Reggae Royalty, Jamaica’s THE ORIGINAL WAILERS featuring Al Anderson return to perform the iconic BOB MARLEY & THE WAILERS album LEGEND in Full, plus a special encore of Greatest Hits. A unique experience of the biggest Reggae act of all time is sure to have you swaying and singing along to songs that have captured fans from all generations.
BOB MARLEY & THE WAILERS have sold more than 250 million albums worldwide. LEGEND is the best-selling reggae album of all time and has been certified 4 x Platinum in Australia. The album is jam packed with classic after classic – Is This Love, Could You Be Loved, Three Little Birds, One Love, No Woman No Cry, Get Up, Stand Up, Buffalo Soldier, I Shot The Sheriff, Jamming, Get Up Stand Up, Redemption Song to name a few. This will be an unforgettable experience as THE ORIGINAL WAILERS perform LEGEND in full and Al Anderson spoke to Hi Fi Way: The Pop Chronicles about the upcoming tour.
The Original Wailers Australian tour is building to be one of the year’s best.
We’re going to be on our best behavior and we are going to honour Bob Marley as well, we are going to give them all the goodies from the Legend album, some original material and some Grammy nominated music. We got lucky in 2013 with a Grammy nomination from the National Academy of Recording Arts and we are just going to lay it all on you. We’re looking forward to getting out there because it’s heading towards the winter, although it is really nice in Santa Monica but even nicer out where you are.
Do you feel blessed to have such an awesome back catalogue to play night in night out?
I just got lucky, I’m the luckiest guy in the world, basically grew up in New York City and loved that lifestyle. I got to see some amazing artists, the beginning of rap music and breaking and that whole DJ thing. It was an amazing period and I spent a lot of time with great composers like the Brecker Brothers, Miles Davis and Chick Corea. New York was an amazing place but I went to England and it was a whole another world in how people behaved, how they dressed and the music that was being played. I had no idea, I got to know a lot of guys from Island Records and Maynard Ferguson, British jazz people invited me to come over to England and look for work, get out of New York City and look for another lifestyle. The world is bigger than New York so I decided to take the test. I got lucky, I met Paul Kossoff from Free, he was a good friend, I met him on the road of the Filmarie with Chris Blackwell, Stevie Winwood and all the lads from Traffic. They were great people who invited me over to England because of Paul, he gave me the substitute because Chris Blackwell called him to do the Natty Dread album which means I would have never had met Bob Marley at all if I had never had met Paul Kossoff or the Island group of people. They gave me that opportunity and I honoured it, especially him as an artist he is a great guitarist but his health wasn’t well, which was the reason why he wasn’t able to do the Natty Dread Sessions which I was booked for otherwise that would be his guitar solo on No Woman, No Cry which made me noticeable. I was a lucky guy and I don’t know how I came up with the guitar riff for No Woman, No Cry. I heard this song and started noticing that every song Bob was telling me he wanted me to overdub on. It was an incredible song, wow I had never heard music like this, I really hadn’t, for me it was like an experiment where they were going to keep most of the work that I did at that session. He kept everything I did and asked me initially to move to Jamaica and live Bob and be a part of his production team and get his record company together. I would not have done it any other way, I have no regrets.
When you say lucky is that what it purely boils down to?
I don’t know if it was right place, right time because there were so many other guys that wanted to do that session. There was a line of guys in front of me and Paul was the first call and because I happened to be at his house, he had a beautiful townhouse and they called him a backstreet crawler, that’s where we went drinking in all the pubs and get pissed every night. We would go back to his house and jam out on his illustrious guitar collection. I was there playing guitar with him and he got a call and gave me the nod. It could have been anyone, he had crazy people coming out of his apartment. He was a lovable guy, Chris Wood and Jimi Hendrix would go to his house and he was friends with everybody. Everyone loved Paul Kossoff because he was a wonderful guitar player from Free who had an amazing sound. He had a little bit of a substance problem which put me in a position to substitute and gave me the nod. I honour him, I love this guy and everytime I hear his music my nose gets red, he’s the guy who gave me the shot. He rang the bell for me and made my life a wonderful journey as a guitarist and a musician.
What were those rehearsal sessions like with Bob Marley?
The early rehearsals were a bummer, I felt like I was breaking the band up. Chris Blackwell sent me to Jamaica when Bunny and Peter were trying to hang on to their relationship with Bob. Here’s this American guy, completely out of the box, in Kingston, Jamaica living with Bob when the other two Peter and Bunny were more of a founding member than me but I didn’t come here to separate them. I wanted to be in a band that had Peter, Bob and Bunny. I didn’t want to be in Bob Marley and The Wailers. I knew how that was going to end up, it was going to end up really successful, chaotic, bad management, really bad record deals. Island Records could have done a lot better for The Wailers and Bob Marley in the seventies. They were making money off records after ’74, after Natty Dread and the big hits Roadblock, Talkin’ Blues, we had at least five number one songs knocking out Paul McCartney and Wings out of the number one spot.
I knew that working with Bob that Chris was going to put everything in to Bob and do what he does with Grace Jones and all the other bands he had. Chris is a genius at marketing and getting a musician to be a great song writer, get on the radio and prove his songwriting consistently. He has a good eye and ear for that but I didn’t want that. I wanted Peter, Bob and Bunny. Why? Because I saw the three of them, the harmonies and their characters which was far more enormous than just one person. Then one American guitar player backing up just Bob, I had the opportunity to play Peter’s songs and Bunny’s songs, that’s why I left the group in ’77. I missed Exodus and Kaya and I came back on Confrontation and those last two albums we did before Bob went on his journey. I got to leave Bob and all of the chaos because when Bob was hot when we were in Australia we had like ninety thousand people come and get to him and it was like a huge mushroom every show. I started to realise Bob Marley was really becoming the people’s choice here. There was so much going on that I felt like my participation wasn’t necessary and that I could do better working with an artist like Peter Tosh. Because of all the bad management and record company rhetoric I left Bob and his group The Wailers and joined Peter Tosh playing on Legalize It and Equal Rights.
If I hadn’t left Bob I would never had been able to make that amazing music with Robbie and Sly and Peter Tosh. I was on a journey and wasn’t about just Bob Marley and The Wailers it was about building reggae music from an American guitar players efforts and standards. I wanted to add something to the music that people could be more interested in hearing and out of the box. I think we have achieved that agenda both The Wailers and reggae music in general. It was all about the music for me, nothing individual or a record company or an iconic figure. It was really about helping build reggae music and I think The Wailers and all the musicians of Jamaica achieved that agenda. We have lost our keyboard player Earl “Wire” Limbo who has just passed and played on Catch A Fire and Burnin’, he wrote Redemption Song and he died a humble ending. I’m kind of disappointed in The Wailers, Island Records and everything. All of us are supposed to honour the musicians who made the record company and the family members so prominent today. The Wailers have never got their just deserts financially, may be the credit and the awards but financially there is no security. For Bob Marley and The Wailers including the children are in big jeopardy because bad business decisions with record companies, Chris Blackwell was a genius guy but he was pretty much only interested in Bob’s career and not the band. The band produced and arranged everything it recorded with Bob after Peter and Bunny had left. There is an amazing part to this and unearthy reality that The Wailers had financially never reached the proper mark of putting themselves in the middle of their success. If we had gotten what we deserved no one would be complaining and there would be this wonderful comradery buy because of bad business decisions and Bob’s crooked management it turned out pretty rotten to us.
Do you think that will ever be able to correct itself?
It is correcting itself now because Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, Bunny Wailer left this iconic music collection for people to hear. My intentions are not just to be an imitation of what these great song writers introduced to me but write my own songs, be a producers, singer and song writer and honour my brothers who wrote these great songs and love the existence that I have with them these days. I wouldn’t do it any other way. I slept on a floor for Bob Marley and The Wailers because he could not afford to pay a hotel bill for a guitar player in 1973. That wasn’t going to happen, so what I endured with I would do it all over again tomorrow because look at what came out of it, which made me a little more interesting as a guitar player as I normally would be. Who knows? I have no idea of what I would be doing now, music hadn’t taken over, I really wanted to do something for reggae music and I have spent forty years doing it.
What stands out most for you as the significant highlights in your career?
The Beatles, Paul and George, Eric Clapton, Quincy Jones, Michael Jackson… I got to meet all these amazing artists and they all wanted to collaborate with Bob. I got a phone call from John Lennon’s manager to meet him because Bob was to shy and really didn’t want to meet John Lennon. So, they sent me because my accent was more understandable but John wanted to do a rebel album with Bob. Bob thought about it and that it would be a great idea to do it with John Lennon. John had a lot of things going on and so did Bob at that time. John told me along with Yoko that they were interested in going in to the studio and making an incredible album with Bob Marley. When Paul McCartney and George Harrison came to Madison Square Garden they mentioned to Bob they wanted to record music with him, they were big fans. I love John Lennon, George and Paul… I don’t know Ringo but I’ve met all the rest. It was an amazing period, not to have Bob around today, what would it be like if Bob Marley was around? He probably would be playing with guys like Jimi Hendrix and jamming with them if they were alive because these guys were great songwriters. Songwriters from that era stuck together, it was a shame he passed so early. He sacrificed his life for his country and his family so we honour Bob Marley, Peter Tosh and at the same time we are going to play our own songs.
We are looking forward to coming to Australia, I love that part of the world and it’s a whole another atmosphere which is similar to America with your amazing people. I feel at home, I like Australia and could live there very easily.
Interview by Rob Lyon
Catch The Original Wailers on the following dates…