Here, after three decades, is a long-awaited look at
some of the most intriguing and highly anticipated material of
Bob Marley's entire career, compelling experiments that have
been locked away in the vaults ever since the late 1960s. These
are soul shots, almighty riddims based on the tumultuous sounds
of the inner city from the time when America was in upheaval;
sounds of Bob Marley with Aretha Franklin's band members, produced
by Danny Sims, Arthur Jenkins, and their associates, for the
label they co-owned with reggae/pop pioneer Johnny Nash. This
is Bob Marley as you've never ever heard him before. In addition
to powerful alternate r&b versions of 11 of Bob's most interesting
late-'60s compositions, there are four tracks of which even the
titles have never been revealed prior to this album.
"These are not demos." confirms co-producer Sims, from
his current home in Beverly Hills. "These are complete songs
exactly as Bob wanted them to sound." The story of how they
came to be is a long and fascinating one; one in which Sims played
a crucial part during the five years in which Marley was signed
to his company as songwriter and performer. And it is a tale
that could never be told till now.
"We always knew of the existence of these tapes." admits
Sims, his voice still containing a hint of deep south drawl scraped
and shaped by the grit of New York. "But we had so many
other labels and albums and acts to keep track of. And with all
the legal battles that went on during the past fourteen years,
it would not have been right for us to release these things until
everything had been settled. So this material couldn't have come
out sooner than now. Now is the right time."
The pre-Psychedelic Sixties dawned as the nation was in the height
of its cold war frenzy. In New York City, a young man who had
been born in Mississippi arrived in town to open a supper club
in the heart of the Great White Way at 47th St. and Broadway.
It was called Saphire's, and the proud new owner was Danny Sims.
His place was the first black club south of 110th St., and became
a 24-hour-a-day hangout for the cream of show business celebrities
from Broadway stars to swingers and singers.
"It was about that time that I began palling around with
Johnny Nash, the Texas singer who was having such success on
the Arthur Godfrey Show," recalls Sims. "In '63 Johnny
asked me to promote a Caribbean concert tour, which is how I
first saw Jamaica. The tour was a success, and it lead me to
open a concert promotion company called Hemisphere Attractions.
I brought into the Caribbean and Central and South America people
like Sammy Davis, Jr., Paul Anka, Brook Benton, Ben E. King,
Solomon Burke, Aretha Franklin, Little Anthony and the Imperials,
Patty LaBelle, Otis Redding and lots more. In 1964, when Dinah
Washington died, I absorbed her Queens Booking Agency, and ran
one of the biggest African-American agencies of that time."
Nash and Sims decided to form a record label to be called JODA
(after Johnny and Danny), and had an immediate success with a
song called "Let's Move and Groove." "It was Johnny
Nash's biggest hit in the black community ever," Sims recalls.
"There was a very popular African-American disc jockey in
Los Angeles at the time who called himself 'The Magnificent Montague.'
He played Johnny's record all the time, and he would yell over
the air while it was spinning, "Burn, baby, burn!"
Montague's highly charged rap began making waves just as the
L.A. riots of 1965 torched the city. "The feds said that
our record was creating the riots," laughs Sims. "'Burn
baby, burn!' became a slogan all over the black communities in
America." Then, shuddering at the memory, Sims turns solemn.
"I thought I was dead. So many of our people were being
So I decided to get the hell out, and we left for the Caribbean.
Our favorite country in the world was Jamaica, so we headed there
to see our friend Ken Khouri, the owner of Federal Records, who
was JODA's licensee at the time. Ken got us a house near his
in the hills above Kingston, in a place called Russell Heights.
Ken's son Paul taught Johnny how to play rock steady, which was
the music happening in Jamaica at that time, and eventually we
started to record Johnny's album Hold Me Tight. Khouri flew Jamaican
emigre Lyn Tait down from Canada to play with Johnny on the lp.
After its release, Nash became a superstar in Jamaica.
"We first met Bob at the time of the Ethiopian Christmas
at the start of 1967. Jamaican DJ Neville Willoughby - his father
was my lawyer - told Johnny that he wanted to take him to a Rastafarian
religious gathering, something called a 'grounation,' being held
by a man called Mortimo Planno." Seen in scores of photographs
from April 21, 1966, Planno was the dreadlocked man in the white
robe standing beside Haile Selassie I as he exited his plane
to begin his frenzied royal visit to Jamaica. In Trench Town,
Planno was known to possess a large library of books on black
power and Rastafarian and African history; his yard was a magnet
for both ghetto sufferers and uptown University rebels, drawn
by the Rastaman vibration. "It was January 7, Ethiopian
Christmas," recalls Planno today. "Willoughby carried
them to me. The report that Johnny Nash gave Danny was mindblowing."
Sims readily agrees, his memory vivid. "That night, Johnny
came home raving about this guy he had met named Bob Marley.
He said every song he heard him sing was an absolute smash and
that we should sign him immediately to our label. The next day
Bob came to our house with his wife, Rita, and Bunny Livingstone
and Peter Tosh, along with Planno. Bob played guitar and sang
about 30 songs for me.
"The following morning I invited Bob Marley to my house
for breakfast. But my servants refused to serve him and walked
out: they would not serve a Rastafarian. The servants I had after
that also refused to serve him, and they quit too. So Mortimo
put a Rasta dreadlock named Jeff in our house to cook and work
for us. We were looked on in Jamaica as Americans who came there
to cause trouble, working with Rastas, going to Trench Town."
With the Jamaica Labour Party in power, times were extremely
conservative politically. Sims shakes his head with disbelief
as he cites one of the government's most outrageous acts: "Once
Muhammed Ali came down to visit us and the Jamaican government
turned him away at the airport, they wouldn't let him in the
Not long after, in July of 1967, Bunny Livingstone was sent to
prison for fourteen months, on trumped up ganja charges. A Kingston
cop pulled a Fuhrman, and planted false evidence. The result
left a hole in the Wailers, into which Rita Marley stepped temporarily.
"It was a difficult time for the group," observes Planno,
whose thick voice rumbles heavy and lugubrious as hot black tar.
"Me and Danny and Johnny decided that we didn't want the
same situation that was happening to Bob - sitting down inna
yard in Trench Town experiencing police brutality and harassmen
t - to prevent our production. We wanted to produce the best
of Bob Marley, and the best of Bob Marley was to get him in himself."
Marley and Tosh were excited by the prospect of being signed
by a big international star's company that wanted them not only
as composers but as performers too. "I put Peter and Bob
and Rita on a regular salary of $100 a week," says Sims.
"There were times when I had to be away for most of a year,
and I gave my house to Bob so he had a place he could stay and
"Bob told me right away that he wanted to be a star in the
African-American community. He wasn't that interested in Jamaica,
it was America that he wanted to conquer. Bob didn't want to
record anymore in what he called 'the Babylonian-type studios,
like Federal and Dynamics. So we decided to record him in my
house." On page 59 of Malika Lee Whitney and Dermott Hussey's
wonderful book Bob Marley Reggae King of the World there is a
picture of one of the first such sessions. "That's our arranger,
Arthur Jenkins, standing in the room with a microphone over their
heads," Sims explains, pointing to the shot of Bunny Wailer,
Peter Tosh, and Bob and Rita Marley seated in a semi-circle,
harmonizing. "Some of the earliest tracks on this album,
like 'Fallin' In And Out Of Love' were recorded just like that.
Now the tapes are so old and in such poor condition, that we
had to bake them to retrieve the sounds, otherwise they would
have been lost forever." Literally baked? "Yeah, just
like a cake! You've got 72 hours to get them copied after that
before they just crumble away."
The effort was worth expending in order to reproduce accurately
the remarkable vibes of an extraordinary set of instrumentalists.
"We brought a lot of great musicians down from the States
to record with Bob, so we could capture the more R&B- oriented
sound. Many of them were red-hot, cream-of-the-crop studio guys
who played for Aretha Franklin and people on that level, musicians
like Bernard Purdie, Eric Gale, Hugh Masakela, Chuck Rainey and
Richard Tee. We wanted them to woodshed with the Jamaican musicians,
to get that feel. The guys in Jamaica just weren't disciplined
enough for us. They weren't dependable. They wouldn't show up
on time, and they'd play off key. Plus the local technology was
way behind the times. We thought that the Americans, once they
learned how to play rock steady, could do it as good as the Jamaicans.
And it proved that I was right. The vocals were done in Jamaica
with the Wailers, but our music was never intended to be done
there, because we didn't feel we could get the quality we wanted
out of there. So we would go up to New York to lay the music.
That's how we always did it. We invariably never kept anything
that we did in Jamaica except the vocals. Our intention was to
fit the U.S. and British radio formats. We weren't at all concerned
about selling records in the Caribbean," says Sims, laughing
dismissively. "We wouldn't get paid anyway."
One of the people that Nash and Sims sent for almost immediately
was Jimmy Norman, a singer/songwriter who was a longtime member
of the Coasters, one of America's most successful vocal groups
("Poison Ivy," "Yakety-Yak," "Young
Blood"). Interviewed in New York in late 1995, Norman had
several memories of those early trips to Kingston, most notably
that "We had to hold Bob still in front of the mic, he was
just jumping all over the place. I had to teach him how to record
"My first meeting with Marley, I was impressed by how spiritual
he was. He didn't have dreadlocks at the time, but he was all
about music, just singing all the time. That's what drew me to
him, because I couldn't understand anything the he and Peter
said for the first three or four months, it was all patois. We'd
sit on the lawn and write, then we'd go into Danny's guest house
that we had converted into a rehearsal studio and record it right
away. We had a little Nagra tape recorder set up in there. I
remember Bob always saying, 'Music would teach them a lesson,"'
lines that would eventually yield the title of one of Marley's
biggest posthumous hits, "Music Lesson." (The process
by which that recording was created is quite similar to the way
in which this album was assembled for release.)
Sims insists that Peter Tosh's contribution to these sessions
should not be downplayed. He was the only one of the group who
was a full-fledged professional, and in fact Sims used Tosh in
New York on many of Johnny Nash's hit records. "Peter had
his own agenda," Sims admits, "but he was with us 90%
of the time. We used his guitar on practically every track we
did. He held us together; he held our rhythm together. Peter
was the teacher, along with Paul Khouri, for that rock steady
sound. Peter directed us, we spun off Peter Tosh. I never worked
with a guy I liked working with more than Peter. He was always
with us, always! I saw him as the Rock of Gibraltar with that
Norman says that he was most impressed by how the Wailers- Bunny,
Bob, Peter and Rita - "staggered their harmonies each time,
like the Impressions, just a little bit behind. It gave them
something special." While grooming Bob's stage act, Norman
noticed that Bob didn't want to be burdened by a guitar while
he was singing, preferring instead the freedom to move as if
in a trance, unfettered by wires and instruments. Sims adds,
"Bob had all these abilities naturally, but we just wanted
him to polish them up."
Three of the four newly revealed songs on this album were co-composed
by Norman and his writing partner Al Pyfrom, along with Joe Venneri,
and aimed specifically at the American r&b market. Says Norman:
"I had already written 'What Goes Around Comes Around' and
'You Think I Have No Feelings' before my first trip, but I remember
finishing up 'Fallin' In And Out Of Love,' (which I'd started
in the States with Johnny's wife, Margaret), in Jamaica. We did
30 or 40 of my songs in about eight months in 1968. I sang bass
on 'Chances Are' and 'Soul Rebel,' and lots of others too. We
were constantly working."
"'Fallin' In And Out Of Love'," explains Sims, "was
first released by Johnny Nash on his own label. Later there was
an r&b cover by Lloyd Price, who was working with us, and
a blues cover by our artist Howard Tate. This song also features
the Soulettes, Rita's group, who were in and out too, but sometimes
only one or two of the three women were there. Bob was there
every day. And Neville Willoughby, whenever he wasn't on the
air, was there all the time too. He was of tremendous help to
us; we even did an album on him too.
"'What Goes Around Comes Around,' was also done in the early
'60s by Lloyd Price and Howard Tate. 'Splish for my Splash' and
'Stranger On The Shore,' both came out on Lloyd Price's own Turntable
label, way before Bob did them. 'You Think I Have No Feelings,'
is one that Howard Tate did first."
Says co-writer Jimmy Norman: "I guess my favorite tune,
though, is one I wrote called 'I'm Gonna Get You.' I love the
way that turned out. I know how Bob wanted to present himself,
which is just what we ended up with on this record."
"I'm Gonna Get You" is also one of the most highly
regarded tracks of Joe Venneri, a founding member of the folk
group turned rock heroes, the Tokens, whose first recording,
"The Lion Sleeps Tonight," was an early '60s smash.
From his home studio in New Jersey, Venneri recalled his days
working with Marley as producer, writer, engineer and musician.
"I started out with ska in the early '60s. Luther Dixon
brought it to me. We were always trying to figure out a way to
commercialize it in the States - it was such a great sound."
By 1967, he was working with Marley. "After the initial
tracks were laid in Jamaica, they were brought to me here in
New York to a studio I had called Incredible Sounds. Richard
Alderson, who was the chief engineer at Harry Belafonte's studio,
also worked here and in Jamaica, back and forth, for months at
a time. They'd bring the tapes up from Jamaica and we'd fix them
up. Our musicians were the main guys in the Atlantic Records
stable, they were absolutely the best people at the time. We
were like a clique, we all did the same sessions.
The only time I met Bob Marley was in New York. It was the late
'60s, we were all together in his lawyer's office. I had no idea
how huge he'd become, but he had this charisma, this spiritual
thing that's in his voice - it's still there in every song I
hear him sing. It's not musically perfect, it just seems to be
an association with the earth. He's got this honest thing that
just comes across. Whether he's sharp or flat or sideways, there's
something to everything he sings."
Sims notes that "Sometimes folks like Eric Gale would be
brought in to overdub just one line, like a blues lick. Or Richard
Tee. That's the way we produced. We'd do a little piece of the
record and finish it later. Arthur Jenkins would do the arrangement
in Jamaica, but we might change it in the States once we got
"A lot of the songs we did with Bob were just fooling around
in the studio, seeing what we could come up with. Bob was totally
flexible, and we did lots of different kinds of experiments trying
to come up with a hit single. We published the Cowsills, and
we've got tracks of Bob covering their songs. We were the ones
who encouraged the Wailers to cover the Box Tops' song 'The Letter.'
Bob and Johnny both sang the same songs - it was a Motown kind
of approach to the music," Sims suggests. "We did a
lot of Curtis Mayfield stuff with Bob that's all there in the
can; we even thought Bob wrote those songs by himself at first."Why
did I record so much material? I thought the more songs you recorded,
the more chances you'd have to score a hit. But even I never
thought these tracks would turn out to be so valuable."
That value was underscored by the realization that what was left
on the tapes was decomposing. "A lot of the tapes were bad,"
Sims acknowledges, "because there was a certain period for
Ampex tapes in the late '60s when they were really inferior quality.
Nowadays, every major label has got the same problems of deterioration
with their tapes from that period. So we knew that these tapes
had to be restored, or else no one would ever be able to hear
them again, and that would be a crime against history. So Joe
Venneri has been working for over three years already to restore
them. We feel we have collectors' items that nobody's ever heard,
and we feel we should release each of them in as authentic a
manner as possible, until all of them are out there for everyone
to hear. Some we're still looking for. I believe we have a couple
of hundred solo acoustic versions of Bob's songs as well."
Now that the original tapes have been rediscovered, the laborious
task of bringing them up to '90s standards has been turned over
largely to Venneri, who describes the resulting product as three-layered:
the original vocal tracks, with "scratch" instrumentals,
from Jamaica; the added instrumental and vocal recording in New
York in the late '60s, and the painstaking restoration process
that he has now been going on since 1992. "We fixed up the
tonality of the instruments. Some of the keys fell in between.
So we do what we call a 'time clock' with our computers and adjust
the key to one that's playable. We make a 'tempo map/ so that
we can put them into a consistent rhythm, no deviation in tempos,
none of the voices flat. Sometimes it takes me two or three weeks
just to straighten out a minute of music. We've recently added
new guitars to accompany what was going on, certain keyboards;
some of the old instruments were filtered to make new instrumentals.
But I was extremely careful in the sweetening to keep the original
moods and feel. We followed suit to whatever the song dictated.
We wanted Bob Marley's voice to be in the best possible light,"
a task that was not always easy.
"For example," explains Venneri, "on 'Fallin'
In And Out Of Love' there was a booming, banging piano that covered
everything, but with the assistance of filters and state-of-the-art
computer programs that I've helped develop, we retrieved Bob's
voice as clearly as possible under the circumstances." Marley's
fans should be extremely grateful for Venneri's meticulous obsession,
because faced with the prospect of never hearing this material,
or hearing it in this "heightened" way, the choice
"You have to remember,"' cautions Sims, "that
there was no reggae at the time we met Bob in '67. Bob wanted
me to break him in America as a soul singer. His whole dream,
his biggest ambition that he had till he died, was to break the
African-American market and radio in the U.S. He did all the
black music conventions for free, because he wanted to crack
that market. But the only music he had that could do that was
the stuff f that I had, and I'm only now releasing it. I'm going
to reach that market, and Bob's dream then will now come true
"People think that Bob Marley started in 1973 and had no
history prior to that, and that he just suddenly emerged out
of nowhere as one of the greatest technicians on stage and in
the studio. That's not true. Bob was developed by Johnny Nash
and Arthur Jenkins and all the others who really should have
the credit for working with him all those years in Jamaica, a
year in Sweden, and in 400 concerts that we did together in the
U.K. in '71 and '72."
Having resumed residence in America in 1995, Sims is now reaching
out on many fronts to expose Marley to a new generation. "This
album is the first of nine that I plan to release. We've got
at least four dozen songs that nobody's every heard yet. We're
going to keep putting them out until that treasure trove is exhausted.
The first of a trilogy of ECD releases will be issued through
the Rock On ROM company. This is something we're all tremendously
excited about, because it gives us a way of telling Bob's unknown
'60s history in pictures and text and real time video clips.
We'll have the four original tracks recorded in my home in Jamaica
in the '60s, and the restored versions too. You'll be able to
toggle back and forth on your computer to compare them. "Soul
Almighty: the formative years Vol. I" will also feature
new video interviews with Bob's closest friend Allan 'Skill'
Cole, myself and Joe Venneri. We'll have a ton of information
on Bob's life, Jamaican culture, Rastafari, and lots of mixes
that are alternate versions of songs on this album. We'll have
a gallery of the best photographers of the reggae era. These
include Peter Simon, Bruce Talamon, Kim Gottleib, Millard Faristzaddi
and others. We'll even provide copies of some of their most famous
images for sale.
"Best of all, the ECD is going to make available for the
very first time, the rarest, most sought-after recording of Bob's
whole career - 'Selassie Is The Chapel.' It was written especially
for Bob by Mortimo Planno, who pressed only 26 copies of the
original seven-inch record. (I heard that one was sold recently
for $1,600!) Now everyone will have a chance to hear one of the
most crucial tracks in Bob's musical and spiritual evolution,
the one where he truly embraces Rastafari publicly.
"Another area where we'll be moving is onto the Internet,"
enthuses Sims, not content to leave any potential opportunity
unexplored. "We'll have an exclusive site as part of the
Reggaesupersite in which we'll make available unreleased Marley
material, like those acoustic songs we have, in beautiful custom
pressings especially for collectors. First rate, quality stuff.
We've got to get people to stop buying all those inferior, bootleg
items that you see everywhere you go, that don't produce money
for anyone but those thieves. Bob's heirs will share in the profits
of everything we do; we've made absolutely sure of that.
"We're also designing a full-scale CD-ROM to cover our entire
five year period with the Wailers. Ultimately we'll do a book
telling our side of the story, me and Skill and Mortimo Planno
and the other important people who contributed so much to Bob
"And to cap everything off, and take advantage of all the
years I've been living and researching in Southern Africa recently,
we're going to film eight two-hour documentaries that will link
the history of the Caribbean, Bob Marley, and the African liberation
struggles. It think it's very important to let people know some
of the sociological reasons why Bob became a Rastafarian, why
he chose to end his life as a member of the Twelve Tribes, and
to transform his life as an underdog into a life for the betterment
of all mankind."
Shifting his weight, Sims' eyes light up messianically: "I
think our projects will be more powerful than any movie you can
make, because they have everything from sex, to murder, to violence,
to assassinations, Interpol, the CIA, FBI, and the KGB - not
to mention the music. And it's all true!"
As he sums everything up, Sims' smooth forehead furrows with
intensity. It is obvious that he feels a fiercely burning pride
in his contributions to the unprecedented success of one of this
fading century's greatest figures. "When we sold Bob's contract
to Chris Blackwell and Island Records in October of 1972, Bob
was ready. He was an established, polished artist who was able
to co-produce with Blackwell or any other producer. He was able
to use what he had learned from Johnny Nash, Arthur Jenkins and
all the other great people we put him with. From 1967 to 1972
was enough for anyone to get his Ph.D. and be able to go out
on the stage of the world."
-Roger Steffens, co-author (with Bruce Talamon) of Bob Marley:Spirit
Dancer (W.W.Norton) and co-author (with Leroy Jodie Pierson)
of the forthcoming autobiography of Bunny Wailer Old Fire Sticks
and Bob Marley and the Wailers:The Definitive Discography. Steffens
maintains the world's largest archive of Bob Marley and the Wailers
material at his headquarters in Los Angeles, and has edited the
annual Bob Marley Collectors' Edition of The Beat magazine since
1982. In February of 1996, Steffens delivered the first lecture
in the history of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, on the life
of Bob Marley.