“Can’t You See”: Rare (?!) Wailers

Back in 1966 when The Wailers were three vocalists (and not a backing band for reggae music’s most famous artist), Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, and Bunny Wailer were under contract to Coxsone Dodd‘s Studio One label.  Recently, after re-watching the 1992 Peter Tosh documentary, Red X, I suddenly got the urge to listen to the original 1966 Studio One recording of “Can’t You See” — a song authored by Tosh that sounds completely unlike anything else recorded by the Wailers from 1963-1966, stylistically and otherwise.   So imagine my surprise when I discovered this recording’s complete absence from YouTube.

After a couple well-placed phone calls and a little bit of knob twiddling, Zero to 180 has now made it possible for you [depending on your geographical location*] to hear streaming audio of the song for the first time on YouTube.  Blink and you will miss the percussion intro that kicks off the song (an intro, by the way, that fails to reappear in all future arrangements/recordings of the song — e.g., the early reggae version recorded across town at Leslie Kong’s studio in 1970, or the heavier roots reggae version laid down at Kingston’s Dynamic Sound in 1979, with Geoffrey Chung’s assistance):

“Can’t You See”     Peter Tosh & The Wailers     1966

[*Per email from ‘The YouTube Team’ dated May 15, 2018:  “Due to a copyright claim, your YouTube video has been blocked in some countries. This means that your video is still up on YouTube, but people in some countries may not be able to watch it.”]

Roger Steffens and Leroy Pierson, in the liner notes to the double-disc Wailers retrospective, One Love at Studio One, point out the “beat group” influences (during a particularly creative period for the Stones) that are evident in this standout track:

“Can’t You See” demonstrates Tosh’s early interest in rock and roll, particularly the influence of the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, with whom he would sign a dozen years hence.  Peter leads.

A little surprised to see Tosh’s name appear just thrice on the songwriting credits for the 40 songs included on this double-disc retrospective (Bunny Wailer’s name, by comparison, appears seven times).

20-track LP version (1994)      -vs.-      40-track 2-CD release (1994)

In 2010, someone (in Sweden) would pay exactly $213 for a “blank original Coxsone” release of “Can’t You See.”  But wait — two years prior, someone (in France) had paid $256 for a blank original release.

Genre-wise, how do I “tag” this recording?  It’s certainly not rocksteady, despite being recorded the year of rocksteady’s birth.  And calling it reggae makes even less sense.  Zero to 180 may live to regret its (desperate) decision to tag it as “rocksteady” anyway.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *