The other day my tiny mind was blown when I learnt that Bob Marley played Hitchin Town Hall in 1973.
You know: Bob Marley. The Bob Marley; the reggae ICON - and the sort of chap no-one on this planet should ever have come into contact with, because he surely wasn’t ever real - had a vague awareness of Brand Street in Hitchin, having once stepped out of a van and through the stage door of the venue with the worst acoustics in town; God knows how his band kept track of the second and fourth beat of every bar in there.
It just doesn’t seem right; in fact it’s practically unfathomable. Even a glance at his tour itinerary reveals a collection of more likely places he could have played, even in his early career; he played London's Speakeasy the day before, for Christ's sake. There are only 33,350 people living in Hitchin today, so there must have been fewer then, and what proportion of them were into reggae?
The stupid thing is, I’ve gigged at the Town Hall twice myself: once in 1997 with Big Day Out and once in 2008 with the former Tory MP (and propagator of evil) Peter Lilley. I doubt anyone will be discussing those gigs in forty years time; in fact, not even me.
The source for this musical bombshell was the Hertfordshire Mercury, and what amused me most about the article (once I’d recovered from the initial shock) is it lets slip that Stevie Wonder played Hitchin too, practically as an afterthought; so one of the most talented musicians of the last sixty years visited the tiny market town too; who played bass that night? God?
To be fair, I suspect the Wonder gig they’re referring to was at the Locarno Dance Hall in Stevenage (now the Mecca Bingo) which is marginally more feasible considering the other acts who played there. Believe it or not, the Rolling Stones performed at one of my dad’s work dos and they weren’t even the headliners; proof that function bands were from a different stock back then.
And there was me thinking Marley was the invention of a poster designer who shifts the lion’s share of his work on Camden High Street, or a rasta-hat wearing stoner’s dream; shows what I know.