Whether you love Bad Brains or you’ve never heard of them, their story is worth listening to. Lucky for all of us, it was edited down by Mandy Stein and Benjamin Logan into a perfect documentary titled Bad Brains: a Band in D.C.
The doc begins by bringing us back to the mid-1970s, when the group (four black teenagers from Washington, D.C.) met in middle school. In the beginning, the boys were mostly into jazz-fusion (playing under the name Mind Power) — bassist Darryl Jenifer says he used to write fan-club letters to Stanley Clarke of Return to Forever — but they soon turned to the faster, edgier sounds of punk rock. The music/movement provided the perfect expression of their energy and angst. And because of their jazz training, they were the tightest band on the scene, capable of playing the most complicated of parts at breakneck speed. In a sea of white teenagers playing punk rock with no musical training, Bad Brains were awe-inspiring.
Then, they saw Bob Marley in concert in the late 70s/early 80s and delved deep into reggae music and the Rastafari movement. They might have been unique to the scene before, but after this awakening Bad Brains melded punk and reggae into an innovative style that has yet to be copied. Their shows were always amazing because you never quite knew what you were going to get. The clips below are both from their famed 1982 performance at CBGB …
With a cult following, and seemingly limitless talent you might ask what went wrong? There were a few things along the way, including some organizational challenges, publicity issues, and the increasing insanity of frontman H.R. You can see it all in the movie. Bad Brains is revered as one of the greatest (punk) bands ever, whose influence can be heard in groups like the Beastie Boys, No Doubt, Nirvana, Jane’s Addiction and countless more, yet so many people don’t know of them … Bad Brains: a Band in D.C. tells their story in the most amazing way. It’s a must see!