Feature / News

How Bob Marley & The Wailers’ ‘Capitol Session ’73’ Lost Footage Unearthed

Bob Marley

Lost footage of music legend Bob Marley and the Wailer’s Capitol Session 73′ resurfaces thanks in part to the diligent efforts of Martin Disney.

This is certainly amazing news for reggae fans worldwide, especially those of us who have a vested interest in Bob Marley‘s legacy. Bob Marley’s death four decades ago sent shock waves up and down the music industry and all across the globe. Decades later, his legacy lives on, including new fans of his music born generations after his passing.

Disney stumbled upon the work in 1989 when Polygram asked him to review the footage of Bob Marley and The Wailers in preparation for the documentary Time Will Tell based on the life of the late reggae singer. His eyes caught on to a particular three minutes of the black and white film. He had spent most of his time sifting through documentaries and footage of the legend, and yet, strangely enough, he hadn’t recognized this part of the film. It then dawned on him that he may have been on to something big.

The British filmmaker decided to go on an exploration of a lifetime for the next two decades to find more of the dizzyingly addicting footage of Marley he had spent most of his life researching.

On his quest, he discovered that British producer Denny Cordell was involved in the footage. Unfortunately, Cordell had passed away in 1995. Instead, the filmmaker switched gears and sought out information on his son, Barney, who remembered the performance but had never seen any of the infamous footage. This led Disney on another hunt which brought him from New York to California, and finally, to his delight, he gathered the full film. The footage contained seven and a half hours of film from the four-camera shoot.

For several months, Disney and editor Tim Dollimore worked together through Zoom, painstakingly adjusting, syncing, and condensing seven hours of video from two cameras and a live mix from four cameras into a flawless 60-minute presentation.

Even though the Wailers were still a vocal trio at the time, Marley is undoubtedly the star of the show. On nine of the twelve songs chosen from Catch A Fire and Burnin’, he takes command of the stage, portraying a variety of emotions. Frisky on “Stir It Up,” tortured on “Burnin and Lootin,” and thoughtful on “Rasta Man Chant,” with all three Wailers closely behind, playing on their conga drums as they provide deeply motivating harmonization.

“This film is like a master class with Bob in charge. Bunny left The Wailers in England, Peter was already plotting to leave, so Chris Blackwell identified Bob as being the right frontman, the driving force,” comments Disney, the film’s executive producer in conjunction with Barney Cordell.

“Denny created a wonderful session, with a small, appreciative audience enjoying a private performance from six of Jamaica’s greatest musicians and the sound at Capitol is just fabulous.”

The Wailers shot a private performance in L.A.’s Capitol Tower on October 24, 1973. With Joe Higgs, The Wailers’ mentor on percussion and backing vocals, Earl “Wya” Lindo on keyboards, and brothers Carlton and Aston Barrett, otherwise known as “Family Man on drums and bass, Bob Marley and Peter Tosh were on lead vocals and guitars.

“For over two decades I have been tending, researching, and gently waving the banner for prepping the seven hours of Capitol footage for the release it so richly deserves,” said Disney (via Billboard).

He continued, “As we were editing, we felt like no time had passed, it sounds so fresh. In a way the film made itself, we just pushed it, to get that feeling right and show how raw, ad hoc, and relaxed it all was.”

Their efforts have yielded a priceless find. Bob Marley and The Wailers’ The Capitol Session ’73 will be released on September 3 by Tuff Gong and Mercury Studios on CD/DVD, CD, 2 LP colored vinyl, and digital audio formats. It will also be streamed exclusively on Amazon Prime’s music documentary channel, The Coda Collection.