Opening Statement



Monday, 18 August 2014

Bob Marley 1: "The Wailing Wailers!"

Bob Marley Discography Part 2 is Here! Part 3 is There! Part 4 is Here!

Or The Wailers Discography Part 1:



Bunny, Bob + Peter on the first Wailers lp!

Wailing Wailers [1965]: Before “Bob Marley + the Wailers” there were the infamous “Wailers”. A Trench Town Kingston Jamaica vocal power house band built around the 3 man harmonies of future solo reggae superstars Bob Marley, Peter Tosh and Bunny Livingston Wailer, they were big home town stars in Jamaica well before they became famous around the world. This was their first album!

The vinyl 33 1/3 RPM “Wailing Wailers” [Vinyl Transferalbum was recorded throughout 1964 + 65, and first released in late 1965. It was on producer Coxsone “Scorcher” Dodd’s "Studio One" label. Coxsonne paid the band a one time 20 lb per track fee and as a retainer put Marley, Tosh and Bunny on a 2 to 3 lb a week expense account.



In retrospect "Wailing Wailers" is a rather slight album, with an early reggae ska [Hear] + soul sound. It will probably be of limited interest to the causal fan of "Bob Marley and the Wailers" later best selling albums. It was decided that the charismatic Bob Marley would perform most of the lead vocals. Bunny + Tosh would back him up with the bands trade mark harmony sound. Singers Beverly Kelso + Cherry Smith] also assist on background vocals. A Junior Braithwaite is featured on lead vocals for 2 hit tracks ["It Hurts to Be Alone" [Hear] and "I’m Still Waiting"]. Junior would leave the Wailers the following year to pursue a medical career in the US. 

Basically, the album is a collection of early sixties Wailer 45 RPM [rounds per minute] hit singles and copy tunes, not a cohesive record album LP [long playing] per see. Like many 60's groups, especially in Jamaica, the early Wailers were first and foremost a singles band. They'd not recorded a 33 RPM LP [long playing] album before, and wouldn’t record another again until 1970. They knew that a short, tight, hard hitting 2 to 3 minute 45 could strike to the quick on the local dance floor and radio airwaves. They were also more affordable for their young fans.

Nonetheless the "Wailing Wailers" album is interesting in how it reflects the Wailers original musical influences and style. The songs were written by listening and copying the diverse sounds Marley, Tosh + Bunny heard on southern US radio broadcasts for their local Jamaican audience. We hear the influence of soul ["One Love" [Hear]+ "I’m Still Waiting"], gospel ["Put It On"] [Hear], pop [a cover of Tom Jone’s "What’s New Pussycat?:] R+B ["When the Well Runs Dry"] and Doo Wop [a cover of the Moonglow’s "Ten Commandments of Love"].



“Wailing Wailers” also included a few high charged ska [See][1] dance hits ["Simmer Down", "Rude Boy" + "Lonesome Feeling"]. 2 of these dance numbers were also politically charged street fighting anthems for the poor "sufferahs" in the Kingston ghettos. ["Simmer Down" + "Rude Boy"] [2], Tensions were quickly heating up and exploding in Kingston's shanty towns, followed by a hard hitting police crackdown. Marley encouraged everyone to play it cool ["Simmer Down"] [Hear], but was also quick to extol the virtues of the young rebel bad boys ["Rude Boy"][Hear]. 



Like Bob Dylan in the US during the early 60’s [ie. "The Times They Are A Changing", "Subterranean Homesick Blues"] and the Sex Pistols in the UK during the mid to late 1970s ["Anarchy in the UK" "No Future"], the Wailers gave voice to their own generation in Kingston Jamaica.  Hence becoming a "Rude Boy" might be best understood as being somebody when society is telling you that you aren't. On a much more broader international scale, Bob Marley + The Wailers would of course continue to sing their songs of rebellion and freedom around the world to much acclaim throughout the 1970’s and for the years to comeIndeed, "Wailing Wailers" might be considered a very early trial run for their later much better known solo and group albums that we know so well. 

"Wailin' Wailers" also included two early songs that would later be re-recorded and much more elaborately produced by Bob Marley and the Wailers, on the albums [“One Love” on "Exodus" + "Burnings" “Put It On”]. Many of the the Wailers album tracks were first recorded during the mid to late sixties and reworked over time into the more fleshed out versions we are familiar with today. We will examine these in more detail in later sections of my discography.



Dem rude boys a gonna git a beatin'!

Within two years due to the attention their run of hit singles would create, Tosh and Bunny were temporarily silenced by the authorities, ending up in jail on trumped up possession of marijuana charges. [Not very hard to do ...] Bob Marley would temporarily leave Jamaica. He joined his mother who'd moved to the US, where he worked a number of odd jobs including a stint on an auto assembly line.

The cautious buyer should beware that the numerous re-releases of the "Wailing Wailers" album were usually overdubbed with additional vocal and instrumental parts in an attempt to appeal to the latest musical tastes and trends. More is not better if you are interested in the original sound. Also, in retrospect the these overdubs often sound ridiculously fake and outdated. 



Also  beware, the "Wailing Wailers" album title and artwork are often falsely used on cheap, b-grade collections of the Wailer's early hits, misses and B sides, which however interesting are not from the original lp. There is however a hard to find 1990 Epic cd edition of "Wailing Wailers" that's been restored to the album's original mix.

Without doubt the early Wailers would continue to record a lot of worthwhile singles and other recordings before their next album in 1969. We will also examine these tracks in the next section of my album discography. However, for good sounding versions of their early to mid sixties recordings one might more look for any of the following recommended CD’s:



Nice cd but inaccurate band title and photo for the period covered!

One Love at Studio One 1964-66 [2006] This UM [Universal Music] CD release includes most of the tracks from "Wailing Wailers" [most notably "Simmer Down"/ "Rude Boy"/ "One Love"/ + "Ten Commandments of Love"]. It also adds more early versions of the later better known Bob Marley and the Wailer classic tracks. [a Rock Steady version of “Bend Down Low” [Hear] later rerecorded for 1973’s "Natty Dread" album, + "Cry to Me" [Hear] from 1974’s "Rastaman Vibration" lp]. There’s a classic Peter Tosh + Bunny Wailer spiritual ["This Train"] [Hear]. Of special interest are the Wailers very lose interpretations of well known hits by such important early influences, as Bob Dylan ["Like A Rolling Stone"], the Beatles ["And I Love Her"] [Hearand Dion + The Belmonts ["Teenager in Love"]. A few extra Wailer extra ska hits ["Playboy" [Hear]/ "Ska Jerk"/ "Hooligan Ska"] help round out the 2 cd set into a pretty cool collection! Regretfully, this CD might be fairly hard to find even on Amazon at a reasonable price.



This box set is pretty much essential for the casual fan + hard core afficionado alike!

Songs of Freedom [1992] An easier but more limited solution is to track down this well known and widely available 4 disc Bob Marley + The Wailers 1992 box set retrospective. Disc 1 [Hear Tracks 1-5] includes Bob + Rita Marley's first single ["Bend Down Low"] and two very rare 1962 singles ["Judge Not"/ "One Cup of Coffee"].  Also 4 "Wailing Wailer" tracks ["Simmer Down"/ "I’m Still Waiting"/ "One Love"/ "Put It On", but alas not "Rude Boy"!]. Disc 1 also includes a worthwhile sampling of their other late sixties non album hits ["Bus Dem Stop", "Hypocrite", "Stir it Up", "Thank You Lord" etc. ] "Songs of Freedom" probably will provide enough of these early Wailer tracks for the casual fan if not the hard core aficionado, though it's still a very worthwhile addition to any collection.



Nice one! Buy it!

Wail n' Soul 'm Singles Selecta [2005] is a highly recommended UM CD which can still be found for pretty cheap on Amazon and hopefully at better music stores too! It is named after the indie Kingston record label that Bob Marley set up to create and sell Wailer records on his own after the group left the Coxsone Studio One Label.  He was worried that Dodds wasn't interested in the band's artistic development beyond cranking out hit Ska singles for the local market. The CD doesn't include the Studio One hits. Instead we hear the bands switch to a post Ska Rock Steady [Hear] [3] sound. It includes the A + B [flip] sides of quite a few later local Wailer sixties hits [including "Hypocrite"[Hear] "Thank You Lord"[Hear] "Pound Get A Blow" [Hear]+ the original "Stir It Up" [Hear], later redone for the "Catch a Fire" album]. Attention is also paid to the early Peter Tosh 45's ["Funeral"[Hear], "Bus Dem Shut"[Hear], + "Them Have Fi Get A Beating"[Hear], an early version of "Stepping Razor" [Hear] later rerecorded on Tosh's "Bus Doctor" album + a Marley Tosh duet on "Fire Fire"[Hear]. We hear Rita Marley with the Wailers too! ["Play Play"] [Hear] Really, I don't see how you can go wrong getting this cd!



Note the "Trade Mark"  + the evolving band name! "Stir It Up" would later be re-recorded for the Wailers classic 1970's "Catch a Fire" Album!

With "Selecta" we are getting somewhat ahead of ourselves in considering recordings that might be best included with the next section of my discography covering the  Wailers 1967-73 albums. To avoid more overlap, we will end Part 1 of my Wailers discography here for organizational purposes, but stay tuned!

Vinyl Considerations:



Interesting collection, but later photo of the band! Disco overdubs suck too!

Birth of a Legend: [1976] This 2 record set of early Wailer tracks was slyly released as a “Bob Marley + Wailers” , rather than a "Wailers" album by the Calla Record label to cash in on Bob’s US stardom at the time of the 1976 "Rastaman Vibration" album release. A contemporary picture of Bob Marley graces the cover rather than an accurate one from the early days. However, for many mainstream North American fans the album provided a first interesting look at the early Wailers. It includes a variety of the songs listed above, along with detailed credits and linear notes. All might be forgiven had drum machines and synthesizers not been overdubbed on the album to try make it more appealing during the 70’s disco scene. Tut tut! In all fairness, further vinyl editions removed this sacrilege and it has since been released on cd without the overdubs too. However, even it's now long out of print and with the wealth of other titles around, I’d recommend you give it a pass, except perhaps for its kitsch value. I was fortunate enough to find a mint unopened original 1976 vinyl copy for only $20 at a local record store. If you see one you might want to consider picking it up too….or maybe not?

Original Wailers Vinyl: 



The old vinyl records got a lot of play!

Early Wailer records were often released on a number of different music labels. The studio values and vinyl pressings are very low quality and sound muffled by today's standards. Also, they were often played to death on old record players, and/ or at clubs, wearing away the musical grooves. The original pressings are now almost 50 years old. Time has not been kind. The hisses, scratches and pops might well make them sound like a roaring camp fire. However, as collectibles they can be pretty kool to look at, especially for the artwork on the labels. Good luck finding them though since they were often very limited editions made exclusively for the local Jamaican market. Later re-issues can however often be found on Ebay for relatively cheap.



Records for sale!

On the other hand, the remastered cd versions, while much more plentiful and clearer sounding, often have a very sterile and unnatural digital sheen. The music definitely loses much of it's original, authentic flavour. The original recordings were not made for today's advanced CD players, drives or the MP3 format. A clean mint vinyl copy of the original "Wailing Wailers" album would no doubt be extremely rare and expensive but a great score!

One waits with bated breath to hear what any new vinyl reissues will sound like should the early Wailers catalogue get re-released! I checked at the Marley Foundation store during my recent visit to Bob's birthplace in Nine Miles Jamaica recently. So far only the hit 70's albums are available on their vinyl Island/ Tuff Gong label. Original copies of these are still pretty cheap and easy to find at most used record stores anyway, but let's see what comes next!



OTHER CONSIDERATIONS:

There are any number of cheap cd knock off collections with the early Wailers recordings readily available in the junk and sale bins at many music stores. Maybe even at Canadian Tire or your local corner store. These usually contain a confusing dogs breakfast of early Wailer tracks inaccurately accredited to "Bob Marley and the Wailers". They are invariably cheaply packaged with confusing cover art photos that doesn’t actually show the band back then. They also often include later badly overdubbed versions and are probably made from copies of copies of analogue copies. Think of the principle of a photocopy of a photocopy of a photocopy to imagine the bad sound quality and overall effect! Money from the sales of these don't go to the Marley estate but are pocketed by some rip off artist on the fly! Avoid at all costs!

CONCERN:

Most of the early Wailer tracks we've looked at above are not readily available anymore except on the "Songs of Freedom" box set from 1992. Hopefully justice will be done by re-releasing a quality version of "Wailing Wailers" on vinyl again, along with detailed, accurate linear recording notes.


FOOTNOTES

[1]: "Jamaica Ska" for white people with Fishbone + Annette is a must see @ [Ska]

[2]" Don't miss a brief history of ska with info, music + visuals @ [History of Ska]

[3] "Ska"-"Reggae" - "Rock Steady" sampler @ [See + Hear]

More Reading:

Smile Jamaica: my visit to Bob Marley's birth + burial place in the mountain town of 9 Miles @ Hi! Hi! Hi!

On The Beach: Everyone knows the rastaman's got the best ganga @ Yah/ Jah!

NEXT: The Wailers 1967-73! @ Here!

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