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.