“Bend Down Low”
KSAN Radio Broadcast bootleg, 1973
Some recordings never leave your mind because of all they are, and some only have one small piece that imbeds itself in your skull and won’t let go. This 1973 recording of the late 60s Wailers song “Bend Down Low” is one of the latter.
Ever since I first clicked play on this boot six or seven years ago I’ve been obsessed with Earl Lindo’s organ playing. It first appears around the twenty-five second mark, and the strangled squelch that pops in at regular intervals from that point on is strangely engaging. For much of the song, Lindo’s unwillingness to let the chord sound makes his comping weirdly compelling. By the time this slowed down arrangement is cut in the studio the next year for Natty Dread, Lindo is letting the notes ring true before cleanly cutting them off. So this remains a singular treat.
Sadly, it’s a swan song of sorts for the original Wailers of Bunny, Peter, and Bob. While Bunny Wailer sang on both records released that year (Catch A Fire in the spring, and Burnin’ a few weeks before this Halloween recording), he refused to tour America because Chris Blackwell was booking them in “freak clubs” like Max’s Kansas City and he couldn’t reconcile that with his religious beliefs. Joe Higgs took his spot in the touring band and is singing on this recording. Bunny would leave the band before sessions for Natty Dread began.
Also gone before those sessions would be Peter Tosh, the other original Wailer. Fed up with Blackwell’s control and his disinterest in supporting a solo record, Peter also left for what he hoped were greener pastures. His playing and singing on these radio broadcasts and on the Live at Leeds disc (appended to the deluxe edition of Burnin’ in 2004) are the last documents of his time with the band.
Without Bunny and Peter it became Bob Marley and the Wailers in name and fact. Though stardom and some great recordings would follow, the easy, playful camaraderie of the 1973 band documented here was never to resurface.
[NOTE: This track, and in fact most of this broadcast, appear on the 2002 definitive remaster version of 1991’s Talkin’ Blues. However, the mix is a bit different than the soundboard that has circulated. I prefer the slight differences of the soundboard versus the official release so have used it here. Also, as a public service, here is what you need to do to reconstruct the show as it was played that day if you have Talkin’ Blues. Program the tracks in the following order: 17, 24, “Catch A Fire” from the bootleg, 14, 15, 4, 6, 7, 12, 11. You’re welcome.]