Saturday, April 3, 2010

Weekend Post: H.R. - Bad Brains

Continuing with our weekend posts on some of the genre's most prolific frontmen (Rollins, Danzig), it was only logical to continue and now bring up the man, the myth, the legend...the enigma shrouded in dreadlocks: H.R.

99% of us will never know exactly what the deal is with H.R., and I'm not sure we even have to. What we do know is that the Bad Brains are likely the most influential band to ever come out of the world of punk and hardcore. When you read the list of major players that cite the Bad Brains as an influence (or even moreso, call them the best band ever, especially in a live setting), everyone else seems to take second place.

If you've met H.R., you've walked away with a story, even if the details are minute. If you've seen practically any version of the Bad Brains, you have a memory. And if you've ever really listened to them, you've realized they were/are on a totally different planet than most of us, and we'll never even be able to fully comprehend.

So, what's your H.R. story? What version of Bad Brains have you seen? Favorite record? And what's your take on this mad genius?

Hope everyone has a great weekend. -Gordo DCXX




Anonymous said...

Let's see...

My first BB show ever was in May 1988 with the illusive TAJ on vocals @ The Ritz in NYC.

My 2nd time seeing them was in 1990 @ L'amour in Brooklyn, with HR, Leeway and Biohazard played.

3rd and 4th times were in 1993 with Israel on vocs.

Then in 1999 with HR.

Then, saw SOUL BRAINS in 2003 with HR.

Then BAD BRAINS again like 2 more times!

Yeah, Im a fan.


Joe Snow said...

I photographed them at the Living Room in Providence in the late 80's and it was so packed in there that when I used my last frame of film I couldn't put my arms back down at my sides (I held the camera over my head to take the pics). Instead I had to leave the camera resting on the top of my head and wait until the set was over to get my arms back down and change the film roll.

Anonymous said...

as a younger individual i have only had one opportunity to see the bad brains, which was last march in st. petersburg, fl with propagandhi.

a friend and i hade made some jokes prior to the show that it would be absolutely legendary if we were able to smoke weed with the bad brains.

show was brilliant, packed, loud, energetic, both bands were fantastic, as someone who wasn't a huge fan of the bad brains before the show i was definitely one after that.

anyway, at the time i was very ill as is evidenced in the photo i'll add at the end, and i felt like total shit and lots in my life was going bad. it was pretty cold for florida that time of year and i was so fatigued that it almost didn't seem worth it to sit and wait out there for them. but my friends convinced me to stick around. we mingled with dr know a bit and he was walking around singing traditional jamaican songs to himself in the parking lot - later on he had a conversation with a guy who literally walked right up to him and said "what was it like to be in this band amongst things such as the conservative boston hardcore scene of the mid 80s" - we listened intently, i could have only ever DREAMED to have DREAMNT to have been a fly on the wall for a conversation i was now a fly on the wall for.

anyway, we mingled with dr know and offered him hits from our joint and he said "no" of which my joke is basically that i guess we know why they call him dr. know (phonetically at least) and of course that story is so much better because he turned it down.

so hr comes out, carrying a bunch of bags, bullet proof vest and everything we stop him for some pictures and he politely takes some pictures with all of us gave the peace sign. and was awesome. the experience changed my life.

here's the picture as promised.

Boro said...

September 1989 @ The Ritz - HR throat
Fall 1991 @ City Gardens - Chuck Mosley Vocals
February 2009 @ City Limits, Delray Beach, FL - HR throat

Stormy said...

My first REAL hardcore show was Bad Brains at Irving Plaza around 1990 or so (i think Leeway opened), it was during the Quickness tour. Before then i had seen many local NJ shows, and some shows in NY including Raw Deal, Murphy's Law etc, but Bad Brains was just another level. It was like seeing a hardcore show for the first time. I'll never forget it. They opened with Re-Ignition, and as soon as the first note was played people were jumping off the balcony onto the crowd below (if you've ever been to Irving Plaza, you know how high of a jump that is). From then on it was just complete madness unlike anything i'd ever seen until that point in my life. They raged through a bunch of older material, some I Against I and Quickness songs, and a few reggae jams, and the place never stopped moving for a second. I was young (and pretty small) at the time, and found a little spot in the corner to just watch the most intense band on the planet and take in all the action while staying out of harm's way. Easily one of the greatest shows i've ever seen, It wasen't even a show, it was a spectacle. I can't even imagine having seen the band in the early '80s.

After that i saw Bad Brains (under the moniker Soul Brains) maybe 4 times, all of them also at Irving Plaza i'm pretty sure. But it was never the same feeling. The band was tight, but HR just seemed to mumble the words to the songs. All the anger and intensity was long gone. Each time was the same, they would open with 3 or 4 classics (Right Brigade, Sailing On and a couple more), then play nearly an hour of reggae and rock songs i'd never heard before, and end with Pay To Cum. I kept promising myself i would never see them again, but i just kept going back, always thinking 'maybe they'll play all hardcore and HR will be on fire'. Never the case though. Just the same mumbling the words, barely even opening his mouth, and then preaching some inane ramblings between songs. The kind of stuff you'd hear some loon ranting at 3am on Ave. A. Sad.

Still, i'm glad i got to see them, even if it wasn't in their prime. And no matter what they sound like now, i'll always consider them the greatest hardcore band to ever walk this planet. Nearly 30 years later, and the energy and intensity of the Roir tape has never been matched, before or after. And that will never change.

Anonymous said...

Favorite H.R. story -

ShayKM said...

Great Bad Brains memory... They played a show with B'last and DC3 in Santa Barbara, CA, at a small community center, '86/'87ish. An audience of about 300 or so. Very small crowd, too many Nazi skins for a BB show, major police presence! The B'last set saw some fighting between skins and punks. Really just dumb bullying that plagued all the shows in CA at that time. The Brains came on and the place exploded. Within a few songs, the police had released tear-gas canisters in the hall, fighting had escalated, and the power was finally cut. We stood dazed and drooling for more. HR just kept singing, and the drummer broke into a slow reggae beat and the crowd started chanting, humming, singing along. Finally the power came back on and they finished a few more songs before calling it quits. That band, and that tour in particular, was monstrous. Just unlike anything else in punk/HC. DCXX... keep it going!

mrs. miss alaineus said...

i saw them in late 89 early 90 with two kids i skated with at st. andrew's in detroit. disclaimer. they skated, i got hurt trying.

i forgot who opened ( i wanna say leeway but i could be wrong) i remember that it was so hot that the walls were literally dripping with moisture.

it was incredible, the movement, the energy, and one of the few shows i went to where i have no clear memory of seeing any fights.

the two kids i went with are gone now, done in by their own devices. this period of my own life was also very transitional and i remember thinking it odd that my newly straight-edge self was at a show where so many other kids my age were smoking weed.


Anonymous said...

It's strange to me that people lament the change in H.R.'s performance. Isn't he 50 something years old? Hasn't he spent decades going off and doing flips at shows? Didn't he front one of the best bands of all time-without going the way of the big sell out? I wonder what kind of punk rock health insurance he is receiving for all his service?

mundo cruel90 said...

H.R. and bad brains is the most influece band ever.... by the way i got my PMA TATTOO. PEACE.

Ben Edge said...

My best friend had just got his license, and we went to see Bad Brains play in Hollywood on July 4, 1994 (or was it '95?), and his car overheated. We never made it to the show, but our friend said it was incredible. We should have ditched the car and walked.

Two years ago I finally saw them, and the band played perfectly, but HR was only singing half the lyrics and pretending to play a guitar that wasn't even plugged in.

Best album: ROIR Tape
Honorable mention: Black Dots

Justin M said...

Bad Brains is my favorite punk/hc band of all time and from 1979 - 1987 they were untouchable. I'm 31 so I was a bit too young to see them during their heyday but have seen them several times over the last few years. Yes, HR is a different frontman then he was in the past, and no, it doesn't bother me. I'm actually a pretty big reggae/dub fan so hearing HR croon over the old shit is actually right up my alley.

Emil said...

I was supposed to see the "Soul" Brains at First Avenue in Minneapolis in 2001 (maybe 2002), I was so psyched, had my tickets and everything, but they canceled the day of the show.

The venue was offering ticket refunds the same day and and Dillinger Four was playing a show at the 7th St. Entry which was an adjacent, smaller room of the club. They played the voice message HR left on the club's answering machine like that morning saying how he doesn't feel like getting on a plane or something and lots of "jah bless" and other babble. He sounded like an old grandmother.

This message can be heard on the Dillinger Four live CD, which also has a ROIR tape spoof cover.

Still haven't seen the Bad Brains.

JD said...

Saw them twice within 3 days of each other in Philadelphia and then Trenton in 89. Each time I left soaked to the bone with sweat, a contact high and major hearing loss.

Tim said...

Someone once said that the most intense moment seeing Bad Brains is the second before the first note is hit. Very true. One thing you can't quite get from all the great live videos of them is that intense energy that is felt in anticipation. Indescribable.

warbo said...

Just saw them tonight, in brooklyn at the afro punk fest. I can't believe they're still playing! Not only that, but HR said they will be playing the US a lot in the near future.

My story is that I'm relatively young (26), fell in love with BB from a few surf videos they were in (specifically Cory Lopez's part in ...Lost) I saw them once kinda by accident once, was at a club close to cbgb and they happend to be playing, this was just before it recently closed. Walked in for free by myself.

A few years back I started doing construction with this guy who is out of his mind, in his 40's, but he used to bounce at CBGB's. He was working there, he said tonight, prob 10 times when they were playing and chilled with them many times (he ended up playing drums and driving the tour bus for murphy's law years later) He is on both BB album covers in the pit.

So, to get to a point, I guess it would be how surprised I am that the older generation is still into the harder music like said band. You would think HR would be over playing such hard stuff being how old he is, and considering how most of the music he makes on the solo tip is pretty mellow reggae. I will say he looked psyched doing all the classics tonight (banned in dc, i against i, sail on etc)

As for how out there he is, I can't comment on that. That is actually the reason I wrote this post, I was searching his bio to see what kinda of drugs he had done. That guy I went with had told me a while ago he thought he was on heroin, but has since cleaned up his act. I wouldn't put it passed him.

All said, their songwriting is ultra simplistic. They changed not only punk music, but every form of faced paced music. Pretty much every artist will attest to that. Just a classic band, glad to see em still rocking hard, I could actually see them almost blowing up in near future when all the kids into bands like Muse or Coheed actually hear them (like I did after getting introduce to punk through green day dookie, offspring, and nofx)

Thanks for letting me share

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