The Tower Theater is located at the intersection of 69th and Ludlow Streets. It is adjacent to 69th Street Terminal and is just west of Philadelphia. Since the 1970s, it has been a popular venue for music acts. Known for its natural acoustic properties, the venue has been used for recording live albums by many bands.

Bob Marley and the Wailers open their Rastaman Vibration Tour at the Tower on April 23, 1976.  It’s a special night for Bob and The Wailers.  They are scheduled to play two shows.  Bob’s mother, Cedella Booker, will travel the 30 minutes from her home in nearby Wilmington, Delaware to see her son, now a bona fide rock star, play at a North American venue for the first time.  The Wailers, now sporting roots guitarist Donald Kinsey and a game Earl “Chinna” Smith, are both excited and apprehensive about playing the new songs off their Rastaman Vibration album – which will hit stores the following week on April 30, 1976.  What a way to introduce the new songs…to an eager audience in one of North America’s most historic cities.

The Tower is the place where David Bowie and the Spiders from Mars are introduced to America in 1972.  Bowie records his Live album here as well.   The then-unknown Genesis with Peter Gabriel are introduced that same year.  The place where Springsteen introduced the world to his new E Street Band, with Max Weinberg and Roy Bittan in 1974.

Marley takes his turn to introduce his new guitarist Donald Kinsey during their performance of crowd favorite “Kinky Reggae.”  Now sporting two lead guitarists, The Wailers bring more of a guitar-driven rock sound to the audience in Philly.  Marley is in a great mood and speaks directly to the crowd when introducing each song.  The Rita Marley-penned “Johnny Was” finds its place in the setlist and gets a fitting introduction from Marley:

“Do I now have to say thank you»? I know how, thank you! Now, this one was like, you know, this experience is that…’Johnny Was.’ A woman hold her head and cry, ’cause her son had been shot down in the streets and die, all because of the system. Now, the system. The system, talkin’ about the system. You know the system, what the system is? The system, the system! The system, you know? The system we’re living, the system! Things will strive away, you know? So the woman hold her head and cry, ’cause her son had been shot down in the streets and die, from a stray bullet. And I…”

An absolutely stunning song, with a powerful message, “Johnny Was” is played at far too many shows.  In my opinion, it is Marley’s most underrated tune.


Bob Marley and the Wailers
Live at the Tower Theater
Upper Darby, PA
April 23, 1976
1. Intro – 1:36
2. Rastaman Chant – 4:36
3. Conquering Lion > Keep That Faith – 6:01
4. Roots, Rock, Reggae 5:04
5. Burnin’ & Lootin’ – 5:12
6. Them Belly Full (But We Hungry) – 4:10
7. Rebel Music – 6:04
8. I Shot The Sheriff – 7:10
9. Johnny Was – 6:31
10. No More Trouble – 3:58
11. No Woman No Cry – 4:34
12. Kinky Reggae – 9:39
13. Night Shift – 5:49
14. Lively Up Yourself – 7:07
15. Rat Race – 4:49
16. Want More – 9:43
17. Positive Vibration – 4:55
18. Get Up, Stand Up – 5:59
19. War – 6:31
20. Crazy Baldheads – 8:11
21. Jah Live – 4:32

Bob Marley and the Wailers 1976
Donald Kinsey