Pop music critic for the San Francisco Chronicle Joel Selvin wrote and published this column in the newspaper’s Sunday Entertainment tabloid magazine style ‘Pink Section’ the week Bob passed in May 1981. Joel reviewed most of Bob’s local live concerts for the dominant Bay Area morning daily through-out the 1970s. We’ll save those for other days. Today, it’s Joel’s usual brand of interesting observations and newsworthiness plus some behind the scenes revelations, wrong impressions (I was at the first Wailers’ show in October 1973 and it was not that heavily attended, for one) and goofy gossip, all broiled into an entire column probably most noteworthy for the last three paragraphs on Johnny Nash, who I hadn’t heard before attended one of the later legendary Matrix concerts and got snubbed. Selvin has it totally right that without Scott Piering leaping in to save the day after the debacle with Sly Stone, it’s hard to imagine how else The Wailers would have redeemed a bad situation and started a growing and phenomenal interest in their music and live reggae that then exploded across the country.
‘Underground’ FM radio pioneer Tom Donahue also gets major credit for using the airwaves in late 1973 to infect thousands with reggaemylitis that could not or didn’t know to see the Matrix presentations. His Sausalito Record Plant live broadcast with Bob, Peter, Joe, Carly, Aston and Wiya around the same time became fodder for most of 1991’s fantastic TALKIN’ BLUES cd, a perfect document of exactly what the Matrix shows were like with stunning versions of many Wailers’ classics especially “Rastaman Chant”, “Walk The Proud Land” and “You Can’t Blame The Youth”. It’s hard to believe it now but in October 1973 literally almost no one in the San Francisco Bay Area knew anything about this group. THE HARDER THEY COME had been playing regularly around the bay yet The Wailers were not in the movie. When I saw a tiny paragraph in the Chronicle saying a Jamaican band was all of a sudden playing that night in North Beach I walked a couple miles with my wife-to-be Deeling from our little basement pad on Nob Hill to the Broadway venue (that later became The Stone) located not far from Carol Doda’s famous topless club. A hippy folk singer opened before the restless crowd waiting to see reggae live anywhere for the first time. The curtained opened and there they stood, strangers all to the assembled watchers.
Those lucky enough to witness the event were about to be wonderfully blind-sided with top-ranking talent and rhythm execution beyond most anything imagined and different from what Perry Henzell’s film revealed about Jamaican music. It was beyond mesmerizing. For many our lives were changed forever. I bought CATCH A FIRE and BURNIN’ the next day and put most all my rock records up in a trunk in the attic. In about a year I was on the radio with THE REGGAE EXPLOSION on KTIM, perhaps the nation’s first regular commercial radio reggae program. The days of derivative devolved rock & roll that all sounded to me like re-hashed inferior Led Zeppelin & Jimi Hendrix wannabes was over. Music as good or better than what reigned supreme from 1966-1968 returned with a conscious vengeance. Peace, love and revolution is back brother! Far out man.