NIGHTS/RAINBOW 77 - BOB MARLEY DVD
You will find other liner notes with the DVD but these - a RadioREGGAE.com Exclusive from Roger Steffens - are the "enhanced" version for increased overstanding! BIG UP to Rojah.
We will have a PDF file that you can download and print to put with your DVD soon.
Roger Steffens aka Ras RoJah
At the dawn of the new century, the venerable New York Times, America's self-proclaimed "newspaper of record," decided to build a time capsule to be opened a thousand years from now, at the fourth millennium. Asked to choose the one video most worth preserving for that distant audience, Andrew Ross, an eminent NYU professor, chose "Bob Marley and the Wailers Live at the Rainbow," shot in London at the beginning of June 1977. Rasta, he wrote "captured the attention and aspirations of millions at a time when the world's old colonial maps were being redrawn, and when the color of our minds began to dissociate from the color of our skin. As a result, [Marley's concert] became the most evocative look of the late 20th century." The Times went on to call Bob Marley "the most influential musician of the second half of the century."
The Rainbow shows, held over three nights in Finsbury Park, one of the most racially mixed neighborhoods of London, were the hottest ticket in town. And held under "Heavy Manners." There was a massive police presence due to the controversies surrounding Bob's visits the previous two years. At the Lyceum in '75, captured on the stirring "Live!" album, the fire department had to be called out to spray people off the theatre's steps. In '76 at the Hammersmith Odeon, an infestation of pickpockets and hustlers ruined the evening for many.
But those who braved the gauntlet of "squads of police, barking police dogs and menacing youths," as Ray Coleman wrote in his Melody Maker review, saw a performance of unsurpassed power, fierce in its restraint, and equally explosive. French reggae maven, Bruno Blum, was there too. It was the first time the teenager had heard of reservations for seats at the Rainbow. The show "wasn't as loud as usual and all kinds of clean people came. Black and white, rich and poor, young and old, square and hip, and dreads and punks too." "Absolutely," agrees famed photographer Kate Simon, whose cover portrait on the "Kaya" album was chosen as one of "The One Hundred Images of the 20th Century." Kate can occasionally be glimpsed in her khaki jacket hovering in the wings to the right of the stage. "Bob would skank toward me and give me a shot. In those days, London was Bob's 'home town.' And everybody wanted to go to those shows. Chic types, rock people, socialites, everybody! It was at the end of his European tour, so the band was super tight, and the atmosphere was electric. Outside was a near riot, and there was a huge police presence." Many of Kate's stunningly intimate photos from the Rainbow gigs can be seen in her recent Genesis book, a lushly extravagant tome called "Rebel Music: Bob Marley and Roots Reggae."
Wailers' art director Neville Garrick, recalling those nights 27 years later from his home in Los Angeles, agrees. "I was lighting the show from the middle of the theatre, and I looked over and I saw these two old white ladies in their 60s who had come by themselves, dancing in their seats. It proved that Bob was reaching across all age barriers, not only gender and class. When Bob came on stage the first night, which wasn't filmed, someone had given him a red, gold and green crushie kind of scarf, and he threw it over his head as he came on. I hit him with a spot, it looked like a shroud, you couldn't see his face, and he launched into 'Natural Mystic.' He sang the whole first side of the 'Exodus' album, which had only been in release for a few days, so the audience had never heard any of these songs before. People were - I don't even know the proper word to use - amazed, you would have to say. Can you imagine Bob coming on with five songs that no one had ever heard before?"
Among the other discoveries at that show was the Wailers' highly animated new lead guitarist, Junior Marvin, a Jamaican raised in the U.S. and the UK. Introduced to Marley in the spring of 1977 in London by Chris Blackwell, the owner of Island Records, they hit it off instantly, and after a week of jamming with Bob and Tyrone Downie, the band's keyboardist, Marvin was invited to join the group. A youthful veteran who had played with Steve Winwood, Ike and Tina Turner and Billy Preston, Marvin brought a lanky Yankee arena-rock attitude to the previously controlled frenzy of the Wailers. At first, Bob had to tone him down a bit. Laughing at the memory, Garrick explains, "Bob would call him out for a solo, and he would play Hendrix-style, sliding on his knees. He really had a ball." The band bond was immediate. "Junior had come to Oakley Street where we were all living together for the first time. We jammed all the time. Carley," the Wailers drummer, "and I were the cooks. I don't think Junior had ever eaten that much food before." Junior was thrilled to be working with people he considered his heroes. "Plus," he told journalist Dave Ramsden, "I can identify with rock as easily as reggae because I grew up with it. I always felt it would be nice if there were no barriers, so if you're into the bass you can relate to the roots bass, and if you're into the guitar you can relate to a slight rock feel. I can enjoy playing two really good notes rather than 20 which people wouldn't understand. Bob helped me a lot. You could always tell when it's right because there'd be a big smile on his face." During the mixing process, Marvin helped substantially alter the arrangements of the "Exodus" material. The collection went on to be chosen by Time magazine as "the best album of the 20th century."
The Rainbow shows benefitted from the imaginative lighting of Garrick, who also designed many of Marley's most famous album covers. "I think we had five cameras. We used the Paul Turner lighting company, and I was the director. The camera doesn't see the way the eye sees, especially red, blue and green. If I had eight red lamps, I doubled it to 16 so it would be more intense and you could really see the colors. It was also the first time I had used a white overhead light on Bob, so that the photographers who used to complain that it was too dark to shoot Bob's face could see that the light created a more mystic shot because it cast shadows on his face like a mask. Drama. I used more spotlights than before, amber and straw colored. And when he sang lines like 'cold ground was my bed last night,' the stage became dark blue and cold. It was the only time on the tour that year I could do that grand a lighting scheme, because we couldn't afford it."
Crucial to the overall impact of the Wailers' concerts in 1977 was the presence of all the I Three. One or another would sometimes miss tours because of pregnancies. But at the Rainbow, Jamaica's female version of The Three Tenors - the magnificent trio of Jamaica's most precious songstresses, Judy Mowatt, Marcia Griffiths, and Marley's wife Rita - added an elegant visual and aural element. And when they sang, "One day the bottom will drop out," they bent their knees and shook their bottoms in girlish abandon.
As the last notes of Bob's performance were still echoing off the rafters, the audience took up Bob's "whoa-oh-yoi" war cry, and danced chanting into the streets on the rapturous high of one of those rare moments when all the technical requirements for a perfect recording coincided with one of the most magical performances of an artist's career. This is it, and Jah willing, it will be there for our genetic inheritors to thrill to, way off on that first misty morning of the year 3,000.
"Caribbean Nights" was initially released in 1986. The week that Marley passed in May of 1981, South-African born director Jo Menell, former head of the BBC's documentary division (who had once been briefly engaged to the granddaughter of Haile Selassie, the God of the Rastafarian faith), was hired by Chris Blackwell to direct a film on Marley's life. The project was still-born when many of those closest to Bob refused to be part of it. Another director was brought in, only to be dropped himself. Five years later, the Beeb pushed hard to make a Marley film of their own, and suddenly, according to commentator Linton Kwesi Johnson, three thousand pounds of films and videos showed up at their door. Lacking the full story, however, Anthony Wall and Nigel Finch flew to Kingston to film more footage. This was then combined with the Menell-directed interviews of Blackwell, Rita Marley, Cedella Booker (Bob's mother), and the Bull Bay Rasta community.
The program begins with Bob overlooking a harbor in New Zealand, where his welcome had been like that of visiting royalty. (Later we see a Maori greeting ceremony with Bob and his bemused band.) A bit of "No Woman No Cry" is seen, recorded at the Amandla concert in Harvard Stadium, on July 21, 1979, to raise money for freedom fighters in Rhodesia, Angola and South Africa. It was one of the greatest shows of his life, during which he made an impassioned series of speeches, and it remains mostly unseen to this day.
Bob's father is often referred to herein as "English." That was Norval Marley's background, but in fact he was born and raised in Jamaica, from a family that had long lived on the island. The Gil Noble interview used throughout the film, was considered by this respected New York broadcaster as "the finest I ever did." Noble's own Jamaican background established an easy rapport with the often-misunderstood singer, something not that easily accomplished. Their conversation produced one of the most quoted lines from the reggae prophet: "King James edit the Bible. I don't think [h]im would edit it for the benefit of Black people."
Memories often dim with time, so we now know, with the beneficence of hind-sight, that "Simmer Down," the Wailers first record, was a hit in early '64 in Jamaica, not two years earlier as Peter Tosh, co-founder of the Wailers, asserts. And Bob actually purchased his headquarters at 56 Hope Road from Blackwell for $25,000. The ethereally powerful "War" speech that Bob set to music so memorably, was first delivered to the United Nations by Haile Selassie on 4 October 1963, not in 1968 as has often been claimed, the result of the words being taken from a misdated poster. The injury to Bob's foot came during May of 1977, when Bob was playing a soccer match between his band and a team of French music journalists in Paris. When he was accidentally spiked by one of them, he was taken to a doctor, which led to the discovery that he had developed melanoma cancer. Bob played the rest of his 1977 European tour with the big toe of his right foot heavily bandaged and protected and, in fact, had to cancel the rest of his tour to North America and elsewhere that year.
"Caribbean Nights" gives a clearer overstanding of what Bob went through to achieve his successes, and also reveals how impossible it is to tell even the broadest outlines of Marley's story in just 100 minutes. Marley's political experiences include not just the One Love Peace Concert, temporarily reconciling the two warring "politrickal" parties in Kingston, or being the only performer on the main stage at Zimbabwe's independence celebrations (perhaps because he brought it with him), but also being the recipient of the United Nations Medal of Peace. It was presented to him in New York in June of 1978, following the Peace Concert, by the youth ambassador of Senegal to the UN, Mamadu Jonny Seka, (who himself would also die at 36 from melanoma, the same age and disease that took Bob).
Back in 1996, the chief pop critic of the New York Times, Jon Pareles, was asked to choose a record that he thought would be great enough to survive a hundred years into the future. He picked "Burnin' ", the last album by the original Wailers trio of Bob Marley, Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer, explaining: Bob Marley became the voice of third world pain and resistance, the sufferer in the concrete jungle who would not be denied forever. Outsiders everywhere heard Marley as their own champion; if he could make himself heard, so could they, without compromises. In 2096, when the former third world has overrun and colonised the former superpowers, Bob Marley will be commemorated as a saint."