by Howard Campbell
SOUTH FLORIDA – Today (February 6) would have been Bob Marley’s 79th birthday, and his timeless songs will be played globally. Undoubtedly, one of them will be Punky Reggae Party.
A nod to the rebellious punk movement that erupted throughout the United Kingdom during the early 1970s, Punky Reggae Party was released in the summer of 1977 when Marley was living in that country.
The song was written by Marley and produced by the eccentric Lee “Scratch” Perry, with whom he had worked while he was a member of The Wailers, six years earlier.
Like the Skinheads from the 1960s, punks raged at the British establishment. Their spiked hair, Gothic makeup and costumes endeared them to working and middle-class youth, and although Marley was not taken with their lifestyle, he identified with their anti-establishment stance.
The reggae star moved to London in 1977, after surviving an assassination attempt at his home in Jamaica in December, 1976. He occupied a three-storey home at 42 Oakley Street in fashionable Chelsea and began a period of profuse writing.
“Him start to write, just write non-stop. He felt safe; Bob was inspired to the ‘max’,” recalled Wailers keyboardist Tyrone Downie. “It was good therapy to move on from the shock, but he was still hurt that they try to kill him.”
The perfect person to guide him on Punky Reggae Party was the diminutive Perry, who guided The Wailers on edgy songs like Mr. Brown, Duppy Conqueror and Soul Rebel. Perry’s unique approach to production on songs such as Junior Murvin’s Police And Thieves, endeared himself to punk acts like The Clash.
In fact, Punky Reggae Party was seen as a response to The Clash’s version of Police And Thieves which was a Top 10 hit in the UK in 1976.
Punky Reggae Party on Tuff Gong Label
Punky Reggae Party was released in Jamaica by Marley’s Tuff Gong label. Island Records, the British company that helped launch the singer/songwriter’s international career, released it as the B-side to Jamming, a song from Marley’s Exodus album which came out one month before Punky Reggae Party.
February 6 is also the Los Angeles premiere for Bob Marley: One Love, the Paramount Pictures movie about the reggae king, who died in May, 1981 at age 36.