Reggae Islands

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Streaming a biopic movie on Bob Marley has me hypnotized. I knew calypso music in the middle 1950s. By the later 1950s I knew a trio of guys from Trinidad who would mesmerize the public with their steel drums: on the street and at parties. And by that time I was familiar with group after group of guys drumming their conga drums, their bongos, in group after group, up and down Riverside Drive (lining Riverside Park) … and offering stone rhythm all over Central Park. Hell, admit it: I’d known gaggles of kids playing the bejesus out of bongos, hanging from fire-escapes in Spanish Harlem: kids who could play 3 against 2, and 5 against 4, and every other Afro polyrhythm, cross rhythm, by age twelve.

What am I talking about? Music! outdoor music. people’s music. street people’s music. ghetto dwellers’ music. Music from the Islands. Afro music.
Music generated by a living culture, an oral culture (an aural culture!), not taught in schools.
Bob Marley … and other memories, favorites, from Harry Belefonte on: and before them: Machito, Chano Pozo …
Once I loved jazz I didn’t tolerate much else beside: but Latin influence I always had my arms open for. Bird & Diz, then Stan Getz (and others) opened the gates.

But I’m also dream-revisiting hypnotic music, episodic music. and especially music with a back beat.

One upon a time back beats were unusual, that was a curve ball that would get nearly everybody out. And I’ve heard good back beats, from the early 1970s on. The Police: they could actually do it. But still. No body did the back beat like Bob Marley. and his buddies.

But Jesus, the movie shows them practicing, and practicing, and putting years in on it before they let the public peek.

And I was so moved by the movie telling how the artists still got screwed, what else is new? Make the record, go number 1, the publisher makes millions, pays 3¢ to the geniuses: 3 years later: lets them starve while they’re laying the golden eggs, so short-sight-stupid.

I also have to commend Bob Marley’s genes: never mind him! take a look at his cousin, at his daughter! Jeez, what females.
More than one great musician, popular musician, seem to have special daughters.

And I loved the explanation of why you couldn’t pry the females off of Bob: “He was shy”.

Bob Marley dreads
thanx dreadlocks


Amazing to hear about Bob growing his own marijuana plants in Jamaica. They had laws too, and more cops and guns than we have, far fewer scruples.

Amazing to hear these fabulous guys going on about their Rasta nonsense. Plainly making up a religion, making up bible readings, to suit whatever they want their religious to “say”. Groovy, why not, everybody else does: but Haile Selassie? Please.

You know, without all those dreads, and all that smoke, and all that jumping up and down, it wouldn’t be so potent.

If anyone wonders, can you get turned on by reggae but still keep cannabis at arm’s length my answer is yes.

Later, the movie finished: the pic made a point of it: the narcs went through Marley and the band’s luggage, again and again: never found anything, finally stopped looking, just stamped passports without looking.


The movie introduces us to Bob Marley’s Jamaican ghetto, to his friends, fellow band members. One guy walks the ‘hood with a colorful hat scaled for the Mardi Gras parade. Not just a saucy hat; a giant hat: not a float, with a truck hidden underneath, no it was all on just his head. Then they grow these dreads: part of their identity, good for them, I love it when people invent identities for themselves. I knew a woman self-named Radiance! (1970) and another: Mercury! (1985)
But once the FBI threw me in jail, once I paraded around Gun Club Road a couple of weeks, in West Palm, I really started to get to see some dreads. I was put in the old man’s dorm after a while: first they put me in the mass murderers solitary, most dangerous of all possible terrorists, but then they relaxed and moved me among the multi-billionaire septuagenarian wife murderers. Not too many dreads there, but one day I took the wrong elevator coming back from getting shots, and I was stranded in front of one of the upstairs gladiator dorms: the pod where the Bureau of Prisons I presume actually actively hopes the inmates will kill each other, drain lots of blood at the least. This one guy they opened up for, huge guy, a monster, I shrank away from him, a giant: then realized it was all just hair! An ordinary guy but with a cubic yard of henna colored hair, jutting every which way, helter-skelter soul.
(Birds are like that. Did you ever hold and pet an owl? The feathers are amazing, but finally the body, once your reach it, seems no bigger than a pea.)

Ah, I came to know some of those guys: in Miami, in Jesup: came to love more than one of them. (One of those guys hailed me as a “genius”, as “Hannibal Lecter”! Man, I love that.

dreads pic expired:
see How to Dread


In the 50s I’d listen to John Coltrane, and listen again, and again. My buddy told me how his band spent an afternoon listening and listening. Finally they couldn’t stand it, we gotta get out of here, stop, smash the machine if necessary, we gotta go eat. And one buy finally hit the lever and the arm lifted off the vinyl. The guys escaped. And the arm repositioned itself at the beginning of the record. they were finally out in the hall, shold have been safe: and the Coltrane started all over again! Yaiyyy!


There was something else episodic for me in a completely different way: I’d listen to Ravi Shakar ragas: again, and again, and again. And ragas by Abdul Khan, and others. I’d listen to oh say eight Ravi 12″ LPs over and over for three, going on four days. I used a flat table, no automatic arm, the record didn’t start till I started it. Finished the arm would lift itself back to the rest position but it never sought to restart the recording from the beginning. I pause, I pee, I refill my cup: and I go and restart one of the LPs. “No, no, NO!” screams my wife.

I didn’t know I’d been driving her crazy. She didn’t know how she drove me crazy. Oh, to some extent I think maybe she did. Anyway …
It’s hard to realize that the same thing doesn’t happen to everyone. The sadist and the masochist don’t experience the torture the same way. When I cooked Chinese my wife would eat it, and be done, be fed. Me, I’d take my time, have a third portion, a fourth, suck on the bones. Three hours later, I’m going, Oh, that was good.
When I play Miles Davis, is there anyone else who hears what I’m hearing?
If I sat while Ivan Illich said a mass at dawn on the top of a pyramic, would I hear what he heard? No. Absolutely not, not possible.

I loved a girl from the Islands once, 1961, we both worked at the bank, I was just flotsam, waiting to be drafted. She was from Aruba, had an ass like Jennifer Lopez (would come to have): except Jennifer got surgery, this girl was just stacked, horizontally. Other women carried the water jug on their head, this gal could balance it on her ass, while standing upright. Nice tits too, saucy puff of a lip: but I was never in a place to really love her. Did I say love? Lust, lust, lust. I don’t think I could have stood her much longer.
One memory: shame, shame: double date: Dave was with Judy, I was with my Aruba girl/ Judy wanted to go to some party in the Village. Dave was driving: Gade’s Cadillac convertible. We pull up on Sullivan Street, Judy says, “It may not be any good, let me check” … What? We three sit in the car, she disappears. After a while Dave disappears too. What did my girl think? Did she realize she was getting discriminated against on a date!? That her date, that is me! was doing nothing about it? All I knew is I want to be alone, I wanted to get at that crotch, to grip that bottom.

As said elsewhere, passim almost, I love to flirt. I’m good at it, I use some creativity, rehearse improvizations before blurting them. Twentyish years ago in Sebring I pulled up at the little window of a private post office in the Publix plaza. I’m just sliding back into the Hyundai when a jeep 4-wheel pulls up next to me, a statuesque, dynamite girl gets out, what a body! face, legs, rump, everything! carries a basket into the coin laundy. Glunk! I follow her, right in her shadow. She goes up to the counter. There are some ordinary enough woman there, clerks, friends of the clerk: they see me dogging this dynamite, and puff their displeasure, their disapproval, their jealousy all over their puffy, faces, lipe, puffy boobs, hips: fat women, full of fury, the more so as I, long time veteran of woman, totally ignore them and their reaction. I prod myself right into this girl’s lea, my nose is a millimeter from her jaw. I stand my ground, intruding. Finally she has to react. She tries to take a step away, there’s no room. She angles her face back, demands “Can I help you?” Looking cool, pretending to be objective, indignant but mildly.
“Where dja get those cheekbones?”
She’s frozen. What? The fatsos freeze, furious. The girl is conflicted, a battle plays over her face. The smile wins, big smile: she repeats, “What?”
I said, “Where did you get those cheekbones?”
She smiled, graciously, enormously. “Oh, my people are from the Islands”: radiating warmth.
I rushed home to tell the story to my dear friend, Catherine, in her eighties, crippled, and blind, well aware, and approving, that I like to be clever with females.

2014 04 28 I’ve finished the movie now, I’m so moved, tears streamed down my face more than once. Am I getting sentimental, mushy, in my old age? Just the other month I was proclaiming that Stephen Fry’s Wagner and Me moved me to tears, now this Marley biopic moves me similarly: waz’ up? I’ll tell you one thing: a couple of things:

Lord Rasta Byron

Byron died at 36 financing a Greek revolution. He spent his inheritance, then made piles of money from his poetry: that he spent oh, sure, on women: but on revolution too. Marley was a deliberate revolutionary: when his concert in Africa got tear gassed, he was the last one on stage to notice: his musicians and singers, one by one, dismounted, fled, he remained, alone, jumping with the backbeats.

Marley died at 36! unnecessarily, stubborn, another idiot genius.

Marley went to Africa, suddenly his reggae swept Africa: there as more than one change of regime, more than one new independence, thanks to Bob.
Marley wanted to perform in Africa, show how afro this and that had fared abroad. Africa is still a bunch of slave states (as are we all), politics, economics completely fraudulent. It wasn’t working, not the way he was used to: do what you want, get paid, get loved, get famous, get laid. So Marley himself! paid for the concert: not only did he work for free: he used his money to transport the equipment, pay the stagehands …
Marley wanted to reach blacks in America: he didn’t: his concerts were sold out: all white people! God, that is so amazing.

I learned a lot in this biopic I’d had no clue of: Bob was “half” “white”? What “black” isn’t? Way back, Europeans have pigmy DNA. Was there ever a “pure” “race”? even 70,000 years ago? 150,000?
Anyway, repercussion of what we “think” is the case bloom everywhere:
Bob meets some terrific looking girl: says “Ugly”! She’s bewildered, offended: turn out he meant that she’d done something to her hair, her skin, some damn supposedly cosmetic thing. Bob the Romantic, the revolutionary, disapproved, he thought she should be “natural”. Take a look at those henna dreads: is that “natural”? (Take a look at lace, at spiked heels, at tattoos? is that “un”natural?) (What could people do that’s unnatural?)
Anyway, Rousseauian navety rears its head in any generation. Samson thought that uncut hair was natural, godly: the Jew thing to do: for him anyway.
I was in the Whitehorse Tavern in the middle 1960s. I grew the first beard I kept through adulthood in 1965 (at my wife’s request: her friends though I, her senior, was a sixteen year old kid). I’d just trimmed it, it had been getting shovel-shaped, like a pharaoh. Bunch of Scots merchant marines come up to me, pose their wild hair and beards before me, proud as peacocks. “Natural!” they pronounced.
I wish I could have introduced Bob Marley to them ten years later!
Their “English” was every bit as incomprehensible as Bob’s, would have been a trip.


I like the Rasta God “Jah”: Even Allah is better than Jehovah after two thousand years of repetition. But how many thousand years did the Jews chant Jahweh before Allah started to sound good?


When it comes to smuggling, muling stuff in and out of countries, the great story concerns Thelonius Monk. Banging around Europe, Germany, etc. Mrs. Monk opens the luggage. The officials remark, startled: it’s full of Coke bottles, empties. Mrs. Monk wants the deposit back, 2¢ each!

I trust this will continue to develop, scrapbook style: overwrites have to be edited

Stories by Age by Theme by Others

About pk

Seems to me that some modicum of honesty is requisite to intelligence. If we look in the mirror and see not kleptocrats but Christians, we’re still in the same old trouble.
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