Bob Asked Me To Play Soccer! - A story by Murray Cammick
The original version of this story was written for RipItUp Sept 2000
In hindsight you wonder why Bob Marley wasn’t on the cover of RipItUp when he played his Western Springs concert in April 1979. But when you dig out the May 1979 RipItUp you find there was a lot else going on. Interviews with the Cars and Cheap Trick share the cover, there’s a Stiff Records label profile with an Ian Dury interview, Rick Bryant’s Rough Justice by John Dix, a Split Enz profile, Toy Love are reviewed at Dunedin’s Beneficiaries Hall, the Marching Girls write home from Melbourne and the album review section is full of cool records. But the rule was in those days was no interview, no cover. I guess it was a way of keeping record company people honest.
We didn’t get an interview with Bob while he was here, but it wasn’t through a lack hanging around hoping for one. We were on call all Easter in case Bob changed his mind. As a photographer I did the arrival at the airport thing, Maori welcome shots, gold disc award shots and concerts photos. In fact I broke all the rules, as at the time I considered several of those photo opportunities to be way too cheesy to be credible options for a rock ‘n’ roll photographer with pretensions.
The visitors loved their arrival in New Zealand. Bob Marley’s manager Don Taylor wrote in his book So Much Things To Say (Blake Publishing, 1995). “All our successes began in New Zealand, where our arrival itself was marked by one of the most unusual welcomes we had ever received. I vividly recall now how overwhelmed we all were when we were met by a large contingent of Maoris at the airport and how they proceeded to crown Bob at a special traditional Maori ceremony outside the hotel, having escorted us there from the airport. In fact they would not allow us to register or enter the hotel until they had carried out this ceremony. It became one of my most treasured memories, a symbol of how Bob and reggae music impacted on the world.”
At the White Heron Hotel in Parnell, we spoke directly to manager Don Taylor about interviews and as he said “maybe” rather than “no” we joined the queue waiting around for interviews — up the front of the queue was Dylan Taite from TVNZ, followed by the Gordon Campbell (Listener) and then our writer Duncan Campbell.
Being an Englishman, Dylan Taite was one step ahead of us, he’d got his soccer boots ready for the weekend and joined Marley and friends for a game of soccer on the reserve adjacent to the White Heron Hotel. I hung around taking photos and made myself useful retrieving the ball when it went down the bank. On one occasion when I handed the ball to Marley, he asked if I wanted to play soccer but I declined. I interpreted his question to mean that he’d rather not have a photographer hanging around and I soon left the scene.
Dylan of course got his excellent interview with Bob that’s so cool, in part, because our very own Waitemata Harbour is in the background. My knowledge of Marley prior to his tour was restricted to the fabulous live in London album and of course his radio hits. In the weeks prior to the concert we worked out that Bob’s guitarist Junior Marvin was not the Junior Murvin of ‘Police And Thieves’ fame who featured on the popular Island Records reggae sampler. The April 16 afternoon concert was great but the in-your-face, showbiz style of Junior Marvin (his prior convictions were for cocaine) seemed strangely out of place as Bob rocked reggae-style, his eyes shut for nearly all of the concert. Within 24 hours of arriving in New Zealand, the tour party had put out a desperation call, they’d used up all the herb.
Someone had grossly underestimated what Marley and entourage needed to keep the show on the road. But on Bob Marley’s excellent Caribbean Nights video the brief excerpt from the Western Springs show sounds excellent, it kicks.
Marley’s local record company Festival were struggling to get Bob to be photographed with his Gold (and Platinum) discs so I was asked to come back to the hotel after the concert. A few years at Elam Art School, meant I was a bit precious about photographing the ultimate industry tacky shot, the execs giving the artists the ugly gold discs (that were invariably not the correct record). But for Bob Marley I was willing to break all my arty rules, except using a flash unit. So when we got back to the hotel we looked for some available-light so Bob could be hijacked en route from vehicle to accom. Poolside we found light and the Island Records Head of International Dept, Phil Cooper from London, got Bob lined-up with local man Kevin Williams who would present the discs. I had to stand with my back to the pool, very on edge, as I have no control over my tendency to step backwards when taking photographs. As Bob insisted on more of the band joining the photo, I had to step back closer and closer to the pool trying to fit a crowd of giggling men into the frame. It felt like they wouldn’t lose interest until I stepped backwards into the pool, once I was right on the edge, I asked Duncan Campbell to stand beside me as a reminder of m likely fate. Anyway, Kevin and Phil were lost in the photo by the time Bob had everyone in picture.
I now realised they weren’t giggling because I was standing on the edge of a pool, they were stoned off their brains and they were so thrilled to have recognition in such a strange, far-off land, the late 20th century equivalent to Timbuktu — Auckland, New Zealand.
(Copyright held by Murray Cammick)
Bob Marley plays soccer with Dylan Taite at White Heron Hotel, April 1979
1979, limited edition silver gelatin print, 250mm x 380mm.