Bad Brains – “Bad Brains”


The making of Bad Brains’ “Bad Brains”

released: Fehruary 1982

label: ROIR


While a pretty good case could be made for inducting either Rock for Light or I Against I into our esteemed Hall, the debut full-length by DC-cum-New York’s Bad Brains deserves the coveted nod; not just for its blazing punk/hardcore, but the circumstances surrounding its creation. Sure, each of the two albums that followed the Brains’ debut—universally known as “the ROIR cassette”—feature much excellent music of their own (though half of Rock for Light originally appeared on the debut), but their 1982 self-titled album had a certain backs-against-the-wall coarseness and significance to it.

The ROIR cassette was recorded while the members were juggling being homeless and broke while struggling to survive on New York’s Lower East Side (a much more violent and hostile area than the gentrified and commercialized locale it is today); it was recorded in a makeshift studio in an abandoned glass store which had been converted by the band’s producer into the nerve center for a burgeoning NYHC scene; it was the first release on Neil Cooper’s cassette-only label, ROIR. Melodic bursts like “Sailin’ On,” “Attitude,” “Banned in DC,” “Fearless Vampire Killers” and “Pay to Cum” were, at the time, some of the fastest music ever committed to tape. This was where it all started for the Bad Brains.

Not to mention the album was created by four black dudes (guitarist Gary “Dr. Know” Miller, bassist Darryl Jenifer, drummer Earl Hudson and vocalist Paul “H.R.” Hudson) who started off playing fusion in the late ’70s before making the jump to hardcore punk at a time when racial lines were a lot more strict and divided when it came to cultural pursuits. Oh yeah, they were also reggae-obsessed Rastafarians. Despite it all—and despite all the erratic behavior, lineup instability, major label meddling, half-assed albums and various controversies involving managers, monikers and, of course, ganja that would follow—the ROIR cassette was a landmark release showcasing the Bad Brains at their rawest and most unified.

—Kevin Stewart-Panko

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