The year was 1977 and it was a magical time for music in England and America. Punk was beginning to bloom. It was an intriguing flower that was both beautiful and ugly at the same time. It was misunderstood by many who looked upon it but there was a select group of people who saw this flower and not only loved and understood it, it became a beacon for a new way of life. One of the most influential American bands to blossom in the punk garden was Bad Brains. Bad Brains was a group of four youths from the nation’s capitol that had a unique point of view and a lot to say. Ask any of the musical heavies that came after them and they will tell you that bad Brains influenced them. A band to be remembered and respected.
I say all of this as if I am eulogizing Bad Brains and maybe in some ways I am. We can never really go back to 1977 or the decade that followed but we can do our best by seeing the bands we loved “back in the day” when they grace us with a new tour. Bad Brains ended a very short tour in Atlanta Saturday night. The original line up took stage at The Masquerade to a respectable full house. The band was and always has been one of the tightest, most talented bands that I have ever seen. Sadly, HR seems to be a ghost of his former self. Gone are the hard, intense muscles and the “in your face”, sometimes literally in your face energy of HR. Now we see a small, frail man who, even as he’s singing to the crowd seems to be talking to himself. Gesturing to things we can’t see and wearing a towel over his head only adds to the impression that this is a eulogy and HR is indeed a ghost.
One can only wonder how the other band mates must feel about their longtime friend and band mate along with his demeanor. Earl Hudson on drums, Darryl Jenifer on bass and Dr. Know on guitar seem to play consummately and patiently as we all watch to see what wacky thing HR will do next. Maybe that is part of the show for Bad Brains right now. No, we can never go back to the show where kids stage-dived from the balcony at The Metroplex or The International Ballroom but they are Bad Brains and they are history.