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Music / Catch a Fire

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The two album covers.

Catch a Fire is a 1973 album by Bob Marley And The Wailers. It was the first of their albums to be released by Chris Blackwell's Island Records and thus the first time a Jamaican reggae band was given ideal technical facilities to record their songs in excellent sound quality.

Together with the soundtrack of The Harder They Come, Catch a Fire is notable for bringing reggae to worldwide attention outside the Carribean. There had been succesful Jamaican music artists before in the 1950s and 1960s, but apart from Harry Belafonte and Jimmy Cliff they were always one-hit wonders that didn't chart that high in Western countries. "Stir It Up" was Marley's first hit song in Western charts. However, it would take until "No Woman No Cry" in the version of the Live Album Live! before Marley and reggae really broke through internationally.


Catch a Fire is considered to be one of the finest reggae albums in existence. In 2001 a Deluxe Edition was released with the unreleased, non-overdubbed Jamaican songs on the first disc and the original, overdubbed album on the second disc. Despite what many fans think, Marley always intended the songs to be overdubbed, but it provides an interesting alternative.

A documentary about the creative process behind the making of this album can be seen in the Classic Albums TV documentary series.



Original release

Side One

  1. "Concrete Jungle" (4:13)
  2. "Slave Driver" (2:53)
  3. "400 Years" (2:45)
  4. "Stop That Train" (3:55)
  5. "Baby, We've Got A Date (Rock It Baby)" (3:57)

Side Two

  1. "Stir It Up" (5:32)
  2. "Kinky Reggae" (3:37)
  3. "No More Trouble" (3:57)
  4. "Midnight Ravers" (5:10)

Stirred up tropes:

  • Adventure Towns: Marley visits them in "Kinky Reggae".
  • Album Title Drop:
    Slave driver, you're gonna get burned
    Catch a fire/ the table is turned.
  • Ambiguous Gender: Women and men in "Midnight Ravers", the premise being that even the ghetto women lack the caring instincts that would ordinarily separate them from the rude boys.
    Can't tell the woman from the man
    Cause they're dressed in the same pollution
  • As the Good Book Says...: "400 Years" refers to the Bible quote from Psalm 68:17 about the arrival of "ten thousand chariots of God".
    I see 10.000 chariots
  • Couldn't Find a Lighter: Subverted with the album cover, which is shaped in the form of a lighter.
  • Corpsing: Bob is heard laughing at the beginning of "Kinky Reggae".
  • Crapsack World: "Concrete Jungle", "400 Years", "Slave Driver", "Midnight Ravers", "No More Trouble" all show the world as a place of misery and despair.
  • Desperately Looking for a Purpose in Life: "Concrete Jungle", in which the protagonist feels down, but hopes that "life [sweet life] must be somewhere to be found".
  • Distinct Double Album: The 2001 Deluxe Edition is interesting because it has both the original mixes recorded in Jamaica before the overdubs were added, as well as the released album with overdubs. The set list on both is mostly the same, save for the order of the songs, occasional alt vocal takes or editing, and the inclusion of "High Tide Or Low Tide" and "All Day All Night" on the unoverdubbed version. Contrary to what people think, Marley's intention was always to have the overdubs on the album, it was just that Island Records hired outside session musicians rather thna the Wailers themselves doing it.
  • Dreaming of Things to Come: "Midnight Ravers":
    I see ten thousand chariots
    And they're coming without horses
    The riders they cover their face
    So you couldn't make them out in smokey places.
  • The End: "No More Trouble" which chants for an end to all problems and troubles.
  • Face on the Cover: One album cover shows Bob in close-up, enjoying a joint.
  • Fugitive Arc: The protagonist in "Kinky Reggae" runs away from the kinky part of town.
  • Head-Tiltingly Kinky: Subverted in "Kinky Reggae"
    I think I might join the fun/ but I had to hit and run.
    See I just can't settle down/ In the kinky part of town.
  • I Just Want to Be Free:
    • "Slave Driver"
    Today they say that we're free/ only to be chained in poverty.
    • "400 Years":
    So, won't you come with me
    I'll take you to a land of liberty
    Where we can live- live a good, good life
    And be free.
    • "No chains around my feet/ but I'm not free/ I know I'm bounded in captivity" from "Concrete Jungle".
  • Made a Slave: "Slave Driver":
    I remember on the slaveship/ how they brutalized our very souls.
    Today they say that we're free/ only to be chained in poverty.
  • Minimalistic Cover Art: One of the album covers is shaped and colored like a lighter.
  • Nursery Rhyme: "Kinky Reggae" references a Jamaican playground song which has the following lyrics:
    An ah went dung town one day
    Ah met Miss Brown one day
    Wid a bunch of cane one day
    An a beg har piece one day
    An shi gave it to me one day
    Bapsi-kysiko pindah shell, bees a go bite yu tender toe...'
  • Packaged as Other Medium: The original LP cover was designed to look like a lighter and could have the top half be moved about, like the top of a lighter does.
  • The Power of Love: "Stop That Train", "Baby We've Got A Date", "Rock It Baby" and "Stir It Up".
  • Shout-Out:
    The streets of corruption have me bustin' and cussin' in the concrete jungle
  • Smoking Is Cool: One of the alternative covers shows Marley smoking a huge joint.
  • Train Song: "Stop That Train", although it is actually a metaphor for Tosh's thoughts of leaving the Wailers to embark on a solo career, which he eventually did.
  • Unusual Euphemism: "She had brown sugar/all over her booga-wooga" and "He had a candy tar all over his chocolate bar" in "Kinky Reggae". Booga-wooga's are apparently little girls' shoes.


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