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The Wailers: Bigger in Europe than their hometown?

Post by Ernest Jasmin on April 8, 2009 at 10:35 am with No Comments
April 8, 2009 10:35 am

I remembered meeting Alec Palao backstage at the Sonics’ Halloween bash last year. He’s with British label Ace Records, which reissues Fabulous Wailers material. (I just bought their “Wailers Wailers Everywhere/Out of Our Tree” package, actually.)

We talked about how well-known Tacoma’s garage-rock pioneers are in discerning circles in Europe versus the bands’ home stomping grounds. (Case in point: I spent this past New Year’s Eve at the Joan Jett show at the Emerald Queen. And at one point, I excitedly informed folks at my table that Jerry freakin’ Roslie had just walked by. Blank stares.) So I e-mailed Alec for a little context leading up to the Wailers/Ventures show Friday.

Here’s what he wrote back:

It’s not as though the Wailers have ever been huge stars in Europe. However Europeans, and the Brits in particular, have always had an unbridled passion for American rock’n’roll, and have always paid attention to every record that got across the Atlantic, no matter how obscure it may be. The Wailers breakthrough instrumental hit Tall Cool One was issued in Britain on a label called London-American (a subsidiary of Decca), which is to whom many US independent labels licensed their material. Thats probably how George Harrison and other nascent British rockers of the 50s and early 60s discovered the band. It was amongst the breed of early 60s instrumentals that held great cachet in the pre-Beatles period – not as popular a genre as it was in the US, but influential nonetheless.

As to the Wailers ongoing cult popularity in Europe – as mentioned, the continent is obsessed with US grass roots rock culture, and Europeans venerate anything that they feels is an integral part of that. The Northwest sound has great cachet, largely because of the Sonics, who are beloved by old rockers, punks, alternative hipsters, dee jays, 60s fetishists and record collectors alike. Most fans can trace the Sonics roots to the Wailers, and because of that, there is tremendous interest in their recordings as the grandaddys of not just the Sonics and the Northwest sound but as one of the greats of pre-Beatles vintage rock.

Ace has had a Sonics compilation (Psycho-Sonic) in the catalogue for almost twenty years, and its one of the best selling things on the label. Having the Wailers on Ace too made absolute sense given the metier of the label. We already had their Golden Crest material, and so I personally spent a lot of time with Buck and Kent to put together deluxe anthologies of their Etiquette albums for the European market – whihc is the least this cornerstone rock n roll band deserved.

Hope this works for you – I can clarify if necessary.



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