Bob Marley - The Lost Tape | Unknown Songs Discovered
02/06/2015 by Jack Low
Today, being Bob Marley's 70th birthday, is a perfect chance to talk about a lost treasure for the first time in public. This hidden reel-to-reel master tape was locked away in a closet for another 40 years. This piece of lost Marley history became available at an estate sale from the late Garry Hall. Hall was a former reggae producer who helped the Wailers to set up Tuff Gong Records in the early 1970's and the G&C label in the United States. The G stands for Garry Hall and the C stands Skill Cole who at that time was working as the Wailers manager. The Tuff Gong produced singles are known by collectors as the American Tuff Gong singles. These singles where produced in 1971 and early 1972. Below is the story about the contents of the tape and the treasures that are found on this historic reel to reel.
The Wailers started the Tuff Gong label in early 1970, when Bob Marley came back from Delaware with some extra cash he earned working in the Chrysler plant and for DuPont Hotel in 1969. The tape was given to Gary Hall, by Bob Marley, in the early months of 1971. It was then sent to New York in the spring in 1971 to Dylan of Beta Records Distributing (on 599 Tenth Ave, New York 36, NY). Its kind of ironic that a guy named Dylan was mastering a Bob Marley reel. Having press all over the world calling Bob Marley the black Bob Dylan. The tape, this other Dylan was mastering is a Scotch 10 inch tape with plastic reel. It's completely full with 8 leaders that were taped together to play all the way through, without a stop even though the individual songs are recorded at different speeds. The tape also has a Mercury Sound Studios (110 W. 57th Street New York, NY 10019) take sheet taped to it. Is that where Bob recorded the studio part of the songs? The Wailers did come to the U.S. during the winter of 1971 to play shows in New York City. There is handwriting with marker and pen all over the take sheet and some of the handwriting is clearly Bob Marley's, as he was likely making notes for the reel. The clearest example of his hand writing is "Likie Back Yeh" in pen.
The set list on the tape is the following:
1. Nice Time
3. Mellow Mood
4. Thank You Lord
5. Got To Hold On
6. Black Progress
7. Lick Samba
There are also hand written notes saying the first four tracks are set at 7 1/2 IPS while the other tracks are at 15 IPS. There is other handwriting that is crossed out indicating that there are some tracks that are in 3 3/4 IPS, but it is crossed out. In the box there is a letter addressed to Dylan asking him to re-master Nice Time for the flip 5003-B single. When transferring the tape there ended up being more on it than the take sheet listed. In Jamaica tapes were expensive to come by, when you are a struggling artist with a family to feed. Bob Marley and the Wailers ended up using the whole tape and even re-recording over some of the songs. All of the home demos which are greatly different from the studio versions on the tape are recorded at the 3 3/4 speed, so Bob could extend his tape for his writing demos. For those of you who never listened to reel to reel tapes: there are different speeds for different type of recordings. The Higher the speed, the higher the quality of the recordings. Most songs are recorded at a 15 to 30 IPS. The home recording songs that are recorded at the 3/3/4 speed are all unreleased and unknown to date. They are not found in any copyright office or in any data base.
Some of these home demos have people all around the house playing instruments such as bongos and kick drums. Some of the other home demos just have Bob and Rita singing in the room by themselves. The highlight of this portion of the reel is a song called Dry Wood. Which is a precursor to Stir it Up and Small Axe, Marley states in the song "I want to satisfy your heart’s desire with my dry wood". This is a reference he later uses for his classic Island Version Stir It Up. Bob Marley also sings in this song "Chop, Chop, Chop, I work so hard to cut the Tree Down". This is a reference to the BIG TREE (3) record companies that ran the music industry in Jamaica at this time. Tuff Gong wasn't a part of the association and did not get the radio air play these other companies got during this time.
Another highlight on the acoustic part of the tape is the song So High. Bob sings with his children. It is the only known recording to date of Bob singing with his children Sharon, Cedella and Ziggy. It is one of the most touching and loving songs that simply puts tears in your eyes. Bob sings about how you need to "Know the Golden Rule". This is more of a lesson a father teaches his children on how to treat people. Another song Bob sings is about a being a Lonely Traveler and how he wants to have company on the road "I'm a Lonely Traveler too".
The final song on the acoustic part of the tape is a love song about Bob loosing a women he once was dating and how he will not let her go that easily. It is a demo, where you can hear people in the background telling Bob that they love the song. The song title is called "Just Won't Let Go." The lyrics are "work in process", but are amazing in their own rights. Here is an example: "Once I had you whoooah, Ohhhh for my very owwnnnnn, You build me soooo higghhh, And then you let me downnn".
The studio portion of the tape is as equally impressive. There is studio chatter before Nice Time and Hypocrites leading to the realization that the tapes are the master recordings. The sound on the 7 1/2 IPS are extremely superior quality. Even better than what is out to the public at this time. It sounds like Bob Marley is right next to you. The next portion of the tape is also a very historical piece. This is the first session that Aston "Family Man" and Carlton Barrett ever played with Bob Marley as a part of the Wailers. The 15 IPS part of the tape has two tracks. Vocals are on one side and instruments on the other track. These tracks include two different unreleased takes of I Got To Hold On To This Feeling. The song is the only duet between Bob Marley and his wife. There is something of magical about hearing Bob tell Rita when to come into the song at different places and with more provocative lyrics than the original version that was released in 1970.
On the last part of the 15 IPS tape there is a brand new, and might be the last unreleased fully completed Wailers track that is truly viable for an international hit. The song is Lick It Back. There are two different takes of the song on this tape. On the first take Bob sings about Jack and Jill and how they went up the hill and lick it back. On the second version, Bob Marley and the Wailers sing "How he is so high he can touch the sky." The last part of the tape contains two new versions of Lick Samba. These two versions have not been released to date. Bob stating in the first version "Run Come Push It Up On Me" just being another Bob alteration to already recorded song. On the second version of Lick Samba it is a more dub version with Peter Tosh's vocals being more prominent. Bob again with alternate lyrics "there is a song that I won't sing anymore" ... "Not a Ship will reach my shore". All of these studio songs are completed and ready to be released.
This reel is a true historical and critical piece of the Wailers' and Bob Marley's history. I hope that one day the Marley Family can share some of the tape to the general public. These songs are songs that still have relevance for today's youth. They would be well received by the public and the press. How nice would be sitting outside in a late afternoon and listening to the legend himself and just his guitar unplugged singing of songs about love and life and his belief in Jah Rastafari! Happy birthday to the king of reggae!