Lively Up Yourself

Lively Up Yourself – Spotify

I heard this today on No Shoes Radio, Kenny Chesney’s Sirius station that for some reason I can only get on my XM receiver but not my Sirius one. It’s channel 62, I caught the press release somewhere and tuned in, I LOVE IT!

People’s sensibilities are wider than the narrow channels programmers put them in. And listening to No Shoes you’ll hear stuff as varied as “Paradise City,” Bryan Adams, Pete Yorn, live Chesney takes and this.

Off of “Natty Dread,” Marley’s third album on Island and the third to mean absolutely nothing in America.

I had no idea how to pronounce it. Reg-GAY, like man on man love, or Reg-GIE, like the guy in the Archie comic books? And how would I know otherwise, I was living in a cultural black hole, Middlebury, Vermont, in the seventies, when we only got one snowy TV channel, never mind any FM radio other than the college station. No, I learned about Bob Marley and the Wailers, about reggae, in the press.

And there was a big campaign. I remember reading a story about reggae in the library. That’s where you went to study, your own room was reserved for fun, and writing papers. Actually, you only went to the library freshman year, because then you realized it was a social scene, and if you actually wanted to get any work done you were better off claiming a classroom, they were plentiful and empty at night, I’d climb the stairs in Munroe Hall and have a space unto myself.

But if you wanted to read magazines, you had to go to the library. I’d sit in a carrel and catch up on popular culture, back before Google, before 24 hour TV news, before information was plentiful, when you depended upon “Time” and “Newsweek” to catch you up.

It was like looking through a telescope. Out there somewhere was a scene and I was not a part of it.

I didn’t buy “Catch A Fire,” which was a mistake, because shortly after release they changed the cover, it no longer opened in imitation of a lighter, it didn’t move at all. You had to buy vinyl early, to get the disc in color, to get the gatefold cover, as time went on the label would want to save money and you could no longer get the original.

But I bought “Burnin'” and didn’t understand it whatsoever.

You see there was a whole scene, with no radio airplay whatsoever, there was no frame of reference, I dropped the needle and just didn’t get it.

But I kept buying and not understanding, until the release of “Live!,” which finally captured the energy, all those tracks buried in studio production suddenly made sense. “Trenchtown Rock” taught me when the music hits you feel no pain. And despite still receiving no airplay, I now got it, I danced around the apartment with my hands in the air, that’s the power of the sound.

And the fourth track in that 1975 Lyceum show was “Lively Up Yourself.” But this iteration was totally different from the studio take I’d previously been unable to understand. The downbeat was deeper, Marley was unconstricted, he was closing the audience one by one, but didn’t need their energy to display his, he was on fire.

That’s right, Bob Marley & The Wailers had finally caught fire.

Most radio still missed it. There were no AM hits. What youngsters can’t fathom today is the hit was irrelevant, if you listened to Top Forty you were out of it, all the action was over on FM, on the AORs, and although there were pockets of adherence, radio was still local, you never heard reggae in L.A.

But the tour buzz became deafening. Kinda like today’s EDM shows. But instead of ecstasy it was all about the spliff, the marijuana, not the knock you over your head make you comatose stuff of today, sensimilla had just started to make inroads, but dope that made you high and instead of putting you to sleep made you want to experience the joy.

The English had always loved reggae. It had broken there earlier in the decade. But despite “My Boy Lollipop” being a smash here in the sixties, despite Johnny Nash having a big hit with the incredible cut in Jamaica “I Can See Clearly Now,” despite “The Harder They Come” playing for over a year in cinemas, most people were clueless as to Bob Marley.

And then he died.

And soon everybody knew. It took people that long to catch on. Kinda like punk. Just when it looked like it was gonna fail, it was gigantic.

You’re gonna lively up yourself and don’t be no drag

It’s noon. I’m on the 405. It’s the studio version. But I’m immediately enraptured, I’m reminded of when the sound was enough.

You lively up yourself for reggae is another bag

We didn’t go to the show for the production, certainly not to take photos, although as time wore on we wanted to be seen.

But home was a disaster, those who stayed in their residence were losers. It was all about going out, until broadband and Netflix and everything was reversed.

The movies were a religion.

Food was burgeoning, certainly in the metropolis.

And everybody went to the show.

Unlike today, you knew who was in town. Radio promoted the concerts, the paper listed them all, you lined up for tickets and if the act was famous you had a hard time getting in, if they were not you could see them up close and personal.

And it was all about the sound. It infected us. It made us move our feet, twist our bodies, love our brethren, all in thrall to the ringmasters on stage.

It was a religious experience.

You rock so, you rock so

Like you always did before.

MTV made it about what you saw as opposed to what you heard. No talents like J. Lo could have whole careers. Studio trickery could make anybody a star.

But there’s still room for a band that can lay down in the groove and penetrate people’s souls.

That’s why people went to Fare Thee Well, it’s what the Dead ethos is built upon.

But Bob Marley was for black and white, for everybody, he took this narrow sound and made it universal. Took a long damn time, but the sound has never died. You hear that reggae beat and your mood changes, your body starts to dip, you cast aside your everyday life and you move closer to the flame. Burnin’ from an era when the earth was not run by nerds, but the cool people, who were more about feeling than bucks, who wanted to live a life far from the corporations, one based on instinct, exploration and communication.

You’ve got to lively up yourself.

Don’t be no drag.

P.S. Later this afternoon I heard Busy Signal’s reggae version of Phil Collins’s “One More Night” on No Shoes Radio. Check it out, I’d never heard it before, the reggae beat adds a whole ‘nother flavor:

One More Night  – Spotify

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