Roots resonance: Exploring Bob Marley & The Wailers' debut album, 'The Wailing Wailers'

Bob Marley & The Wailers' debut album, 'The Wailing Wailers', helped put the reggae giant on the map, and also simply highlights Bob Marley's early sound
Bob Marley File Photos
Bob Marley File Photos / Chris Walter/GettyImages

I have discussed Bob Marley and The Wailers before, as well as topics like the assassination attempt against Bob Marley. However, this time I simply want to discuss Bob Marley's first album.The Wailing Wailers is the debut album by The Wailers, a Jamaican reggae group formed in 1963 by Bob Marley, Bunny Wailer, Peter Tosh, and the Studio One backing band, The Soul Brothers. Released in 1965.

The Wailing Wailers was produced by Clement "Coxsone" Dodd, who was a prominent figure in the Jamaican music scene and the founder of the influential Studio One record label, and who would go on to produce songs by other Jamaican groups, as well as "Armagideon Time" by Willie Williams (known to some classic rock and punk fans as a song covered by The Clash).

The Wailers' album features a blend of ska, rocksteady, and early reggae sounds, showcasing the group's vocal harmonies and some socially conscious lyrics (though much of the music is relatively light-hearted fare, not necessarily too different from "My Boy Lollipop" (one of the early ska hits by Millie Small). The Wailing Wailers has classic tracks like "Simmer Down," "One Love," "(I'm Gonna) Put It On," and "It Hurts to Be Alone" (a track featuring a tasty blues-based guitar solo).

Although The Wailing Wailers did not achieve significant commercial success upon its initial release, it laid the groundwork for The Wailers' future success and played a crucial role in establishing their reputation within the Jamaican music scene. Over time, as Bob Marley's fame grew, the album gained more recognition and became appreciated as a seminal work in reggae music history.

Key reasons to check out this Bob Marley and the Wailers album

  • As stated above, this album was compiled from various Studio One sessions. Music historians might want to get a sense of how this album fits into the overall development of not only ska or reggae but popular music overall. In fact, some of these early songs by The Wailers also have a bit of a doo-wop flavor to them, even more so than later Bob Marley songs.
  • Being the first Bob Marley and the Wailers release, this album is obviously of value to any music fan who wants to hear the roots of Bob Marley's sound (that's basically a slam dunk decision.) There's just something to hearing a band's early efforts.
  • "One Love" went on to become a regular expression. You can hear the likely origin of that expression right here.
  • Though it does not contain the hugely popular single "No Woman, No Cry," or "I Shot The Sheriff" (popularized also by Eric Clapton), it would be untrue and unfair to say this musical failed to catch on, or that the album's sales were lower than expected. Keep in mind that, at the time, reggae or ska hadn't really connected with international audiences yet. So, in a way, this album perhaps far exceeded expectations.
  • During re-releases of the album, overdubs were employed to make the album fit in with trends. You might even wish to listen to the different versions of this release, just to see what was done with them, and consider those differences (if you have that kind of time on your hands).

It's also just a good album, whether you think it's the greatest or not. Check it out sometime!