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Bad Brains

Photo Credit: MiR*

 
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H.R's May 15th, 1995 Outburst

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Bad Brains

Seeking out and listening to a particular band's early musical influences appears to be a natural and ongoing phenomenon. In regard to the Beastie Boys, several band names are usually tossed out as having influenced them during their formative years: groups like the Clash, the Ramones, Black Flag, Minor Threat and even Kiss usually come up when the question is asked in magazine and television interviews. However in the June 1994 issue of Guitar World, Adam Yauch cited just how important the Bad Brains were to him. "He's (Bad Brains's bassist Daryl Jenifer) the musician who most influenced my playing. Though stuff I play now is in a different vein, if you listen to our hardcore tracks, I think you can hear his influence. On the knowledge tip, definitely go and see the Bad Brains every time they play. I've seen them like 50 times. I climb up on something where I can get a good view of Jennifer's hands, and just jones. He's an unbelievable bassist."

Bad Brains formed in District Heights, Maryland around 1977 (although some sources say 1979) and included Daryl Jenifer, guitarist Dr. Know (Gary Miller), Earl Hudson on drums, and lead singer H.R (Paul Hudson). After gaining a reputation as part of Washington DC's best punk acts, the Bad Brains traveled to New York and became a welcome fixture in what later became the New York Hardcore scene. In the early 1980s, it was still mindblowing to see a group of Jah-praising Rastafari perform a fusion of punk and reggae. In his Village Voice article on the Bad Brains, writer Gregory Ironman Tate described their performance as: "...onstage the band's Scot-screeching front-man H.R. throws down like James Brown gone berserk, with a hyperkinetic repertoire of spins, dives, back-flips, splits, and skanks." The Bad Brains' theatrics had New Yorkers snapping up copies of their early EPs and now historic self-entitled album which came out in 1982. It was recorded at Jerry William's 171A studio, the same place where the Beastie Boys' Pollywog Stew originated from, and was put out as a cassette only release on the ROIR label. The world famous cover-art for the Bad Brains ROIR recording was created by Dave Parsons, of Ratcage Records fame. Upon close inspection of the photos located on the inside of the Ill Communication cd booklet, one can see Adam Yauch wearing a t-shirt with the very same artwork.

In the following year of 1983, the Bad Brains released another classic recording called Rock for Light. Then just three years later as the Beastie Boys were taking the world by storm with Licensed to Ill (1986), the Bad Brains put out I Against I, which many consider to have been the last great Bad Brains album. By late 1987, Daryl Jenifer had begun working with Yauch rehearsing as the band Brooklyn. At this point a rift had formed inside of the Bad Brains and each of the band's members seemed to be heading in different creative directions. It has been said that Daryl and Dr. Know were more interested in creating a heavy metal or hard rock sound, which is evident in some of the Brooklyn songs, while Earl Hudson and H.R. had begun to grow more interested in reggae and thus pursued recordings albums of that nature.

After the late 1980s, the Bad Brains line-up changed off and on; new members included Mackie Jayson, Israel Joseph-I, and former Faith No More lead singer Chuck Mosely. The Bad Brains continued to tour and release new albums, but it just was not the same without the original line-up. Finally just as the Beastie Boys were organizing the 1995 Quadraphonic Stereo Tour, the Bad Brains original members put the past behind them and reformed to open for the Beastie Boys on the upcoming tour. Inside of the Beastie Boys 1995 tour-zine the following statement about the Bad Brains appeared: "We all know that heavy metal is dead now that The Headbanger's Ball has been replaced by Super Rock, but if you're looking for the real deal these DC pioneers will hook you up. They almost single-handedly invented the sound that became American Hardcore and influenced groups from Minor Threat to Sepultura." Sadly though on the very first night they were to perform, May 15th, 1995 in Montreal Canada, lead singer H.R. had an altercation that resulted in them not opening that night, and nor did they ever rejoin the tour.

In 1998, the Bad Brains reformed again and performed under the name Soul Brains. Then in 2001, they released a concert album entitled Live at Maritime Hall: San Francisco. To this day H.R. continues to tour, both solo as well as with the rest of band on occasion. To look back in retrospect at how far the Bad Brains have come in the last twenty plus years, one must go back to what Adam Yauch said in that 1994 Guitar World interview: "Hardcore is really the most important shit to me because it's pure expression."

It comes as no surprise that Adam Yauch is producing the upcoming Bad Brains album.

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