“Who gave them fuckin’ niggas those rock guitars? Who let ‘em in the club? Did you make ‘em pay? Who let ‘em on the stage? Whose lettin’ ‘em play?” No, No, I’m not going to talk about Body Count (in the knowledge that you know who they are) but about probably one of the most interesting, most iconic (and maybe most weird) hardcore punk bands from the late 70s and early 80s: BAD BRAINS.
Bad Brains (named after the Ramones song ‘Bad Brain’), are an Afro-American Rastafarian band formed in Washington, D.C. in 1978 by Paul (H.R.) Hudson (Vocals), Earl Hudson (Drums), Gary (Dr.Know) Miller (Guitar) and Darryl Jenifer (Bass). Originally they started as a jazz fusion ensemble called Mind Power in 1975. Yeah, you heard me, JAZZ Fusion!
“You, you can’t hurt me, me I’m banned in D.C.”
Bad Brains are just like Black Flag widely regarded as among the pioneers of hardcore punk although they also played reggae and from the mid-80s their music even had elements of funk, heavy metal, hip hop, … I think its correct to say that their sound was/is more complex and more unique than other hardcore punk bands.
Being an entirely black band playing high-energy punk rock, they developed quite a reputation and even became subject of an unofficial ban among many Washington D.C. area clubs and venues in 1979. In response, they moved to New York City.
“I came to know with no dismay, that in this world we all must pay pay to write, pay to play, pay to cum, pay to fight”
From the beginning there were a lot of tensions within the band: H.R. sometimes refused to perform at scheduled concerts and he and Earl also wanted to play strictly reggae while Dr. Know and Darryl were more interested in heavy rock. This caused a lot of breakups and line-up changes.
In 1995 the band reunited and in the original line-up they released ‘God of Love’, their sixth studio album after their debut ‘Bad Brains’ (1982), ‘Rock for Light’ (1983), ‘I Against I’ (1986), ‘Quickness’ (1989) and ‘Rise’ (1993). Between 1998 and 2001, the original line-up toured under the name Soul Brains and released a live album. Between 2002 and 2012 Bad Brains released 3 albums: ‘I & I Survived’ (2002), ‘Build a Nation’ (2007) and ‘Into the Future’ (2012). They also released some singles, EP’s, compilation and live albums over the years
“These are coptic times, got a right to live my life, with no burdens over me so I choose to read the holy bible, and take what Jah has given me”
This unique band will not be everyone’s favourite but if you don’t know them yet, give them a chance, check their early releases and work your way up to their most recent music. They might grow on you and maybe, in the end, you will love them too.