In June 1975 there was no doubt among the music cognoscenti as to what was the hottest ticket in town.
I was, of course, one of the Cognoscenti, having devoured every issue the New Musical Express, Melody Maker and Rolling Stone had issued for the previous 3 years.
I had also clocked up many thousands of hours spinning my vinyl and tuning in to the pathfinder Radio Disc Jockeys – John Peel, Charlie Gillett and David Rodigan.
The headlines and the airwaves trumpeted : Bob Marley and The Wailers were about to play 2 historic concerts at London’s Lyceum Theatre.
Be There or be Square!
I was there.
And, that’s definitely me you hear roaring approval on the ensuing Album, ‘Live!’ as classic performance succeeded classic performance (mind you several hundred other attendees will claim it’s their full throated acclaim which is captured).
This was one of those nights when we knew we were participants in a legendary occasion. Since then of course for every person who was actually there a hundred more who weren’t have claimed they were there – right by the stage.
I was a teenager when I went to this gig yet decades on it remains in my top three concert experiences.
With this gig Bob Marley and The Wailers announced themselves as a group of tne very first rank – in the same class as The Rolling Stones.
They had the songs courtesy of Bob Marley who had a profound gift for creating words and melodies that seemed like old friends even on first hearing.
And, Bob could write every type of song.
Lyrical love songs. Angry political songs. Philosophical musings.
Anthems for a nation and the generations.
And every one lifts the spirit, warms the heart and has you dancing until you’re dizzy!
They had the musical chops.
Carlton Barrett on Drums and Aston ‘Family Man’ Barrett on Bass were a peerless rhythm section fully the equal of Al Jackson and Duck Dunn from Booker T & The MGs.
Sweetening was provided by Tyrone Downie on keyboards, Al Anderson on guitar and Alvin Patterson on percussion.
Rita Marley and Judy Mowatt lent heavenly vocal support.
They had the front man.
Bob Marley was effortlessly charismatic.
Impossible to take your eyes off him as he moved about the stage as relaxed as if it was his own front room.
Bob Marley & The Wailers had all those qualities and that extra mysterious X Factor, that special something, that bonds a band to each other and the audience to the band.
Combine all these factors – and before you know it you’ve slipped gravity’s bounds and you’re headed for the stars!
Now, when the Album of the concert was released it was immediately recognised as a landmark recording and, ‘No Woman, No Cry’ in particular became a radio and Jukebox staple and a song beloved far beyond the specialist Reggae fan base.
But. But. But.
There was something missing from the Album.
To whit, my favourite Bob Marley song ever – ‘Stir It Up’ which was played on both of those magical nights.
Why it was left off I’ll never know.
So, when I want to listen to a live version of, Stir It Up’ I turn to the internet and find there are many versions to choose from but one clear winner.
A British TV appearance from 1974 featuring the Uber cool Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer as well as the Barretts.
The groove they sustain here is one of the prime examples of the assurance a great band can achieve when they’re perfectly in sync with each other and their material
Surely, this is pure Zen!
Everything in balance.
Everything in harmony.
Every time I hear this I wish it would go on forever!
Stir it up.
Stir it up.
Stir it Up.
James Bond says things are better shaken rather than stirred.
That might be true for a Martini .. but for everything else in Life I recommend stirring rather than shaking.
Like Bob says if you want to satisfy your heart’s desire come on and …
Stir it up.
Stir it up
Stir it together.