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» BREAKING NEWS, GUEST RUNDOWNS » BOB MARLEY’S MAJOR LABEL FLOP, 1972’s “REGGAE ON BROADWAY!”

BOB MARLEY’S MAJOR LABEL FLOP, 1972’s “REGGAE ON BROADWAY!”

Bob Marley in the studio during the sessions for Johnny Nash’s I Can See Clearly Now

No, it’s not a musical—praise Jah—but a curiosity in Bob Marley’s catalog: 1972’s “Reggae on Broadway” was Marley’s first and only single on CBS, recorded and released before Chris Blackwell signed the Wailers to Island. Intended to break Marley as a solo artist in the UK, the single “sank like a stone,” according to biographer Timothy White. But imagine how Marley’s career might have been different if this fairly conventional rock/soul tune, adorned with screaming fuzz guitar and horns, had been a hit. “I’m in the mood / to give you some food.”


Bob Marley and Johnny Nash in the studio

Marley worked with Johnny Nash in Sweden and England during the early 70s, and he participated in the sessions for Nash’s I Can See Clearly Now, which included three of his songs and a fourth co-written with Nash. “Reggae on Broadway” was cut with one of Nash’s backing bands, Sons of the Jungle (a/k/a Rabbit and the Jungles), whose leader, keyboardist John “Rabbit” Bundrick, says the single dates from the English sessions for I Can See Clearly Now. In John Masouri’s Wailing Blues, the Wailers’ legendary bassist, Aston “Family Man” Barrett, says the song was also in the Wailers’ repertoire at the time:

Every day we have to take about three trains to go to this place called Kingston-upon-Thames and then we’d be there in this small little room, whilst Johnny Nash was in a big room rehearsing with his band Sons of the Jungle across the hall. We never play with Johnny Nash directly, but we did a nice little section of our own and Bob, Bunny, and Peter, they were singing some songs, man. We used to do this song ‘Reggae On Broadway’ that went, ‘Hey, hey mama, hey. Get down on the floor.’ It was like a crossover t’ing and then we used to do songs like ‘Oh Lord, I’ve Got To Get There’ and ‘Concrete Jungle’ also.

The original single version of “Reggae on Broadway” was under three minutes long. The longer version below surfaced in 1981 on the posthumous cash-grab compilation Chances Are.

And here’s the B-side of the CBS single, “Oh Lord, Got to Get There”:

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