Exodus Movement of Jah People

by

Andrew Vaughan

It is 30 years since Bob Marley and The Wailers released the album ‘Exodus’. It is undoubtedly being re-packaged with extras and dvds and deservedly so. It is a great album. Not the greatest album ever. In fact it isn’t Bob Marley’s greatest album but it is a very fine album.

Recorded during his exile in London (after being shot in Kingston) it is a sound of 1977 as relevant as The Clash and Buzzcocks. “Exodus movement of Jah people” cries the chorus of the title track as did 30 punks on the dance floor in the Bier Keller in Wigan. Rastafarianism, Two 7’s clashing and punk rock. For a short while in 1977 and 1978 you were as likely to hear Stey Heyes playing Dillinger, Culture and Burning Spear at the Keller as you were Penetration, X Ray Spex and Subway Sect.

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Whether The Clash’s version of ‘Police and Thieves’ opened the door for Wigan’s punks to skank their way across the small space in a strange underground club in Wigan I’m not sure. What got the punks on the floor every time to reggae tunes was the punkettes! The girls loved the reggae tunes and wherever the girls go the lads will follow. 18-years of age and dancing to “Cocaine” by Dillinger with a girl in fishnet stockings and a bin-liner whispering in your ear: “I’ve got cocaine running around my brain”. I can tell you life doesn’t get much better than that!

It was probably the girls (and reggae) that almost got me on the dance floor seven years earlier. The places were school discos and the under-18 discos at Orrell British Legion and Billinge Higher End Labour Club. Billinge was on a Monday night and I think the Legion was on a Friday. We’d all get dressed up and get up to the club. On entering you only heard black music. It was either soul music that very soon afterwards we’d know as Northern Soul or reggae music which I absolutely loved. They’d play all the sounds of the day ‘Skinhead Moonstomp’, ‘Long Shot Kick the Bucket’, ‘Wet Dreams’, ‘Double Barrel’, ‘Israelites’, ‘Monkey Spanner’ (Known to all as Spunky Manner) and all the rest. Fantastic! We’d stand there nestling our bottles of shandy (always shandy, always pretending it was beer) watching the older lads and girls dancing while shuffling our feet on the edge of the dance floor.

At home I’d buy all the Reggae Chartbusters LPs that were released and the ‘Tighten Up’ volumes that had the best sleeves known to man if not my Mam! My Dad said: “What the hell is this? You better not let your Mum see it”. That was 10 minutes after he’d “studied the tracks” and glanced at the cover of a beautiful naked black girl. You didn’t find many of those in Wigan. There were no black kids in our year but one lad, Pey Woods, had lived in Jamaica and he gave me all these Blue Beat records. Prince Buster and the like – I was enthralled. It helped that I absolutely loved cricket back then and the West Indies and Clive Lloyd at Lancashire were my heroes. I embraced everything that was Jamaican. Many around were looking to Detroit for their black music of choice but for me there could only be Kingston, Jamaica.

After the halcyon days of early reggae and the old skinhead scene it died off and while later in life I loved a beautiful Jamaican woman there wasn’t any in our third form so snogging Wigan girls behind settees to the sound of bands like Mott The Hoople intervened.

It took Bob Marley and punk to bring that love of reggae back into my system. Whereas Marley is no way my favourite reggae artiste he is a catalyst and his Live album is undoubtedly the greatest live album ever. ‘No Woman No Cry’ is beautiful. No other word for it! I’d recommend the ‘Live’ album way above ‘Exodus’ but as a starting point ‘Exodus’ is perfect. From that you can go back into the wonderful wide world of reggae. To the marvellous Studio One reissues – including some glorious early Wailers tracks – and everything before and since from any number of magnificent performers. You will not be disappointed. However the iconic Marley will always be with us. Check out the photos of him and the Wailers bedecked in adidas playing football. Watching the Old Grey Whistle Test tape of The Wailers doing ‘Stir it Up’ and being genuinely moved. Listen to the “tweeness” of ‘Three Little Birds’ off ‘Exodus’ and then listen again and realise it isn’t “twee” but uplifting.

‘Exodus’ is an integral part of the culture clash of music that surrounds us. I played my vinyl copy the other night with a tear in my eye as it brought it all back. All those innocent early days in my cherry red Docs. And the punkettes in the Beer Keller in Wigan. And the beautiful Jamaican girl I truly loved. And back to 1980 at the Crystal Palace Bowl when I saw Bob Marley live for the only time. His last concert on these shores before he cruelly succumbed to cancer. The sun was indeed shining. A natural mystic filled the air and when he sat there on his own and played ‘Redemption Song’ thousands fell quiet. We were undoubtedly in the presence of genius. It was spiritual. As is the album ‘Exodus’. As is Bob Marley.

If you want to read more of the like then my book ‘PUNK:FOOTBALL’ will be published at the end of August 2007 – watch this space “

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Exodus Movement of Jah People

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