Al Anderson: Bob Marley, Peter Tosh and Onward
Peter had a better situation?
To me, it was more professional. My first week of negotiations with him, he gave me $10,000. He said, get a car, get an apartment, get a new guitar and get ready to work. And, he was a great cook. He made great juices, fried fish really good, and his rice and peas were outstanding. For a man to cook like Grandma was unreal.
Somewhat belies the image of Peter Tosh, the revolutionary.
Bob was more the spiritual figure. Peter was more the Che Guevara, Zapata-type. Spoke for the people and meant what he said. Very forceful against government foes- CIA, FBI. He spoke the truth. Bob did, too. There’s no comparison. They’re giants. These are the men who showed me reggae music. Once I got to Jamaica, I got all their earlier records, and really sank into what these cats wanted. They didn’t want a lot of rock guitar playing. Eventually, by Babylon by Bus, they accepted it. Funny thing is, they got the worst performance for Babylon by Bus. It was a Friday/Saturday recording and Friday was spotless, but I think Chris is saving that. It was complicated.
What about it was complicated?
We didn’t get royalties for anything we did. Then, Bob cut us in on the royalties, but it was like, you couldn’t see statements. It was a very complicated situation for a guitarist looking at his future. I was looking to play with everybody, and I did. I got to play with Jimmy Cliff, got to watch Chinna (Smith) work on Blackheart Man. It was unreal.
On a session, particularly with Bob Marley, how much input did you have on the arrangement? Was Bob leading the session as far as what he wanted to hear from each instrument?
Bob had an idea, and then he had Carly, Family Man, Tyrone (Downie, keyboards) Junior (Marvin, guitar) and me to produce his idea. ‘Wya’ (Lindo, keyboards) was a big piece of the earlier production. Burnin’ – you could say that’s ‘Wya’ Lindo, without a doubt. Earl ‘Wya’ Lindo wrote ‘Redemption Song’. It was the Wailers band that really put the atomic, nuclear thing that made Bob’s ideas explode. Bob’s stuff was rough, his acoustic stuff. It was fantastic, but no man is an island. We added a lot to his sound, but we never got credit for it. They didn’t want the band to get too big. It was all about Bob. I was totally satisfied with Bob and how the band ran in the early days. Then, Don Taylor came along. Bad management, thief, charlatan, and a military strategist who could literally wipe you out if you didn’t obey the plan.
What was the plan?
The plan was to make a lot of money, keep the band in a cage, and feed us whatever it took. It was the worst thing a group of musicians could go through. We are all poor now. We all have to work. There is a group of people that have a lot of money. I don’t know whether they know what we went through so that they could prosper. There is a lot of respect for them at the same time because my name isn’t Marley, it’s Anderson. I was so happy to be a part of working with him that I forgot about the other bullshit. Natty Dread made me known to do certain things. Guys were calling me to do certain things that they had heard.
Is that when you left Marley for Peter Tosh?
I got an opportunity to sit down with Peter, and he said I want you to play in my band with Rob (Shakespeare) and Sly (Dunbar, legendary bass/drums duo). I was like, wow! At the first rehearsal, I was asked, are you going to leave Bob to work with Peter? Yeah. I knew Ronnie Wood when he was living in Miami, and I asked him about leaving Rod (Stewart) to work with Mick (Jagger and the Rolling Stones). He said you have to keep evolving. You stay in one bag, you get a lot of money, and you get tired and fat. So, I listened to him. And I got to meet Mick and Keith (Richards). When they went looking for artists, I suggested Peter, and got him signed to Rolling Stones Records after he wanted to leave CBS. It was like an evolution for me, things were getting better. At the same time, Exodus came along and wiped everyone out.
So, you’d left Bob before the Exodus sessions?
I left right after Rastaman Vibration because of managerial problems. Bob was a great, fantastic leader. A guy you would go into battle with and you knew he had a strategy. As soon as management came along, the guy (Don Taylor) took the crumbs out of our mouth, the tears off your eyes. He had no heart. Cold-blooded. I couldn’t take it anymore. We were struggling, hurting for money. Peter showed me a better situation and I went with that. He did it all for me as an artist and as a friend.
Did you have a sense, a long vision at the time, that you were leaving one of the giants of music?
For me it was all about the music, until the politics came. Bob could’ve easily been a prime minister. He was very wise. The people who couldn’t read- he let them know in all areas what was happening. He was an immense antenna who sent messages to millions of people. Peter had a range, but Bob was infinite. He was offering more information politically to the people than the politicians. They could trust and believe in him. He had the strength to lead a nation of people.