Friday, January 15, 2016

"Johnny B. Goode" by Peter Tosh

Song#:  1521
Date:  07/09/1983
Debut:  95
Peak:  84
Weeks:  4
Genre:  Reggae, Rock

Pop Bits:  Reggae legend Peter Tosh got his start as a member of The Wailers with Bob Marley. A self-taught musician, Tosh also wrote some of the band's songs including their classic 1973 tune "Get Up, Stand Up." But by the time 1974 rolled around, the Wailers called it quits and Tosh went off on a solo career path. He signed with CBS and issued his debut album, Legalize It, in 1976. He moved over to The Rolling Stone's own imprint label for his third LP, 1978's Bush Doctor. The association with the Stones paid off when a single from the LP, a remake of The Temptations 1965 #14 R&B hit "Don't Look Back," reached #81. Credited to "Peter Tosh with Mick Jagger," the song also featured Keith Richards on guitar. Over time, Tosh's popularity grew and his studio albums continued to chart higher and higher. His peak would be 1983's Mama Africa, which hit #53 thanks in part to this single that spent a month on the Pop chart. He wouldn't record another album until 1987's No Nuclear War. The album would go on to win Tosh a Grammy in 1988 for Best Reggae Album. Unfortunately, it was awarded posthumously due to Tosh's death in September of 1987 by gunmen during a home invasion.

ReduxReview:  I'm not a big fan of reggae music. Much like the blues, a good chunk of it all sounds the same to me. I appreciate the history, style, and influence of the genres, but with minor exceptions, I can't really get into them. So I wasn't sure what to expect with this remake (see below). How do you fit a classic, exciting early rock tune into a reggae format? Well, I guess this is how you do it and I'm not really sure what to think. More or less, it is just the lyrics put over a reggae beat and a melody to fit. It you completely changed the lyrics and played it, I highly doubt anyone would think this was "Johnny B. Goode." For me, if you are going to remake a tune, it still has to retain a melody or some structure that resembles the original. Just extracting the lyrics and fitting them to a whole new composition that is unrecognizable doesn't work. I understand wanting to make it your own, but hacking it apart so much that the original work you are paying homage to is completely lost does not make sense to me. So, as far as a remake goes, I don't like it at all. It turns the song into some kind of political-leaning dirge. However, I will say that the actual sound and performance of the song I like. It still kind of sounds like a thousand other reggae tunes, but something about Tosh's arrangement and/or voice sets it apart. In general, boo on the remake, but yea on the rest. I'll split the difference.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) Unless you live in the deep backwoods and have never seen Back to the Future, you obviously know that this is a remake of the rock 'n roll classic by Chuck Berry. Berry's 1958 original was a #1 R&B smash that also hit #8 on the Pop chart. A big list of artists have covered and/or recorded this song including a #1 country version by Buck Owens in 1969. Tosh is the fourth, and so far last, artist to reach the Pop chart with the song. After Berry's original, Dion took the song to #71 in 1964 and then Johnny Winter hit #90 in 1970.  2) Here's an odd fact. During his solo days Tosh took to riding unicycles. He became quite proficient at it and would often ride one on stage during his performances.


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