An incredibly old and rare set of tapes have been found that contain a series of concerts from Bob Marley and the Whalers between 1974 and 1978. The tapes were severely damaged, water-logged and set with plastic goo, and had almost been thrown away. However, one man found the tapes and made a phone call that would set their future in motion.
The tapes contain a set of concerts, including those at the Lyceum in London (1975), the Hammersmith Odeon (1976), the Rainbow, also in London (1977), and the Pavilion de Paris (1978). Live tracks from the shows include No Woman No Cry, Jammin, Exodus and I Shot the Sheriff (among many others) and were recorded with the only 24-track, top of the line machine in England at the time.
The man responsible for saving the tapes is Joe Gatt. He tells the story of his friend finding the disused tapes. “He was doing a building refuse clearance that included some discarded two-inch tapes from the 1970s. I couldn’t just stand by and let these objects, damaged or not, be destroyed so I asked him not to throw them away,” he says.
Upon recovering the goods, Gatt passed them off to his business partner and jazz singer Louis Hoover, who regularly headlines at Ronnie Scott’s in London.
Hoover said: “I was speechless, to be honest. It was quite comical, looking back now, as Joe was so cool and matter of fact about rescuing these global artefacts that I actually had to stop the car to check that I had heard him correctly.
“When I saw the labels and footnotes on the tapes, I could not believe my eyes, but then I saw how severely water damaged they were. There was literally plasticised gunk oozing from every inch and, in truth, saving the sound quality of the recordings, looked like it was going to be a hopeless task.”
Here is Bob Marley performing ‘Get Up, Stand Up’ live At The Rainbow London Theatre (6-2-1977) .
It certainly wasn’t hopeless. Though they would have been destroyed if anyone had tried to play them in their condition, they were given to sound technician specialist Martin Nichols of White House studios in Weston-super-Mare. Nichols began the task of restoring the valuables. “They really were in such an appalling condition they should have been binned, but I spent hours on hours, inch by inch, painstakingly cleaning all the gunge off until they were ready for a process called ‘baking’, to allow them to be played safely,” he said.
He added: “The end result has really surprised me, because they are now in a digital format and are very high quality. It shows the original recordings were very professionally made. From the current find of 13 tapes, 10 were restored, two were blank and one was damaged beyond repair.”
Once they had the chance to listen to the tapes, they reveled in their quality. Hoover said “It made the hair on the back of our necks stand up and genuine shivers ran up our spines with joy.
“The experience was comparable to, say, finding Van Gogh’s easel, paint pallet and paints in an old room somewhere, then Vincent emerges through a secret door to paint 26 of his finest masterpieces … purely for us.”
Another little treat for you all… ‘No Woman No Cry’ – Bob Marley Live at the Rainbow