Throwback Thursdays: Philip Michael Thomas’ “Living The Book Of My Life”

October 2, 2014

Words by Desmond Alfonso

Jah!… Rastafari! Words you’ve surely heard countless times before but words you would hardly expect to hear at the start of an album by one of ’80s TV’s preeminent pretty boys. Yet these are the very first things uttered on “Living The Book of My Life,” the first track on Philip Michael Thomas’ debut solo LP by the same name.

Released at the height of Thomas’ fame as Detective Ricardo Tubbs on Miami Viceย (which celebrated its 30th anniversary this past week), Living The Book of My Life is the definition of “unwarranted vanity project.” In his defense, Thomas did have some musical background prior to Viceโ€” he appeared in the original Broadway version of Sparkle. But his turn to reggae, especially considering how Thomas so thoroughly butchered a Jamaican accent on Miami Vice, couldn’t have been foreseen by Thomas’ own International Psychic Network.

The catch is the backing band he assembled on the album was an impressive who’s who of reggae’s best studio players: Derrick Barnett on bass, Mikey “Boo” Richards on drums, Uzziah “Sticky” Thompson on percussion, Geoffrey Chung on guitar, and Dean Fraser on sax. Legit-as-they-get reggae people. Appearing on backing vocals was the Queen of Miami Soul, Betty Wright, who, at the time, was married to Bob Marley collaborator King Sporty. So, yes… Jah!… Rastafari!

Of course, “Living The Book of My Life,” the song, is not in the least good. Playing the song today, it’s hard not to think of Ras Trent, Andy Samberg’s character on that classic SNL skit which began with almost these same words.

Living The Book of My Life the album, released through Atlantic and the curiously named Spaceship Records in 1985, has mostly disappeared: You can’t even stream it online. You can buy it on cassette, though. And you can check out the LP’s lead single “Just The Way I Planned It,” a catchy yet preposterous R&B groove, via its legendary music video. It’s here where Thomas was truly an innovator. 25 years before Rihanna and Jay-Z he crammed the clip full of third eyes, pyramids and other Illuminati imagery.

For a taste of another track, “She’s A Liar,” watch this video that Questlove made, in which he challenges himself to make a beat out of a song from the album (In Quest’s own words: “The challenge: take an UNUSABLE album and make something of it.”). Just the way Philip Michael Thomas planned it.