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Performances Song History Lyrics

Legalize It

Music: Tosh

Lyrics: Tosh

Vocals: Page (lead), Trey (backing)

Original Artist: Peter Tosh

Original Album: Legalize It (1976)

Debut: 2013-09-01

Historian: Martin Acaster (Doctor_Smarty)

Last Update: 2013-09-06

Though Phish is generally an apolitical band, they occasionally take mid-show delight in the news of the day. Considering that the Department of Justice had just updated the Federal Marijuana Enforcement Policy as necessitated by Colorado and Washington voting to decriminalize pot in November 2012; the 9/1/13 debut performance of the Peter Tosh demand to “Legalize It” was not particularly surprising. 

The song was originally released in 1975 as a single (featuring both international and Jamaican versions) on Tosh’s Intelligent Diplomat of His Imperial Majesty record label, and would also serve as the title track to his first solo album. Legalize It, despite being an amalgamation of largely previously recorded material from this founding member of The Wailers, was still well regarded when released by Columbia Records in 1976. Columbia of course elected to go with the safer international version of the song on the album, rather than the far trippier Jamaican version. Both tracks featured the glorious backing harmonies of Rita Marley and Judy Mowatt. These of course were missing from Johnny Clarke’s cover version of the song also released in 1976 on Island Records. 



Peter Tosh, “Legalize It”

One of the earliest (if not the first) live performances of “Legalize It” occurred during the Wonder Dream Concert (10/4/75) at Kingston, Jamaica’s National Stadium. This concert, featuring Stevie Wonder and the last appearance by the original members of The Wailers who reunited for the gig, was a benefit for the Jamaican Institute for the Blind. 

The tune was a Tosh setlist staple in near constant rotation during Tosh’s touring schedule from October 1976 through December 1983 and was often a potent jamming vehicle. Although met with great joy and a few extra billows of smoke from the crowd, the debut Phish performance of the song, as the schwag filling the bowl of a late second set Mike’s Groove, certainly was not. Resolving from the ashes of the Mike’s jam, it clearly evokes the question “Is that a wind, or a bug?” Rather than bust out this TAB tune last played by Phish in September 2000, Trey opts for the Tosh song from which it was lifted. Unfortunately Page can’t remember the bulk of the lyrics (and changes others... Sour Diesel, anyone?) so the message of the song, which justifies the legalization of Jah Herb, is completely lost. Not unlike the campaign for which it has become the rally cry. 

On the surface, the crusade to decriminalize the possession and recreational use of cannabis can be seen as the Stoner Party’s simple desire to “Fight for Your Right to Party.” Digging deeper into this de rigeur legislative battle, the putrescent history of prohibition is laid bare and we are forced to acknowledge its undeniable links to our ongoing global ruination at the hands of a cabal of central banks, petrochemical conglomerates, pharmaceutical manufacturers, and the military industrial prison complex. As we celebrate the first ripples of what will assuredly be a tsunami-like deluge of individual states exercising their right to self govern and “Legalize It” we should turn a cynical eye to this pseudo-Libertarian policy change and ask “Why now?” Quick, somebody check if Monsanto just submitted a patent on a particularly virulent blend of weed killer...wait...flip that, perhaps a GMO strain of killer weed that will ruin the DNA of all our favorite flavors. Either way, somebody is about to start making a major profit from the rescinding of pot prohibition, and its likely that it isn’t your favorite local grower. “Cui Bono?”



Phish, “Legalize It” – 9/1/13, Commerce City, CO

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LightsWentOut Reply
LightsWentOut A rather ripplingly critical spin on this song's history. It seems as if the author sees Phish's 9/1/2013 performance of this song as a series of lost opportunities (for an impassioned, Rastafarian political rant, a jammed out version, a reason to play an obscure TAB song) rather than the fun nod to Colorado's marijuana laws that it was.

I was in attendance for this debut and I am here to tell you that no one I was with considered this song a missed opportunity. Rather, most people seemed to think it was an excellent opportunity to enjoy some of Colorado's finest in gleeful abundance. I don't think I have ever seen more smoke in an outdoor stadium. We had fun. The song was fun. Mission accomplished.
Score: 13
jelleyhead Reply
I agree with LightsWentOut regarding the amount of smoke in the arena during this song.
I have been going to shows for over 30 years and I have never seen chimney smokestacks like what I saw during this song. We were in section 129 and whenever the lights shone above the field you could see freight train like columns of smoke rushing into the air. This was apparent in the stands as well. It was a truly unique site that I will remember and cherish for a long time.
Score: 8
Spaceman_E Reply
Spaceman_E The monetary trickle-down effect from this new law will be tremendous. Everybody will benefit, not just pot-heads. As soon as other states start to follow suit, the benefits to the economy will be undeniable. That Monsanto quip is a load of bullshit. It goes way deeper than that. We are finally turning a corner towards the progression of our society and I couldn't be happier. Do not underestimate the importance of this.
Score: 2
ZapRowsdower Reply
ZapRowsdower Don't forget Fishman's Suzy Greenberg shout out referencing Todd Akin on 8/22/12.
Score: 2
TheStrawman Reply
TheStrawman All that matter with this debut was how fun it proved to be. Glad to say I performed my civic duty by voting for Amendment 64 last November, and appreciate the tip of the hat to what the fine state of Colorado managed to pull of last November. Not to mention the Thursday or Friday prior to Dick's, the federal government stated theyw ould not sue the states of Colorado and Washington over recreational marijuana. Thanks for this fun little gem Phish.
Score: 0
makisupaman Reply
makisupaman Blessed to be a witness @Dicks, though I did wait for the "doctors smoking, lawyers smoking" verse. That said, Trey has made his views on the subject well-known. When asked as much in High Times he said, "I think the same thing that probably any reasonable, sane person thinks: That it's nuts! Particularly with pot being illegal--it's nuts! I've been smoking pot on and off since, like, 4th grade. It's a personal choice--what anybody wants to do. The marijuana laws are absolutely insane."

More specific than even a reference to Colorado's progressive law, I had the immediate impression that the song's choice referenced the airplane banner advertisement to "Grow Your Own" circling the venue that replaced the "Read the Book" ad from night one. The lyrics, "I will advertise it," made utter sense to me, as I was overwhelmed by the commodification and promotion of cannabis visibly taking place across Denver.
Score: 0
TomSawyer Reply
TomSawyer CO and WA didn't decriminalize MJ. They legalized it for recreational use. It was decriminalized awhile ago.
Score: 0
Spaceman_E Reply
Spaceman_E @Doctor_Smarty said:
It just seemed TOO spur of the moment to me. If you are going to do a cover...learn all the fucking words...show some respect to one of the most important/influential Rasta brahs there has ever been...he deserves it. They turned it into a half-baked spoof. Thereby mocking the historical legislation.

I enjoyed it just as much as you all did in the moment...but after sitting down and inspecting the performance to write the song history I came away with the impression it was pretty low grade as far as covers go.

Appreciate all your thoughts though.
I do agree that the sloppiness of the song gave it a more HYHU> HYHU vibe, not really appropriate for the 'meat' in a Mike's Groove. They should have at least learned the song. On the other hand, spontaneity is cool, too! Regardless, the message was clear and it was awesome!
Score: 0
Doctor_Smarty Phish.net Staff Reply
Doctor_Smarty It just seemed TOO spur of the moment to me. If you are going to do a cover...learn all the fucking words...show some respect to one of the most important/influential Rasta brahs there has ever been...he deserves it. They turned it into a half-baked spoof. Thereby mocking the historical legislation.

I enjoyed it just as much as you all did in the moment...but after sitting down and inspecting the performance to write the song history I came away with the impression it was pretty low grade as far as covers go.

Appreciate all your thoughts though.
Score: 0
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