine that year. I also happened to be pregnant with my son Kaya at the same time.
I have very special feelings – just think I was very young, it was my first poster and Bob Marley had actually penned his name on the image I had created. Due to Bob Marley’s legendary status in the music world I have a unique place in reggae history as the only person to actually illustrate a portrait of Bob Marley for one of his concert posters.
To also know that it was not only autographed and blessed by Bob Marley himself, but also his mother Cedella, his wife Rita, his children and a slew of some of the greatest reggae stars ever is incredible. That poster is indeed priceless.
Was this a line of work you continued after the Bob show?
Yes, I continued working as a graphic artist, on and off over the years. Bob Marley, of course, was the highlight of my career. The closest I came to another famous reggae artist was creating a concert poster for Pablo Moses in the ‘80’s
What line of work are you into these days?
While I have worked as a graphic designer and recently web developer, I am also an educator and enjoy pursuing my fine art – Illuminated Abstracts. My web/graphic design work can be viewed at firewatergraphics.com. My fine art is available at uvlightstudios.com.
Where do you live?
I live right outside Hilo on the Big Island of Hawaii. Inspired by the active volcano – Kilauea, I moved here in 1997 with my son. Bob Marley and reggae is very popular here in Hawaii, especially among the Native Hawaiians. They have a version of reggae known as Jahawaiian. It’s mellow with a Polynesian twist.
What prompted you to do a limited edition printing of the poster?
I created a limited edition of the poster in 2004 for several reasons. First of all, cheap, fraudulent copies of the poster are being produced and sold on ebay. I wanted to produce the only authentic reproduction of my iconic poster. Secondly, I wasn’t really happy with the printing of the original poster. I was naïve about the printing process and not present at the press run. You can see the difference between the printed poster and the original artwork that was more saturated in color.
This also gave me the opportunity to recreate the poster according to my original vision. The reproduction was digitally reproduced under my direct authority using the original artwork I had kept safe over the many years. Unlike other Bob Marley concert posters mass-produced by poster companies, this reproduction was re-designed and digitally recreated by me, the original artist directly from the original artwork. The torn paper background indicates that it is a “reincarnation” of the original – reborn directly from the original artwork.
In addition, I wanted to make an affordable version. This reproduction is completely affordable for Bob Marley fans ($15), as opposed to the hundreds collectors have paid for an original poster.
Please tell us a little bit about the calendar you put together and recently released?
The idea came to me – Wouldn’t it be great to have a contemporary calendar that also had all of Bob Marley concert dates referenced? Nothing like that was out there, so I created it. I also wanted to show off my design abilities, which have noticeably improved over the years, and showcase my poster in a different format that was also informative. This is a beautiful 18 x 24 collector’s grade wall poster that features my Bob Marley poster and other memorabilia.
Do you still listen to reggae and Bob quite often?
Sure, I still listen to Bob Marley. Who doesn’t? Bob Marley was not just a musician, he was a prophet, his music and message is timeless. Reggae has become a worldwide phenomenon. I still like the hard-core reggae but I also like some of the fusion stuff too. Reggae has evolved, changed and been adapted by many different cultures. I think Bob would appreciate his worldwide influence.
It must be a cool feeling to know that you are permanently cemented into the history of Bob Marley’s musical life. Your poster will live on as a permanent document and also happens to be one of the cooler Bob Marley concert posters. If possible please tell us your feelings on being part of Bob’s story, the current state of Bob Marley’s music and his place in history?
I am deeply and profoundly honored to have had the opportunity of a lifetime come directly to me. It was destiny and even today I have to pinch myself. Bob Marley was like a supernova – His light and energy brighter than all others combined. Those of us who has the opportunity to enjoy one of his concerts were blessed because like a supernova – the light and energy was intense, wondrous, transformative and all too short.
Bob’s music is iconic, defies age, time and space. It transcends cultures and races, is ubiquitous and touches all who listen. There has been no one before Bob Marley or since to reach the impact Bob’s music and message made on the world, the Universe. Is there anything about his legacy that has surprised you?
As time goes on Bob Marley’s legacy has grown exponentially and is constantly introduced to new generations. That is no surprise. The fact that his music is known and embraced by people all over the world even in the most remote regions is astonishing. Bob Marley’s reach has truly been phenomenal. I am sure that even the Martians are rockin’ to Bob’s beats.
How can our readers find out more about you and purchase a poster and calendar?
Please go to MarleyConcertPoster.com where they will not only find out more about me and my famous poster, but also featured are Bob’s music, lyrics, videos, memorabilia, as well as other vintage concert posters to check out. Here is the page specifically dedicated to my Bob Marley Poster:
Is there anything else you would like to add for our readers?
Yes, with the purchase of an original poster, calendar or reproduction from me, the original artist, your readers can actually “own a piece of reggae history,” not only dedicated to Bob Marley, but validated and blessed by the Greatest Reggae Legend of All Time. I am humbled by this whole experience and it gives me great pleasure to be able to share my story with midnightraverblog.com readers. MarleyConcertPoster.com has produced a video interview of my story. Part 1 can be viewed on YouTube.
Thank you so much for your time. One Love.
It was truly my pleasure. It brings back my incredible memories of Bob Marley and that truly amazing time in my life as a young adult. May I just close by quoting Bob Marley, “One Love, One Heart. Let’s get together and feel alright.”
Bob Marley & The Wailers
July 21, 1978
Source: Soundboard plus two audience sources
01 Bob talks + crowd noise 0:37
02 Positive Vibration 4:52
03 talk: Bob’s intro to Them Belly Full 0:17
04 Them Belly Full 4:29
05 Rebel Music 5:15
06 The Heathen 4:15
07 War 4:09
08 > No More Trouble 1:55
09 Running Away 4:19
10 > Crazy Baldhead 4:12
11 Crisis 4:06
12 I Shot The Sheriff 4:41
13 No Woman No Cry 7:06
14 Lively Up Yourself 6:58
15 Jammin 7:13
01 talk + crowd noise before encores 0:25
02 Kaya 3:15
03 Easy Skanking 3:24
04 Get Up Stand Up 4:41
05 > Exodus 8:51
06 talk + crowd noise before 2nd encores 1:00
07 Is This Love? 5:53
08 Punky Reggae Party > final thanks 7:17
This is a repost. I updated the original blog post with personal testimony from someone who attended one of the shows. Also updated to include the NME article.
The U.S. dates of the 1979 Survival tour kick off at Harvard University on July 29, 1979. In late October 1979, Bob Marley and the Wailers score a seven-show slot at the famed Apollo Theatre in Harlem, NY. These shows, which run for 4-days straight are very special to the band for several reasons. This is where Marcus Garvey first reached out to the blacks in Harlem hearkening “look to East Africa, for the crowning of the Black King” – a prophecy which kindles the early flames of the Rastafari Movement. The shows are also Marley’s first real shot at reaching and teaching the black audience in North America. In fact, according to Marley biographer Chris Salewicz, it is Bob himself who demands these shows in an effort to deliver a targeted message to this audience.
According to the Black Enterprise magazine issue from September 1983, Bob marley was the very last performer to play the historic Apollo before it went dark for 5 years. It reopened in 1984.
A fan who attended one of the shows during the Apollo run left me this message:
“Concerning the Bob Marley concert at the Apollo….there were three shows, in three days….and I made sure I was present for all three…Each show was different…but each unique. The Apollo Theater has 2 balconies…I was in the first balcony …front row center…best seat in the house…I sooo wish at least one of the concerts were on film….Bob rocked the house…so much so, at one point I actually got frightened…at the end of the third and final show…Bob had everyone on their feet singing “Get up Stand up”…of course everyone got up…but it wasn’t until a few minutes into the song that I realized the whole balcony was shaking….literally moving…I kept still to see if it was movement that I was really feeling…sure enough…it was…that’s when I started to hope that the balcony would hold….the balcony was full…even the isles…the Apollo is an old theater…..After the concert , I left feeling fulfilled and exhausted…Bob had taken all my energy…..any time he played NYC I was there….have never been to a concert that could surpass any Bob Marley concert since…….BLESS.”
Bob Marley & The Wailers The Apollo Theater New York, NY 10/26-27/79
This set contains songs recorded on October 26th and 27th, 1979 during the run at the Apollo
1. Positive Vibration 2. I Shot The Sheriff 3. War 4. Exodus 5. Call for Encore 6. No Woman, No Cry 7. Jammin’
Bob Marley & The Wailers The Apollo Theater New York, NY 10/28/79
 Positive Vibration [5:00]  Wake Up & Live [6:11]  The Heathen [5:08]  One Drop [4:32]  I Shot The Sheriff [4:39]  Runnin Away [3:59]  Crazy Baldhead// [1:17]  Zimbabwe [4:27]  War > [3:24]  No More Trouble [1:47]  Exodus [7:40] Encore:  No Woman No Cry [6:49]  Jammin// [4:27]
A superb recording of an outstanding performance by Steel Pulse at the Suwanee Music Festival in Live Oak, FL on October 22, 2011.
Steel Pulse Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park Meadow Stage Live Oak, Florida October 22, 2011
01 Intro > Find It…Quick 02 Rally Round 03 Prodigal Son 04 Chant A Psalm 05 Pan Africans Unite 06 Blues Dance Raid 07 Leggo Beast 08 Not King James Version > Drug Squad 09 Your House 10 Steppin’ Out 11 Ku Klux Klan > Soldiers 12 Ravers > Reggae Fever 13 Blazing Fire
This blog survives day-to-day because of the brilliant work of others. Vivienne Goldman documented the Wailers like nobody else did. She was able to do this because she was part of Bob’s circle of friends. She lived it. Endless bus tours, countless trips to Jamaica, and nights spent at 56 Hope Road gave her an unprecedented look inside the world of the Wailers. This was something that no other journalist could say.
Today I share with you an excerpt from her extraordinary book Exodus: the Making and Meaning of Bob Marley and the Wailers‘ Album of the Century. This excerpt was published in The Guardian on 15 July 2006.
Excerpt from her book Exodus: the Making and Meaning of Bob Marley and the Wailers’ Album of the Century’ by Vivien Goldman published by Three Rivers Press
Late 1976, and rival political factions are warring on the streets of Kingston, Jamaica, with only Bob Marley calling for peace. In an exclusive extract from her major new book, Vivien Goldman remembers life with Bob Marley at his home on Hope Road and reveals exactly what happened when gunmen came to kill him
Money is like water in the sea,’ Bob Marley insisted earnestly on that late 1976 afternoon as our conversation by the Sheraton pool in Kingston turned to business and politics. ‘People work for money, den dem don’t want to split it. It’s that kind of attitude,’ he continued scornfully. ‘So much guys have so much – too much – while so many have nothing at all. We don’t feel like that is right, because it don’t take a guy a hundred million dollars to keep him satisfied. Everybody have to live. Michael Manley say ‘im wan’ help poor people… They feel something good is gonna happen,’ he said reflectively, then continued: ‘We need a change from what it was. It couldn’t get worse than that.’ Sounding more sure, he concluded fiercely, almost defiantly, ‘You have to share. I don’t care if it sounds political or whatever it is, but people have to share.’
Bob’s last comment might sound odd: why should the outspoken revolutionary poet be so concerned about anyone’s political misinterpretation? But we were speaking just days before the free Smile Jamaica concert he was due to play for the people, and large crowds are always volatile. Bob was conscious of the heightened tension that always surrounded the build-up to a Jamaican election. His generous humanist statement could be labeled as socialism. People might say he was definitively backing Michael Manley’s People’s National Party (PNP), with its affiliation to Castro and Russia, and rejecting the Jamaican Labour Party (JLP), headed by Edward Seaga, dubbed in widespread graffiti as ‘CIA-ga’ because of the American secret service’s overt support of his team. That could mean trouble.
Times had changed since Bob and his wife Rita had backed Manley in the 1972 election. The island seemed to be full of guns. People were more desperate and violent, and Bob was a far more public figure. Now he had to screen every word and be extra-careful not to be misunderstood.
For an effectively fatherless mixed-race child of the rural areas and stifling ghettoes to be receiving more acclaim than any Jamaican ever was a wake-up call that a new society had actually arrived. Bob’s international success made him a symbol of a troubled island’s hopes. He now found himself in the unenviable position of being the prize of a tug-of-war between the island’s two political parties. As the material for his album Exodus began to brew in 1976, the island was convulsed with lethal political agitation, and Bob’s star status did not confer immunity – rather, it was the reverse. ‘People see him as a big man now, gone international,’ as his boyhood friend Mikey Smith explains. ‘Everyone want Bob Marley deh ‘pon their team.’
Less than two decades after Jamaican independence, the system left behind by the British had frayed, and the infrastructure was crumbling. I remember arriving in Jamaica from Los Angeles once, having been shopping earlier that day, and how obscene it was to compare LA supermarkets’ towering stacks of produce with the island supermarkets, with shelves so empty they seemed to sell air. There was music, style and creativity in abundance, but shortages of everything else from rice to rolling papers. Driving anywhere was an adventure, as the ancient taxis seemed to be held together with rubber bands and hope, and the roads all over the island had potholes like craters. Power cuts were as regular as police roadblocks.
Deadly tribal wars, the seeds of which had been planted centuries before, were being fought between the opposing JLP and PNP areas. Families turned against one another from block to block. People risked death to cross Kingston’s disputed areas, such as the one between Fifth and Seventh Streets, or the several desolate areas where soldiers camped out and extracted rough justice from any passer-by.
Bob had his own way of dealing with it. During another conversation, when he paused from taking energetic puffs on a communal ‘chalice’ and passed it on, I asked if he was bothered much by the police. ‘I hardly ever on the streets to get stopped. I is a man who don’t really travel up and down too much,’ he replied laconically. Effectively, the stress on the streets was keeping Bob at home, just like his bred’ren in the ghetto.
When his plan for a free concert became known, he was approached separately by the JLP and the PNP, both eager for his support, but he chose to do a non-aligned event, albeit inevitably with government approval. ‘Michael [Manley] jumped on it with full endorsement,’ says Wailers’ art director Neville Garrick. ‘He said, “All you guys have to do is rehearse.”‘ At first Manley proposed that the show be held on the lawns at Jamaica House, the Prime Minister’s official residence. ‘No, mek it somewhere central that don’t have no political affiliation,’ Bob insisted.
Finally, the show was billed as a collaboration between the Wailers and the government’s cultural office. So Bob was righteously angered when it was sprung on him that the election date had been brought forward to coincide with the Smile Jamaica show. Despite his best intentions, the Wailers’s noble offering to the people had effectively been co-opted by Manley’s PNP. The populist project now appeared to be little more than a promotional gig in the very territorial spirit Bob was trying to discourage. It was a cynical move on the PNP’s part, which took a lot of the joy out of the idea. The lightly sardonic voice of Bob’s lawyer, Diane Jobson, drops uncannily into Bob’s rasping snarl as she recalls how he said, ‘Diane, dem want to use me to draw crowd fe dem politricks.’
Bob had encouraged his Hope Road home in Kingston to become a ‘safe house,’ a neutral zone, in which youths caught up in the turmoil of the warring political factions could hang out and reason away from the old violent mindset. At a certain point, Bob’s utopian vision of the yard as sanctuary was bound to collide with street conflicts. He was in a delicate position, and to add to the irony, the enemies Bob was trying to reconcile were often relations, old neighbours and schoolmates.
I had been invited to stay at Hope Road, and around 5.30 one morning I woke, restless, and looked out of my bedroom window. Bob was standing in the otherwise quiet yard under the big mango tree, talking angrily to two men whom I couldn’t see clearly. There was something ominous in their exchange. Even at a distance, Bob’s body language was different from anything I’d seen before tense and taut, he was brusquely intent on making his point. It was unsettling – and clearly a very private moment. I turned away and went back to bed. But sleep wasn’t easy. For me, this brief and somehow troubling glimpse suggested a new side to this complex man, the rough one that gave him the name Tuff Gong.
Among those who’ve reasoned about Bob’s Exodus , it’s usually held that the album is wholly a product of the traumatic event that was about to take place. But in reality, Bob already sensed that he was living in a time where imminent horror coloured everyday beauty. Proof positive: relaxing in the rehearsal room late one night, I heard music floating up from below, so I drifted down the stairs that ran outside the building. The moonlit yard under the mango tree was crowded with around 15 people sitting on the ground, the downtown kids who found refuge there and the Dreads who made it home. Tucked under the veranda of the lit tle house was a bedroom with nothing but some hooks on the wall, a chair, and Bob, in dusty sandals and shorts, sitting on the edge of a narrow iron bed. It was just the kind of scenario that comes to mind when Bob lilts through the lines, ‘We’ll share the shelter/Of my single bed’ on ‘Is This Love’. Bob was playing his guitar, trying on chords for size.
A young girl sat at the other end of the bed, her eyes fixed on Bob. He sang to her and to all of us as he strummed wrath and reality on his 12-string acoustic. His picking provided rhythm and hints of harmony as he sang, ‘Guiltiness, rest on their conscience, oh yeah…’
Everyone there was absorbed by the unaffected anger that stalked his crisp delivery. The words hit home to anyone who’d ever been aware of injustice in their lives – which meant everyone present, and many who would eventually hear the song in its majestic cut on the Exodus album.
For many around town, 3 December 1976 was proving a difficult day, anyway. Bob’s label boss Chris Blackwell was on his way to Hope Road when he stopped off at Lee Perry’s Black Ark to check out some new tracks. Sitting in the small, womb-like control room, covered with red, green, and black fake fur and stills from kung-fu flicks and westerns of the spaghetti and Hollywood varieties, Blackwell was entranced by the neon towers and canyons of Perry’s spacey new track, ‘Dreadlocks in Moonlight’, topped with the producer’s own warbling vocals. ‘Me waan the Gong to voice dis ya one,’ explained Scratch. Blackwell said: ‘No. You can’t improve on your own version. This is great. Make me a tape to carry.’
So he sat down to watch Scratch work. No one mixed like Scratch. The skinny little man in a peak cap, undershirt and shorts danced with the four-track Teac machine from which he coaxed such shattering sounds. Darting in toward the knobs and faders, he’d flick them as if flame flashed from his fingertips, then twirl and pirouette, dipping back just in time to catch the beat. Blackwell was unsurprised when technical hitches made the promised few minutes stretch into over an hour. He resigned himself to being late for the Wailers’ rehearsal.
For Neville Garrick, the day was also not going as planned. Heading for rehearsal, he was stopped by a policeman and arrested for weed. Neville was already somewhat edgy, still shaken by the reaction he’d got when handing out his newly designed stickers for the Smile Jamaica concert to some Dread friends. One man retorted: ‘Me no put no political label deh pon my vehicle, Rasta.’ Garrick was confused, thinking everyone should know that Bob was performing an apolitical event. But then he looked at his own design again, and realised that the rising sun he’d drawn to symbolise the dawning of a new, more loving island
bore a close resemblance to the PNP logo.
Over at the villa of Dermot Hussey, the island’s most noted reggae broadcaster, the Wailers’ keyboard player, Tyrone Downey, was lying on the floor trying to relax from the stress that had been going down at Hope Road. Sensitive and imaginative, Downey had been the baby of the Wailers, a protege of Family Man, who had first used him on sessions when Downey was 12. He’d been nicknamed ‘Jumpy’ when he first went on the road because of his wariness. Now Downey was legitimately nervous. Ever since the change of the election date that had so alarmed Bob, men had been bearing down on Hope Road, dropping heavy warnings to the singer. ‘Me hope you know what you a do, Dread,’ they would say, looking grim.
Hussey offered to drop off Downey and his girlfriend at Hope Road for the rehearsal on his way to do Progressions , his 8pm radio show. ‘I’ll be back,’ Hussey announced as he pulled away from Hope Road. He was in the habit of stopping by number 56 when Bob was readying for a tour, and as the rehearsals went on from nine at night until two in the morning, Hussey had no intention of missing out on that night’s session, bad vibes or not.
He didn’t know about the two plainclothes cops who had been stationed outside the house during rehearsals, due to the gravity of the political situation, and thus didn’t notice their absence.
Diane Jobson had arrived at Hope Road in good spirits, bearing especially sweet grapefruit and some herb from Bob’s favourite grower. But soon a profound nausea she’d never experienced before washed over her. ‘Is you hold de nice spliff, Diane?’ Bob called out. Chuckling, she handed over some luscious buds and went to relax and play with some of the yard children in Neville Garrick’s little house in the compound.
In the newly built narrow galley kitchen by the rehearsal room, breezy and bright with a door at each end, Gilly the cook’s blender was whirring as he sliced and diced fruit with quick precision. He could hear the Wailers’ rehearsal perfectly. They had already polished ‘Baby We’ve Got a Date’, ‘Trench Town Rock’, ‘Midnight Ravers’, and ‘Rastaman Chant’. Gilly remembers that Bob called a break, saying: ‘Fams, you tek over rehearsin’ the horns.’ So Family Man Barrett led David Madden and the Zap Pow Horns into ‘Rastaman Vibration’. Now that the Smile Jamaica show was almost upon them, everyone was looking forward to it, despite the tension in the town. Bob was light-hearted, joking around with Fams and Carly Barrett, who was sitting on a stool. Juggling the fat grapefruit Diane had brought, he asked Garrick to drive Judy Mowatt of his backing group, the I-Threes, to her Bull Bay home, a couple of hours away. She had had bad dreams the previous night and was still shaken. Garrick protested not only did he want to see the rest of the rehearsal, but the best herbsman on the island was due to pass through with his wares. It was getting dangerously near Christmas, when good weed is hard to come by, and Garrick planned to lay in a store. ‘Neville, you gwan like you love herb more than the rest of we,’ teased Bob. ‘Don’t worry, we gwan hold some for you.’
Thus reassured, and seeing fatigue in Judy’s kindly eyes, Garrick took the keys to Bob’s new silver BMW and they set off. Now, this was a famous set of wheels, chosen because the initials suggested Bob Marley and the Wailers, and Bob didn’t let many people drive it. Everyone started moving. Rita Marley headed to her Volkswagen. Bob’s friend and neighbour Nancy Burke was asked by Seeco, the Wailers’ percussionist, to move her car so the girls could leave.
Burke was feeling buoyant that night she’d just got back from chaperoning Bob’s sometime girlfriend Cindy Breakspeare as she won the Miss World contest in London. It was a great coup. In fact, even entering the contest had been daring of Breakspeare though Jamaican Miss World entrants had traditionally supplied wives for many local politicians, including Edward Seaga, Michael Manley’s socialist Jamaica had dropped its Miss World membership, along with Cuba. Because of the tension in town, guards had lately been posted at the entry to Hope Road’s circular drive, but no one was there and the gate was closed. Still, even that inconvenience couldn’t dent Burke’s good mood.
She was dragged away from the kitchen by a little girl, one of Breakspeare’s protegees, to join Diane Jobson and the other kids in Neville’s cottage. Out on the road, Garrick, Mowatt, and the Hope Road doorman, a Trench Town youth named Sticko, were already way off in the distance. Before steering her car through the gateposts, Rita paused to let another vehicle drive in – then screamed and jammed on the brakes as pain seared her scalp.
The other car’s unseen passenger had shot her through her window and scorched on into the yard.
‘Give me a juice, nah!’ A booming cry in the kitchen made Bob and Gilly look up as Bob’s manager, a swaggering, sharp-witted hustler called Don Taylor, strode in. But Taylor was followed almost immediately by three intruders – gunmen, charging in through the doors at either end of the kitchen. One brandished two automatics like he was Jimmy Cliff in The Harder They Come . They fired round after round, the sound deafening as the kitchen became a battlefield. The Wailers and their militant Dread posse were caught off guard. Indeed, even though this was the moment Bob had been dreading, when the shock came, he froze. Everything went into slow motion. He felt something push him, and he fell down only later did he realise it was streetwise Don Taylor, raised working the volatile bars and brothels of the Kingston waterfront. The bullet aimed at Bob’s heart instead smashed into his upper arm. Later, Bob was advised that an operation to remove it carried the risk of loss of control of his fingers, so the lead would stay there till he was in his coffin.
The noise of four automatics belching bullets suddenly silenced.
‘I recognise one guy,’ mutters Gilly tersely. He won’t name names. ‘They came in with two guns blazing and I ran out thanks to the power of the Most High.’ With an expertise learnt in his child hood flights from the Trench Town cops, Gilly raced through the yard and over the wall. In the rehearsal room, bullets smashed into Carly’s drum stool, and he fell to the floor. The next shots hit the wall, right where his head had been. Fams was trying to run for it but got caught up in the leads trapped under Carly’s stool. The brothers disentangled themselves and sprinted for the bathroom, where they hid in the bathtub behind the shower curtain, hearts pounding. The Wailers’s newest American guitarist, Donald Kinsey, was so freaked he left the island and the band the next day, never to return.
Tucked away in Neville’s little house, Diane Jobson and Nancy Burke had no idea what was happening. Silently, both women prayed as gunfire spasmed as if it would never stop. Terrified, the children cowered under the bed. When the shooting stopped, all their hearts convulsed. In the silence, unthinkable questions shouted inside their heads. Had anybody – everybody – been killed? And was Brother Bob still alive?
The eerie quiet was broken when Burke heard Seeco’s wrenching shout outside their window. ‘ Blood claat! Is Seaga men! Dem come fe kill Bob!’ That view was endorsed by word in the street, as passers-by said that before the ambulances and police arrived, they saw a car shoot out of the yard. But instead of driving uphill in the direction of University College Hospital, as might have been expected of any improvised transport for the wounded, the car headed downtown, straight toward the notorious Tivoli Gardens – the JLP headquarters, still a virtual no-go zone three decades on.
‘Down in Trench Town, we heard it as a news flash over the radio, and as soon as we hear it, we know what the source was, even if we didn’t know the person till after. We knew what it was about,’ definitively states Bob’s old Trench Town neighbour Michael Smith, of the group Knowledge. ‘All of these things came from the politics, Bob deciding to do the concert for Manley when he had turned down doing a show for the JLP. At that time they had Bob Marley as an international star, and everyone wanted Bob on their side.’
So Bob’s best intentions for a non-political concert had bitterly backfired.
Jobson rushed out into the yard, where Rita was reeling, bleeding from the head. She begged, ‘Diane, take me to the hospital!’ But seeing that Rita was still standing and coherent, Jobson ran past her and into the kitchen. Just minutes before, it had been packed and buzzing. Now she was horrified to find an empty room and see a half-peeled grapefruit lying on the floor in puddles of blood . She breathed again only when she heard Bob call out to her weakly, ‘Is alright, Diane. Me here still.’
Comforting the hysterical children, Nancy Burke watched as Bob walked out in his blood -drenched shirt between two policemen to the waiting car, holding his arm in its reddening bandage. The anguished self-questioning, as so often happens in the unfolding stages of trauma and grief, would soon come. He didn’t look shaken or fearful. The Tuff Gong was angry.
Exodus: the Making and Meaning of Bob Marley and the Wailers’ Album of the Century’ by Vivien Goldman is published by Aurum Press
At the time, some press outlets and news organizations report that Bob Marley has been killed.
December 5, 1976
The Smile Jamaica Concert scheduled for December 5, 1976, 1 and 1/2 days after Marley’s attempted assassination, is still slated to go on:
Jamaica Gleaner December 5, 1976
Marley delivers the performance of a lifetime in the most courageous live performance in the history of popular music. Performing with bullets still lodged in his body, this moment is one of the greatest ever in the annals of popular music. I have written previously about how this event transformed Marley and Jamaica in Smile Jamaica: The Transformation of Bob Marley. This link also contains the live performance recording downloads.
I have included high quality video footage of his performance at Smile Jamaica. You decide for yourself.