Thirty plus years ago this month, the Jamaica World Music Festival kicked off what could arguably be called one of the most diverse and engaging line-up of ska, reggae, new wave and rock band and artists from the 70's and 80's to ever grace the stage together including The Clash, The English Beat, Joe Jackson, B-52's Squeeze, Jimmy Cliff, Peter Tosh, Black Uhuru, Toots & The Maytals along with the Grateful Dead, the Beach Boys, Rick James and many others.
Held at the Bob Marley Performing Center in Montego Bay (which according to those who attended was nothing more than an immense gravel parking lot with a stage at one end) over the Thanksgiving weekend of 1982, the festival was a commercial success that drew thousands of American reggae, rock and new wave fans, who travelled down to the tourist spot with peak audiences hitting nearly 50,000 for performances by Aretha Franklin and Gladys Knight.
Despite the financial success, the festival never became the annual event it was hoped it would be, but luckily, most of the performances has become available online. I've done my best to collect all of the ska, reggae and new wave performances, along with anecdotes on several of the performers. Hat tip to Dubwise Garage for posting all the sets.
The Clash were one of key festival draws and made a selection from their songs that contained their most specific Jamaican influences. The band played on the second night of the festival and due to poor planning on the sets the bill ran into the wee hours of the night with the band hitting the stage around 4 am local time. According to The Ballad of Joe Strummer by Chris Salewicz, the band's manager Bernie Rhodes said the band would pull out unless they were immediately given $200,000. The late start seemed to have muted the audience somewhat as Strummer implores the crowd to get with it on a number occasions with Strummer quipping "In these colder climes we have to play faster" and "If you don't like us I've got the Grateful Dead waiting in the wings and I'm going to bring them on. So you'd better shape up--now!"
Toots & The Maytals