Welcome back to another installment of Insist!
For this entry we’ll encounter two seminal American rock groups that were innovators, stalwarts, outsiders and disruptors of their respective scenes and eras.
First, to the Motor City, from which a trio of brothers calling themselves Death sprung in the early 70s. In a city of many musical innovations, both popular and proto, the brothers Hackney (Bobby, David and Dannis) and their power-trio hard-rock approach took their city’s sounds (like the Stooges and Alice Cooper) and propelled them even further and towards the coming punk revolution. The brothers played together in numerous groups before and after Death (including RockFire Funk Express, 4th Movement and Lambs Bread) and only released one 45 in their initial span, receiving a major reintroduction in 2009 when the Drag City label reissued that 45 (with five other tracks from 1974 as ‘For the Whole World to See’). Other reissue recordings followed, along with a reformation of the group, spurring new releases and tours. Their story is best related in the terrific documentary, ‘A Band Called Death’, from 2013.
Fast forward a few years and travel over to Washington, DC where Bad Brains were stirring up their own hardcore punk racket, influencing countless groups in the process. Starting as a jazz fusion band called Mind Power, in 1976, the classic lineup of H.R., Dr. Know, Darryl Jenifer and Earl Hudson shifted to punk and proceeded to lay waste to the nation’s capitol before relocating to New York City in 1980. Their classic self-titled release from 1982 is one of the most legendary hardcore punk recordings ever, and the group continued mutating sound-wise throughout the ensuing years, incorporating heavy metal and funk and reggae (as already evidenced from a few tracks on their debut; all members are also Rastafarians). To experience their speed, fury, intensity, power and brilliance the best place to start is probably a clip of the song ‘Big Take Over’ from a 1982 show captured on video at CBGB.
And, for more Bad Brains footage, courtesy of a documentary about the Black experience in punk rock, check out ‘Afro-Punk’.