ob Marley had a special relationship with London, the city he once described as his “second base”. It was the site of some of his most legendary concerts; its studios recorded some of its most brilliant music; he provided him with refuge when he got into trouble abroad; and he lovingly wove his music into his own cultural fabric, still felt to this day.
Earlier this month, a new exhibition celebrating Marley’s legacy opened at the Saatchi Gallery – and it received a sparkling five-star review from our reviewer. As a first stop, take the time to hop off and see the spectacle for yourself. And if, after that, you’re still hungry for more Marley, make the pilgrimage to these London locations, each with their own connection to the great deceased icon.
Mural on the Brockley Barge pub
In one form or another, Brockley have had their own artistic homage to Bob Marley for nearly half a century – although they have not come without a struggle. The first mural, painted by an unknown artist in the 1970s, stood for over 40 years adorning a wall outside the Brockley MOT Center on Coulgate Street, but was unceremoniously torn down in 2014 to make way for apartments. A crowdfunding campaign, however, raised funds for a replacement, with street artist Dale Grimshaw commissioned to create a new mural, which now lights up the exterior of the Brockley Barge pub (although it is sometimes partially obscured by recycling bins).
Crystal Palace Bowl
Marley played his first London gig with the Wailers in 1973, at the Speakeasy Club on Margaret Street near Oxford Circus – and according to those who were there, the four-night run was a revelation. The place is unfortunately no longer with us; it’s now a nightclub, temporarily closed, so you can’t go there even if you want to. A much better option would be to attend a concert at the newly refurbished Crystal Palace Bowl, the site of Marley’s last and biggest show in London, with a broadcast of Redemption Song – never once performed in the capital – among the highlights of the night. .
“If you want to get to know me, you’ll have to play football against me and the Wailers.” This is the famous quote attributed to Marley who, by all accounts, was absolutely mad about football. His club loyalties were split between Santos in Brazil and Tottenham Hotspur in the UK (sorry, Arsenal fans). Marley would try to arrange an impromptu match at the slightest opportunity and, spending much of his time in west London, Battersea Park was often his favorite haunt. So round up a group of friends, head down and pay homage to Marley with a good old fashioned kick.
His London homes
In 1976, Marley fled Jamaica after narrowly escaping an attempt on his life and found refuge in London. He and the Wailers moved to Chelsea and settled at 42 Oakley Street, where they put the finishing touches on Exodus, the album that featured some of their most beloved tracks, from Jamming to Three Little Birds. Head to the address today and you’ll see a blue plaque commemorating her, as you will at another of her former homes, 34 Ridgmount Gardens, near Goodge Street, this time placed by the Mayor of London and the NubianJak Community Trust.
Get up, get up! at the Lyric Theater
The exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery is not the only major cultural celebration of Marley currently taking place in the capital. The Lyric Theater on Shaftesbury Avenue is home to Get Up, Stand Up!, telling the story of Marley’s life and work in musical form. With a stunning central performance by Arinzé Kene as Marley, the Standard review called it “a major and important cultural event”. Tickets are on sale now – a must for any Marley obsessive.