Bob Marley And The Wailers – Slave Driver – Catch A Fire Classic Album
It would be very hard to exaggerate the extent to which reggae was despised among rock fans when Bob Marley and the Wailers saw their international breakthrough. In Britain there were occasionally reggae hits, and this was the only reggae the average rock fan heard. It was novelty music; crude, cheap and not to be taken seriously on any level.
Bob Marley wanted to expose messages, worldwide, to his generation. Exploring the political injustices towards the black community and the current state of urban poverty, Catch A Fire conveys messages with much deeper meaning that those of other records at the time.
The aim with Catch A Fire was to give reggae music an international mainstream platform, to bridge the gap between purist and Americanised reggae. The most enhanced of Bob Marley and the Wailers’ albums, Catch A Fire attempted to change a perception and reach into the rock market.
The meaning behind title ‘Catch A Fire’ – ‘burn in hell’ – relates to the core message of track Slave Driver. Bob Marley and the Wailers saw a responsibility to voice the feelings of people from less privileged communities. The lyrics “today they say that we are free, only to be chained in poverty” express Marley’s belief that the abolishment of slavery should not have been seen by the black community as an acceptance of freedom. With this song, Bob Marley and the Wailers stand up for human rights – the slave driver is “gonna get burn”.
Slave Driver is a song about the truth. Songs like this one bring a revolution to music – some topics requiring addressment cannot be dealt with through love songs. The Wailers based their music on the environment; their thinking was very spiritual, and their music conveyed their concerns. By attempting to relate to other musical cultures, Bob Marley and the Wailers found an acceptable formula: hard driving reggae rhythms overlaid with little bits of colourings which preserved basic reggae principles but attracted the international market.
Here was a music emerging out of one phase and into another. Catch A Fire had an enormously profound influence by introducing a new flavour to Anglo-American popular music. The Wailers produced something with this album that was unique to reggae music – using both close and free-form harmonies. Harmonies with soul in them. Every element of the music fit into the texture, feel and technical aspect of each song.
It took a long time, but the revolutionary album eventually sold over a million copies. Regarded one of the top reggae albums of all time, Catch A Fire has a warm sound. Maybe it’s red, gold and green… whatever the shade, it paints a picture. Catch A Fire is the album that introduced Bob Marley and the Wailers to the world.
Watch ‘Bob Marley and the Wailers: Catch A Fire – Classic Album Documentary’ on Amazon Prime here.