Updated: Mar 29, 2020
Record producer Trevor Horn unveiled a plaque to commemorate reggae group The Wailers on the site of the former Island Studios on Basing Street in Ladbroke Grove, where the band's 1973 Island Records albums 'Catch A Fire' and 'Burnin'' were overdubbed and mixed.
Whilst plaques to Bob Marley and Bob Marley & The Wailers can be found elsewhere in London, this is the first plaque dedicated solely to the breakthrough group members - Bob Marley, Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer. The plaque ceremony, which was organised by NJCT with support from BritishBlackMusic.com/Black Music Congress (BBM/BMC) and SARM West Studios, drew hundreds of reggae fans and notable musicians and producers unto the Ladbroke street by the former recording studio.
“The Wailers... the most successful reggae band in the history of music .”
The unveiling ceremony was also attended by local political dignitaries, Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea Mayor Cllr Will Pascall, Kensington MP Emma Dent Coard and Golborne Ward councillor Pat Mason. They all spoke highly of the area's association with The Wailers and Bob Marley, with the Mayor describing the former as "the most successful reggae band in the history of music.”
A Global Jamaican Export: Bob Marley & The Wailers
In attendance were reggae singers Winston Francis, Audrey Scott, Prince Jahkey of The Royals, Errol Reid of China Black, Les McNeil of Tradition, producer/manager Mikey Campbell, producer/song-writer Tony Washington, producer Curtis Lynch, and former Notting Hill Carnival organiser Leslie Palmer.
Jamaican High Commissioner to the UK H.E. George Seth Ramocan's statement of support was read by the ceremony co-host Isis Imlak: “I am pleased that three iconic Jamaican musicians, the Honourable Robert Nesta Marley, OM, the Honourable Peter Tosh, OM and the Honourable Neville O’Riley ‘Bunny Wailer’ Livingston, OM, founding members of the internationally renowned Wailers are being honoured with a blue heritage plaque in London.
“Without a doubt, the global awareness and impact of reggae music is largely due to the musical creativity and the missionary message of liberation and upliftment promoted by Bob Marley and the Wailers. It is therefore a fitting tribute to these pioneers who helped to promote Jamaica’s culture, heritage and language to the world.”
The audience, which had been hyped by drummer and singer Niles Hailstones and singer and guitarist Alexander D Great leading singalong renditions of Wailers' songs, heard from Marley's closest and life-long friend Solomon 'Sonny' Graham, who gave personal insights into his relationship with his then young mentee. Graham said he encouraged Marley's singing and paid for his first recording session.
BBM/BMC founder and consultant on the plaque project Kwaku said: “The Wailers' story is a story of Jamaica, and of Britain. It was as a consequence of this interaction with Britain, particularly of this area (Ladbroke Grove) and Island Records, that they went global.
“They released four albums, by the way, before they went on Island Records. But it was the Island records that made them internationally well known. So it's a British story in the sense that it was a British record company that financed their break-through albums.”
The plaque was unveiled by multi-award winning producer Trevor Horn, whose SARM Studios business owns the site. He said although a number of very high profile artists had recorded at his former studios on the site, including the likes of George Michael, he was especially honoured it was the plaque to Bob Marley and The Wailers that was installed on the building.
The plaque, which is in memory of Horn's late wife Jill Sinclair, who helped to run SARM business, reads: “Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, Bunny Wailer finished the albums Catch A Fire and Burnin for Chris Blackwell's Island Records here. Exodus was also recorded here January-April 1997”.
The unveiling ceremony was followed by an after-party at the nearby Mau Mau Bar in Portobello Road, where DJs Eclectic Goddess and Piers Thompson of Portobello Radio, Kwaku BBM, Digital D, Nzinga Soundz and Joey Jay played tribute sets dedicated to tracks by Marley, Tosh and Wailer. Such was the success of the One Love Community tribute revelry, a public request for a repeat tribute night is being considered.
“This is the 47th Nubian Jak plaque, and it comes 13 years after we unveiled our very first plaque, which marked the central London flat where Bob Marley lived in 1972,” said NJCT founder Jak Beula, who campaigned for a plaque that honoured the Wailers' members individually, rather than Bob Marley and The Wailers.
The unveiling ceremony and after-party was streamed live on PortobelloRadio.com, where the Nubian Jak Show debuted last Saturday.
Photo Credits: Light projection photo by #JoeGrahame #NJCT Plaque photo by #DesChisholm #BBM/ #BMC Group photos by #ThaboJaiyesimi NJCT Alexander D Great photo by Thabo Jaiyesimi/NJCT Audience photo by Des Chisholm/BBM/BMC Trevor Horn photo by Des Chisholm/BBM/BMC