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Hail the Wailers! Plaque for reggae legends

04 October, 2019 — By The Xtra Diary

IT was to be a seminal moment in modern musical history.

The Wailers – Bob Marley, Peter Tosh and Neville “Bunny Wailer” Livingston – were on the verge of making it big, and Island Records boss Chris Blackwell asked them to make him an album.

It was 1973, and Blackwell gave the trio £4,000 to record him a host of tracks, and it would become the first truly break-out, internationally recognised reggae album and change music for ever.

To mark this groundshaking epoch, Diary is off to Ladbroke Grove today (Friday) to join in a celebration of this key moment as Kwaku and Nubian Jak, two reggae experts and members of BritishBlackMusic.com and the Black Music Congress, join others for the unveiling of a very special plaque.

They have placed it on the façade of 8-10 Basing Street, the former church where The Wailers had their first break-out album, Catch A Fire, overdubbed and mixed.

BBM’s founder, Kwaku, who also runs the fantastic International Reggae Day each July, told Diary that they wanted to celebrate a building that is a significant piece of cultural history.

“This is a Jamaican story, a British story, and indeed, a global music story,” he told Diary.

“The Wailers had come to Britain on tour to support Johnny Nash. Chris met them. He knew they were talented, and up to that point their output had been singles. He wanted them to do an album for him.”

Organiser: Kwaku

Blackwell’s studio had an impressive rosta of artists who recorded there: as well as The Wailers, Led Zeppelin Cat Stevens, King Crimson, The Clash, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, The Rolling Stones, Depeche Mode,and Joan Armatrading.

Roxy Music and Jethro Tull also used the studios.

“After the Wailers had finished writing and recording in Jamaica, they came back to Basing Street,” says Kwaku.

“It was here the album was mixed and over dubbed. They added rock-type guitar, organs. And Bob Marley lived for a time above the studio.”

It was this magic that gave the band its first global hit.

“What they did at Basing Street added an international feel to the LP,” he adds.

And Ladbroke Grove at the time would have suited them, he says: “Notting Hill, of course, had a lot of settled African and Caribbean people living here so there was a strong sense of place.”

There was the Mangrove Club and a strong musical presence in the area. North-west London made them feel at home in terms of the music they would hear and the food they could eat.”

And there is a wicked looking after-party too: the nearby Mau Mau Bar on Portobello Road is opening its doors for free where there will be a tribute to the trio, with a DJ set by Kwaku, playing the revolutionary, radical music, Nubian Jak putting together a set of other artists covering The Wailers’ works, Nzinga Soundz walking the crowd though the massive hit records, and DJ Joey Jay playing a roots and culture set.

• See www.BBM.eventbrite.com and www.AfricanHistoryPlus.eventbrite.com

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