Intel DiploText by Harry Hawks
Following the break up of The Wailers Peter Tosh released his records on his own Intelligent Diplomat For His Imperial Majesty label. The recurring theme on his Intel Diplo H.I.M. recordings was freedom, equal rights and justice for all.
Peter Tosh or Peter Touch, also known as 'The Toughest', was born Winston Hubert McIntosh to Alvera Coke and James McIntosh in the rural district of Westmoreland, Jamaica on 19th October 1944. He was brought up by his aunt with whom he moved to Denham Town in Kingston in 1956.
"Music was my career... was my way of life and my way of obtaining and achieving..."
Joe Higgs introduced the young Peter Tosh to Bob Marley and Neville 'Bunny' Livingston(Bunny Wailer) and taught the trio how to harmonise in the government yards of Trench Town. Peter was an accomplished singer and musician, the first of group to master an instrument and, alongside fellow vocalists Junior Braithwaite, Beverley Kelso and Cherry Smith, the group recorded 'Simmer Down' and 'It Hurts To Be Alone' for Clement 'Coxsone' Dodd(CS Dodd) as The Wailers. However, Junior, Beverley and Cherry soon left but the trio continued to make hits for Coxsone featuring the remaining members of the group alternating on lead vocals. Peter came into his own on these outings for Studio One credited to Peter Touch or Peter Touch & The Wailers. Aware of the need to adopt and adapt existing idioms to emphasise his message 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 in 1966 by changing the mento tune 'Archie Buck Them Up' into the authority baiting 'Rasta Put It On' also known as 'Rasta Shook Them Up'... the first Wailers record to mention His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie.
Peter Tosh paid the price again and 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. Early in 1968 Peter was imprisoned with Prince Buster for taking part in an anti Rhodesia demonstration.
On his searing rock steady releases from this period, for the Wailing Wailers' own Wail N Soul M label, Peter triumphed with 'Funeral' also known as 'Burial', 'Them A Fi Get A Beating' and 'Fire Fire' also known as 'Babylon Burning' and 'Stepping Razor'. His solo work with Joe Gibbs(Joel Gibson) included his astonishing spoken version of 'Satta Massa Ganna', entitled 'Here Comes The Judge', where he admonished and then sentenced piratical adventurers to be hanged by the tongue, was similarly distinguished. After the collapse of the financially disastrous but artistically faultless Wail N Soul M set up the group began to work with Lee 'Scratch' Perry(Lee Perry) who further encouraged their dread fuelled ire and helped place their work in its correct context. Peter's recordings for The Upsetter, such as 'Downpresser' and 'No Sympathy', served to strengthen his militant, unforgiving stance.
The Wailers were signed to Chris Blackwell's Island label in 1973 and the trio released two albums 'Catch A Fire', where Peter recut 'Four Hundred Years', on 'Burnin'' he sung 'One Foundation' and the anthemic 'Get Up, Stand Up' co-written with Bob Marley. Both Peter and Bunny then left The Wailers for separate solo careers. It is generally concluded that these incredibly strong singer/songwriters needed the space to develop their own identities away from the strictures of a group and that three separate solo careers were a highly logical step forward.
Apparently Peter and Bunny had the choice of either the Solomonic or the Intel Diplo H.I.M. (Intelligent Diplomat For His Imperial Majesty) label for their self productions and Peter chose Intel Diplo H.I.M. and carried on what had by now become a revolutionary tradition. There is a seeming contradiction in using what is essentially a form of entertainment to attempt to educate and elucidate but there is also a long established history of using music as a medium for change and protest. Peter Tosh's continuing conflict with authority was very real and never confined to making music. As he was working on one of the first Intel Diplo H.I.M. releases, '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 on Peter's chest, where he was held for several hours without treatment.
Despite this brutalisation the Intel Diplo seven inch releases 'Mark Of The Beast' and 'Can't Blame The Youth' "When every Christmas come you buy the youth a pretty toy gun..." proved extremely popular with record buyers. A bidding war ensued between a number of major labels for the rights to release Peter's debut Intel Diplo long player and the 'Legalize It' album was eventually released by Virgin in the UK and CBS in the USA in 1976. The Jamaican Intel Diplo H.I.M. single of 'Legalize It' was backed by a superb version unavailable elsewhere. The following year Peter released 'Babylon Queendom', one of his best ever records on the label, and this was also backed by a brilliantly mixed version. However, he was adamant that the music on his own label was going to follow his own very clear direction. Peter did not want to echo the currently popular dub recordings and at one point berated his on stage musicians, 'Word, Sound & Power', for dropping into drum and bass and accused them of trying to sound like "Channel One and Joe Gibbs(Joel Gibson)."
Peter Tosh's music has sometimes been criticised as too 'cross over' but it was a very knowing way of making his often unpalatable message of freedom, equal rights and justice acceptable to the people he felt it needed it the most. It was the accepted wisdom at the time 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. The Intel Diplo style was based on a conscious decision to break down the barriers musically, to make it sound familiar, and then to hit the listeners with some of the toughest lyrics imaginable.
"I have to make music and I have to try my best to get my music to the people..."
His appearance at the One Love Peace Concert in 1978 was seen by many as the defining performance of his fiery career and Peter Tosh and Word, Sound & Power's performance at The One Love Peace Concert represents a high point in the style now termed 'International Reggae'. He had always lived up to his rebellious image but on this night he took on the forces of the establishment and castigated Michael Manley and Edward Seaga, Jamaica's political leaders, from the concert stage. One September night a few months later he was apprehended by two policemen in Half Way Tree and, in the ensuing fracas, sustained a broken right hand when he had tried to block their blows, lacerations to his head and a severely bruised right foot.
For his 1978 album release Peter joined forces with Keith Richards and Mick Jagger and signed to their Rolling Stones Records for world wide release of his records. 'Bush Doctor' was another big seller and a single taken from the album, an update of The Temptations' 'Don't Look Back' from 1965 that Peter had originally recorded for Studio One, was a huge hit. Two more Intel Diplo H.I.M. albums were released internationally on Rolling Stones Records: 'Mystic Man' in 1979 and 'Wanted Dread And Alive' in 1981. His music was now a serious commercial proposition in the international market but Peter never stopped criticising the system that he operated in.
In 1987 Peter Tosh was awarded a Grammy for Best Reggae Performance for his 'No Nuclear War' album released internationally on EMI but on the 11th September of that year he was shot dead in his home alongside Wilton 'Doc' Brown and Jeff 'Free I' Dixon. The music of Peter Tosh, in particular his Intel Diplo H.I.M. recordings, will always be a never ending source of inspiration to everyone who ever picked up a guitar with the intention of changing the world.
"Forward ever. Backward never... "
Date Added: Feb 05, 2011 / Date Updated: Oct 18, 2013