The Bush Doctor in Hollywood 1983

It was September in Hell-A (Los Angeles) when Peter Tosh arrived for a week long business trip in Tinseltown. Scheduled for record company meetings and promotional radio interviews, the 6' 5" dreadlocked rasta was an imposing figure as he stomped the glittered halls of Atlantic Records. Hopes were high for his latest album Mystic Man, released by the Rolling Stones record label a few months prior to his arrival. Tosh’s first album for the Stones’ label Bush Doctor was a moderate success and his collaborative single with Mick Jagger “You gotta walk and don’t look back” was a marginal hit. The song, a modified version of the Smokey Robinson tune written in 1965 was first recorded by Tosh in the 60’s as a ska track. Getting a vocal assist from Mick Jagger helped Tosh showcase the song on Saturday Night Live and would ultimately become his highest charting hit. 

But his new album was void of any Jagger pop cuts and Tosh had no intention of crossing over, instead he reasserted his contrarian militancy stance. Mystic Man contained no singles other than the reggae-disco track “Buk-in-hamm Palace”, a song about smoking ganja with Queen Elizabeth. Needless to say this song did nothing to improve his commercial appeal and any thoughts of the Stones having another reggae superstar that could sell records like Bob Marley soon vanished.

Mystic Man is a proud declaration of Tosh’s lifestyle, raging against Western decadence and consumerism and swearing off Babylonian hamburgers, and pink and yellow-green soda’s. Blistering tracks like “Rumors of War” and “Fight On” address subjects few artists in the 70’s dared to touch, like black majority rule in South Africa, while “Recruiting Soldiers” vows to gather enough freedom fighters to overthrow Satan’s New World Order. Perhaps the best display of Tosh’s provocative songwriting skills is the compelling roots classic “The Day the Dollar Die”, a fiery plea for the demise of fiat currency and crony capitalism. Without the assistance of a Jagger duet and an album cover that showcased Tosh’s scars from a police beating the album offered little to excite an American audience, unless of course you were a hardcore reggae lover.

Fearing that his album wouldn’t be properly promoted Tosh began to sour at the thought of having another flop while Bob Marley continued to pile up gold albums. He was disappointed that his relationship with the Rolling Stones hadn’t resulted in bigger record sales and plush greener pastures. That relationship ended a year later when the Stones were nowhere to be found during the promotion of one of Tosh’s best albums Wanted Dread and Alive. Unfortunately for Tosh the album was released near the time of Bob Marley’s untimely death from cancer and once again Marley’s album sales continued to dominate over the man that taught him how to play the guitar. When Tosh wasn’t on the road promoting in Los Angeles he could be found smoking out his hotel room while watching television. It was on this particular Californian day when contributing editors for the Reggae News Roger Steffens and Hank Holmes, found Tosh watching the news through a fog of marijuana smoke. Steffens, the world renowned reggae archivist and historian thought it was funny to see Tosh practice such Babylonian customs but a smiling Tosh explained, "I love to watch television in Babylon, especially the news because it's so full of corruption. I man know there is so much corruption, there is bound to be an eruption!"

The conversation turned from politics to music, and when Tosh discovered that Holmes had an immense Reggae collection housed in his Hollywood apartment they all piled into a station wagon and drove across town. For Tosh it was a revelation as he discovered more than twenty records released under his name he never knew existed. Including 45’s of organ solos and singles attributed to "Peter Touch" for which he had never been paid a cent. After an hour of digging through the crates, Hank Holmes and Roger Steffens turned on a tape recorder and each asked questions in a candid Hollywood interview with the mystic man. By this point in the evening the good smell of the Maui Wowee had flooded the apartment and a thick fog of smoke hung in the air as Tosh waxed poetic on a range of topics…

Xaviant Haze

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