Upsetters well dread dread - Lee Scratch Perry on the Wire - Upsetter.net


In 1971 Bob Marley went to Sweden to collaborate on a film score with American singer Johnny Nash. Bob secured a contract with Nash’s label CBS Records and by early 1972 The Wailers were in London promoting their single “Reggae On Broadway”; CBS, however, had little faith in Marley and The Wailers’ success and abruptly abandoned the group there. Marley paid a chance visit to the London offices of Island Records and the result was a meeting with label founder Chris Blackwell. Marley sought the finances to record a single but Blackwell suggested the group record an album and advanced them £4,000, an unheard of sum to be given to a Jamaican act.

Island’s top reggae star Jimmy Cliff had recently left the label and Blackwell saw Marley as the ideal artist to fill that void and attract an audience primed for rock music. “I was dealing with rock music, which was really rebel music and I felt that would really be the way to break Jamaican music. But you needed someone who could be that image. When Bob walked in he really was that image,” Blackwell once reflected. Despite their “rude boy” reputation, the Wailers returned to Kingston and honored their agreement with Blackwell. They delivered their “Catch A Fire” album in April 1973 to extensive international media fanfare. Tours of Britain and the US were quickly arranged and the life of Bob Marley was forever changed. Bunny Wailer refused to participate in the US leg of the “Catch A Fire” tour so the Wailers’ mentor Joe Higgs served as his replacement. Their US gigs included an opening slot for a then relatively unknown Bruce Springsteen in New York City. The Wailers toured with Sly and the Family Stone, who were at their peak in the early 70s, but were removed after just four dates because their riveting performances, reportedly, upstaged the headliner.

Following the successful “Catch A Fire” tour the Wailers promptly recorded their second album for Island Records, “Burnin”, which was released in October 1973. Featuring some of Bob’s most celebrated songs “Burnin” introduced their timeless anthem of insurgency “Get Up Stand Up” and “I Shot The Sheriff”, which Eric Clapton covered and took to the top of the Billboard Hot 100 in 1974; Clapton’s cover significantly elevated Bob Marley’s international profile, the same year that Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer left the group.

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Together with Bob Marley, The Wailers have sold over 250 million albums and have played to an estimated 24 million people across the globe performing an average of 200 dates a year. The anchor of the band is legendary bassist Aston “Family Man” Barrett, who in addition to being Marley’s most trusted lieutenant and co-producer, played on countless other classic reggae hits throughout the seventies. The authenticity he brings to the Wailers’ sound is indisputable and yet today’s line-up combines old school know-how with lead vocals from one of Jamaica’s most exciting new singers. The Wailers are undoubtedly the world’s premier reggae and world music group who bring high energy shows to fans across the globe.

The band performs varied sets from the extensive Wailers discography including those from Legend. Legend is #46 on Rolling Stone Magazine’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. Legend is also the best-selling reggae album of all-time, with over 30 million copies sold worldwide and a 2014 re-release topped Billboard’s Top 5 – proving the timeless appeal of their music spans generations. On its resurgence in popularity, Aston ‘Family Man’ Barrett  said the following: “It only took 30 years. My life with The Wailers has been an odyssey. To be in the top ten is hard for me to even imagine. We’ve come so far. Sharing this music with so many people around the world was my last promise to Bob and here we are.”

During sets that change often, the band also performs selections from Exodus named by Time Magazine as the Album of the 20th Century, it was released in 1977. In keeping with the band’s tradition of touring with album themes, the Wailers have been performing entire sets devoted to songs from the specific albums, Legend, Exodus and the album Survival released in 1979. 

The current lineup includes Mr. Barrett’s young son, Aston Barrett Jr., a multi-instrumentalist who plays bass, drums and organ at varied occasions, helping bring the music forward to a new generation. Filling the role of lead singer is Dwayne Anglin, known as Danglin. Lead guitar and backing vocals are handled expertly by Audley “Chizzy” Chisholm. On rhythm guitar is Melvin “Ras Mel” Glover. Backing vocals are provided by the versatile Cegee Victory. On keyboards is Chaka Taylor.

Outside of their groundbreaking work with Marley, the Wailers have also played or performed with international acts like Sting, the Fugees, Stevie Wonder, Carlos Santana, and Alpha Blondy, as well as reggae legends such as Peter Tosh, Bunny Wailer, and Burning Spear. As the greatest living exponents of Jamaica’s reggae tradition, the Wailers have completed innumerable tours, playing to a fan base that continues to grow and expand as new generations of fans are exposed to the music. 

The band’s May 2015 Middle and Far East tour delighted fans in Dubai, Doha, Colombo, Sri Lanka, Singapore and Japan. In November, 2014 the Wailers celebrated 35 years since their debut with Bob Marley at the Apollo in Harlem, New York City in two sold out shows where they were joined by Lauryn Hill, Ky-Mani Marley, Maxi Priest and Third World.  Summer of 2014 saw the band at Glastonbury in the UK, performing to thousands of people that sing along to these classic reggae songs. 

The Wailers’ nucleus formed in 1969, when Bob Marley, Bunny Wailer, and Peter Tosh recruited the Barrett brothers – bassist Aston “Family Man” and drummer Carly – from Lee Perry’s Upsetters to play on hits such as Lively Up Yourself, Trenchtown Rock, Duppy Conqueror, and many more besides. Inspired by Rastafari and their ambitions of reaching an international audience, this is the line-up that pioneered roots rock reggae, and signed to Island Records in 1971. Bunny and Peter left two years later. It was at this point that the in-demand Barrett brothers – whose rhythms also underpinned innumerable seventies’ reggae hits by other acts – assumed the title of Wailers, and backed Marley on the group’s international breakthrough album, Natty Dread. Under Family Man’s musical leadership, they then partnered Bob Marley on the succession of hit singles and albums that made him a global icon, winner of several Lifetime Achievement awards, and Jamaica’s best-loved musical superstar. Drummer Carlton “Carlie” Barrett died in 1987, leaving his brother as the main beneficiary of the Wailers’ mantle.

Reggae music has never stopped evolving but for millions of people from around the world it’s still defined by the songs of Bob Marley and the Wailers. It’s been their heartbeat rhythms that have inspired so much of what’s followed since, as evidenced by the enduring popularity of the “one-drop” reggae sound.

A renewed international interest in Jamaican music has led to studio being used by a younger generation of artists, including Major Lazer .

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Hideo Yamaki - Japan's most renown, respected and in demand drummer. Veteran of countless recording projects with the most celebrated pop / rock artists in the country and collaborations with Japanese icons, such as Ryuichi Sakamoto, Toshinori Kondo, DJ Krush, Akira Sakata and many others. Heard here in duet with legendary bassist / producer, Bill Laswell. A bass and drum dialog that explodes with fluid, spontaneous blasts of telepathy. Industrial, noise, dub, melodic, chaotic, all detonated by a sonic / rhythmic construct. An ever expanding diverse and dynamic matrix. To be continued. Recorded at The Stone, NYC, April 16th, 2016
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I thought Bob Marley was a folk singer when I first heard of him around the time he died. I wasn’t entirely wrong, but it wasn’t until college that I learned from a couple dreads with a radio show that there was more to reggae than Marley. A couple decades later, I’ve absorbed hundreds of albums, visited Jamaica, read a dozen books on it, and participated in reggae discussion forums. Yet I still feel like I don’t know much. Since the early 1960s, there has been an unprecedented proportion of talented active musicians in Jamaica. I wouldn’t be surprised if musician was the top occupation, at least through the 80s. Every year previously unknown gems are being unearthed and reissued. The vast quantity of records made during the crazy and chaotic era of reggae’s 70’s peak guarantees this will continue for some time. My list is hardly definitive. It shows my obsession for Toots & The Maytals, and my preference for quirky, lesser known albums by Rico, Justin Hinds, Cedric Brooks, Ijahman and all things Lee Perry . But if your only point of reference is Bob Marley (whom I love and is well represented), or you’ve only associated reggae only with annoying hackey sack-tossing college trustifarians, you’ll find some rewarding stuff here.


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