I remember watching rioting Londoners on television and noting how every shop had been looted except one, which was the local bookstore. I’m often told how people no longer want to read or buy books and refuse to believe it, but then I’ve been an avid reader since childhood and still love that feeling of being gripped by the written word.
A good book can not only entertain us and reveal things we didn’t know, but also help free the imagination and take us on a journey. We can experience that by looking at a screen or e-reader certainly but it’s the same argument made by those who prefer vinyl to downloads or streaming, and isn’t it nice to have something tangible that you can take to bed or carry around with you, with no fear of the battery running out?
Simmer Down: Marley - Tosh - Livingston.
Jook Joint Press. Second pressing 2018.
Simmer Down is the final instalment of my trilogy of books about the Wailers. This time I've gone back to the very beginning, and written about the original trio of Bob Marley, Peter Tosh and Bunny Livingston, who changed the face of reggae music before splintering apart in 1974 amidst considerable rancour.
It’s a tale set in the '60s and early '70s against a backdrop of Kingston shantytowns, rude boys, gang wars, political violence, Black Power, police harassment and Rastafari. Insider quotes – many of them previously unpublished – reveal little-known facts about the Wailers’ early lives in Trench Town and their adventures with Coxsone Dodd, Rasta elder Mortimo Planno, Lee “Scratch” Perry, Johnny Nash and Chris Blackwell, among others.
The Wailers’ recording history is at the heart of this book but new light is also shed on the group’s inner dynamics, and how they were tested to the limit by Marley’s solo ambitions.
A limited number of signed copies of this book are available on request.
Steppin’ Razor: The Life Of Peter Tosh. Omnibus Press. First published in 2013. ISBN 978-1-84772-836-4.
Peter Tosh was a founder member of the Wailers, and a former rude boy who rose from the slums of Kingston to become a fiery advocate of Rastafari, equal rights, African nationalism and the legalisation of marijuana. He’s revered second only to Bob Marley by reggae fans worldwide but official recognition has been slow in coming, mainly because Tosh was so outspoken in his criticism of the Jamaican authorities.
This book was three years in the making, and draws upon more than a hundred interviews with those who knew him best including Bunny Wailer, family members and others from the singer’s inner circle. It tells the stories behind hits like Legalise It, Equal Rights, Get Up Stand Up and Johnny B. Goode; Tosh’s incendiary speech at the 1978 One Love Peace Concert and his now legendary adventures with Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, who signed him to the Rolling Stones’ own record label for two classic albums and the hit single Don’t Look Back.
Police beatings, early participation in riots and demonstrations, jaw-dropping performances on Saturday Night Live and a succession of deliberately provocative lyrics went hand-in-hand with an imaginative use of language and wonderful sense of humour in serving to define this most compelling and unforgettable character – one who became embroiled in rumours involving the supernatural and Kingston’s criminal underworld prior to his death.
Wailing Blues: The Story of Bob Marley’s Wailers.
Omnibus Press First published in 2008. ISBN 978-1-84609-689-1.
Bob Marley and the Wailers have sold more than 250 million records worldwide. Their phenomenal success has led to Marley being enshrined as a cultural icon, more popular than Elvis or John Lennon. Jamaica’s finest export is a global superstar, yet the musicians who played on all those hit singles and albums have been sidelined and left with little to show for their efforts.
This book aims to put the story straight by telling of their musical achievements, and also what happened to them after Marley died in 1981. Written in conjunction with Wailers’ bassist Aston "Family Man" Barrett, it gives valuable insights into how the music was made, and also the life and times of reggae’s most enduring figurehead. It ends with Family Man having his day in court and losing everything he had – including the right to appeal – after being defeated in his bid for a share of the Marley millions. The injustices, greed, betrayals and even murders that led up to that fateful day are all documented here, and make harrowing reading for anyone wanting to look more deeply into the Bob Marley legend.
The Guinness Who’s Who Of Reggae. Guinness Publishing Ltd. First published in 1994. ISBN 0-85112-734-7.
I wrote many of the entries involving dancehall and 90s' roots music in this handy reference work, which also contains portraits of reggae artists by former Echoes' photographer Tim Barrow.
The Virgin Encyclopedia Of Reggae
This is a revamped version of the Guinness Who's Who Of Reggae, with a few additional entries and omitting Tim Barrow's photographs.