Study Guide

Concrete Jungle

Concrete Jungle Introduction

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 toward 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. A.k.a. 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

ArtistMarley, Bob & The Wailers
Year1973
LabelIsland Records (UK), Tuff Gong (Jamaica)
Writer(s)Bob Marley
Producer(s)The Wailers (Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, Bunny Wailer), Chris Blackwell
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)
Learn to playTablature
AlbumCatch a Fire

Music Video

Influences on Marley, Bob & The Wailers

Joe Higgs
The Skatalites
Clement "Sir Coxsone" Dodd
The Maytals
Lee "Scratch" Perry
Curtis Mayfield and the Impressions
James Brown

Influenced by Marley, Bob & The Wailers

All of Reggae

The Clash
Eric Clapton
The Rolling Stones
The Fugees
Sublime

Concrete Jungle Resources

Books

Lee Jaffe, One Love: Life with Bob Marley & The Wailers (2003)
Lee Jaffe was a buddy of Bob Marley during the early 1970s and this book is a collection of his personal stories, accompanied by great photographs, about the formative years of the Wailers.

Roger Steffens, Bob Marley & The Wailers: The Definitive Discography (2005)
Looking for even more details on Bob Marley & The Wailers? This collection is for the serious fan desiring background information on every Bob Marley song ever played. Ever.

Timothy White, Catch a Fire: The Life of Bob Marley (1998)
White's biography generated controversy for its emphasis on the more mystical elements in Bob Marley's life a.k.a. at times, it seems to imply that Marley literally had supernatural powers. Whether or not you buy that line of argument, the book offers a highly readable, comprehensive overview of Marley's life and times.

Albums

The Wailers, Burnin' (1973)
The second album and the last to feature the original Wailers vocal trio of Marley, Tosh, and Livingston has strong, heavy bass sounds and lovely vocal harmonies. Classics on this album are: "Get Up, Stand Up" and "I Shot the Sheriff." Probably the most "Jamaican" of Marley's Island Records releases.

The Wailers, Catch a Fire (1973)
Catch a Fire was the Wailers' Island Records debut, the carefully constructed album that first broke reggae music to international audiences. "Concrete Jungle" was the leadoff track. We highly recommend checking out the 2001 Island deluxe-edition reissue, which includes both the famous version of the album released globally in 1973 and a rare version of the original Jamaican mixes of the songs.

Bob Marley & The Wailers, Natty Dread (1974)
Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer split from the Wailers, only to be replaced by the I-Threes, a female vocal backing trio featuring Marley's wife Rita, Marcia Griffiths, and Judy Mowatt. Natty Dread was released shortly after the new band formation took shape and proved that Marley didn't really need Peter or Bunny to continue his success.

Bob Marley & The Wailers, Exodus (1977)
After an attempted assassination attempt on Marley in December of 1976, the band went into exile in London and produced this album, which was later voted the best album of the 20th century by Time magazine. This album includes the major hits "Jamming," "Exodus," "One Love," and "Three Little Birds."

Bob Marley & The Wailers, Legend: The Best of Bob Marley & The Wailers (1984)
This compilation album was released three years after Bob Marley died from cancer in 1981. True Wailers fans can get a bit snobby about this greatest-hits package—and the song selection emphasizes Marley's softer lovesongs over his more militant social-political tunes—but the tracks here are all timeless classics.

Images

Bob Marley
Here's a classic photograph of Bob Marley.

Dreads Flying
This photo shows off Marley's iconic dreads.

Movies & TV

Legend - The Best of Bob Marley & The Wailers (2003)
More than just a concert, this film has historical dialogue about the music by Bob Marley.

Bob Marley: Catch a Fire (Special Edition) (2000)
This is a documentary about Bob Marley & The Wailers' first album Catch a Fire. It discusses the creation of the album with interviews of the Wailers and live performances of the album's songs, including "Concrete Jungle."

Websites

Bob Marley's Official Site
The official website for Bob Marley & The Wailers mainly seems dedicated to selling merch, but there are good photos and a biography in there, too.

Bob Marley on Rolling Stone
Here's the Rolling Stone page dedicated to all things Marley.

Rastafarianism
Here's a great BBC overview on the religion that Bob Marley practiced.

Video & Audio

Being Marley: Ziggy Opens Up on Father, Music
This clip is just a snippet from ABC's segment about Ziggy Marley, Bob's oldest son, reflecting on his dad's impact.

Bob Marley & The Wailers, "Three Little Birds" Music Video
When your video's hosted on National Geographic, you know you've made it.