The Malta Independent 24 August 2019, Saturday

Maltese businessman finds priceless lost Bob Marley master recordings in a rundown London hotel

Tuesday, 7 February 2017, 08:34 Last update: about 4 years ago

A Maltese businessman has discovered a hoard of lost Bob Marley Master recordings in a rundown hotel in London.

Marley fan and businessman Joe Gatt found the thirteen 2” reel-to-reel analogue master tapes in cardboard box files, in a damp hotel basement in Kensal Rise, North West London, where Bob Marley and The Wailers stayed during their tours of Europe in the mid 1970s.

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The 24 track recordings, apparently known as ‘The Lost Masters’, were originally thought to be damaged beyond repair, by flooding and were covered in a resin type seepage.

But now, thanks to modern day restoration technology, all but three master reels have been successfully cleaned and restored.

The forty-year-old tapes are the original live recordings of Bob Marley’s legendary concerts in London and Paris between 1974 and 1978. Featuring some of his greatest hits such as ‘No Woman No Cry, Jammin, Exodus, I Shot The Sheriff’ and more recorded LIVE at the Lyceum, London (1975) the Hammersmith Odeon, London (1976) the Rainbow, London (1977) and the Pavilion de Paris, France (1978).

The unearthed tapes’ restoration was completed just in time, for what would have been, the global Reggae legends 72nd birthday on 2nd February 2017.

The concerts were recorded live on the only Mobile 24 Track Studio Vehicle, around in the UK at the time, loaned out to Marley & Wailers by R&B legends The Rolling Stones.

 “I received a call from a friend telling me that he was doing a building refuse clearance that included some old discarded 2” tapes from the 1970s. Being a big music fan, who ironically, was actually in the audience for those historic Lyceum, Marley dates, I couldn’t just stand by and let these objects, damaged or not, simply be destroyed, so I asked him not to throw them away,” Mr Gatt explains. 

Joe Gatt, originally from Hamrun, Malta , then passed the master recordings to singer and business partner Louis Hoover at London International Productions. “When Joe filled me in on the situation, I was speechless. It was quite comical looking back, as Joe was so cool and matter of fact about rescuing these global artefacts that I did a double take and actually had to stop the car, to check that I had heard him correctly”, Mr Hoover explains.

“When I saw the labels and footnotes on the tapes, I could not believe my eyes, but then when I saw how severely water damaged they were, it was gut wrenching.”

Some of the tapes were marked ‘DAMAGED - DO NOT PLAY’ and others were labelled ‘Damaged in centre tracks, cannot remove from spool, without further damage being caused (to both tape and machine).

One of the tapes had red pen scrawled across it saying “No Woman No Cry, Kinky Reggae, Natty Dread. Reel #2 and dated 1975, Lyceum London.”

After careful consideration, Joe and Louis finally took the damaged tapes to Martin at White House Studios in Weston-Super-Mare. Over a long period of time Martin painstakingly restored these rare musical treasures back to their former glory.

The careful restoration took nearly a year to complete as each tape was delicately and meticulously cleaned.

The whole ‘salvation’ process has cost around £25,000. Restorers were still however, not convinced if the tapes would actually sound Marley’s magic.

“We took our seats, somewhat nervously and up the faders on the mixing desk and we were immediately transported back in time. We were back in the Lyceum again with Bob Marley & The Wailers on stage performing LIVE, just for us!”

“The fact we managed to get these long lost tapes restored, is nothing short of a miracle and to complete the process, in time for Bob Marley’s 72nd birthday, is just icing on this particularly sweet musical cake” says Joe Gatt.

 

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