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Bad Brains



Anyone who heard Bad Brains as they were first emerging in the early '80s knew they were something special. Sure enough, their unmistakable mix of dub and thrash had a vastl influence on both the underground and the mainstream. Bad Brains was founded in 1979 by guitarist Gary Miller, better known as Dr. Know, who was inspired by punk and reggae and saw how it had already been blended in English punk rock. He put together a band consisting members who shared his vision including H.R. (Paul Hudson), Earl Hudson, and Darryl Jenifer.

Meanwhile the incipient hardcore movement was taking punk to even further extremes in terms of aggression, speed, volume, and violent shows. City punkers weaened on the British and NYC underground of the '70s actually resented the new hardcore scene as the surfer jocks from the suburbs came to shows just to cause trouble, hospitalizing people in the previously tame slamdancing "pits." The police often made things worse at these shows, seeing the gathering of such youthful violent energy as dangerous and showing up in riot gear, beating up hardcore fans before shows even started, and piling them into paddywagons. This just fueled anger and the music generated by that anger, causing the scene to grow with the advent of bands like Black Flag, The Misfits, Circle Jerks, Minor Threat, and Bad Brains. Meanwhile, band-run record labels like SST and Dischord became legendary, gaining attention in the press from often exaggerated stories about riots and movements against the hardcore community, and gaining converts all over the country in the young people who identified with their aggression and anti-state messages.

Bad Brains released their first cassette-only album in 1982 on NYC's ROIR Records. The raw blitz of noise would suddenly give way to trancing reggae. The track featured here, "Pay to Cum," was the first single from the album, which ROIR has now re-released on CD. Bad Brains then polished their sound without losing any of the intensity on '83's Rock for Light, entering the studio with Ric Ocasek producing. Almost half of the songs from the debut album were re-recorded for Rock For Light, with the addition of some new hardcore anthems like "At The Movies" and "How Low Can Punk Get," along with some stunning new reggae numbers. H.R.'s incredibly unique and powerful delivery caught up to his potential on this album, with a pure energy and style that seemed to be conjured straight from Jah.

Jumping to Black Flag's SST Records, Bad Brains released I Against I in 1986. The album slowed down quite a bit but still captured the group's power and intensity. The brilliant songwriting on I Against I was even lush and spiritual with songs like "She's Calling You" and "Sacred Love." In 1988, with the band at the height of its touring abilities, they released a live album, a fantastic mixture of songs from their releases. Then they introduced another change in sound with the 1989 album Quickness, their more metal-funk direction getting mixed reviews from fans. Most would still admit that it's a brilliant album and the band's new sound influenced bands like 24-7 Spyz and Living Colour.

The group began having internal problems, while releasing a couple more live albums. In 1993 they released Rise on Epic Records to little result and without H.R. and Earl. The original lineup reformed for God of Love in 1995 on Maverick Records, which was released into relative obscurity. Their many fans still followed the band and went to shows throughout their career. The band then reformed as Soul Brains and has sporatically toured, releasing one live album.

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