We’re going to the party
And I hope you are hearty
So please don’t be naughty
For it’s a punky reggae party
— Bob Marley and The Wailers
BOB Marley captured the mood of the United Kingdom in 1977 with Punky Reggae Party produced by Lee “Scratch” Perry.
The rebellious punks were the rage. Their spiked hair, Gothic makeup and costumes may not have been his bag, but the reggae star identified with their energy and social angst.
Marley had moved to London in 1977, one month after surviving an assassination attempt at his home in Jamaica. He occupied a three-storey home at 42 Oakley Street in fashionable Chelsea and settled down to do what he knew best.
“Him start to write, just write non-stop. He felt safe; Bob was inspired to the ‘max’,” recalled Wailers keyboardist Tyrone Downie. “It was good therapy to move on from the shock, but he was still hurt that they try to kill him.”
Downie, percussionist Seeco Patterson, and art director Neville Garrick went to the UK with Marley. Eventually, Downie said, they were joined by other band members, including bass player Aston “Familyman” Barrett and his younger brother, drummer Carly Barrett.
While there Marley recruited Junior Marvin, a bluesy guitarist recommended by Chris Blackwell, founder of Island Records, distributor of Marley’s music.
Downie recalls most of the songs Marley wrote during his time in London made it on the epic Exodus album, released in June 1977. Others were included on Kaya, released in 1978.
Driven by the powerful title song, Exodus also included Natural Mystic, So Much Things To Say, Guiltiness, The Heathen, Jamming, Waiting In Vain, Turn Your Lights Down Low, Three Little Birds and One Love/People Get Ready.
Much of the recording sessions took place at Island’s London studio between January and April.
In an interview with the British Broadcasting Corporation in 2011, British musicologist Russell Clarke described the Wailers Chelsea haunt as “a big gang house where everybody would hang out. Not just the group’s entourage, but all sorts of people from various communities in London.”
Among those visitors was Jamaican enforcer Claudius Massop who encouraged Marley to return to Jamaica for a peace concert. He said Marley’s presence would stem bloodshed between gangs affiliated to the governing People’s National Party and Opposition Jamaica Labour Party.
Marley agreed and returned in April 1978 for the One Love Peace Concert at the National Stadium in Kingston.
Marley died from cancer in May 1981 in Miami at age 36.