Peter Tosh - Talking Revolution
Igziabeher (Let Jah Be Praised)
Four Hundred Years
Funeral (Burial) Speech
Legalise It / Get Up, Stand Up
Fools Die (Wisdom)
I Am That I Am
Fire Fire (Babylon Burning)
Pick Myself Up
Stop That Train
Don't Wanna Get Busted
Peter Speaks About The Half Way Tree Incident
Get Up, Stand Up
|"I have to make
music and I have to try my best to get my music to the people..."
Peter Tosh or Peter Touch, known as 'The toughest', was born Winston Hubert McIntosh to Alvera Coke and James McIntosh in the country district of Westmoreland, Jamaica on 19th October 1944. He was brought up by his aunt and, as a small child, was taken to the Savanna la Mar district on the coast before moving to Denham Town in Kingston in 1956. From his earliest days he knew that music was going to be his salvation:
"Music was my career... was my way of life and my way of obtaining and achieving..." Peter Tosh
His revolutionary stance has exerted an insurrectionary incentive that has become legendary and, in an art form noted for its militancy, Peter Tosh will always be the Reggae militant's choice and his strident politics have, at times, perhaps obscured the power of his music. Very few have the focus and strength of commitment to make the kind of mark that Peter Tosh and his philosophy made worldwide although he strove to make it clear that his beliefs were shaped by eternal truth:
"A new philosophy? It isn't a new philosophy. It is the world's philosophy. It's the philosophy of humanity..." Peter Tosh
Peter was an accomplished singer and musician, the first of the Wailers to master an instrument and, in the late sixties he accompanied Johnny Nash on a series of recordings made in New York; his superb skills are demonstrated on the acoustic CD that accompanies this set. He made an identity away from The Wailers with his early solo outings at Studio One, credited to Peter Touch or peter Touch & The Wailers, where he transformed James & Bobby Purify's 'I'm Your Puppet' into the less lachrymose 'I Am The Toughest' and celebrated the visit of Emperor Haile Selassie to Jamaica by changing the Mento tune 'Archie Buck Them Up' into the authority baiting 'Rasta Put It On'/'Rasta Shook Them Up': on his searing Rock Steady releases for the Wailers' own Wail 'n' Soul M label with 'Funeral'/'Burial', 'Them A Fi Get A Beating' and 'Fire Fire'/'Babylon Burning' and through his solo work with Joe Gibbs including his spoken version of 'Satta Amassa Gana' entitled 'Here Comes The Judge', where he first admonishes and then sentences piratical adventurers to be hanged by the tongue, he was always aware of the need to adapt existing idioms to emphasise his message. He paid the price time and time again for his outspoken recordings because they were inevitably backed by his outspoken behaviour. This only served to heighten his resolve and this, in turn, forced the authorities to ratchet up the pressure too and Peter was imprisoned with Prince buster early in 1968 for participating in an anti-Rhodesia demonstration. On leaving The Wailers his self-produced solo work for his Intel H.I.M. Diplo (Intelligent Diplomat For His Imperial Majesty) label carried on in what had become an established tradition. In 1972 as he was writing 'Mark Of The Beast', a song described by Peter as "a prophetic inspiration", the police kicked down his door and a policeman knocked him senseless with a blow from a rifle butt. He came to on the floor of Kingston Public Hospital with "several dislocated ribs" surrounded by policemen, one with his foot one Peter's chest, where he was held for several hours without treatment. He was signed to Virgin Records in 1976 and his eagerly awaited debut solo album 'Legalise It', full of Peter's customary wrath and ire, fulfilled all expectations; and there were some incredibly high expectations.
"My business is truths and rights... music is my business... herb and music is the healing of the nation... Forward ever. Backward never..."Peter Tosh
The live CD contains the complete recording of Peter's appearance at the One Love Peace Concert. Seen by many as the defining performance of his fiery career it combines some of his greatest songs with the fierce invective of his anti-establishment speeches held together by the masterly musicianship of one of the tightest, most disciplined Jamaican bands ever assembled. These same musicians could be found delivering the raw roots (or whatever else was required) daily in Kingston's recording studios as members of all star aggregations such as The Revolutionaries or The Aggrovators. His stance had fuelled much of the creative tension within the original Wailers and Peter always live up to his image but it was on this night that he took on the forces of the establishment face to face and he did not let this captive audience off lightly. He castigated and condemned Jamaica's political leaders from the concert stage and, in particular, their policies on legalisation of marijuana and their urgent need to put a halt to the overseas exploitation of the island's natural resources. One September night a few months later he was apprehended by two policemen in Half Way Tree and in the ensuing fracas Peter sustained a broken right hand where he had tried to block their repeated blows, a severely bruised right foot and lacerations to his head.
The One Love Peace Concert has reached almost mythical proportions over the ensuing years and, seen through the rose tinted spectacles of the rock press, it has assumed a superficial similarity to gatherings such as Woodstock but its aims and origins were deeply rooted in the rugged reality of Kingston's ghettos. Both the People's National Party led by Michael Manley and the Jamaican Labour Party led by Edward Seaga covertly supported ruthless gangs, or posses, whose role was to ensure that the people at the grass roots remained true to the cause and their front men, the rankings, achieved great prominence and heroic status in the ghettos of Western Kingston.
"Yet the violence was always there, the PNP and the JLP playing divide and conquer with us sufferers. You may be surprised by how much politics means to us in the ghetto, but the reason is because we know that if our party loses we will starve." 'Chronicles' quoted in 'Born Fi Dead'.
In 1974 Prime Minister Michael Manley had put Jamaica "under heavy manners" and passed the Gun Court Act which imposed "indefinite detention on anyone caught in illegal possession of a firearm" and in 1976 he declared a State Of Emergency as troops were ordered on to the streets of the capital with directives to "detain all persons whose activities are likely to endanger the public safety". Peaceful demonstrations were broken up as rival political factions fought pitched gun battles in areas of Kingston that had started to resemble war zones. The nadir of politically based violence was reached in January 1978 at a bay to the west of Kingston when what was alleged to be an Army firing squad shot dead five suspected gang members but left another five for dead who miraculously lived to recount the story of what would become known as the Green Bay Massacre:
"Every one of them knows that the five men killed at Green Bay were set up for the killing because they were more useful dead than alive." John Hearne, The Gleaner quoted in 'Born Fi Dead'.
While locked up in prison cell in 1977 Claudie 'Jack' Massop, one of the most feared JLP warlords found himself incarcerated alongside a PNP enforcer named Aston 'Bucky' Marshall. The pair had grown up together in Trench Town and, distanced from the pressure of the deadly daily ghetto runnings, they realised that they actually had more in common than what had supposedly divided them. Together they decided that the bloodshed must be stopped before Kingston's ghettos erupted into all out civil war. Claudie Massop suggested that a truce should be called and to show that it was real a concert should be held to promote the peace campaign. The pair shared a love of music and they both knew and admired many Reggae stars, some of whom were now internationally famous, for at one time they had all struggled together in the ghetto. Both had known and grown up with Bob Marley and Peter Tosh and both realised that the presence of these high profile stars would help to validate the cause. At the time Bob Marley had spent over a year in self-imposed exile from Jamaica after the 1976 assassination attempt at his home at 56 Hope Road and it was not going to be easy to persuade him to return to Kingston. The infamous assassination attempt had been widely interpreted as another politically motivated act of violence and his reluctance was well founded.
Claudie Massop was released from prison early in the New Year and when Bucky Marshall was released soon after on January 9th he immediately sought out his prison companion in order to continue the work they had started together in their cell. The pair talked through the night and, as the dawn broke, the agreement for a truce had been decided and the Peace Movement began. The people, tired and weary of the internecine strife that had torn their communities apart, came out from behind the barricades with the realisation that their suffering actually brought them closer together rather than drove them further apart. As Bob Marley sang: "When the rain falls it don't fall on one man's house..." Peace parties were held, artists rushed to the studio to record their tributes and Jacob Miller's Top Ranking release 'Peace Treaty Special' sung to the tune of 'When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again' proved to be the people's choice. The Peace Committee worked tirelessly to put the concert together and gained the backing of both the PNP and the JLP, the business community, the Rastafarians and Christian churches. Claudie Massop and Bucky Marshall approached Prophet Gad of the Twelve Tribes Of Israel to intercede on their behalf with Bob Marley and members of the Twelve Tribes visited Bob Marley in Miami. He was enthusiastic but was concerned not just for his own safety but also that of his family and friends and a further meeting was arranged in London for February. Meanwhile the militant ghetto leader, Tony Welch of the PNP, joined Claudie and Bucky as the three worked together to finalise the details of the concert scheduled to take place on 22nd April, the twelfth anniversary of Emperor Haile Selassie's visit to Jamaica in 1966. The concert would be a celebration of peace without any political connotations and the proceeds would go towards financing sanitary facilities in the PNP areas of Arnett Gardens and Hannah Town and the JLP districts of Denham Town and Tivoli in Western Kingston. All those involved were justly proud that they had succeeded where the politicians had failed.
"The show is for oneness, togetherness and unity. We want this peace to go all over the world." Claudie Massop
On the morning before the concert a press conference was called at 56 Hope Road for the large contingent of foreign journalists who had flown in to report in this historic event. Bob Marley's international reputation was growing steadily at this time and his appearance at the concert demonstrated to the two hundred plus reporters from all over the globe the influence and the very real power of Reggae music in Jamaica.
"I am a man who grow up in all those places they say is rebels area. I neither go right or left. I go straight ahead. I can't unite the JLP or the PNP because these two organisations set up to fight against each other. this is called politics and I'm not into those things. We are talking about Rasta. We black people have a root. We are uniting regardless of whether you are PNP or JLP regardless of what you are defending. We are talking about our real heritage. We're talking about the real self." Bob Marley
On the afternoon of the concert the journalists were shepherded into a reserved area in front of the stage alongside TV crews, a film crew, countless dignitaries and politicians and chiefs of the police and the army. Also in attendance were international celebrities Keith Richards and Mick Jagger who had recently signed Peter Tosh to their Rolling Stones Records label.
The gates had opened at two o'clock and by five the crowd numbered thirty two thousand. Ticket prices had been kept deliberately low so that even the poorest members of society would not be excluded and tickets in the 'Togetherness' area were priced at $2, in the 'Love' area at $5 and at the front of the stage in the 'Peace' area tickets cost $8. the line-up, introduced by Neville Willoughby, read like a who's who of current reggae talent. Apart from a crowd of people who had tried to rush the gate and had been quickly quelled by the police there was very little trouble and the mood was tense and expectant. At five o'clock sharp Lloyd Parks & The We The People Band took the stage to provide backing for The Meditations who opened the show, followed by 'Up Town Top Ranking' hit makers Althea & Donna, then Dillinger. The Mighty Diamonds and ten year old Junior Tucker. The mood of the afternoon was typified by Culture, still riding on the crest of their 'Two Sevens Clash' wave, who finished their set with the opposite 'Stop The Fighting' in which Joseph Hill pleaded that money spent on weapons should be used to feed the poor. Dennis Brown followed, Trinity took the stage and the dynamic Leroy Smart closed the first part of the set with his immortal plea for peace 'Ballistic Affair'.
As We The People's equipment was cleared from the stage popular comedian Prince Edwards kept the mood light and Neville Willoughby handed his microphone over to Errol Thompson who then addressed the multitude about the need to build a stronger Jamaica. Jacob Miller and the Inner Circle band took the stage as Prime Minister Michael Manley and leader of the Opposition Edward Seaga entered the National Arena and were shown to their reserved seats in the second row from the front of the stage. The power built throughout Jacob's set and as his herb anthem 'Tired Fi Lick Weed In A Bush' led into 'Peace Treaty Special' he invited a policeman to take a draw on the spliff he was openly smoking in front of the hapless and helpless authorities. The policeman politely declined and an effervescent Jacob continued to make the most of the situation paying tribute to His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie, Mr. Manley and Mr. Seaga and finally inviting Claudie Massop, Bucky Marshall. Tony Welch and 'Tek Life' Wadley to join him onstage for a rousing chorus of the song that had become the unofficial Peace Movement anthem. The Legendary Big Youth and his band, The Ark Angels, then took over and the Youth delivered a stirring set including 'Peace At Last' his recording celebrating the Peace Treaty. Up until this point Beres Hammond had remained one of Jamaica's best kept secrets but his position on the bill should give enough of an indication of his massive popularity in Jamaica and he cooled down the pace with his soul inspired set setting the scene for Peter Tosh and Word Sound And Power. Repeated pleas had to be made to clear the stage and, at one point, Peter refused to come on unless this was done...
Dressed in a black karate suit and beret, his militant outfit matched by his dread demeanour, Peter opened with 'Igziabeher' (Amharic for 'Let Jah Be Praised') which moved straight into his classic anti-colonialism song 'Four hundred Years' and then directly into the vengeful 'Stepping Razor'.
"It's word, sound and power that break down the barriers of oppression and drive away transgression and rule equality. Well right now you have a system, or a shitstem, what a gwaan inna this country here for a long ages of time. Four hundred years and the same bucky massa business and black inferiority and brown superiority rule this little black country here for a long times. well I and I come with earthquake, Lightning and thunder to break down these barriers of oppression, drive away transgression and rule equality between humble black people."
'Funeral/Burial' was followed by Peter's tirade on the meaning of 'peace' and it was immediately obvious that the optimism that had permeated the proceedings formed no part of Peter Tosh's agenda that night. 'Equal Rights', a song that went far deeper than mere slogans, followed as Peter questioned the meaning behind the glib phrases that so many used so freely.
"One tune run into one another. For in reality it's the same song. Carl Gayle
'Legalise It' followed a prolonged polemic and segued into a protracted version of The Wailers showstopper 'Get Up, Stand Up'. The crowd empathised with every note of music and every word of Peter's inspired invective as Jamaica's aristocracy shifted uncomfortably in their seats. They must have audibly relaxed as Peter Tosh left the stage to the roars of the appreciative audience but the mood had been visibly changed and there was to be no let up as Ras Michael And The Sons Of Negus brought a Nyahbinghi atmosphere to the proceedings. The chairman of the peace committee, Trevor Phillips, formally greeted the assembled dignitaries and read out a letter of encouragement from Crown Prince Asfa Wossen, son of Haile Selassie, as the stage was set for the headline act Bob Marley And The Wailers. The stage was crowded as the band launched into the rarely played 'Lion Of Judah'. Bob's performance was incredibly moving, bordering on the shamanic at times, and at the end of his set Bob Marley clasped the hands of Edward Seaga and Michael Manley above his head in an all too brief show of unity and togetherness.
There is a seeming contradiction in using what is essentially a form of entertainment to attempt to educate and elucidate but there is a long established tradition of using music as a medium for change and protest and, in many ways, it is far more subversive than direct action. Peter Tosh's approach has sometimes been labelled too 'commercial' or 'cross-over' orientated by Reggae music's self appointed experts who fail to understand that it was a very knowing way of making his often unpalatable message of freedom, equal rights and justice for all acceptable to the very people he felt needed it the most. At this time it was accepted wisdom that the worldwide public was not prepared for the strength and power of raw roots music and its reality message and, if Peter Tosh was going to take on the world, then he needed the backing of an 'international' sound to do it. One of Reggae's most charismatic performers his style was based on a conscious decision to break down the barriers musically, to make it sound familiar, and then to hit his listeners with some of the hardest lyrics imaginable. For the close on forty thousand Jamaican's packed into the National Arena that night there was no difficulty at all in accepting the music of one of the best Reggae bands ever assembled. Peter Tosh and Word, Sound And Power's performance at The One Love peace Concert represents a high point in the style now termed 'International Reggae' and Peter Tosh will always be a towering figure and a never ending source of inspiration to everyone who ever picked up a guitar or stood at a microphone with the intention of changing the world.
In February 1979 Claudie Massop, along with two JLP members Trevor Tilson and Lloyd Nolan, was shot dead by the Kingston police...
In March 1980 Bucky Marshall was shot dead in Brooklyn, New York...
On 11th September 1987 Peter Tosh was shot dead in his home alongside Wilton 'Doc' Brown and Jeff 'Free I' Dixon. On Friday September 25th his body was laid out in state ay Kingston's National Arena where twelve thousand mourners filed past to pay their last respects. He was buried the following day...
"I've been through all humiliations... but just because of the love of music and the love of my people..." Peter Tosh
Harry Hawke - June 2005
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