In a Nutshell
"Concrete Jungle" may not be the most famous or celebrated Bob Marley song of all time, but it played a special role in the history of reggae music: this was the first song on the first album (Catch A Fire
, 1973) that really broke reggae to international audiences outside Jamaica.
When you listen to the distinctive first notes of "Concrete Jungle," slowly building towards an eruption of the now-famous reggae "one drop" rhythm, you're literally hearing the sounds that transformed reggae from a local Jamaican curiosity into a global pop phenomenon. At the same time, the internationalization of reggae embodied by "Concrete Jungle" began to change the music itself (check out that screaming rock guitar solo!).
The resulting transnational sonic mix helped transform Bob Marley into an international superstar. So forward the bass and bathe yourself in the sounds of globalization booming from your sound system; "Concrete Jungle" was the original anthem of "reggae gone outernational" and neither Jamaican music nor international pop would ever be quite the same again.
About the Song
|Artist||Bob Marley & The Wailers
||Musician(s)||Bob Marley (guitar, vocals), Peter Tosh (piano, guitar, vocals), Bunny Wailer (percussion, vocals), Aston "Family Man" Barrett (bass), Carlton "Carlie" Barrett (drums), Wayne Perkins (rock guitar overdubs), John "Rabbit" Bundrick (clavinet, synthesizer, organ)
|Album||Catch A Fire|
|Label||Island Records (UK), Tuff Gong (Jamaica)|
|Producer(s)||The Wailers (Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, Bunny Wailer), Chris Blackwell|
Explore the ways this song connects with the world and with other topics on Shmoop
Lyrically, "Concrete Jungle" tells a story that is at once literal and metaphorical. Concrete Jungle is a real place in the sprawling ghetto of West Kingston, a government-built housing project that has played a prominent role in political violence that has plagued Jamaica for generations. (The "tribal war" that has engulfed Concrete Jungle makes the urban unrest that erupted in many American cities during the later years of the Civil Rights Movement
look almost like child's play.)
Marley's "Concrete Jungle" is, at heart, the cry of the sufferers trapped in Kingston's deadly cycle of violence. At the same time, though, the song speaks in a universal language of metaphor that has made it just as powerful to listeners in England or America or India or Japan. How does "Concrete Jungle" share powerful symbolism and imagery with the Bible or Shakespeare's Macbeth
? Read on and find out…
On the Charts
Catch A Fire
, the first commercially successful reggae album, peaked at #171 on the Billboard North America Pop Albums chart in 1973. It also reached #51 on what was then called the Black Albums chart in the US. Catch A Fire
ranks #123 on Rolling Stone
's list of the Top 500 Albums of All Time.