Welcome to ‘The Lion’s Den,’ where we share the strangest and most obscure items from our collections.
The Quirky Dozen
by Glen Lockley
(You can also view Glen Lockley’s ‘Quirky Dozen’ HERE)
When it comes to collecting the music of Bob Marley and The Wailers family, I have never restricted myself to any specific area of interest. Thus, the collection I have built up over the years is extremely varied in content, and includes an array of obscure and quirky items. In this article, I will look at twelve sets of releases that are a little out of the ordinary. Here is the Quirky Dozen :
01 – ABSOLUTE TOSH ?
Last year, I picked up a mysterious blank 7” featuring a pair of pro-JLP propaganda tracks, dating back to the 1972 Jamaican General Election. The tracks, entitled ‘Labour Gonna Beat Them ‘ and ‘Beat Them Comrade Man’ , adapt Peter Tosh’s ‘Them Haffe Get A Beating’ and Junior Byles ’Beat Down Babylon’ respectively. It is, of course, the A-side that is of particular interest to me. Based simply on the vocals, it would be quite easy to assume that it is indeed Peter – the phrasing and delivery are very Tosh-like in places. However, the politics are just so very wrong. It is well documented that Peter was an active supporter of the PNP, appearing on the party’s bandwagon that toured the island during this very election campaign. So, if it is not Peter, who is it that is masquerading as him ?
Reggae aficionado and editor of Record Collector magazine, Ian McCann, recalled an anti-PNP track which landed another singer in trouble: “Years ago, Striker Lee said to me that Max Romeo had to hide from a crowd of people who wanted to batter him for making an anti-Manley record. Yet it wasn’t Max who sang it, although anyone who heard it thought it was him. The record I’m referring to is ‘Take The Rod From Off Our Back’ , and the singer who specialised in impersonating other singers was Bill Gentles. Tosh is so distinctive that he could be easily copied, if you have a talent for mimicry.”
Meanwhile, Dr Matthew Smith, senior lecturer in history at the University Of The West Indies, confirms that ‘Them Haffe Get A Beating’ was indeed used by the PNP on the bandwagon. Therefore, it appears this was an attempt by the JLP to turn the track on their opponents by using a sound-a-like singer, a common occurrence in Jamaican elections. Dr Smith observes: “To this day the parties release songs with particular lyrics sung by sound-a-likes of current deejays and singers which are meant to give the impression that the artist is lending them their support. But there is also the habit of artists singing tracks for both sides and collecting two nice pay cheques. But it is dangerous territory to tread, especially back in the 1970s when politics was more ideologically divided.”
The only other clue is that the matrix numbers suggest that the tracks were produced by Alvin ‘GG’ Ranglin. So, if anybody out there has access to Mr Ranglin, maybe we can solve the mystery. Whatever the truth, I was thrilled to add the record to my collection as it provides a fascinating insight into reggae’s involvement in the poli-tricks of Jamaica, and it has to be one of the most obscure tracks to ride a Wailers riddim.
02 – WHISTLING TOSH
Surely one of Peter’s rarest and quirkiest releases is ‘Whistling Jane’, which appeared on a Randy’s test pressing in 1969. Bob Brooks at Reggae Revive was told by Clive Chin that only two copies exist – one owned by Chin himself, the other by myself. ‘Whistling Jane’ (DYNA 971-1) is an instrumental cut of Alton Ellis ‘What Does It Take To Win Your Love’, with Jackie Mittoo on keyboards and Tosh supplying the whistling.The flip-side is ‘Am Getting Old’ (RRS 6), a vocal track by Fred Locks & The Lyrics.
03 – ‘LEGALIZE IT’ ON ISLAND
Given Peter Tosh’s negativity towards Chris Blackwell and Island Records on quitting The Wailers, it would seem inconceivable that he would have considered releasing his debut solo album ‘Legalize It’ on the label. However, it seems that it was actually a distinct possibility. I have an Island Jukebox Special 7” (WIP 6320) that plays Bryan Ferry’s ‘The Price Of Love’ and ‘Shame Shame Shame’. However, the A-side label is actually for Peter Tosh – ‘Legalize It’ (WIP 6323 A), and the text reads : Taken from the album Legalize It – ILPS9414. Produced by Peter Tosh. (P) 1976 Island Records Ltd. ATV Music Ltd.
On many listings, WIP 6323 is unallocated, while ILPS 9414 was actually used for the re-issue of Jimmy Cliff’s eponymous collection that was originally released on Trojan in 1969. White label test pressings of the Island ‘Legalize It’ album do exist, dated 5th July 1976, though somewhat confusingly they have Virgin’s V2061 matrix number scratched out in the dead wax. The album was finally released by Virgin the following month.
04 – MORE MIS-LABELS & MIS-SPRINTS
Other examples of mis-labelled releases that I have found include :
Bob Marley & The Wailers – ‘No Woman No Cry’ / ‘Kinky Reggae’ (WIP 6244) – the A-side label appears on both sides.
Bob Marley & The Wailers – ‘Jamming’ / ‘Funky Reggae Party’ (TOS 1159) – the B-side of this South African pressing is mis-titled ‘Funky Reggae Party’. Incidentally, this 7” features the extended 12” mixes of both tracks.
Buggles - ‘Video Killed The Radio Star’ / ‘Kid Dynamo’ (WIP 6524) – the A-side is mis-labelled as Bob Marley & The Wailers’ ‘So Much Trouble In The World’ (Instrumental) – WIP6510.
Bob Marley & The Wailers – ‘One Love’ / ‘So Much Trouble In The World’ (IS 169) – the B-side label appears on both sides.
And sometimes, there are problems in the actual printing process :
The Wailers – ‘Get Up Stand Up’ / ‘Slave Driver’ (WIP 6167) – all the track details and credits are missing from the A-side label.
Bob Marley & The Wailers – ‘Exodus’ / ‘Instrumental’ (WIP 6390) – all the black ink is missing from A-side label.
Bob Marley & The Wailers – ‘Buffalo Soldier’ / ‘Buffalo Dub’ (IS 108) – all the brown ink is missing from the sleeve of this particular copy. Thus, absent are the image of the four soldiers on the front, and all the track details and credits on the back.
Peter Tosh – ‘Bush Doctor’ (1A 038-1575361) – all the track details and credits are missing from the A-side label of this German pressing.
05 – WOLDE SEMAYAT
This one may be a long shot!! Sometime in the mid-‘90s, I spotted a copy of Delroy Wilson’s ‘I’m Glad’ on the Dee Jay label. What caught my eye was the name Semayat written in black marker pen on the label. It was cheap, there were no other bidders and, interestingly, the vendor was based in New York City. My curiosity grew when, on receiving the record, I noted that there were initials on the B-side label – WS. This is where wishful thinking kicked in!! So, I have a 7” clearly labelled with Peter Tosh’s Ethiopian name, Semayat, with the correct WS initials, bought from a guy in New York, the city where Peter had an apartment. Plus, it has been suggested that items went missing from the apartment or storage in the period after his murder in Kingston in 1987.
The obvious thing to do is to compare this example with a known Wolde Semayat signature, such as the one on the cover of the ‘Best Of Peter Tosh 1978-1987′ CD. The main problem is that one example is in upper case, while the other is in lower. However, there are similarities: the very rounded S, the wider second part of the W, but most obviously the distinctive Y, which has a straight stick and unusual flick to the right, as opposed to the normal left, in both examples. It would be interesting to know if anybody else has found any other similar items.
06 – A LOAD OF TOSH
Credited to Reggaeites, ‘Romper Room’ is one of a number of tracks that Peter Tosh recorded on which he displays his distinctive choppy, staccato organ playing, complete with occasional wrong notes. It appears on the flip-side of Marcia Griffiths’ rendition of The Beatles’ ‘Don’t Let Me Down’, released in the UK on Escort (ES808) in 1969. Other similar organ instrumentals attributed to Peter Tosh include ‘The Return Of Al Capone’, ‘Pepper Seed’ and ‘Sun Valley’ (on Unity) ‘The Crimson Pirate’ and ‘Moon Duck’ / ‘Moon Dust’ (on Jackpot), and ‘Selassie Serenade’ (on Bullet).
Absent from every Peter Tosh discography but worthy of serious consideration is the track ‘Harris Wheel’. This instrumental, again credited to Reggaeites, appears on the flip-side of Derrick Morgan’s ‘Moon Hop’, released in 1969 on Crab (Crab 32) in the UK, Pama (14523 AT) in Germany and Pama (2404PPF) in The Netherlands, the latter pair of which were issued in picture sleeves. It is virtually identical in style to the other Tosh organ tracks, and there are even a couple of duff notes. Compare it to the others and let us know what you think.
If this is indeed a genuine Peter Tosh track, maybe there are others out there hiding in plain view! Could it be Peter supplying the organ solo on Val Bennett’s ‘Raggae City’ (sic), released in 1969 on Crab (Crab 6) ?
07 – MYSTERY TOSH CREDIT
So, what is the story behind this Hawk 7” featuring ‘His Musical Imperial Majesty’ Roy Shirley’s ‘Love Your Mother’ backed by ‘I Am The Merciful’ ? The writing and production credits are listed as Roy Shirley, Lloyd Park / Peter Tosh. I recently contacted Mr Parks but, unfortunately, he could not recall the single or explain the mysterious credits. It would be interesting to know if Peter did indeed contribute to these tracks, or even feature on them.
08 – ALTERNATE VIBRATIONS
Outernational pressings of Wailers releases have always held a particular fascination for me, especially those that feature alternate artwork, track combinations etc. Nowadays, there is rarely any difference between releases from around the world, but back in the day pressings from different territories would often be issued with locally designed sleeves. Sometimes there were alternate B-sides, while occasionally tracks not issued as singles in the main markets : Jamaica, the USA and UK were released. Examples of these will be examined in the future, but this time I’m looking at a recent acquisition, the LP ‘Vibrations’.
Released by Island (STAR204) in 1976, it was marketed and distributed by the Phonogram Division of Trutone (Pty) Ltd in South Africa. In design, name and by date it is obviously closely related to the ‘Rastaman Vibration’ album, but there is a strange combination of tracks. Six of the ten tracks from ‘Rastaman Vibration’ are present, but absent are ‘Johnny Was’ , ‘Crazy Baldhead’, ‘War’ and ‘Rat Race’. Replacing them are ‘Stir It Up’ and ‘Kinky Reggae’ (from ‘Catch A Fire’), the misspelt ‘I Shot The Sherrif’ (from ‘Burnin’’) and ‘So Jah Seh’ (from ‘Natty Dread’). It would be interesting to know whether this album was a sampler, to introduce the band to the South African market, or were there political motives. Trutone’s main figures from the time are both dead now, but perhaps someone from Island Records might have the answer ?
09 – POLISH POSTCARDS
Among the strangest unofficial Bob Marley & The Wailers releases are Polish postcard flexi disc such as those featured here. Like most flexis, the sound quality leaves a lot to be desired!
‘Easy Skanking’ – the artwork of Jerzy Mierzejewski is included on both copies.
‘Exodus’ – one copy features the work of Utagawa Hiroshige, the other Elzbieta Zakrzewska.
‘No Woman No Cry’ – one copy features the work of Teodor Axentowicz, while the other displays the statue of Herkules in Bialystok.
‘Put It On’ – features a view of the Central Square in Bydgoszcz.
10 – FRATELLI D’ITALIA
Beside their output with Bob Marley, The Wailers have, either individually or collectively, recorded a massive amount of material, among which are numerous gems, some well known, others much more obscure. I will be revisiting this topic in more detail in the future, but for now I will concentrate on a session the band undertook at Tuff Gong in 1982 with Canadian / Italian singer Vincent Fodera. ‘Fratelli D’Italia’ (3:45) is a magnificent adaptation of the rousing Italian national anthem ‘Il Canto Degli Italiani’ using repetitions of the anthem’s first verse that alternate with original lyrics, while the flip-side ‘International Anthem’ (4:30) is an uplifting English and French language track that rides an absolute killer Wailers riddim. Vancouver-based Ital Reggae Records, also released a 12” which features extended mixes of each track, clocking in at 4:00 and 6:15 respectively, backed by h-e-a-v-y dub versions.
According to the sleeve notes on the 12”, the tracks were produced by Fodera and Aston Barrett, arranged by Aston Barrett, engineered by Suzanne and Errol Brown and mixed at Studio Trevisani in Milan by Fodera and Jackson Jones. The Wailers only receive a collection credit, but Aston and Carlton Barrett are obviously featured, Al Anderson receives a special thanks for ‘the good vibes’, and Tyrone Downie is quite possibly there too. The Zap Pow horns section make a prominent contribution, while backing vocals are provided by Sheena Spirit, Martha Higgs, and Heather and Dianne Kyd. We will endeavour to track down Vincent Fodera for the background story of this fascinating session.
11 – VERSION EXCURSION
It is always interesting to hear other artists’ renditions of Wailers tracks as it demonstrates the global impact of the music, and how the songs can be adapted beyond their reggae roots. Perhaps the most extreme example of this comes in the form of the Various Artists album ‘Inn Fra Kulda’, released on the Tylden & Co label in 2001. This collection of eighteen Bob & The Wailers classics, all performed in Norwegian, incorporates a wide range of musical genres, from jazz to heavy metal. Stand-out tracks include Odd Borretzen and Lars Martin Myhre’s laid-back jazzy rendition of ‘Is This Love’ , Folk and Rovere’s ambient, dubby ’Kaya’, Anita Skorgan and and Ras Nas’ sublime ‘Utenfor Er Det Kaldt’ (‘Coming In From The Cold’) Knut Reiersrud’s elegantly crafted instrumental ‘Fyr Meg Opp’ (‘Stir It Up’), Henning Kvitnes’ delicately delivered ‘En Frelsessang’ (‘Redemption Song’) and, in contrast, Sphere’s potent kick-ass rock ‘Med Kontoen Full’ (‘Them Belly Full’).
Also worthy of a special mention is Ruia & Ranea’s album ‘Waiata Of Bob Marley’, featuring Maori translations of ten of Bob & The Wailers best known tracks. Released in 2001 on the Maori Music label, this illustrates how naturally the songs lend themselves to the Maori tongue. ‘Arohaina Ra Koe’ (‘Could You Be Loved’) is an absolute gem, closely followed by ‘Umere’ (‘Jamming)’ and ‘Matika Maranga’ (‘Get Up Stand Up’). More cover version will be examined in the future, together with Riddim Riders, tracks that utilise the riddims created by the Wailers family.
12 – BIZARRE NAME-CHECKS
Closely related to cover versions and riddim riders are those tracks that simply name-check members of the Wailers family. These are predominantly in the form of posthumous tributes to Bob and Peter. However, there are examples of tracks which buck this trend. In 1998, UK punk outfit The Only Alternative released the off-the-wall track ‘Give The Money To Bob Marley’s Wife ‘ which was NOT a straightforward plea for Rita to be given control of Bob’s Estate during the long-running legal battles, but a humorous pledge to donate their own concert fees to Mrs Marley. The flip-side of this Incognito Records 7” featured the tracks ‘Who’s The Best’ and ‘I Shot John Lennon’.
Meanwhile, the bizarrely-titled ’Dr Jekyll Et Bob Marley’ was released by Kity Palm in 1981 on the Milan label. This French language track is an evocative fantasy centred primarily on Bob, but also name-checking Jim Morrison, Elvis Presley and John Lennon.
To Be Continued
We very much look forward to hearing your thoughts about the releases included in this article and, of course, any additional information you may have regarding any of them. I will be back soon to continue my journey through the wonderful world of Wailers wax.
- Glen Lockley And The Midnight Raver Blog Crew