Sunday, February 10, 2019

Radio - Sunday, February 10th, 2019

Tonight's show is the first of a four part series looking at the contributions of black punks and the impacts they had on the scene. This first part looks at the proto punk period (1974) through to hardcore (1984) and could not been pulled together were it not for the excellent work of Chris Murdoch's "Black Dots" presentation. 

We are also indebted to Tony Rettman's book "NYHC" for the Bad Brains period in NYC. The imprint of the Bad Brains defines New York Hardcore.

Download the show here.

So we started with the BAD BRAINS song because the song described the experience of black punks in the scene. 

BAD BRAINS – Black Dots (Caroline)

DEATH (Proto punk)
So we are going to starts at the beginning with a proto punk band from Detroit called Death. The band started in 1971 and initially started out as an R and B band called Rock Fire Funk Express. The band went in a hard rock direction after seeing the Who and Alice Cooper. "Politicians in My Eyes" was the band's first release in 1976 on their own label, DIY before it was known as that. 

DEATH – Politicians in My Eyes (Tryangle)

The band was made up of the Hackney brothers (Bobby, David, and Dannis. They recorded an album in 1975 called  "...For The Whole World To See" which wouldn't see the light of day until 2009. The band was truly a rock n roll victim

DEATH – Rock n‘ Roll Victim (Drag City)

Their music has since been documented in the 2012 documentary "A Band Called Death", a film that has won them a cult following decades after they disbanded.

DEATH – You’re a Prisoner (Drag City)

Their music has since been documented in the 2012 documentary A Band Called Death, a film that has won them a cult following decades after they disbanded.

DEATH – You’re a Prisoner (Drag City)

In 1974, a band called Pure Hell started up in Philadelphia. Also part of the proto punk era, Pure Hell came up at the same time as MC5, Dead Boys, and the Sex Pistols. The band would play New York City and befriended the New York Dolls and Sid Vicious and in 1978. 

PURE HELL – These Boots are made for Walking (Golden Sphinx)
SID VICIOUS – C’mon Everybody (Virgin)

Golden Sphinx was a label run by Curtis Knight who was in the Squires, aa band that featured a young Jimi Hendrix. Curtis liked the idea of an all black punk band because it was Pulling an Elvis on the music industry.  In his mind he was looking for a black group that could mimic white music. 

PURE HELL - I Feel Bad (Welfare)

Curtis thought of Pure Hell as a novelty act. Pure Hell recorded an album in 197, but after falling out with the band he refused to release it. The widow of Curtis auctioned off the recording and Welfare would come to release the collection in 2006 by Welfare Records.  The album was called 'Noise Addiction'.

PURE HELL – Wild One (Welfare)

Started by two black men who chose the name because Patti Smith had just released a single called “Rock ‘n roll Nigger”. The band name expressed that black punks didn't appreciate the use of that term. The NY Niggers would self-release a single and this is the B-Side.

NY NIGGERS – Headliner (NYN)

There is some confusion about whether there was one band or three in a review below: 

"THE NIGGERS - Seemingly three bands in three different cities (New York/Boston/Detroit) used this ungenteel name. The most prominent band appears to have been the Detroit Niggers, who had a story printed in Creem magazine in 1978 (as part of a larger piece on the Detroit punk scene) and a brief news blurb in Bomp. Both articles had pictures of the band with processed Chuck Berry hairdos and flaunted bare chests. Their songs included "Crazy White Bitch," "Dirty Dogs" and the anthem, "Niggers," and of the band name, members Reno and J.C. Richards explained, "Should we call ourselves The Honkies?" One New York punk legend of our acquaintance suggests that the N.Y. Niggers were "friends" with the late Nancy Spungen, Sid Vicious' doomed girlfriend. They self-released a ridiculously obscure single, "Just Like Dresden" b/w "Headliner" in 1978 as the "N.Y. Niggers." Though there's no picture sleeve, the rough punk sound of the record is Detroit influenced enough to possibly suggest it was the same band transplanted out East. (JP)"
Black Punk Time: Blacks in Punk, New Wave and Hardcore 1976-1984 (Part 2) 
By James Porter and Jake Austen (From Roctober #32, 2002)

NY NIGGERS – Just Like Dresden ’45 (NYN)

Moving over to England, X-Ray Spex started out in 1976 after Poly Styrene saw a Sex Pistols gig. Poly stood out among her peers not just for being a person of colour or being a women but she wore these dental braces and stood against the typical sex object female archetype. "identity" embodied so much about poly's life.   

X-RAY SPEX – Identity (EMI)

There was a story about Poly Styrene chopping her hair in Johnny Rotten's place to take that anti-sex object one step further, and is a perfect segue into their most famous song....and the song that I grew up listening to over and over at summer camp off of some compilation. it took my years to realize that they had a single and an album out. 

X-RAY SPEX – Oh Bondage Up Yours (EMI)
X-RAY SPEX - Warrior at Woolworths (EMI)

Poly Styrene also had a unique vocal sound. She had been trained in Opera and her voice had been described as "effervescently discordant" and powerful enough to drill holes through sheet metal. Being of mixed race and wearing a lot of dayglo Poly was referred to as the face of modern day feminism. 

Meanwhile in Los Angeles another strong black woman was having an impact on their punk scene. Karla (Mad Dog) Duplantier would join the CONTROLLERS on drums. The band was unknown until Karla joined partially because she was a phenomenal drummer She also went to radio stations and started getting them better gigs. The GERMS borrowed her kick drum when playing and recording. and she wound up joining the FLESH EATERS which is where we found a recording with her on it. 

THE FLESH EATERS - Ten Inch Razor (Upsetter)
BAD BRAINS - Redbone in the City (Caroline)

BAD BRAINS started out as a jazz fusion that did covers, but their second guitarist,  Sid McCray, turned them onto the SEX PISTOLS, which is evidenced by "Redbone in the City". They were nervous about being seen as a novelty act and didn’t play out right away. It wasn’t until they saw footage of PURE HELL that they started playing shows on their own and would go on to lay the foundation for what would be known as DC Hardcore.

BAD BRAINS - Banned in DC (Caroline)
BAD BRAINS - Attitude (Caroline)

Positive Mental Attitude first expressed in the song "Attidude' would becme a defining ideology behind DC HarDCore. They became mentors for the TEEN IDLES and SOA. They would hold showcases for as many as 10 - 15 bands at a time. They shared a rehearsal space with the TEEN IDLES so they had somewhere to practise. They would give them tips on how to play their instruments. BAD BRAINS played the housing projects they were form in DC and Maryland. Valley Green housing project is one of them that had one of these matinees. But these shows were the reason why they got in trouble which is what the song "Banned in DC" is about. The bands that BAD BRAINS nurtured would go on to play wilder shows then them. So the mayhem was set in motion. What is interesting is that the TEEN IDLES would bring back the Huntington Skank from California which would make shows more dangerous. And they would not get banned. But the all black band was the one that got in trouble by the authorities.

So the next set will be about the bands in DC who also had prominiant black punks in their bands. Toni Young, was a promoter and was able to join RED C who only ever release 4 songs on the legendary “Flex Your Head” compilation. The song that they are most well known for is “Pressure’s On”, a song about police harassment. 

RED C - Pressure's On (Dischord)
VOID - Go South (Dischord)
SCREAM - Solidarity (Dischord)

VOID were from Colombia, Maryland and were younger than most everyone in the scene. They had a guitarist named Buppa Dupree who would inspire a young Shawn Brown to be in a band a few years later. VOID wrote a song called “Go South” about southerners who would come up to see their show and fight the band because they didn’t like the fact that Bubba was black and in the band. They also had a song called “Black Jewish and Poor” was a song that described the make up of this band.

SCREAM were another great band from DC and had Eugene Thompson better known as Skeeter, playing guitar for them. He was the person who convinced the band to add a lot of non-punk elements into their first record like acoustic guitar, reggae, country. They were not well liked at first. They opened up for Minor Threat a lot and they would cover “Guilty of Being White” and Skeeter would sing. They are one of my all time favourite bands from DC.

So after Bad Brains got in trouble with those showcase shows they moved to New York city and their sound becomes synonymous with the New York Hard Core sound. BAD BRAINS experience is well documented in Tony Rettman's book called “NYHC”. The chapter on BAD BRAINS is called “The Big take Over” which takes on a new meaning with their arrival.

BAD BRAIN – Big Take Over (Roir)

Tim Summer did a radio show on WNYU called “Noise the Show”. He spoke about getting the “Pay to Cum” single as soon as it came out, which means it was released when they were in NYC. He said that he knew that this was something completely different from anything else. It was a record where nothing was the same afterwards, like “Blitzkrieg Bop” or “You Really Got Me” by the Kinks. It’s in that league. “Pay to Cum” invented an entire genre of music in a minute and a half.

BAD BRAIN – Pay to Cum (Roir)
BAD BRAIN – Supertouch - Shitfit (Roir)

The BAD BRAINS used to have an introduction “Quicker than the Dickies, Faster than the RAMONEs, ladies and gentlemen : the BAD BRAINS.

The editor of Tse Tse Fly zine said the BAD BRAINS were the centre of influence. Anybody from the CRO MAGS to AGNOSTIC FRONT to the MOB were indebted to the BAD BRAINS.

Todd Youth wrote that the BAD BRAINS were our Led Zeppelin and our Beatles.

Here is a set of bands influenced by BAD BRAINS starting with the STIMULATIORS who open the first time BAD BRAINS  come to NYC.

CRO MAGS – Dub (Cro Mag Recording)
BEASTIE BOYS – Beastie (Roir)
THE MAD - I Hate Music (Disgusting)
HEART ATTACK – Society (Serious Clown)
URBAN WASTE – Public Opinion (Mob Style / Mad at the World / Even Worse / Way Back When)
AGNOSTIC FRONT - Society Sucker (Rat Cage / Combat Core / Bridge Nine)

The breakdown in "Society Sucker" sounds like it is derived from "the Big Takeover" and "Supertouch". 

John Dancy was the drummer in Urban Waste and the song "Public Opinion" would express the identity crisis experienced by a black kid in the punk scene. 

Jesse Malin from HEART ATTACK expressed how helpful the BAD BRAINS were in loaning them their gear and had HEART ATTACK  play a set at their show. He said they were super into developing a youth movement. 

David Hahn from the THE MAD put up BAD BRAINS when they first came to town, took them out for Chinese food, and took them to clothing stores to get their second hand clothes.

The BEASTIE BOYS in their recent book talked about how important BAD BRAINS gigs were in NYC. 

The Dub song on the Age of Quarrel demo suggests the lasting impression that the BAD BRAINS had on a young Harley Flanagan when he was in the STIMULATORS. 

Skate scene
The skate scene was made up of a lot of black punks like Mike Cornelius who was in JFA from Pheonix. Probably the band that defined skate-core. 

JFA - Skateboard / We Know You Suck (Placebo)
McRAD - Dominant Force (Red Music)
YDI - Out for Blood (Blood Bubble)
DEAD KENNEDYS - Nazi Punks Fuck Off (Alternative Tentacles)

MCRAD from Philadelphia featured Chuck Treece, He would go on to play for UNDERDOG which we will feature in next week’s show.

YDI featured Howard Twigs on drums, also from Philadelphia. He expressed his frustrations in the songs “Out for Blood”

DEAD KENNEDYS feature D.H. Peligro on drums. His first recording with the band is “In God We Trust Inc.” which features “Nazi Punks Fuck Off”. The song took on a new meeting as the band started to get attacked by nazi skins because D.H. was in the band.

The STRANGLERS talked to me about how they developed their sound. The bass drives their sound. That came from checking out King Tubby's sound system. 

THE STRANGLERS – Peaches (United Artists)
BASEMENT 5 - Heavy Traffic (Island)


Chris Murdoch "Black Dots"

Tony Rettman "NYHC"

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