Certain Songs #112: Bob Marley & The Wailers – “Concrete Jungle”

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Album: Catch a Fire.

Year: 1973.

I’m probably remembering this wrong, but I think we were just out of high school in 1980 when Tim first got that cassette of Catch a Fire. Hell, maybe it was a tape of a cassette, who even remembers. All I know is that suddenly, this record felt like the greatest thing in the universe.

Of course, I’d heard reggae before, I thought. I mean, in 1980, The Clash were my favorite band in the universe, and they’d been tossing reggae at me for a couple of years, as – of course – had The Police. And, of course, there were those half-remembered singles from the early 70s like Desmond Dekker’s “The Isrealites” and Johnny Nash’s “I Can See Clearly Now,” but a whole album of the stuff seemed daunting, to say the least.

Which is where “Concrete Jungle” comes in. With the slowly building intro, call-and-response vocals and that long, spooky guitar solo, “Concrete Jungle” kicked a door open in my head. Not to mention that the words described a world that was even more alien than the New York or London depicted in my beloved punk rock.

No sun will shine in my day today (no sun will shine)
The high yellow moon won’t come out to play (that high yellow moon won’t come out to play)
I said (darkness) darkness (has come and covered my light) has covered my light,
(And has changed)
And has changed (my day into night) my day into night, yeah.
Where is the love to be found? (ooh-ooh-ooh)
Won’t someone tell me ‘cause
Life (sweet life) must be (got to be) somewhere to be found (out there somewhere out there for me)
Instead of concrete jungle (Jungle, jungle, jungle!),

The intricacy of the vocals and the music continually weaving in and out of each other was nothing like I’d never heard before. Everywhere I turned with this music, there was something new to discover. Yes, reggae felt alien and druggy and apocalyptic, but that was exactly why it was so appealing! 

Not to mention that, in retrospect, if you check out the video below (or any of the live recordings from around that period), it was clear that for a hot moment in 1973, The Greatest Rock ‘n’ Roll Band in The World wasn’t The Who or The Rolling Stones or P-Funk, it was Bob Marley & The Wailers.

“Catch A Fire” performed live in 1973

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